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When I finished my first dramatic feature film, Thousand Pieces of Gold, I was certain that fiction, rather than nonfiction, was what I was put on this earth to do. Maybe that sounds pretentious, but it was true, clear to me.

After eighteen depressing months of Sisyphean pushing the rock up the hill in search of a distributor, we got the film into theaters in about 25 cities. Got one bad review (in DC) and one rave (in the LA Times). Thank God it wasn’t the other way around – DC is not as significant a market as LA. Still that bad one stung. Maybe I should have been like Donald Trump and only read the complimentary press, but I was young and sure that I was tough enough for anything. I hadn’t learned to treat myself like an artist, to spare myself from being tough on every front. I wish I had been more kind to myself.

I knew what story I wanted to tell next – Cowgirl. Like Thousand Pieces, it was set in the American West. When people in the financing world described it as a western, I corrected them, “It is set in the west, but it’s not a western.”

They weren’t persuaded. I wish I had said, “You are right, it is a western, the way Dances with Wolves is a western: a different story, a different point of view, something that will draw in audiences who say they don’t like westerns, but who like modern day stories with female protagonists.”

But times had changed since we raised the financing for Thousand Pieces. The prestigious company that had stepped in to support that film closed its doors, leaving empty the arena of financiers open to directors and protagonists who were not white men. The independent film flavor of the decade was more cynical: Reservoir Dogs was the big hit.

I had a lot of meetings with studios and independent production companies. The most successful pitch I ever gave: “It’s about guns, girls and buckets of blood. It’s called Reservoir Kittens!”

The women leaned forward and enthusiastically clapped their hands. “That sounds great!”

I was toying with them. They were so idiotic; they took the bait. That was my last pitch to a Hollywood studio.

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