Parenting and Imperfection: Q&A with Filmmakers Gabriela and Evelyne Tollman


Welcome to our Monday guest post series on Parenting and Imperfection.

Let’s chat, shall we?

I don’t want to be dramatic here, but I’m certain I’m being preyed upon by ethereal forces who want me to own my feelings rather than shoving them in a box and putting that box inside another box and mailing that box to myself and, when it arrives, SMASHING it with a hammer. (Name that movie.) Surely you can understand that this constant bombardment is in poor taste on the ethereal forces’ part and bewildering on mine. Because feelings? GAH. I don’t like having them.

Yes, yes; if we don’t feel the sad feelings then we numb ourselves to the joyful feelings and blah blah blah. I want to at least give it a try. But no; the ethereal forces are having none of it.

All of which is to say, I’m very excited to introduce you to Gabriela and Evelyne Tollman, sisters and independent filmmakers who are currently raising funds via Kickstarter for their latest project and first feature length film, Secrets of an Unborn Child. They’re bringing Hollywood glamour to the Five Kids blog today, and God knows we need it, but they’re also bringing feelings, so I’m just saying… people like me (you know who you are, Ashlee), go ahead and prestamp those boxes and ready your hammer. You might need ’em.

Or maybe, like me, you’ll find yourself putting the hammer down because their story of parenting and imperfection, sisterhood and healing, helps light a path out of the darkness.

Beth Woolsey


Question & Answer
with Filmmakers Gabriela and Evelyne Tollman

QuestionHOLLYWOOD. You live and work there. IN THE FILM INDUSTRY. I’m sure it’s all glamour all the time, but there might be teeny, tiny misconceptions about what life is like for you. I mean, I live in Portland, Oregon and yet I shave my legs every day. And my friend Gwen lives in Canada and hasn’t seen a moose in at least a week. Tell us a little bit about real life where you live. Let’s start with fill-in-the-blank: When people see Hollywood, they think _____, but really it’s _____.

EvelyneWhen people see Hollywood, they think cool, cars, and chicks, but really it’s freeways, traffic, vegan restaurants, and Kale shakes for $8.

GabrielaWhen people see Hollywood, they think glamour, wealth, power and celebrity but really it IS, it’s just we’re not part of it.

Question: What do you love about Hollywood?

Evelyne: That you have the beach, the mountains and downtown L.A. with Disney Hall. Yes, you can meet a lot of creative people who want to know what you’re working on, but people are pretty down-to-earth on the Eastside.

Gabriella: There is a multitude of creative people living out their dreams. The weather. The ocean. The mountains. The Murals. The mix of ethnicities, cultures and points of view. Marianne Williamson donation lectures on Monday nights!

QuestionAs we discussed before you agreed to do this interview, I am a giant chicken who’s terrified of tragic stories and shies away from dramas. I click the hide button every time I see a sad picture on Facebook. The four-day aftermath following my ill-advised viewing of the Titanic? I can’t even… did you know those people died?! It’s just that dramas make me feel feelings — sad ones — and I don’t like it. What do you say to people like me? Why are stories like this important?

Gabriela: Creativity has always been an act of faith for me. When I feel any fear or negativity creep in, I write about it or create something about it and that diminishes the fear. I think that’s why making this film continues to be so cathartic for me; it helped get me out of my fear.

Evelyne: I’m actually a lot like you. That’s why I push myself to the dark places. I had no idea One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was so sad. I was stunned when I watched it as an adult and still black out the ending. But then there’s my sister who can go there and gives me courage to do the same. When we sit in the pain and hold it, it makes the rest of the journey, the struggle — the freedom of Chief at the end — all the more beautiful.

Art is cathartic; I have been prompted, moved, and haunted by images in cinema in the middle of the night. The image of Steve Martin and the roller coaster in Parenthood has haunted me for years; his discomfort with his family, his need to control, and, finally, his choice to let go and enjoy the ride.

Question: Your body of work seems to focus on women. You’re two sisters working together on this project to tell a striking and redemptive story about sisterhood and motherhood. What is compelling to you about the female condition?  Why are these the stories that sing to you?

Evelyne: Coming from South Africa and being Jewish women, we were second class citizens. Women have to come together, not to compete, but to share the road. Only a sister can tell you to stop being a bitch and to stop eating so much ice cream and somehow it’s really helpful. I also think woman have to find their way back again; we want it all and something suffers. So what if we can’t have it all? That is what I think Anna and Clare realize too, is that if we can just stop doing, running, questioning and just listen, life is beautiful.

QuestionAnna and Clare are the main characters in your upcoming film, Secrets of an Unborn Child. Tell us about that project. How did it begin? What’s it about?

Gabriela: Secrets of an Unborn Child was motivated by a real experience I had when, due to complications, I gave birth to my baby at 7 months. He struggled to survive, but didn’t. It was a painful and difficult experience. That’s when Evelyne and I started to write together. I was compelled to explore the theme of survival after the loss of a loved one. That we learn from every experience. That pain can be an incredible teacher. I learned not to run from pain just because it is uncomfortable. Be with it, connect with it, connect with yourself, be still; that’s when true healing can occur.

SecretsofanUnbornChildMovieIn Secrets Of An Unborn Child, the lives of two sisters intersect. Clare loses her baby, and Anna, in the midst of an emotional crisis, inadvertently abandons her child. The film follows the sisters as they overcome their worst fears and help each other rebuild their lives.

Secrets Of An Unborn Child is ultimately about overcoming tragedy and finding hope.

Question: As independent filmmakers, you have to source funds to make your work a reality. You have a Kickstarter campaign going right now. Why does making Secrets of an Unborn Child matter? And what are real ways we can help?

Gabriela: Since launching our Kickstarter we have gotten responses from many woman thanking us for having the courage to do this. For getting this story out in the open. It helps them feel less alone. Finding an outlet for pain has always helped me feel like less of a victim, less vulnerable. The pain I felt after losing my baby was overwhelming. I hope that this project can help those experiencing loss feel less alone; and let them know that some day they will feel happy and alive again.

Evelyne: To help, you can share the project with others or donate through Kickstarter. With Kickstarter, the stakes are high. If we don’t get the entire goal amount, we get nothing. We’re at $12,348. We still need $18,000 in the next 21 days to make it. No amount is too small.


Gabriela Tollman  (Director/Writer/Producer/Actress)

GabrielaGabriela is a native of Johannesburg, South Africa and a graduate of UCLA’s theater and film department. She has been a member of several reputable theater companies and performed in many plays and independent films. She has directed over ten short films; which have played in festivals worldwide and won numerous awards. She wrote, directed co-produced and acted in THE LAST GUNSHOT, a short film that played in over 25 festivals and won several awards including The International Cinematographer’s Guild Award, which screened the film at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. She wrote and directed BIRTH OF INDUSTRY, for which she was awarded the Los Angeles Short Film Grant from Kodak, Panavision, and Filmmakers Alliance.  BIRTH OF INDUSTRY played in several festivals and was awarded the John Williams award for Visual Excellence at the Cleveland Film Festival. Her short film, YOU TURNED BACK AND HELD MY HAND screened at the Sundance Film Festival to much acclaim. Tollman is currently in pre-production for her first feature film titled SECRETS OF AN UNBORN CHILD and she is also developing the feature film THIS FEELING INSIDE a poetic, sometimes darkly humorous examination of empathy within an American family. Check out some of Gabriela’s short films.

Evelyne Tollman (Writer/ Producer/ Actress)

Tollman_Evelyne_5394Evelyne is originally from South Africa, also an actress she has studied theater and performed in many plays since she was 5.  Evelyne has done over 30 plays and has worked in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She has written and produced three of her own plays.  Her play THE PIG AND I was pick of the week by LA weekly. Evelyne then decided to learn the wonderful art of screenplays and  completed The Writers Boot Camp 2 year program.  She has  two more scripts in development. Evelyne’s unique voice as a writer has been compared to Terry Southern from Monthy Python and as and actress was called “standout” in her play about South Africa by the LA weekly. Her screenplay OLD TIME GIRL got honorable mention in the 2012 SUNDANCE Table Read My Screenplay contest.


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3 responses to “Parenting and Imperfection: Q&A with Filmmakers Gabriela and Evelyne Tollman”

  1. So pleased that you two women have come together to make this film. Gabi your strength and courage to do this is remarkable. When these tragic events happen we often wonder how do you come back from this? Making this film is one of sharing that ‘secret’

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