LATINA FILMMAKER TURNS LOSS INTO LAUGHTER

by Bernadette Quist

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A rom-com by Christina Morales Hemenway
A rom-com by Christina Morales Hemenway

Like the character she plays in “Bride+1,” when Christina Morales Hemenway sets her mind on doing something, she does it, even when the journey does not go as planned. Clarissa, the lead role in Bride+1, wants children. When her boyfriend of four years breaks up with her after her 39th birthday, she decides to throw herself a wedding in a year’s time; now she needs to find a groom by her wedding date! 

Morales Hemenway didn’t let anything stop her from her dream – not her lack of funds, her being a woman in a man’s field, being a full-figured Latina in a romantic lead, or losing her idol, her mother, during the filming. Since 1992, Morales Hemenway has been committed to producing enlightening entertainment. She started out as an actress, studying with the world-famous mime Marcel Marceau, and attending California Institute of the Arts [Cal Arts]. It was there that she realized that her main passion was for writing and directing, and upon graduation, she produced her first feature film, “Autumn Leaves.” She then went on to direct the feature films “Dreammaker” which won the “Audience Choice Award” at every festival in which it played and “Naked Angel,” which won 6 Stauros Inspirational film awards including “Best Feature Film.” 

The idea for “Bride+1” came about when two of her dear friends “of a certain age” were dumped by men that said they wanted children, and then didn’t. She was so mad that she channeled her energy into writing the script. Her anger turned into humor and resulted in a comedic look at Clarissa’s path to motherhood. At first, she was hesitant to produce it because she knew the long road ahead. But the idea kept nagging at her until she had to do something about it. She enlisted the help of long-time producing partner Andy Wolf and went to Dancingstar Productions partner Roger Newton for partial financing, and then asked friends and family for help. She did crowd funding, had friends donate services that she auctioned to other friends, and then when her mother passed away, she used part of her inheritance for the rest. 

Morales Hemenway had not planned on playing the lead role, but when the actress she wanted was busy going after her PhD, she knew she could do it herself. There was one problem: she wouldn’t be able to get down to “camera weight” by the time of filming. Then she realized that she was in a unique position as a female director to hire a full-bodied Latina as the romantic lead! To do this, she would have to get past her own insecurities and use them for the character. While filming, she would watch the takes one time to get out her self-criticisms, and again to see if they were serving the vision of the piece. 

Along the way, she had to deal with men who were not used to a woman in a power position. Yet, as in the film, she persisted! Even when some of them second-guessed her, if something did not feel quite right, like Clarissa, she trusted her gut, knowing what she wanted… and she got it. 

The most difficult challenge during the filming process was losing her own mother, to whom the film is dedicated. Halfway through filming, Morales Hemenway’s mother died of ovarian cancer. Always so close to her Mom, the loss was devastating. “It took a long time for anything to be funny anymore.” Morales Hemenway says. “ The mother/daughter relationship is an integral part of the film, and the mother character represents my voice as the author. It’s very strange to be watching a scene with the character I wrote, with my mother in mind. Strange that my mother is gone, and yet this character lives on.” “Bride+1,” shot in both California and Michigan, has hit several milestones. It received a standing ovation of over 500 people at the Michigan Theater in her hometown of Ann Arbor. It also enjoyed a successful premiere at the world-famous TCL Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. “Bride+1” is now available on cable and digital platforms, nationally. For the trailer and list of places to watch please visit www.BridePlusOne.com.

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