The new Amazon TV show by Jill Solloway is based in Marfa, so naturally, the crew descended into town to film the pilot earlier this year and then filmed more episodes in December. Below is my coverage for the show.
Major TV pilot set to film in Marfa
Originally published in the Big Bend Sentinel on May 26, 2016
MARFA – Six degrees of Kevin Bacon is about to hit closer to home as the actor will star in a television pilot to be filmed in Marfa in the coming weeks.
Pre-production is currently underway for Emmy-winning director Jill Soloway’s new TV project based on the Chris Kraus novel, “I Love Dick.” The novel tells the story of a protagonist, also named Chris, and her obsession – shared through letters – with a well-known theorist named Dick.
As Chris navigates through her marriage to Sylvère, her work, and Dick, the 1997 novel is what poet Eileen Myles writes in the foreword as a “remarkable study in female abjection.”
“She’s turned female abjection inside out and aimed it at a man . . . ‘I Love Dick’ boldly suggests that Chris Kraus’ unswervingly attempted and felt female life is a total work and it didn’t kill her,” Myles writes.
Soloway was introduced to the book a year ago and realized there is a phenomenal female voice that she said was somehow overlooked, until now. Instead of focusing on the letters, she said her TV show adaption will feel more like her current successful Amazon original series, “Transparent,” which was inspired by her father coming out as transgender. The show has won many awards, such as the Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy, and actor Jeffrey Tambor’s award for Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy for his role as the transgender parent, Maura.
The book “I Love Dick” is originally based in an East Coast university town, but Soloway and writer Sarah Gubbins started to feel like they’ve seen a setting like this before. Instead, the show will follow the married couple to Marfa. Soloway and Gubbins thought about one of the last scenes in the book that takes place in the desert hills beyond Los Angeles and thought the show would be vibrant in a town like Marfa.
Soloway was introduced to this part of the state by her partner Myles, who is a part-time Marfa resident, a former Lannan Foundation writer-in-residence, and New Yorker.
“You can blame Eileen Myles,” Soloway joked.
Soloway said she thinks Marfa is an amazing place for the show’s setting. With the everyday interaction between the Border Patrol, ranchers, and artists, she said this creates something that will be funny, creative, and human with this gigantic backdrop of Texas.
The letters written by Chris will be handled as voiceovers.
Playing Chris is Kathryn Hahn, who is no stranger to Soloway’s work. She played Rabbi Raquel Fein on “Transparent” and starred in Soloway’s film, “Afternoon Delight,” which won Soloway the best directing award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. It was screened two years ago at the Crowley Theater.
Soloway started talking to Hahn about the role in the very beginning. Hahn read the book and wanted to do it.
“And off we went,” said Soloway.
Playing the lead role of Dick is Bacon, who hardly needs an introduction with his prolific film career. Soloway said Bacon is “just fantastic” and will bring a lot of his character to the screen.
Both “Transparent” and “I Love Dick” are Amazon Prime original productions.
Soloway’s work – to say the least – is totally of the moment as she addresses issues going on in today’s times. “Transparent” will begin its third season, but in season one, Tambor’s character, Maura, is harassed for using the ladies room at a mall, fast-forwarding to the current battle over transgender bathroom issues nationwide. The Texas Tribute recently reported that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will sue on behalf of Texas to stop President Barack Obama’s federal directive to allow transgender students to use the bathroom they are most comfortable with. This particular episode with Maura premiered two years ago.
Soloway does equate her shows as cutting edge. She recalled that in season two of “Transparent,” a flashback scene to 1930s Berlin deals with gays, lesbians, and transgender people. Yet, here we are again in today’s society.
“These kind of polarizing notions of creating enemies out of fear can be challenged,” said Soloway.
With the presidential election campaign underway, Republican candidate Donald Trump has publically stated that Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton plays the “woman card” and wouldn’t get as many votes if she were a man.
With most narratives focused on straight white males, Soloway said that transgender people, minorities, and women are used as objective in the male gaze. She added that women are used to empower a male storyline, while others are used as the butt of the jokes.
“Transparent” and “I Love Dick” turn the tables. “It empowers people to see themselves with the role of the subject,” said Soloway. “To me, to offer that feeling of being the subject, it does feel like the work is absolutely necessary and modern and needed at this moment.”