Photo by Alexander Berg.
A prolific and acclaimed artist, Erica Fae joins New York Women in Film & Television as an actor, director, writer, producer and teacher of movement at Yale School of Drama and The New School. She was encouraged to join NYWIFT by her producing partner Jane Applegate, whom she met while developing her current project, a feature film about a woman lighthouse keeper, with a four-week shooting schedule in Maine this summer. The drama blends suspense, passion and feminist revelation in a time before feminism existed.
On what attracted her to the material, Fae said that she had stumbled upon it while researching American women of the nineteenth century, research inspired by her play, Take What is Yours, co-written with Jill A. Samuels, about suffragist Alice Paul.
“At the time, lighthouse keeping was the only job that women were allowed to do for the government, except clerical work,” Fae explained. “These were remote areas. If the men couldn’t do it, the women did. The lighthouses had to work.”
Fae found her lighthouse, located on Mistake Island in the Bay of Fundy, on an October location scout in northeastern Maine, and fell in love with it. “It was aesthetically perfect, like casting a beautiful lead,” she said. Fae met with a town selectman and experienced a grassroots uprising of support from the inhabitants, who convened a town meeting to unanimously approve the use of the town’s name in the film. A local farmer stepped forward to provide fresh produce for the shoot, and boat owners will operate a ferry service to the island. The Bangor Daily News described Fae as a “New York City woman.” She laughed: “I am a New York City woman.”
Drawn to the bold, radical women of history, Fae also wrote and performed a solo play about Joan of Arc, A Girl Joan. She made the initial leap from stage to film in 2007 while attempting to create a play about writer Christine de Pizan, but ran into limitations on her vision and turned to film to bring the allegorical imagery she wanted to life.
Fae continues to be actively involved in theater work, which began in her childhood, and influenced her multihyphenate approach to art. “People talk about wearing hats. I’m wearing my producer’s hat, my writer’s hat, my director’s hat,” she said. “To me, it’s all one hat. All one effort to tell the story.”
Her feature film work includes Synecdoche, New York, The Savages, Little Children, and others, and she has just been cast in a popular period cable drama. On the rewards of performing in someone else’s work, Fae said, “It is a delight to luxuriate in acting. Just to concentrate on that. It’s wonderful.”
Of her students, she said that the biggest change she has seen in them as artists is their interest in and willingness to create work for themselves. Technological advances have opened the door for them to do what Fae has done: Pursue their own passions rather than wait for a job.
Fae confirmed that she has two more projects on her agenda about historical American women who claim their own power. “Two juicy, juicy stories,” she said, with conviction. She is currently developing a miniseries.