On Sunday, Oct. 22, the Rosendale Theater filled nearly to capacity with friends and family of those involved in “Do Nothings,” a Rosendale-based series pilot that began in the creative mind of Amy Poux and grew into a collaboration with her child Trudy – and with a long list of others who got drawn into the magic.
“I've done a lot of performances, I've been to a lot of screenings,” says Poux, “but this was a very special feeling in that space. Working on this film, the bonding was so intentional. Marian Dealy, the cinematographer – she and I had a real conversation early on, about being happy on set and making sure that the people on set were representing the subject matter of this film. I've been on sets where it's felt unfriendly to women or to people from the LGBTQ+ community; sets are very equipment heavy and hands-on; Marian too, she worked as a grip before getting into directing and cinematography. So, we’re both aware that sets can feel very bro-heavy because they're equipment intensive and hands-on. I’ve been on sets that were my own production and felt I wasn’t being listened to. So, when we interviewed people, and we interviewed a lot of people, that was always in the forefront.” The independent film’s cast and crew are 100% local, and 70% identify as LGBTQ+IA2S or women.
Bias on the set would have been antithetical to the very essence of “Do Nothings,” a story that revolves around the adventures of nonconformist teen Tamarin (Trudy Poux) as they come of age in a quirky, loving family and equally quirky hometown. The pilot revolves around their stage fright: a talented singer-songwriter, they’re also nonbinary, Jew(ish) and at that awkward age when “people are looking at me” feels like absolute nightmare fuel.
Not everyone in Tamarin’s world is helpful. The school bullies, played to clueless, scary perfection by Nicholas Scott and Solomon Hess, are not Tamarin fans, and the head of the liberal-on-the-surface school (Julie Novak channels her rarely-seen inner Karen here to comedic perfection) doesn’t seem to comprehend that they need to be reined in. And another student with musical ambitions, Quinoa (Caitlyn Classey), is a fashion-forward It Girl whose eyes are on the Talent Show prize. Even brother Jaden (real-life cousin Tucker Poux) isn’t above some painful teasing.
But Tamarin has allies too: best friend Kyle (Uzell D. McFarland) and parental units Leah (Kaethe Fine), Ezra (David Engel), and Chase (Phil Mansfield) along with a few other understanding souls they meet along the way. And, to Tamarin’s initial disbelief, Great Grandma Millie (Lori Wilner, in a role she was born to play) shows up from the next world to lovingly nag Tamarin into taking the stage by sharing her memories of an era when, as Amy Poux says, “nice Sephardic girls didn’t entertain people, they just waited on them.”
Every element of the production – acting, photography, pacing, the original musical score by Trudy Poux – works together flawlessly. The dialogue rings real and true. The Rosendale backdrop manages to impart just enough sense of place – there’s a terrific scene at Stewarts in which actual staff and customers served as extras – without overpowering the universality of the story.
And universal it truly is. Anyone who’s survived adolescence, especially as a soul who didn’t quite fit (does anyone interesting ever quite fit as a teen?) will find much to love in Tamarin, their family and their circle. Being non-binary is one of many factors influencing Tamarin’s experience; neither inconsequential nor their biggest problem most days, it’s simply part of who they are. (Trudy Poux pulls off what had to be an intense work of acting in flawlessly embodying a version of their own lived experience, with spot-on comic timing -- Amy gave Trudy a writing credit after the latter went over the script to make it funnier -- and relatable angst, giving us an imperfect but wonderful kid. Their original score illuminates the entire production.)
This is by no means a Social Justice Lesson -- it’s a smart, lively story that has too much fun to preach. Some of the most moving observations about transcending society’s constraints come from Ghostly Great Grandma, who was a talented young musician in a culture and era that had no room for that; it’s enormous food for thought delivered with a velvet touch, and at no point do the pseudo-woke sledgehammers come out. In no way are they needed.
“Trudy’s now 19, and at age nine they said, ‘I’m not a he, I’m not a she, I’m just Trudy,’” says Amy Poux. “Ten years ago, it was not a conversation people were having, and they got all the stuff that people get at the beginning of a shift in awareness and language. I spoke to a therapist at the time, it was like, ‘oh, kids say all kinds of things. Don't take it too seriously.’ But then you have this kid in front of you who’s simply ‘This is me.’ You have to value that or it becomes the beginning of a huge divide.”
Her collaborators were of one mind about the tone. “Marian, who’s gay, told me early on, ‘I 've seen everything ever made in this genre, and I just don't think we need to see another story of someone struggling with coming out. Many of us have been traumatized enough by it. You know, we need to see the example of the parents that are fighting for a kid.”
This reporter was fortunate enough to get quick interviews with Trudy and Tucker Poux (despite being a cousin, the latter earned his role in a regular audition and plays it flawlessly) and with Uzell D. McFarland, whose major role as the queer best friend was his first acting gig but, we wager, not his last. This reporter was also unfortunate enough to discover after the fact that her voice recorder was unequal to the noise of the joyous crowd, so that the exact words of the gracious young actors are lost to posterity, but it is safe to record that all three had a wonderful time both in making the work and in finally seeing it on the big screen, and that the audience too had a blast.
Besides her role as writer, producer and director on “Do Nothings,” Poux founded Rosendale’s Youth Ensemble Theater (YET) and co-designed the Boot Camp program for aspiring film crew at Stockade Works in Kingston, part of a long list of industry credits that covers a great deal of ground; this is her first parent/child collaboration, but probably not her last. “It started with funny little notes I was keeping about the wild variety of stuff Trudy and their friend would get up to, but then during the pandemic, it grew a little into some small dramatic pieces. Then, as we came into the current moment on these issues, with trans rights and the extreme right backlash, I felt like, ‘No, we need to tell this whole story.’ And I really hope someone picks up the pilot, because we have ten episodes fully developed. It started semi-autobiographical, but it grew to become a world of its own.”
That world is one that it turned out a great many talented people wanted to bring to life. Marian and I worked for free, and a lot of the crew did too. People got trained on this movie who had never worked on movies. I had people calling me saying ‘I've heard about your project. I'm this person. I live here and I want to be working on this.’ And I'm like, ‘Yeah, I don't have any money to pay you.’ ‘I don't care. I just want to be involved.’ Those were the calls that we got; our costume department was entirely made up of those calls.”
Six years in the making, “Do Nothings” is now being submitted to various film festivals for consideration; after any festival runs, it can be premiered for the general public. For more information, visit www.donothingsfilm.com.