When actress Leven Rambin and director Ramaa Mosley say their film, “Lost Child,” was a passion project, they don’t mean it lightly. It’s been a struggle, from getting financing and distribution, to the filming process, which involved trekking through Ozark forests and mud in the punishing summer heat. It was only through the “willpower and determination” of the all-female creative team that the thriller about a woman (Rambin) discovering an abandoned boy in the woods and searching for his identity, was able to be made and screened. Mosley and Rambin, who plays young veteran Fern in the film, speaks with Variety ahead of their film’s Friday release.
How did you get inspired to make “Lost Boy”?
Ramaa Mosley: We crafted a story that was built around personal experiences that both my co-writer [Tim Macy] and myself had been through with family and issues that were important to us, the way children in foster care are treated. They’re abandoned because their parents are unable to take care of them or passed away, and the kids are thought as “troubled.” It’s so sad that people are more interested in fostering dogs and cats, than adopting children in places where people are so pro-life.
Was there a different dynamic on set, with the producer, writer, and director all being women?
Leven Rambin: There’s something intrinsic about a female telling a female story. [Ramaa and I] were both were on the same path and we have an extreme drive to make things that are meaningful and truthful. It was a lovefest from the first day. This movie was made on the willpower and determination of women. There were times when we had tons of money, and then no money. We were out there, in the mud, in the summer, in the woods, in abandoned houses, with bees and wasps. And I felt very safe and I could talk about my emotions and my feelings in a really blunt way, that didn’t make me feel like I was an inconvenience.
Did you feel in previous sets you didn’t get to have that?
LR: I’d have to fight for my position to be heard. On “Gone,” the show I’m in now, it was all men and me. It was created by men and starring men, all the producers were men. I had to sit them down every day, and be like, “My character would never do that or feel that,” or “We are changing this,” in terms of a female perspective. But they did listen to me.
RM: It’s a lot of mansplaining that happens, like “This is how that female would feel.”
Have you ever felt not respected in the industry?
RM: It’s a daily occurrence if you’re a female in the industry. If you’re strong and you have a point of view, you’re looked as a bitch. It’s been 20 years, I’ve been on hundreds of sets and I’ve had to communicate my vision and do the limbo without upsetting anyone. Many men when you run up against them and have a point of view, they’re thinking of strong women and they have a negative perspective. I’d have to shift to to be gentle and soft and avoid landmines to looking like I’m strong.
LR: I don’t care about being likable, but I’m not in charge of the whole set. My job is to protect my work, and if that means putting my foot down, I will.
What does it take for more films like this to come out, where an all-female creative team isn’t uncommon/special?
RM: We need the heads of studios to move beyond hiring the same people who look like them, which is essentially middle aged men, to hiring people of different gender and color. The stories that women tell are so important to our culture and culture is everything. We went out with our team, and we made it with a small, passionate crew. We didn’t make it for tens of millions of dollars, but we were committed to making it. We don’t realize how much power we have. We all friends with cameras, friends who can write. Change will happen when we advocate for ourselves.
LR: It’s powerful female actors involving female creative teams and supporting each other in that way, like Ramaa and I will always work together in some capacity. We make connections and open doors for each other. The movie we shot three years ago. I used other female resources in publicity to get it attention so it could be seen. The stronger Ramaa is, the stronger I am.
Are you supportive of movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up?
RM: Yes, of course. Those movements have been incredibly important to bring forth change in a really toxic culture. I think it’s important that the identity of female filmmakers not solely rest in #MeToo and Time’s Up, because we are not victims. Everyone coming together to speak up is very powerful, I want it to get to a place where it’s not an issue. It’s unacceptable.