Living in New York City for many years, actress Leah Rudick witnessed many friends and colleagues in some rather non-traditional relationships. With David Bly, the actress and writer put pen to paper on a film exploring such unions. The result? Sweet Parents – out now on Digital from Quiver.
‘Sweet Parents’ – can you explain the title, for the unversed?
It’s a play on the idea of a “sugar mama” or “sugar daddy”, so “Sweet Parents”. For those unversed in the ways of the sweet, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship consisting of an older wealthier person and a younger person in need of financial assistance. Our film is about two struggling artists who become involved with older benefactors to help further their careers, hence the term ‘Sweet Parents’.
Did you and co-writer David Bly have to do a lot of research in the area of sugar momma’s and sugar daddy’s before putting pen to paper?
Living in New York City for many years we both separately witnessed friends and acquaintances engage in these types of relationships. So it wasn’t exactly research in the traditional sense per se, it was more observing these relationships in real life and wanting to explore them further in this film.
Had you known people yourself, be it a friend or family member, that have had such a relationship? Were they open to discussing it for the sake of a factual movie script?
Both of us worked in restaurants in New York for many years and separately had experiences of meeting people who had these kinds of relationships. I remember one restaurant in particular, I won’t say which, I worked with a guy who would come in every shift with a new piece of designer clothing or shoes or whatever and regale us with stories of these extravagant weekend trips he was taking with a much older man who was not his boyfriend, but they had an agreement. I was always so fascinated by him. I mean, it’s such a tough city to live in and survive and everyone is just trying to figure out how to pay their rent. So I think we were both curious about this particular method of getting by and getting ahead.
What usually motivated someone to have such a relationship?
I think there can be many different motivations because I think this type of relationship can also take many forms. At its most base the motivations are financial ones on one end and a desire for companionship or sex on the other. But it’s not always as clear cut as, you support me financially and I’ll play the part of a romantic partner to you or whatever. The lines are sometimes a lot murkier than that. And that gray area is really what we are exploring in Sweet Parents. We wanted to focus less on the sexual nature of these relationships, and more on the feelings of self-worth and the jealousy one might feel in a relationship when you care so much for your partner and want to do everything you can to help them succeed, but ultimately feel like you’re falling flat, only for someone else to come along and change their lives in an instant because of their access and connections and wealth.
Do you understand Gabby’s motivations?
Absolutely. Much of the dialogue in the film is based on actual conversations that David and I have had over the years, so the character was very near and dear to my heart. As someone who struggled in New York for a decade, working as a waitress while pursuing an acting career, it’s not hard to understand why someone would be motivated to seek out an older, more successful “mentor” in their field. I think any artist struggling in New York can understand her motivations.
In what ways can you relate to her?
I think in terms of drive and willingness to sacrifice a lot for your art, we are a lot alike. I’m just not as good of a sculptor as she is.
Was the film shot in New York? What do you think the city itself lends to the movie?
Yes, the film was shot in New York. There would be no movie without the city. It’s essential to the fabric of the story. As many quintessential New York stories, New York is it’s own character in Sweet Parents. David has often described Sweet Parents as his “fuck you” letter to New York (as opposed to all the other classic New York films that feel like “love letters”), but I see it in somewhat of a different light. It’s a film about the sacrifices that people are willing to make to live and get ahead in a city like New York that they have so much love for. I’ve always thought that was a beautiful thing.
You have a real knack for comedy – as we’ve seen in “Made to Order” – will we see you in some lighter fare again, soon?
Yes! I recently had a comedy special released through Comedy Dynamics called “Coming to the Stage”. I also have a few really fun projects in the works with my comedy partner, Katie Hartman (co- creator of Made to Order and plays Christine, the barista, in Sweet Parents). Things are moving a little slower with this raging pandemic, but hopefully we will have some fun things to share soon!
What do you find harder – more dramatic fare or comedies?
I’m not sure which I find harder. I love doing both. I think that in order for either to work you have to come at them from the same fundamental emotional truth. Without that, both will fall flat.
Is there a genre you normally gravitate towards though?
I think I gravitate naturally more towards comedy, but I do love me a good Tennessee Williams monologue, I do declare!
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