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FREE to a Good Home: An Interview with Writer/Director/Producer, Judy Crozier

by Samantha Plotkin

“FREE to a Good Home” is a gritty and realistic dramatic feature written, directed and produced by Judy Crozier. (If you live in the Los Angeles area, there’s a screening and fund-raiser on Thursday, November 20, 2003:

Through the eyes of the main character, Tala Loreto (Katherine Norland), the audience is able to get an insider’s view of Animal Control. The movie also shows the world of mostly women, who are devoted to rescuing animals from the streets, shelters, backyard breeders, and homes of collectors.

Moviebytes was able to sit down with Judy and Katherine. They shared what it was like to work on the feature that was close to their hearts, and some advice they had for aspiring screenwriters.

Q: Judy, what made you decide to write, direct, and produce “FREE to a Good Home?”

JC: The sheer number of stray (or dead) animals I saw on a continual basis since coming here in 1997. And “Oprah” started the “Use Your Life” TV thing and I changed from, “someone should do something...” -- to -- “what can I do?”

Q: Katherine, what made you want to be in “FREE to a Good Home?”

KN: I did “FREE to a Good Home” because I loved the script, and I was playing a “normal girl.” I was getting so many projects wanting me to be a sexpot. It was nice to not have to worry about my hair or make-up, or not eating chocolate because of the outfit I would have to wear the next day.

Q: Judy, did the script for “FREE to a Good Home?” start as a spec script, or did you know you were going to make it into a movie?

JC: It started as a documentary. But then I kept thinking... “how can I get the most people to see this,” and a documentary was not the answer. After some research, I found that documentaries on animals were already out there. So, I wasn’t reinventing the wheel.

I had an outline. I had a treatment and I placed an Ad in “Backstage West” and got 250 responses. I asked for actors who were interested in production, (I knew I would need help). When they auditioned, I only had 40 pages written. Then I had 70 pages written, when we started shooting.

Q: Judy, how did you get Katherine, and other actors/actresses, interested in helping you with the production of your film, “FREE to a Good Home?”

JC: How I got Katie (Katherine), was divine intervention. No one else would have stayed with the production this long and through this much stuff. With a second Ad in Backstage asking for actors who could PA etc., I got great resumes. In the 70 page version she played the role of Trixie, who is an ex-con character.

Katie has great range. She is so-o-o goofy. When I was recasting she asked for a chance at the lead. I gave it to her, telling her that it would be a long road, I was a “learn-as-I-go Director.” I also needed to see her softer side. She auditioned and gave me chills.

Q: Judy, what kind of research did you do for the movie?

JC: I researched not only before I started shooting but during as well. And rewrite as I went. I went to shelters, I talked to rescuers. I watched old documentaries. I lived it and stood back and watched what was happening and now and then examined how I felt about all the ups and downs of animal rescue.

I get about 100 emails of pleas from rescuers to save this animal or that from the shelter before it is killed. It is living in crisis everyday.

It is alarming to know we are killing adoptable, friendly animals at a rate of about 80%.

Q: Katherine, as an actress, what kind of research did you do for your role?

KN: I learned how to drive stick shift. And, Judy said she still needed a new transmission when we were done filming!

Besides a character breakdown, I asked Judy a lot of questions, and when we went to the animal rescue events, I took good notes.

Q: Judy, what advice do you have for aspiring screenwriters?

JC: Take classes and learn how to write. Learn structure. Have actors READ your script. In fact, I wish classes did more of that. Bring actors in, and have them READ the students work. That should really serve as a FINAL for writers.

Q: Katherine, do you have any advice for aspiring screenwriters on how to market their scripts and get them out there?

KN: If you don't have an agent to get it out there, or the resources to hire the best people and do it yourself -- then -- go to events -- network and meet people.

You never know -- the person sitting next to you could be a producer just dying for a good script. People are always looking for great writing, if you have it, people want it, just get out there and tell people about it.

Q: Katherine, as an actress, what do you look for in a script?

KN: I look for a good story. One I could show my mom and niece and not be ashamed that I did it.

When I read a script and my mind starts picturing everything I get very excited.

Q: Judy, after three years of hard work and dedication to putting together, “FREE to a Good Home?” -- you lost almost everything to a fire that consumed your home and sadly, you lost four of your five pets to the fire. How were you able to keep going, and complete the film?

JC: Actually I do not know how I went on. When Bambi (one of Judy’s pets) died three days after the fire, I wanted to quit. I wanted to crawl into a cave and avalanche it closed. It was hard. Miserably hard. It still is. My animals are in this film. Editing was torture.

Typically, I drove home crying. BreaknThruFilms (Judy’s production company) is made up from the letters of my pets names that died in the fire. Had I stopped, they would have died for nothing. I had to keep going. This film has been really hard from day one. For many reasons. Money being one of them. When you don’t have money to throw onto a problem you have to find unique ways to deal with things.

One filmmaker I met who inspired me, Henry Jaglom, told me something that was told to him (by Orson Welles, I think), "The enemy of art is the absence of limitations." When you are limited you HAVE to be more artistic.

Q: Judy, what do you want to do next?

JC: I still have documentaries I want to make, to go with this film.

I want to make another film. Whether I produce it, or direct it, (it could be someone else’s script) -- I don't really care -- as long as the material is good.

I would really like to do television, sitcoms, direct, write. Dramas. Write. Direct.

Q: Katherine, what are your future goals?

KN: I want to leave this world a better place. I want to make a difference in people's lives. I want to be the one to tell you, no matter what your goals are, you can accomplish them, that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible.

Updated: 11/18/2003

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