Nicole Gomez Fisher on The Making of a Latina Romantic Comedy

Gina Rodriguez and Ana Ortiz Star in the Romantic Comedy Sleeping With the Fishes 

by Annabella Campos

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Writer/Director Nicole Gomez Fisher

Writer-Director Nicole Gomez Fisher has received international recognition for her comedy writing. Both Sleeping with the Fishes and her original sitcom, This is My Life, have won praise at screenwriting competition such as Final Draft’s Big Break, Creative Awards, Creative World Awards. Sleeping with the Fishes marks Gomez Fisher’s directorial debut and won her Best New Director at this year’s Brooklyn Film Festival. Gomez Fisher kindly took time from her busy schedule to discuss the production of her film Sleeping with the Fishes, her observations on body image, and her current projects.

Latin Heat Magazine: When writing the film Sleeping with the Fishes, were the comedic elements in the first draft, or did the story evolve into a romantic-comedy?

Nicole Gomez Fisher: I’m a huge fan of films that combine heart with humor, so when writing Sleeping with the Fishes I knew I wanted to incorporate both of those elements – very ala Moonstruck-ish. Humor is what’s always gotten me through some of the tougher times in my life and I wanted to stay true to that. I felt that Alexis Fish (Gina Rodriguez) needed humor to get her through…a defense mechanism of sorts. Whether it came from her acerbic sense of humor or from that of her sister Kayla’s (Ana Ortiz) goofy, laid back attitude, humor was always going to be a part of the script.

LHM: Your film has such as realistic tone which makes all your characters speak in a unique voice. During the Q&A this year at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF), you mentioned that Ana Ortiz’s character Kayla was inspired by your sister’s love for comic book conventions, and Priscilla Lopez’s character Estella and Gina Rodriguez’s character Alexis were somewhat based on the relationship between you and your mom.  Was your household very similar to the one on screen? Did you take conversations or experiences from your life and put them in the film?

Sleeping.FishesGomez Fisher: My household growing up was very similar, as were the characters, but the conversations and some of the experiences seen on screen are fictitious. In order for me to write from an objective point of view I had to find a way to blend the sister’s attributes, making both sisters a blend of my sister and myself. I had to separate myself from reality in order to find and build the story. The mother/daughter story line is what originally drove me to write Fishes. Their dynamic, their relationship was what I wanted to focus on. The opening game show dream sequence lays out Alexis’ subconscious from the top. We can see from the very beginning how dysfunctional the relationship is. Miscommunication 101. It’s the key to the story and probably the only factor that is true to life.

LHM: Will you work on other films or projects that surround the Latino Jewish voice or experience? Or perhaps the Latino voice in general?

Having been raised with a Puerto Rican mother who converted to Judaism I can say that my life was filled with delusion, exclusion and lots of confusion. I’d love to find others that can relate.”

Gomez Fisher: I’d prefer to write whatever fuels me. I can’t say that I won’t write another film about the Latino-Jewish experience — but somewhere down the line I would love to make a documentary about being raised in a mixed home. Having been raised with a Puerto Rican mother who converted to Judaism I can say that my life was filled with delusion, exclusion and lots of confusion. I’d love to find others that can relate and hear what their experiences were like. I find myself gearing most of my work towards a strong, not-yet-heard-of-in-Hollywood Latina voice…it resonates with me. In my second feature Good Egg my lead character Jessica, a late 20-something Latina, struggles with the pressure of being the only Latina in her family that can’t conceive.

LHM: When writing the script was it your goal to reach young girls and women with the message that “things get better” and that self-discovery is the answer to years of not feeling “good enough”?

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Gina Rodriguez & Steven Strait who plays her love interest

Gomez Fisher: I was hoping that my message would reach women of all ages. Body image is a huge issue and a universal theme all over the world. We live in a day and age where image is so prominent. We can’t escape it. It’s on television, in every magazine…social media sites etc. We have reality shows about losing weight, we have reality shows about changing your image, getting made-over, there’s just no escaping it. Self-discovery comes with age and with age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes an understanding that no one is perfect…it also allows us to let go and forgive.

LHM: What are some of the best lessons learned from directing a film for the first time?

Gomez Fisher: Never doubt yourself. Surround yourself with people that are better than you. Learn from them…listen…watch. You can never stop learning. Stay true to your vision, your story and never lose your integrity. I’m a lot stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. Oh and make sure your crew is fed and paid on time. A happy crew is a happy set!

LHM: What can we look forward to supporting you with in 2014?

Gomez Fisher: Aside from rewriting my second feature Good Egg, an action comedy that I compare toThelma and Louise meets Baby Mama. I’ve also been asked to adapt a book entitled The Yankee Princess by Jennie Paul (daughter of Gabe Paul – once owner of the NY Yankees). And if at all possible (depending on time and money) I’d love to shoot one of my original sitcom pilots This Is My Life and shop it around.

LHM: What is your favorite eatery or hang out in New York? Los Angeles?

Gomez Fisher: In NY, Aurora and in LA Katsu-Ya in Studio City

LHM: Is there a film that impressed you this year?

GinaR.AnaO.FishesGomez Fisher: Although not a 2013 film I just rented The Intouchables (2011) and absolutely LOVED everything about that film – from the acting to the cinematography and of course the unbelievable story! Talk about a blend of heart and humor! I need to catch up on more recent films.

LHM: What New Year’s traditions do you usually look forward to?

Gomez Fisher: Having a glass of champagne with my hubby and ringing in the New Year with the ones I love!

About Nicole Gomez Fisher:  Starting out as an actress and stand-up comic from Brooklyn, performing in Kiki Melendez popular Hot Tamales Live!  She went on to write and perform her acclaimed one-woman show, Mixed, at the New York Underground Comedy Festival. Gomez Fisher’s film, television and theater acting credits include a recurring role on 24, General Hospital, Empire (an Official Selection of The Sundance Film Festival), Frankie and Johnny are Married (starring Mandy Patinkin), Habla for HBO Latino and Birth Marks (part of The Ensemble Studios Marathon Series).

Follow Nicole Gomez Fisher on Facebook.  For the latest updates about the film Sleeping with The Fishes follow @FishesTheMovie on Twitter and like the film on Facebook.