Cindy Chupack has made a career out of following advice that any writer should heed: Write what you know.
When it comes to life experiences, Chupack knows how meaningful female friendships are at any age, and she knows the emotions behind them.
This has been seen in more than 20 years of the Tulsa native and Emmy winner’s work as writer/producer on “Sex and the City,” “Modern Family” and other projects.
And it can be seen in the fact that she and a group of her 1980s Edison High School girlfriends still reunite on an annual basis.
“My friends are now very far-flung, but we all stay in touch and see each other at least once a year,” she told the Tulsa World, before elaborating a bit on their celebrating turning 50 together.
“We had these lists of what we hoped to accomplish by age 60, and I’m the keeper of these lists, and I have these bottles that the messages are kept in,” she said.
On Chupack’s list: directing her first feature film.
The goal has been met — long before her deadline — and the movie is “Otherhood,” premiering Friday, Aug. 2, on Netflix.
Chupack co-wrote the movie about — what else? — the friendships of three women who, as empty-nesters whose sons have become adults, feel forgotten on Mother’s Day and decide they will drop in on their sons’ New York City homes.
Her script, and her experience writing intelligent stories for women, attracted A-listers in Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette and Felicity Huffman for the roles, despite Chupack having never directed.
“I have a bad habit of getting comfortable and deciding that I want to do something new, wanting to scare myself,” Chupack said of the director’s job.
But she wasn’t the only one stretching with “Otherhood,” and that became just another point for the movie’s cast and director to bond over.
She said Oscar nominee Bassett and Oscar winner Arquette “thanked me for ‘taking a flier on us for comedy,’ and I said, ‘Ha, you took a flier on me as a first-time director.’
“I mean, can you imagine? Taking a flier on Angela Bassett and Patricia Arquette?” Chupack said with an incredulous laugh.
“Otherhood” is more than a comedy in much the same way that Chupack’s best episodes of “Sex and the City” were.
That means plenty of laughs, as well as drama, in a just-right mix of tones — along with remarkable chemistry between the stars — as these women who have been friends since their children were young realize that, like their sons, they have futures full of options.
“We should get used to the idea that this is an interesting time for women, and we’re all living longer, and we get this extra period of life that we get to decide how we’re going to fill it, whether that be a second career or some other kind of interesting opportunity,” Chupack said.
These are some of the questions that the trio of women face in “Otherhood,” and it’s classic Chupack subject matter; as she said of her writing in a Tulsa World story a couple of decades ago, it’s about “women whose lives are not what they thought they would be.”
For Chupack, it has proven to be a fertile topic for women in their 30s, their 40s and now in their 50s.
“Yes, that idea of ‘not what they thought their lives would be’ is certainly a recurring theme for me,” she said with a chuckle.
For Chupack, making a change in her 50s like directing for the for the first time was in part a matter of having faith in what her script had to say.
“Being from Tulsa, I feel like I’ve always known what feels real and relatable and universal” to audiences, she said.
That gave her confidence in making “Otherhood,” and so did motherhood.
“I was late to that game (becoming a mother), and what else could I be more scared of than being a working mom?” asked Chupack, whose daughter, Olivia, is 8.
So is she looking forward to the first time that her child forgets Mother’s Day, as happens in “Otherhood” to the three moms?
“No,” she said, “and yes, I feel so retroactively guilty for every call I haven’t taken from my own mother.”
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