It’s not like “shatter age barriers” was a to-do on Caytha Jentis’s task list. But that’s exactly what she’s getting done. A filmmaker-now-series creator, Jentis is coming of age in midlife — and she’s taking her story to the small screen.
“This is the most personal story I’ve told, and I believe that’s why so many people have connected. From the personal comes the universal,” Jentis says.
If you haven’t snacked on The Other F Word yet, then you’re in for a real treat. The New York city-set series, which streams on Amazon, unfurls over two seasons, and stars Judy Gold and Steve Guttenberg, is a first-rate comedy about one heroine’s second-act story. No episode runs longer than 20 minutes (hence our snacking). And nothing’s off-limits, not even the C word (cougar, that is).
As for the alphabet play in the title, take your pick: 50s, 40s, something more, well, frank. For Jentis, the F word she prefers is fearless. But not in one of those pretentious, idealistic manners that comes printed in all caps and is then stuck onto the bumper of an SUV.
“While I’m plagued with anxiety, I know I’ll regret what I didn’t do more than what I do. So, jump in heart and head first always,” she says.
Below, we dive more into Jentis’s journey behind the camera, of course, but we also dissect her transition from mom to moviemaker, what it feels like to be marginalized as a woman in the biz, and how midlife is the best life.
Elevator-pitch us the series.
It’s a story about midlife reinvention, the ‘second act,’ driven by our heroine, a suburban stay-at-home mom and recent empty nester whose husband, unbeknownst to her, quits his job and leaves her for a year to join the Peace Corps. She is left alone to find herself and a job with her best friends by her side; together they embark on a wry comedic coming-of-age journey.
Why New York City?
I live there now after raising my kids in the suburbs. This is my New York story … about coming back.
What’s been the overall response to the show?
So overwhelmingly positive. So many women of all ages seem to relate to the stories and universal themes and find it very funny.
Why the bite-size episodes?
I created the series as a traditional series, but since I had no TV connections, I did it as a web series, a new format, and fit my very small budget in the hopes that its success would prove the concept and help me to get a TV deal.
How do you think that mini format benefits the overall story?
I do think given everybody’s busy schedules, it’s nice to have a snackable show and know how to tell the story economically.
A lot of shows play into archetypes, especially female architypes. How did you address that part of storytelling?
Each woman in the show definitely represents a different type of woman going through her own specific journey. Again, given my small world, I did my best to try to represent characters that hopefully many could relate to.
Which is your favorite episode?
Season two, episode two is one I’m particularly proud of and know resonates with many.
Anyone you dream of working with?
Not really. It’s all about like-minded and sharing passions. Like online dating, you don’t really know what you get until you meet them.
Is season three in the works?
There is no season three in the works, but there is a deal happening.
What’s the benefit of a show made by, for, and with women?
We all worked very well together and loved having so many like-minded people on my team, but that said, I really believe and like working with all types of people – gender, age, race, sexual preference, ethnicity. Art done well should transcend.”
Is there a story in you that’s dying to get out? Something you just can’t wait to tell?
If I have story to tell, it finds a way to get out. And I definitely have ideas brewing and try to live my life actively.
Your characters are entering their own new stages in life, be it moving to NYC or life after death. What about you? Where are you at in life’s journey?
I am definitely living the lives of the characters in my stories or my close friends — not always literally though. And through marketing the show, I sometimes feel like Dorothy, meeting so many amazing people doing amazing things with great gifts to share.
You’re also a filmmaker. How was the transition from big to small screen?
It’s actually more about transitioning from telling a finite story to an open-ended story. I am definitely more of a beginning, middle, end writer, but with this particular story, it felt like that for women our age, our journeys aren’t quite so pat, and I wanted to have the time to really dig into the fits and starts of this time of life and that finding oneself is not always wrapped up in a bow like films.
Most difficult thing about going from mom to moviemaker?
Being marginalized and managing the job of mom with the job of production. My first film was a movie about a donor-inseminated single mother that starred Vanessa Williams and got a distribution deal with Warner Brothers. I thought that would get me an agent, get interest in me as a writer, but was living in an East Coast suburb, so [my work] was viewed more as a hobby than profession. But one can’t complain. If you want to do it, you find a way to do it.
One thing women who want to go behind the camera should know?
Women are actually naturally better equipped to be multitaskers, in my opinion, so it’s just conditioning oneself to believe in oneself and say yes.
Best thing about midlife/worst thing about midlife?
While I was sad that the motherhood chapter is winding down, it’s a time for us to put ourselves first and use the wisdom of experience to give us confidence to take anything on. The worst part is that there are still ageist barriers out there.
Thoughts on the Time’s Up/Me Too state of the industry?
I think it’s great that people are finally talking, sharing their truths and being believed. It’s horrible. Women, sadly, [their] word is not trusted, and men do feel a sense of entitlement/ownership. That said, I’ve never had a Me Too experience — fortunately — and have many male friends and colleagues, as well as women who support each other.
Let’s switch gears to lighter fare: What are you binge-watching right now?
Season three of Love on Netflix. And I just finished Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
One thing you can’t live without?
My friends. I get my energy from the people in my life, and it’s the intimacy that I can’t live without.
Any words to live by?
Enjoy the journey and live life — good or bad — for the story.
Amazon Prime subscribers can watch season one and two of The Other F Word now.