A Comedy about Coming Out: CMU Grad's New Film, “Lez Bomb”
Jenna Laurenzo's new film about a woman who brings her girlfriend home for Thanksgiving in an attempt to come out to her family will be featured at the Reel Q LGBT Film Festival on Saturday.
Photo courtesy ReelQ
This weekend marks the kickoff of the 33rd annual Reel Q LGBT Film Festival at the Harris Theater Downtown. Though the festival includes both short films and feature-length films, one of the highlighted movies is a feature film from the Carnegie Mellon-educated filmmaker, writer and actress Jenna Laurenzo titled “Lez Bomb.” Laurenzo wrote, directed and starred in the film, which will be showing at Reel Q on Saturday.
“Lez Bomb” follows a young woman who brings her girlfriend home for Thanksgiving in an attempt to come out to her family — which becomes a tough task as holiday havoc wrecks the plans for the day. Laurenzo spoke with Pittsburgh Magazine about her past, present and future — and especially “Lez Bomb.”
Sarah Connor: You’re a Carnegie Mellon alum, correct?
Jenna Laurenzo: Yeah! I studied writing and directing. I graduated with a B.H.A. [bachelor of humanities and arts] so I had a major that I pretty much designed within the drama school and the humanities school. I felt like kind of a floater when I was in school, but in the long term, I’m really happy that I did that because it gave me a handle on different areas I was interested in. I was always interested in film — I always had a video camera that I was carrying around documenting my friends and their antics, which I’m sure they were terrified of.
Connor: Aside from “Lez Bomb,” what are some other projects you’ve been involved with?
Laurenzo: When I graduated I did a year-long conservatory, and then immediately after that I started writing and producing content for the web. I did this web series called “Parker and Maggie” and then I did this pilot presentation called “Water With Lemon,” and I learned a lot of things along the way. I was also a digital producer at “Watch What Happens Live” for a brief period of time — and I was waiting tables forever, sort of in between everything.
So I had spent a long time trying to attach a director and a star to “Lez Bomb,” which was really hard because I just had no money to promise them. Then when I would meet with financiers, they would want to meet the team but I couldn’t really have a team in place without the money. Finally I was like “I am the team.” So I did a proof of concept of what that would look like, and that is where [my short film] “Girl Night Stand” came into the picture. When I released that online and it went viral, that helped me have conversations with financiers about where the audience lived and how to reach them.
Connor: When did “Lez Bomb” start to take shape then? This seems like it was a pretty long process?
Laurenzo: I wrote the first draft of “Lez Bomb” eight years ago. It was about six years of trying to get people attached to the project, and then we made the project, and then you’re in [post production] for a year and now we’re at festivals and now it’s finally coming out. I feel like I’ve had to come out every day for eight years.
Connor: That being said, was the idea for this film inspired by any of your own personal experiences?
Laurenzo: Yeah, it was definitely inspired by a lot of my personal life. I feel like a lot of movies that deal with the subject matter of coming out are very dramatic. It was really important for me to make a comedy that also had a happy ending for the lesbian characters — which is really, really rare. I wanted the film to feel almost like a throwback to those dysfunctional family films that used to get me, that don’t so much anymore. I’m hoping that by leaning into that sensibility, it feels very familiar. So that people who still judge, I hope it creates this active level of relatability and accessibility to them to allow for a bit more compassion and understanding.
Connor: With the queer storyline aside, it is a very relatable film. Everyone has a crazy family around the holidays, everyone has family members who drive them a little crazy like your character does. This is also an older character coming out. Recently the film “Love, Simon” was a really popular movie about coming out, and that followed a high school boy. I really liked how “Lez Bomb” took the approach from a relatable standpoint but also a mature standpoint.
Laurenzo: Yeah, exactly! There’s this thing in terms of sexuality, there’s a fluidity now, but there are still people who very much struggle with it. I have a friend who is coming out, who still hasn’t come out to her parents. I think there is something about bringing someone home to the family that brings the stakes a little bit higher, it feels more grounded, and you sort of know where your life is going. There’s something more serious and definite about it.
Connor: What was it like directing and starring in the film? Was it stressful, or did you just kind of have the mindset of “you gotta do what you gotta do?”
Laurenzo: Well I had an incredible support team of people around me that just was so enthusiastic about the film, and they thought it was an important message to get out that. Particularly the cast that I got, like Cloris [Leachman] and Bruce [Dern], they felt strongly that there were aspects of the coming out story that they hadn’t seen before, but they felt was very important to get out there. So, they brought so much support and enthusiasm and encouragement along the way. I always felt like I had this safety net to try things.
Of course, it’s stressful. I had people like Bobby Farrelly, who directed “Dumb and Dumber” and “Something About Mary,” as my executive producer. And he became an incredible mentor and as an E.P. he was very hands-on, and I felt like I had this legend helping and always being there when I needed to ask him about something or run something by him. I’m so grateful for the entire team of people who came onto the project. I learned so much every step of the way.
Connor: So what is up next for you?
Laurenzo: I am developing a show around “Girl Night Stand” actually, and then I have another movie I’m developing that is like a big, female comedy that has to do with sports. I don’t want to give away too much, but yeah, I am developing another movie.
Connor: Is there anything you want us to know about “Lez Bomb?”
Laurenzo: I think just that I wanted to make a movie with a queer storyline that could be comfortably played on a Thanksgiving on a couch with the family and everybody would feel comfortable watching and laughing together and not like uncomfortably squirming. I hope people leave the theater on a high note.
“Lez Bomb” will be released in theaters and on demand streaming services and iTunes on Nov. 9.