BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Playwright Lindsey Ferrentino is thrilled she can finally announce her latest project in the works: She’s teamed up with Netflix to direct a film adaptation of her stage show, “Amy and the Orphans.”
“It was really, really thrilling ‘cause I’ve always wanted to write and direct my own stories and it’s something that I’ve been building towards for a long time,” the 32-year-old said.
Ferrentino was born in New York but grew up in Brevard County, gradating from Merritt Island High School. She said this project has been months of planning slowed by the pandemic.
“Jason Bateman’s film company had been really interested not just in the play but in allowing me to be a first-time filmmaker working on it and so we developed a pitch, we brought it to Netflix,” Ferrentino said.
“Amy and the Orphans” is an original play Ferrentino wrote several years ago based on a personal story.
“It’s a play that’s about my family and my family’s history. It’s very personal to me. It’s about my aunt who had Down syndrome,” she said. “I am hoping to do the play justice and to be able to make it feel like a movie because it started as a play, so you really want for the movie to have its own identity and not just feel like you’ve filmed the play.”
“Amy and the Orphans” first premiered in 2018 at the Roundabout Theatre in New York City.
“I just really want the audience to come and see a story about someone with Down syndrome and spend time with someone with Down syndrome in a way that maybe most people haven’t gotten to do in their daily lives,” she said.
And making sure the people in her plays or movies are well represented is what Ferrentino said she strives to do.
“It’s sort of, for me, the most important thing that I’ve been working on for a long time across a number of my projects,” she said. “There’s just no way you cannot cast someone who had Down syndrome to both bring the life experience and the realism to that so and there just aren’t a lot of roles for people with Down syndrome and there are a lot of actors who are incredibly talented all across the country. There’s a huge community of actors, not just Down syndrome, but with all levels of different levels of developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities.”
The playwright has been spending the past year in Brevard County with her family and friends ever since the pandemic forced Broadway to shut down. She said it’s given her time to continue her passion for writing and working on future projects.
“I’m on a number of different movies, developing a few things for TV and a few musicals, plays,” she said.
As for women in the film and theater industry, Ferrentino said she doesn’t focus on her gender and the impact it has but after all is said and done, she said she realizes the difference.
“You don’t think about it, you’re in rehearsals, you’re in the theater, you’re being invited into the community, so you don’t think about it but then you look back sort of with time and space and you see the breakdown,” she said. “It’s something that the longer I’ve been doing it, the more I’ve been aware of it.”
A 2019 study by the Asian American Performers Action Coalition found that across New York’s stages, 75.4% of playwrights included in the survey were male and 24.6% were female.
According to San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television in Film, women accounted for 18% of directors in top 250 films last year, an increase from 13% in 2019. Women made up 21% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on the top 100 grossing films in 2020, a slight bump from 20% in 2019.
The number of female playwrights and directors is growing, Ferrentino said, but it’s different for small community theaters.
“New York is getting better. New York is getting much more diverse not just in terms of gender but race and identity, but the country as a whole has a long way to go in terms of what plays are being produced at regional theaters and at smaller theaters across the country,” she said.