New York, N.Y. I recently caught up with Salome Mulugeta for lunch on 42nd Street. I was intrigued because there are not a lot of Ethiopian-American independent film makers in New York. She told me about the challenges she has had as an immigrant, as a woman, and as a filmmaker. And about her new co-producer, the catty Marc St. James on Ugly Betty, Michael Urie. Fun mix!
Ethiopian-American independent film maker Salome Mulugeta at a recent NYC fundraiser.
Her latest project is entitled Woven and it sounded fascinating: the story of an Ethiopian Orthodox family that meets an American family due to an accident that takes place. Salome is both co-writer and producer.
Salome left Ethiopia at a young age, moving to England where she attended Clarendon School for Girls. Continuing her cultural clashes, she then graduated with honors from a university in Kansas before moving to Los Angeles to pursue her dreams.
Favorite theater endeavors of Salome include Florence Nightingale, The Glass Menagerie,Pygmalion, and My Fair Lady. Salome received a coveted roll in the acclaimed film Baby of the Family. The film was directed by the award-winning Jonee’ Ansa.
Salome wrote Woven with Ryan Spahn. Ryan, raised in Troy, Michigan, and Salome, born in Addis Ababa, come from opposite ends of the earth. This writing/producing team met eight years ago in Los Angeles, and built together a story centering on their two diverse cultures.
Producers and co-writers Salome Mulugeta and Ryan Spahn have collaborated with Tony-nominated Kristin Hanggi on what has been called, “a labor of love with award-winning promise!”
Ryan has won the LA Weekly Theatre Award and was nominated for L.A. Drama Critics Circle, Stage Scene LA, and Ticketholder Awards, for his performance in the L.A. premiere of Celebration Theatre’s Stupid Kids. He has performed in The Vineyard Playhouse’s End Days and the Berkshire Theatre Festival’s Sick. His portrayal of Casper and Greta the Maid in the L.A. Premiere of the Sacred Fools’ Act a Lady won him a Stage Scene/L.A. performance citation.
Ryan’s film and TV credits include Fox Searchlight’s Polish Wedding, Lovers, Liars, and Lunatics,Star Trek: Voyager, General Hospital, and Ugly Betty. He has written another screenplay with Halley Feiffer entitled He’s Way More Famous Than You. A graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy, Ryan currently attends The Juilliard School.
Over lunch, Salome explained to me the screenplay for their intriguing film:
Woven features multicultural characters whose lives intertwine and explores themes of forgiveness following a tragic accident that unravels family secrets, lies and deception. The film opens with a scene of a ferocious early morning thunderstorm and a deadly car crash involving one of the Ethiopian-American characters. The detective investigating the tragic accident soon discovers that this was no ordinary traffic incident.
Michael Urie, best known for performing in the role of Marc St. James on the award-winningUgly Betty, has joined their team as one of the producers. I reached out to Michael to ask, Why this film? He related:
Wovenplays with chance, class and forgiveness, while exposing the audience to beautiful traditions of Ethiopian American society. Salome and Ryan have created is an important piece of writing with nuanced characters, dynamic culture crashes, and gut shattering truth. The lives within Woven are complete specimens, funny, flawed, and desperate for companionship.
The film has been sponsored by the Lower East Side of Manhattan, MAC Cosmetics, Ethiopian Airlines, Sean John’s Spur Tree, award-winning Chefs Marcus Samuelsson and David Burke at various fundraisers in New York City.
Woven is in now in pre-production. Woven LLC has been formed to finance the production of Woven.