Nicole Kristal just didn't have any luck dating. She dated men and women on OKCupid, but was having a terrible time finding someone who didn't own a cat—she's terribly allergic.
And so, this songwriter/journalist (and frequent contributor to Patch), wrote the short film Do You Have a Cat? It is screening Monday night at the Outfest film festival.
"It's been very validating to see this with a live audience and to see that they think what I've been going through in real life is as funny—and as tragic—as I thought it was," said Kristal, who has been able to see the short screened at the Palm Springs International ShortFest, Frameline36: The San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival and FilmOut San Diego, where it won the Best Female Short.
The short is getting international praise and was also accepted at the Oslo Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Philadelphia QFest, Indiana Cares Campaign Film Festival, image+nation Montréal International LGBT Film Festival, Barcelona LGBT Short Film Festival and many others.
Kristal, who is co-author of The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe, fictionalized her dating experiences as an allergy-prone bisexual and she cast her Dachshund, Lola, for a part and she solicited her friend Jason Sax, whom she had worked with on Eleventh Hour at CBS, to direct. She was able to put together the project with a grant from the California Institute of Contemporary Arts.
Kristal also got to actress Amber Benson, best known for her role as “Tara” on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who eagerly joined the cast.
“We were willing to offer her any part. She wanted to play the best friend, and we were thrilled because of her natural comedic timing,” said Kristal.
But, some of the biggest expenditures was $1,100 needed for Hollywood cats to perform in two scenes. Kristal went back to the CICA on bent knee and begged for the money, and they kindly understood the dilemma — you can’t take a cat out of its environment and tell it what to do.
“The Hollywood cats showed up and the trainers were very upset the van had to be parked about a hundred feet from the wooded bungalow in Echo Park where we shot, so we had to make our producer Trey Doheny babysit the cats so they’d be comfortable,” said Kristal. “Trey, who like me and Jason, is deathly allergic to cats, alternated between sneezing his ass off in the van and sitting outside shivering for several hours. But the cats, as you will see in the film, were worth every penny."
The casting process for the lead was much more challenging. Kristal was concerned with finding a believable bisexual. Sax, Kristal, and Doheny auditioned several people with the right look, but none of them had the chops. So in the end, they chose Samantha Sloyan because she was the best actress. “Everytime we watch the film, we realize it was the best decision we made,” said Sax.
Kristal had a makeup artist Charlotte Scovill who created extremely believable looking allergies — she whipped up fake snot and made Sloyan’s cheeks and eyes red—and even created fake dog poop out of basic household items.
Director Sax said, “It’s amazing when you read a script and can perfectly envision how it should look. And then when that image in your mind matches what you get on screen…well, that’s when you know you’ve got something to be proud of."
Do You Have a Cat? is part of the "Crush on You" shorts program that is screening at Outfest on Monday night at 9 p.m. and Sunday, July 22 at 12:30 p.m. at the Director's Guild of America in West Hollywood. Kristal and Sax and some of the cast will attend both screenings and join a Q&A session.
(Editor's Note: Nicole helped launch Studio City Patch with some great stories, and some of the editor's dogs also appear in the short.)