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Bearing Fruit: CherryPicks Give Female Critics A Stronger Voice

Posted By Katie Grant, Wednesday, January 22, 2020

“I feel like the ideas just find me and force me to make them come alive,” says Producer, Director, and CEO of CherryPicks, Miranda Bailey, when offering her take on creativity. “I think everyone has amazing thoughts and amazing ideas all the time, and it’s really just about executing them.

“There are two factors that stop people. One is money, right? No, there’s three. Two is time. And then, three, the most important, is fear. At this point in my life, I’m not afraid of failing because I have failed so many times that it’s become incredibly beneficial for me. With every failure you say, ‘Well, I’m not doing that again, but I am going to do this.’”

Bailey’s latest idea to materialize is Cherry Picks (TheCherryPicks.com), an aggregator of female-only film critics who show what women and female identifiers of all races think about movies. She founded it with her CCO, author Rebecca Odes, of wifey.tv and Gurl.com. Hailed by the likes of Reese Witherspoon and Brie Larson on Twitter, CherryPicks has been called a female version of Rotten Tomatoes but, Bailey says, “I don’t think CherryPicks is in competition with Rotten Tomatoes at all. We’re very different. It’s like comparing Men’s Journal to Vogue.

“We use a lot of Rotten Tomato-certified critics. We use a lot of their reviews. If they’re certified CherryPickers, they have a page on our website. If they’re not, then we just link to their reviews on a movie page. So they’re aggregated, collated and collected on our site. I think there’s room enough for everyone.”

From the time she was an 8-year-old girl who decided to make movies after visiting a Hollywood sound stage to the present day—as someone who’s won awards for producing, directing and acting,—Bailey can’t stop creating. She attributes that, with great certainty to her daddy issues. “I think I’m still trying to impress my father. I’m still trying to be like, ‘Dad, look at me. I’m here. I’m here. Look what I’ve done.’ I just have to, at some point, accept that that won’t happen.”

Being Frank, Bailey’s first foray into feature film directing, follows Frank’s son as he discovers his father has a second family. Bailey says it’s about her own father and what it was like to be her mom, married to a man with a whole other life. It seems uncovering the truth has always been Bailey’s thing. It started with penning and directing her first play in high school about her parents’ divorce and taking it to the stage in her hometown of Vail, Colorado. After college, she went on to form her own production company, Cold Iron Pictures, in LA and built an impressive body of work including Diary of a Teenage Girl, Against the Current, Swiss Army Man, Greenlit, Norman, The Pathological Optimist and Super.

Seeing a theme of uncovering the truth in her work, though, eluded Bailey until her producing partner at Cold Iron, Amanda Marshall, pointed it out during the filming of Being Frank. “I literally was telling my producer, ‘I’m making a movie, but I’m not like Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Marriage Story) or the Daniels—Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Swiss Army Man)—or Marielle Heller (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood). I don’t have a vision. I don’t have my own voice.’

“She said, ‘Are you [bleeping] kidding? You definitely have a voice.’ When I replied that I never felt like I had themes to my movies, she told me, ‘Your theme is basically making movies where people are hiding secrets or giving out misinformation.’       

“I was stunned. Then I realized Being Frank is just like The Pathological Optimist. Both protagonists are not bad and they’re not good. They’re somewhere in between, and there’s a lot we can’t figure out about them. It was a revelation, learning that about myself.”

Even her upcoming directing turn, The Assistants, which she calls “Devil Wears Prada meets Nine to Five for millennials,” addresses issues of truth and lies, as characters “have to make moral choices that sometimes aren’t the right thing to do.”

So as an artist who focuses on finding the truth, it only makes sense that when she saw the reviews for her production of Lake Bell’s I Do… Until I Don’t and realized the only reviewers panning it were male, she decided to start an all-female site for female-identifying movie critics to express their truth. Enter CherryPicks.

“I was thinking, ‘This isn’t right. This isn’t fair. Why is Lake Bell getting all these guys saying this?’ And then I thought, ‘I want to see what the women think.’ I looked around and said, ‘Where can I find the women’s scores?’”

“I learned there are websites that hire writers who are women, which I didn’t know at first because they didn’t come up in Google searches. But the difference is, I didn’t want a place that was going to hire writers to write reviews. I wanted a place that would collate and collect existing reviews and hyperlink to their pages, whether it’s Black Girl Nerds or The Hollywood Reporter, to give them clicks to support those writers so that they would be more visible, because I couldn’t find them when I was looking.”

Rather than offering a binary score of good or bad, CherryPicks gives you four different score options. First is a Bowl of Cherries for a movie you should run to see in the theater. Then there are Two Cherries for “see it soon.” One Cherry recommends you watch it on the couch at home when you’re sick and, finally, there is The Pits, which means see it if you don’t mind sitting through a “pitty” movie.

Uncovering new or unheard voices has long been important to Bailey. She gave Jill Soloway (Transparent) her first writing job, produced Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale after he had a flop, and she provided Kwan and Scheinert their big break to make Swiss Army Man after years of making music videos.

“I think for a lot of producers and financiers, it’s very risky to take on people that have never done anything. Or like Noah had just had a flop and James Gunn (Super, Guardians of the Galaxy) had a flop as well. They were still really good movies. And I was, at that time, one of the people who would be like, ‘Well, I don’t care.’

“Whereas, when you have a large studio or a team of people, everyone’s afraid to make a mistake. Everyone’s afraid to bring in a movie that’s not going to work because their job’s at stake. Well, my job’s been at stake all my life, and I’m slowly trying to kill myself, so it works fine,” Bailey adds dryly.

That trust in uncovering new voices, even her own, has paid off for Bailey. Her first documentary, Greenlit, about how to green a movie production for less environmental impact, was just supposed to be an extra for another film’s DVD. “The situation turned into a disaster, and I thought, ‘This is a great movie. Instead of excerpts for a DVD, this is its own movie.’ And then, as a joke, I summited it to SXSW, and it got in. So I think, ‘Oh, I’m a filmmaker now.’”

As for CherryPicks, Bailey has big plans in the works. There will be a podcast and an app in 2020. “Our first podcast series is called The Snub Club, and we have two hosts, which I can’t announce yet. One is an African American woman who’s a critic, and one is a cute, bouncy, blond, movie entertainment personality, so they come from very different backgrounds. They’re going to talk about snubs throughout history and snubs right now. Also, people who feel like they’ve been snubbed or people’s favorite snubs like, ‘Oh my god, this was the best movie and people snubbed it.’”

For now, Bailey is very happy with the turns her path has taken. “I fell in love with producing because I love working, and I love being busy. I love being hyper organized. I love solving problems. So I’ve been able to become the kind of producer that I enjoy. I’m more of a creative producer now.” And that leaves her extra time to focus on meeting the current demand for more female voices out there in media. Seems the timing is ripe for CherryPicks.


Photos
- courtesy of cherrypicks.com
- courtesy of Cold Iron Pictures
 

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