Lane Shefter Bishop was on a plane, reading a magazine when she came across an article about a mom commune. It was then that an idea was born. "With the mothers and daughters there it would be a great idea for a Lifetime movie," she tells MEAWW in an exclusive interview.
The Emmy award-winning director, who is also a busy speaker, author, producer, and 'book whisperer', is currently in Canada directing a film, but she took out some time for a quick email chat on her newest Lifetime film. 'Desperate Widows' peeps into the underbelly of the black market trafficking of women and girls, in a high-security stronghold of potential slaves, sinisterly helmed by a woman.
Bishop worked on this frightening premise, and although the film is not based on a true story, such is the truth of many women around the world. "I was hoping that the human trafficking storyline would be a nice surprise for audiences because most of the time when you see this subject being tackled, it's men doing the selling on the black market. Here, it's actually a woman doing it to other women and I loved the unusual angle of that," she says.
Bishop's story brings to light a practice that isn't discussed in cinema as much as it needs to be. In 30% of countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers to a UN Office on Drugs and Crime report, women made up the largest proportion. In some parts of the world, women trafficking women is the norm.
'Desperate Widows' was earlier billed with the title 'Mommune', a play on the words 'mom' and ‘communes’, which doesn't come across as quickly to a person unless they know what the film is about. "I always had to explain what a Mommune was to those who heard the old title. Some folks even thought it was an Indian word!" she explains. She says that the new title is better because it automatically makes clear what the film is about. "It also sounds a bit more dramatic and enticing," Bishop adds.
Drama is expected as 'desperate' widows and their daughters find themselves trapped and completely under the radar in the middle of nowhere, but somewhere near Hicksley, Iowa. The place doesn't show up anywhere on the map, though, and on asking whether she made it up for the film the director says, "I did. Many times, issues come up in script clearance when you use actual places. So in most of my movies I tend to make up the location to keep it easy for us to pass script clearance with a minimum of changes required."
Imaginary place or not, cinema could definitely do with more sweet, saccharine women traffickers like Dianne and dauntless thriller author-moms like Paige. We asked Bishop if we can expect more such powerhouse females from her upcoming projects, to which she says, "Being a female director, I have a passion to portray strong-willed, independent female characters. It's not easy to be a woman in this industry, so I think it's very important to show what we can do when put in a tough situation. And yes, you will definitely see more amazing female characters in my upcoming work as I am excited to put them on screen for the world to see."
Bishop is currently directing two holiday romantic-comedy films in Canada. Later this year, she is set to produce and direct a feature film that is an origin story for Bloody Mary, the urban legend of a spectre behind the mirror that has intrigued children and teens for many years. The two-book series from which the movie is being made is by NY Times bestselling author Hillary Monahan. The script is being written by Jeffrey Reddick of 'Final Destination' fame.
Bishop is also co-producing with Zadan/Meron and Sony a TV series which tells the story of Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein', but from a female point of view. "It is based on a unique novel by incomparable author Kirsten White," she adds.