My acting professor told us not to expect to get anywhere in showbiz until we’d given it 10 years. He was right.
It was right at that 10 year mark (when I was 32) that I was able to say goodbye to my day jobs as a makeup counter girl and a social media manager. I could finally pay the rent with my acting and screenwriting gigs alone!
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Meanwhile in Chicago, my best friend had a high-powered career in marketing, a husband, a four bedroom house, a 401k, two kids and a black lab.
See, TIME is but a construct in L.A. It’s the land of Samuel L. Jackson getting his big break at 45. George Clooney tying the knot for the first time at 53. And congrats to 80-year-old Bobby De Niro on his brand new baby!
Liberating, right? As long as you don’t read the fine print.
A woman in Hollywood becomes ACUTELY aware around her late 20s that while Hollywood may be on Hollywood time, her EGGS are on Planet Earth Pacific Standard Time. It may take 10 years to find your footing here – but by 35 your pregnancy is considered GERIATRIC; high risk. In other words…Molly, you in danger, girl.
At 34 my career was finally in motion but my dating life was a house of horrors. I decided to buy myself some of that proverbial time and freeze my eggs. It felt like a shameful defeat. Like being an outlaw and finally turning myself in to the small-town sheriff: “I’m tired’a runnin’.”
I was pissed that I had to fork out $14,000 despite my renowned Writer’s Guild insurance. Turns out the WGA does NOT consider fertility preservation “medically necessary” unless you’ve been diagnosed as infertile. But don’t worry — if you need a penile prosthesis implantation (aka surgical intervention for erectile dysfunction) they got you!
I was angry at the system, but I was angrier at myself. Had I at some point unwittingly made a choice between a Hollywood career and a family?
I vowed to turn my expensive punishment into research. If I had to do it, at least I could document it. Adapt it. Share it. A cautionary tale for the dreamers. Here’s the fine print projected onto a 30-foot screen, ladies!
But in the process of creating what would eventually be called Scrambled — I unearthed a sparkling truth: Brilliant, remarkable, powerful women had done it. Were doing it. Would be doing it. Executives, actors, agents, producers, casting directors, makeup artists … Turns out anyone in Hollywood with eggs was freezing ‘em.
When I admitted to my producer at Hello Sunshine, president of film and TV Lauren Neustadter, that I needed a little patience turning around pages on our Christmas film because I was undergoing the freezing process — she lit up. “Are you going to Carrie Wambach?!” (Reproductive Partners’ Patron Saint of Fertility.)
When I came home from my retrieval surgery — groggy and proud — Hello Sunshine had delivered a huge care package to my apartment. They told me to take my time and focus on healing.
A year later, when my Scrambled script was sent to Meredith Wieck, SVP of film production and development at Lionsgate, my producer Gillian Bohrer requested a quick pass. We were already gearing up to shoot it on a shoestring budget.
Plot twist: Meredith had gone through the egg freezing process herself. “When I read Leah’s script, I felt seen. I laughed, I cried,” she says. “While the physical aspects of egg freezing are challenging, what we don’t talk about enough is the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with it.”
Little did I know, Lionsgate was leading the way in studio fertility benefits. It was the motion picture group’s president of production, Erin Westerman, that spearheaded the movement. “Frozen embryos allowed me to plan our second child’s birth around a production schedule,” she says. “My husband is a producer and was gone for a full year during Covid. I didn’t want to have a baby while he was gone. And I didn’t want to wait until he was home to get pregnant. Because we had embryos, I was able to take control of the timeline. I did a transfer while he was working in London and had the baby shortly after he returned home. He participated by docusigning.”
We got an offer we couldn’t refuse. Suddenly, my tiny indie cautionary tale was a Lionsgate movie.
“Ten years ago, few people discussed fertility preservation and very few companies had coverage,” says Dr. Wambach. “Then women started getting educated, and with knowledge came power.”
I’d felt that my egg freezing was punishment for choosing my career over my love life. But to the women around me, it was a secret weapon. A bazooka in the rebellion against society’s prescribed timeline. According to Vanessa Joyce, EVP of film at Paramount, “Hollywood is the type of industry that attracts women who are willing to think about things in out-of-the-box, non-traditional ways — including relationships, marriage, and starting a family.”
I may have set out to tell a cautionary tale, but what resulted was a love letter to all the women being told they’re out of time. Time is real, but so is science. And so is the invisible army of women ready to rally around you if you are willing to share your harrowing, valiant journey through womanhood – belly bruises and all.
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