Anne Marie Cummings brings a theater experience to L.A. actors.
Anne Marie Cummings epitomizes the maxim "If you want something done right, do it yourself."
After years as a theater actress, writer and director in Ithaca, New York, and other U.S. cities, she decided to sell everything, move to Los Angeles and create, write, direct and star in a TV series. "Some people can settle easily, but I knew I had to leave my comfort zone for myself as an artist," Cummings says.
Two seasons and five Daytime Emmy nominations later, her cross-country trek is paying off: her digital series, Conversations in L.A., is available on Amazon and iTunes.
A dark comedy, the series focuses on Michelle Macabee (Cummings) and her relationship with the much younger Gus Borrero (Gustavo Velasquez). Despite undeniable chemistry, they contend with their age difference, a mid-life crisis and, of course, the opinions of others. In the spirit of old Hollywood, Cummings first spotted Velasquez in a coffee shop.
"I've never had a relationship with a younger man," she says, "but I wanted to tell a story that was riddled with conflict, because good conflict is good drama."
Inspired by the immediacy of theater, Cummings shoots each episode as a one-shot, meaning continuous camera movement, meticulous choreography, no cuts and theater-scale rehearsals. "I think it's the most challenging form of filmmaking you can imagine," she says, "and it's scary for actors who are used to shooting one page of a script in a day. We'll do 12 without stopping."
The first two seasons featured such actors as Sally Kirkland and Rebecca Metz. When season three is released in December, Justin Kirk (Modern Family, Weeds) will join the ensemble. "Justin said it felt like having a theatrical experience on film," Cummings says, laughing.
Speaking of film, when Cummings came to L.A., she studied screenwriting with Ron Osborn (Meet Joe Black, Moonlighting). Her screenplay, Eat Bitter, Taste Sweet, is now in pre-production with producer-director Wendy Stanzler.
"I came out to Hollywood with a lot of knowledge and wisdom," she observes, "at an age when I had explored my artistic abilities. I knew the work and wasn't just winging it."
Like her series, it's all beautifully choreographed.
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 8, 2018