Producer: High ‘Five’ for Director Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Jennifer Aniston (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

The new film “Five” (October 10, Lifetime), is a fresh take on the subject of breast cancer, which television explores every October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. “Five” is an anthology featuring five different vignettes directed by five different women. Jennifer Aniston executive produced and directed one of the most moving segments, Mia, the story of a woman whose life is turned upside down when her cancer unexpectedly goes into remission. Her producing partner Kristin Hahn discussed why she and Aniston were inspired to make this film and the impact that it is having on viewers.

How did you and Jennifer Aniston get involved in the project?
Just the seed of doing an idea about the topic was suggested by the Susan G. Komen foundation. We really liked the challenge of taking this subject matter on in what we hoped was a fresh way – a new way. Our goal was to approach this topic in a way that acknowledges the gravity of it but still captures the way we, as humans, get through really hard times. So we were intrigued by the idea of taking it on and we said yes then we knew that this was the kind of thing that would take a village to get done because anthologies are not a popular format right now on television. So we brought on a couple of producers we really liked including Marta Kauffman who Jennifer Aniston had done “Friends” with as a supervising writer. With all hands on deck we figured out a way to get it done and then we found Lifetime and Sony. Each partner added more to it until we had momentum.

Watch Aniston’s Own Take On The Project:

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Why did Jennifer Aniston choose to direct instead of act in the film?
She directed once before, a short, and she loved it. And so when the idea of directing one of these was brought up in our original meeting, she said, “I would love to do that.” It’s a chance for someone like Jen to get to direct. She’s a really natural director. She’s very detail oriented and has enormous patience. She loves working with actors. Frankly, it’s fun for her to be on the other side of the camera and get to work with actors that she has admired for a long time, like Tony Shaloub, who she did a play with many, many years ago in New York and Patricia Clarkson who we were all big fans of. It was kind of like going to Disneyland for her.

How did you and Jennifer decide that Mia was the segment she would direct?
It was hard to choose. All five scripts were written. We read all of them. We developed the scripts a little bit. But on the first reading, Jen and I were like, “They’re all good and really different.” She was torn. But I think Mia’s journey, which really is just a fun roller coaster ride into the depths of darkness and the highs of love and getting a second chance at life. I think the layers of that were really appealing to her and I think she did a great job with that. I’ve seen it a hundred and something times and I still laugh and cry every time. I think she did a beautiful job capturing that. Our favorite films are movies like “Terms of Endearment” and “Tootsie,” the great dramedies that make you laugh and cry and think. She managed to pull that off in a short film which is hard to do.

You’re used to producing big budget feature films. How was it different working on a TV budget?
We were fortunate because we had a lot of financial support from Lifetime and Sony. We said to them we want to approach these as films for television not as a TV show and that required a certain amount of a budget to deliver real quality. And they were very supportive.

Did you have any personal experience with breast cancer that gave this project special resonance for you?
I’ve had friends who have been diagnosed and gone through treatment and are healthy and happy today. I have a mother-in-law who we lost to breast cancer. I think that the interesting thing about breast cancer is that I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t have an experience around breast cancer. The men on our crew, over the three months of working together, at some point I would get the story from every single person on the set and everybody had one. Everybody was there happily working and giving everything they had because they’d been touched by this issue.

How is “Five” different from the numerous other films about breast cancer?
I would like to think we took some risks that haven’t necessarily been taken in the past and we tried very hard to stay away from anything that would be considered melodrama. Our goal is always going to be to inspire people to laugh and feel all at the same time, or at least in the same ten minute experience. To create stories that didn’t feel like medicine but were informative and hopefully galvanizing in some way. I got an e-mail this morning from someone who saw the film a couple days ago and she said [afterward] she and her mother-in-law had the best conversation they ever had. She saw the film and she called her and asked her questions about her experience with breast cancer that she never thought to ask before and there was a real connection there. When we showed the film in New York, there were a couple women who brought their husbands who were going through treatment or were survivors and said that they had their first real conversation [about it] with their husbands. The films seem to open up people to talking about it and making it less scary.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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