You’ve heard the plot before: A dashing man takes a hopeless woman under his wing and transforms her against all odds. He surprises everyone, including himself. And, of course, they fall in love.
Even though the storyline is familiar, the new indie comedy “Introducing Jodea” is a fun and heartwarming ride, and you’re guaranteed to fall head over heels for the lead character Jodea as well.
Written by and starring Chloe Traicos as Jodea, the movie follows the struggling actress who just can’t get a break. When it seems like nothing is going her way, one day, famous director Zac Kawalsky (Jeff Coppage) crashes into her car. One thing leads to another, and eventually he’s making a bet with his agent that he can turn Jodea, who is a horrible actress, into the stunning lead role for his next film.
Written by and starring Chloe Traicos as Jodea, the movie follows the struggling actress who just can’t get a break.
“The initial idea came when I was running an errand for a producer I worked for,” Traicos said, in an interview with the Journal. “He asked me to drop off a package at one of the top agencies. As I was struggling to find a parking spot, the idea came to me: What if a world famous movie director drove into the back of my car?”
“Introducing Jodea,” which premieres at the Laemmle on June 4, has already won Best Comedy at LA Indies and Best Picture at the Florence Film Awards. Traicos, a veteran indie filmmaker and observant Jew who lives in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles, came up with the idea for the movie a decade ago.
“It was an idea that I had and I scribbled it down, and then I visited LA and I was instantly struck by how huge the gap was between rich and poor over here,” she said. “That was when I really was inspired to sit down and write something. Then I made several movies in between but since I moved to LA, ‘Introducing Jodea’ has really been it. I was always working on it on the side.”
There were some road bumps along the way, however. Traicos went through three different directors, and the original male lead, Judd Nelson, ended up not being able to star in the film. There was also some pushback about the plot.
“The initial goal was to get a really big name as Zac,” she said. “I got a great team together but no big names were biting. I kept being told ‘nobody wants to make a movie about Hollywood’ but I wasn’t buying it. After all, the movie ‘The Artist’ had been a huge hit. The TV series ‘Episodes’ is incredibly popular, so I knew the idea of a movie about Hollywood would sell.”
Eventually, Traicos realized that she would have to shoot it low budget. She found an experienced director, Jon Cohen, who flew in from Australia and shot the film over six weeks. Post-production took nine months, and Cohen said the process was enjoyable for everyone involved.
“Several of the actors had a flair for improvising, so sometimes the greatest challenge was not laughing during the take when they’d run off on an amusing tangent. We had a tight knit crew [with] lots of really hard working people who never stopped giving their best, even if we’d be going all day.”
Traicos, who is originally from Zimbabwe, had to flee her country after she made a controversial documentary about Robert Mugabe, the leader at the time. She wrote two shorts and four feature films including “Unforgivable Sin,” a movie about a serial killer on the run who finds sanctuary with a rabbi and his wife.
Though she wasn’t raised Jewish–she finished a Reform conversion in 2008 and then an Orthodox conversion in 2013–today she said she identifies as a Modern Orthodox Jew. “Some people have said to me, ‘How can you be Orthodox and make movies?’ ‘How can you be Orthodox and kiss a man who’s not your husband?’ To me my career is my job and it is not reflective of what kind of Jew I am. I keep Shabbat, I keep kosher [and I] keep the festivals, so I identify as an Orthodox Jew.”
While the making of “Introducing Jodea” didn’t go exactly how Traicos envisioned it, she kept pressing on and pursuing her passion project, just like she’s done throughout her entire career. Her advice for others trying to make it in Hollywood? Make sure you do the same.
“Just do it,” she said. “Don’t listen to people who say you can’t.”
Kylie Ora Lobell is a writer for the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, The Forward, Tablet Magazine, Aish, and Chabad.org and the author of the first children’s book for the children of Jewish converts, “Jewish Just Like You.”