ANYA is born!

Photo by Jacob Okada

Photo by Jacob Okada

11/8/2018. This 2/5/2014 image is the first documentation I’ve found of ANYA.

ANYA began as a conversation over breakfast in February 2014 when Jacob asked me (Carylanna) how species diverged. At the time, we were in Florida. Jacob was freelancing on a NatGeo Wild show about an exotic veterinarian and was growing curious about how much similarity there is across species of animals. I gave a basic Anthropology 101 answer about random mutations, natural selection, and genetic drift.

I thought that was the end of it. But several hours later we were walking on the beach, talking loosely about wedding plans, when Jacob stopped asked me if I’d still marry him if he were a different species of humans. I looked him over, realized there’s no way I’d ever know, and said “sure!” LIBBY and MARCO, the interspecies couple at the heart of ANYA were born.

Over the next week we kept walking and talking. Started throwing ideas onto index cards and organizing them on the wall. The first outline spread across two walls of our dining room.

We were both working freelance jobs at the time and were finishing the edit of our first feature doc, PAINTING THE WAY TO THE MOON. But we couldn’t get ANYA out of our heads. By August 2014 we had a very rough first draft. We rewrote the script several times to incorporate feedback from workshops, screenplay competitions, writing groups, science advisors, and others.

When we started pre-pro in early 2017 we realized we needed to simplify and reduce the budget. In March 2017, we did our last rewrite (starting with a blank screen and copying/transforming the script page by page as I learned from Gordy Hoffman’s BlueCat rewrite class). We shot the resulting SAG-ULB script over 16 days plus broll, in July-August 2017.

We went through several titles over the years (Little Narwhal, Narwahl-American, Humans Among Humans, Side Effects May Include Genocide). During post-production, we came back to the original title. “Anya” is the Narval word for “the curse” — the belief that anyone who strays from the community is doomed to never have children of their own. As Seymour says, “anya” is a cultural explanation for a biological phenomenon.

If you look close you can see, too, that certain places (Queens, houseboat) and characters (Libby, Marco (a.k.a. Miller), Seymour) have been central since the start. An aside, “Seymour” was a tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman who died the month that ANYA was born.

jacob okada