A regular column, Funny Feminism features conversations with feminist-identifying artists who use humor in their creative work.
Mary Neely is a (now) 25-year-old actress, writer, feminist, filmmaker, and web-series-creator. She can do it all. Based in Los Angeles, her debut short film, “The Dresser” played at film festivals all over the world. Her web series, Wacko Smacko launched last year, and her first feature screenplay, The Dark Room was nominated for an Academy Nicholl Fellowship. I don’t just get immense joy from watching Mary’s work, I also get inspired just thinking about Mary’s work ethic. Talking to her over the phone for this interview, I caught the sort of infectious enthusiasm she has for filmmaking that made me want to jump on a plane and go and work on one of Mary’s films for free. Mary has a vision, but also the guts to set her vision free into the world. I can’t wait to see what she does next and hope you’ll feel compelled to binge-watch her web series after reading this interview.
Cathy de la Cruz: I’m wondering if first you could begin by giving me some background on yourself since I don’t really know that much about you. I’ve seen your work, but I don’t know much about you as a person. I’m interested to hear how you describe yourself i.e., do you describe yourself as an artist or as a comedian or as a filmmaker or as a performer? You do so many things.
Mary Neely: I’m 23, actually 24; I don’t know why I said 23. I feel old, right now. I grew up in Los Angeles, a lot of different parts of L.A. My parents moved around a lot of different neighborhoods, but I was always living in L.A. and I got really really into community theater when I was in elementary school and became obsessed with theater and Broadway and I wanted to move to New York and do acting, like Shakespeare and low-budget plays but I ended up going to UCLA for college and studied acting there.
While I was there I kinda started taking film history classes mainly in Scandinavian film. I got really into Danish films. It kinda became a crazy obsession where I would just be in UCLA’s video archives all the time.
I always primarily thought of myself as an actor and I studied acting and I thought that I would start auditioning as soon as I got out of school, but then I started doing more film stuff with the film students at UCLA and became really obsessed with film in general and I remember having moments on sets where I thought, “Oh, I could like do that person’s job better than them.” So once I got out of school, I was really disappointed in the kinds of roles I was going out for. I just think there’s a huge problem with the kind of roles that are written for women and for me specifically as a young woman–I was just like, “This is just really depressing,” and I wasn’t really excited about anything so I just decided, “You know, I’m just gonna do it myself.”