February 26, 2018

By Jed Gottlieb

Producer Miranda Bailey spent two decades becoming an independent film industry powerhouse. Her production company, Cold Iron Pictures, has steadily built an impressive catalog—recent successes include 2015 Sundance sensation Diary of a Teenage Girl and Mike Birbiglia’s 2016 feature Don’t Think Twice. Bailey has switched from producer to director with You Can Choose Your Family, which stars Jim Gaffigan and will debut at SXSW next month.

Bailey began at the bottom with a crash course in industry culture. Her first acting job came in indie film where she needed to do a sex scene. But, her character also opened the film with some dialogue over a few scenes and appeared to be a plum first gig. On the day of the shoot, Bailey was given no costume, only a robe, and the set wasn’t closed—something she had negotiated before the shoot. Quickly, Bailey, who had never been on a movie set until this day, felt the situation pulled out of her control.

“The producer stormed in and said, ‘You gotta take that underwear off,’ and I said, ‘No way,’” Bailey said. “The producer told me I’m holding everybody up. I felt tremendous pressure. Everyone was looking at me. I was naked and 22-years-old.”

Bailey acquiesced while the producer and director changed the scene on the spot, adding another character who walks in over and over again on the couple simulating sex. After the scene finished they told her she was wrapped. They had cut her screen time with dialogue saying they ran out of money to shoot it. Bailey offered to come back for free—“I would never have done the movie just to be in one sex scene,” Bailey said. But, the scenes never materialized.

This was in the early 2000s, during the explosion of online porn. Hollywood-centric websites specialized in stockpiling every naked actress from every movie. For years, as she tried to make a name for herself as a producer and director, the scene followed her around.

While producing her first indie feature, the director told her she needed to fire one of the assistant editors, a woman. The call was the director’s to make but, as the producer, Bailey needed to tell her she was being let go. At the news, the editor burst into tears and said, “Miranda, you need to know why he’s firing me.” The director had pulled Bailey’s old sex scene off the internet and sneaked it onto a TV screen in the background of a scene in the new movie. Then the director and the crew sat around laughing at their secret joke.

“It was completely humiliating and this assistant editor was the only one who stuck up for me and I still had to fire her,” she said. “This one thing I did on my first movie haunted me for so long.”

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