Xavier: Please share with us what inspired this very unique tale?
Sonja: It's funny because it was really quite random! [she laughs.] I was actually just flipping through the pages of Backstage [a trade magazine for actors] in search of my next theatre gig. I remember it stood out next to listings for non-union commercial auditions there was a picture of a group of beautiful, glowing young women and an ad that read: Do something meaningful. Help a woman in need. $8,000 dollars. I was blown away. At the time I remember thinking, here they are marketing a dangerous and experimental vanity procedure to fledgling actresses, who are more often than not desperate financially impaired young women. That's despicable.
Xavier: If you felt it was such a negative thing, then what was the real incentive to delve deeper into this world?
Sonja: Well I was drawn in by the story potential, not to champion or condemn the egg donation thing. I just imagined writing about a character who might create an entire new back story in order to be selected as a donor. Like what if in reality this girl isn't the healthy, non-smoker, athletic Ivy league student? What if she is an Adderall addicted, conflicted girl who is hiding a serious secret? But she's an actress, so she can pull the wool over everyones eyes. I thought that would be a strong female character I'd kill to play. But besides that, it turned out that so much of what I initially thought about the entire fertility world was largely based on misconceptions. Like did you know that IVF (In vitro fertilization procedures used to impregnate an infertile woman with another woman's egg) is more affordable than adoption in New York? I had this idea going into this that "buying eggs" was basically a cosmetic thing. Like these women wanted to have their future child
win the genetic lottery or something. But that's just not it at all, for the most part. I began interviewing women who had undergone the entire process, both on the donor and recipient side, and I was blown away by their stories. I met an incredible woman who gave her eggs to her own sister. Really amazing, beautiful things.
Xavier: So have you completely changed your stance now? Are you pro egg donation?
Sonja: It's not so black and white in my eyes. I think there is an unfortunate emphasis placed on the donor's looks in the bigger fertility clinics in Manhattan. Like many of these places allow the recipient to see current photos of the wanna-be donor and yeah, statistically speaking, beautiful girls to tend to be picked. When I was interviewing to see if I wanted to be involved in the process, I had a doctor at a reputable clinic say that I would be chosen immediately, and this is a direct quote, "Because everybody likes a pretty girl and everyone loves an actress!" I was shocked.
Xavier: Wow...That's pretty insane! So would you consider Ovum to have sci-fi elements?
Sonja: Well in the way that Lars Von Trier's Melancholia touched on Sci-Fi while retaining the feel of it being a "real" human story. I think the whole concept of a harvest of human eggs, "ova" is pretty sci-fi, but my film is told from the perspective of a twenty-something Brooklyn hipster chick. It's funny and a little dark and I think largely relatable. Like what if Lena Dunham was an egg donor? She might be a lot like Calpurnia Dylan [Ovum's leading lady].
Xavier: Speaking of Lena Dunham, was it a conscious choice to follow in her footsteps by writing and starring in your own project?
Sonja: Well I really love the work that Lena Dunham does, so being in a category like that could only be positive in my eyes. And yes, I think that's what appealed to me about the entire process of film-making is how hands on it is. So much of your time as an actor is spent waiting around. Waiting to be cast. Waiting to be called back. Waiting for agent feedback. It can be isolating and frustrating. With this, I decided I can take my future in my own hands. I began studying screenwriting through NYU (instructor Jason Grieff) and fell in love with storytelling from the outside. As an actor, I tell only my own character's story, while here I am the creator of everything. Now, I have been focusing on producing and then when we get to set (on July 28th) I get to do what I love most: act.
Xavier: Well congratulations on your script. We can't wait to see the final product.
Sonja: Thank you so much!
O'Hara, (pictured right) with Ovum co-star, Karin Agstam.