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Trophies - A reversal of roles in the objectification of spouses

By: Darida Rose

Trophies is a 2020 comedy short film that follows a day in the life of trophy husband Freddy and the uncertainties he faces when he fails to live up to some of his wife’s standards. The film is a sharp take on the reversal of ‘normal’ gender roles, as we get to witness a man as an object of his female partner instead of the typical “trophy wife” that is often depicted in Hollywood cinema.

The film benefits from seamless directing and a wonderful cast featuring Paul Johnson, Jill-Michelle Melean, and Kristina Emerson. It features beautiful cinematography, set design, and playful editing that all help drive the comedic plot forward without any sense of staleness and forced devices.

The film is directed by Angelica Rosas McDaniel, written by and starring her spouse Brian McDaniel. Below is an interview with Phoenix Journal and Aneglica Rosas McDaniel regarding her process in the making of Trophies.

Darida Rose, Phoenix Journal (PJ): This was really a fun film. Although the film doesn’t dramatically depict the anxieties of being a trophy spouse, its subtext speaks to this theme. Was there, at any point, a negotiation of dramatizing such anxieties on a more serious note? Do you think that would have taken away from the comedy maybe, or are there instances within the film that satisfy such a take in your opinion?

Brian McDaniel (BM): I definitely think there’s a way to make a serious and dramatic handling of a subject funny!  With this film we were coming at the subject with such a shift in perspective as compared with how it is normally addressed, it felt like we could really make it resonate most powerfully by keeping it more playful.  I know that might sound like a paradox but that was our take on it, and we decided to really commit!

(PJ): The reversal of normative roles are interesting and fun to witness. I was wondering if trophy husbands are on the upward trend in California? For audiences outside of Cali, such a concept may be a bit of a stretch, but in reality it’s there. Was there inspiration for the script from real life and societal trends?

Angelica Rosas McDaniel (AM): In general there’s a broad trend in the United States where women are the primary breadwinners in hetero households (40+%) and so while there might not be an abundance of trophy husbands, there are millions of men who can’t fall back on financial clout to manipulate domestic life.  This film takes those realities to their logical extreme to explore how that plays on both partners' psyches.

(PJ): Can you please take us through the process for our readers of what it’s like to work as a couple on a film, especially in relation to such a plot?

(BM): Haha!  It’s not hard to work when you both understand the power dynamic, right?  In all seriousness, it takes a lot of awareness, and flexibility.  I (Brian) could not convince Angelica that the first scene would play for laughs until she saw it on its feet.  But once she did she knew just how to maximize its effect.

(AM): At home we’re a solid team who support each other's passions, while raising strong daughters, making family time a priority and figuring out the balance.  It was an easy and natural transition to combine professional skills to create this feature together.  Where it had the potential to go south was when I, as the Director, had to give my husband notes on his writing choices in the script or his performance as an actor.  Fortunately, I have decades of experience working closely with talent, so I could convey my notes and feedback during the day, then we could still enjoy a meal together as a happy family at night.

(PJ): Are there any major plans to work on a feature together? And this film itself has all the potential to become a feature. Are there any talks on expanding the project?

(AM): Trophies was created with the idea that it could become a sitcom or feature.  We enjoyed working together so much, as soon as we wrapped production we started writing a feature together.  We love the script which is a comedy loosely based on my relationship with my dad who is a Mexican immigrant, but given the state of things we are looking at another short project in the next year, of course if you know any financiers, we are open to reconsidering!

(PJ): Wonderful casting choices. The acting is easy and natural. Can you take us through the process with the actors and the script, as well as character development?

(BM): Many of the parts were written specifically for the actors. What’s more, we did have a few opportunities to workshop scenes in front of live audiences which were invaluable in weaking characters and timing.

(PJ): Is there anything not shown and told in the film that you think might be important for viewers to consider, that can help the film be contextualized and give more meaningful perspectives for contemplation on the audience’s part?

(BM): If there’s something about one of the relationships bothers you, please assume we meant it to be challenging to your perspectives!

(PJ): The aspect of a trophy wife helping a trophy husband is a sharp and witty choice in terms of writing. Would you say this is more a collaboration on Mila’s part to make a thing go right, or could we see it as a passing of the torch in some way, from a generation of trophy wives who are handing the keys of uncertainty over to trophy husbands?

(BM): It’s definitely more of a collaboration.  Mila enjoys the dramas in her life and Freddy provides her with plenty of that. At the same time, her perspective is key to showing the audience the expectations that he is, or should be living up to!


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