Colette Freedman '90 is a Quintuple Threat
The screenwriter, actor, producer, biographer, playwright, and otherwise involved filmmaker is keeping the industry on its toes with her diverse portfolio of women-centered work.
On a typical day, Colette (Debbi) Freedman ’90 is busy doing any of a half dozen things related to writing and show business: doctoring a script, scouting a movie location (she was just in San Antonio), working on a play, memorizing lines (she occasionally appears in films and on TV), collaborating on a book with her writing partner, or teaching a classroom full of hopeful screenwriters.
"I hate it when people get pigeonholed and [think] they can only do one thing or write in one genre,” says the cheery Freedman, who’s also ghostwritten memoirs; co-written a work of fantasy fiction (The Thirteen Hollows, with Michael Scott); delved into the aftermath of infidelity in the novel The Affair and its sequel, The Consequences; and worked with songwriter Steve Dorff on his autobiography, I Wrote That One Too.
Based in Burbank, Calif. (“It’s an unsexy place to live, but I love the people who live here”), Freedman is currently focused on three projects: She’s co-written the script of a transgender love story, And Then There Was Eve, an award-winner at the L.A. Film Festival and headliner at the Women’s Film Festival in Philadelphia; she co-produced the film Quality Problems, now available on video on demand; and she co-wrote and is co-producing Miles Under Water, a coming-of-age story that will shoot this summer in Texas.
Freedman’s most successful work, the play Sister Cities, continues to be produced around the globe and was made into a Lifetime movie as well as a novel. The funny and raw musical Serial Killer Barbie is one of her favorite past works, and what binds nearly all her scripts together are strong, smart, women characters—something Freedman found lacking when she went to L.A. as an aspiring actress.
Though she always dreamed of an acting career, Freedman was an English major and serious jock at Haverford, focusing on lacrosse and field hockey. “I wanted to act but it always conflicted with sports, so I figured I’d play through college, then pursue my other dreams.”
She pretty much stuck to that script, although she first took a job after graduation as an assistant lacrosse coach at Colgate for two years, helping lead the women’s team to a top 10 spot in the national rankings. But she shifted gears when she decided, “I didn’t want to be 40 years old and realize I never had the guts to pursue my dream.”
Guided by the mantra “leap and the net will appear,” Freedman, then 24, sold her belongings, packed up her Toyota, and drove to L.A. She shed her old identity and embraced a new one, replacing her first name (Debbi) with her middle name, Colette. “I figured I wouldn’t have the courage to do this when I grew up,” she says.
She initially got parts in TV shows, small movies, and plays, “but as a feminist and someone who believes in strong female characters, I was horrified by the roles I was getting,” she says. So Freedman wrote a play called First to the Egg, about a nerdy sperm who convinces an egg he’s the one. “I played the egg, and it was a great woman’s part.” Buoyed by positive responses and encouraged by friends and family, Freedman turned her energy to writing and has been writing professionally for the past 15 years.
"I like every genre,” says Freedman. “Female-empowered comedies are my specialty, but I can write science fiction or heady drama, too. My feeling is, if you’re interested in something, you should go for it.” And she loves collaboration. “Writing’s such a solitary profession, so if you have someone to bounce ideas off of and get inspired, you become a better writer. We’re capable of only so much, and someone else will find magic where you don’t.”