A new twist on an old story we can all relate to.
By Jenny Hoff, Photo by Michelle Loconto
In addition to showing movies from filmmakers around the world, the annual Lake Travis Film Festival, which takes place in Bee Cave and Lakeway, puts out a call for screenplays from seasoned and budding screenwriters to submit a script for a live narrative read before an audience. The screenwriter with the winning screenplay gets to see their story come to life as actors read the screenplay in its entirety, without sets or costumes or background music to enhance or distract, sitting in an intimate space with festival attendees. In this performance, it’s the words that matter. For fans of Jane Austen, festivalgoers got a treat this year with Gretchen Hardin’s Pride and Mistletoe—a modern holiday-themed millennial take on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
“I was so excited when Pride and Mistletoe got picked,” says Hardin, as she sits in her office at the City of Bee Cave Public Library. By day, she works as the library’s public services manager, designing programs throughout the year to encourage the love of literature in future generations. By night, she creates food art that accompanies her favorite reads for her Instagram account @eatingreading, to tantalize the senses and make one want to cozy up with a tasty treat and a good book. “Beyond seeing my script come alive through the actor’s interpretations, it was so inspiring getting to work with so many women in the industry. From the director of the live narrative performance to the founder of the Lake Travis Film Festival, my whole team was female.”
Gretchen Hardin & Jane Austen Connection
Pride and Mistletoe is equally female focused. While there are romantic prospects, as any good holiday film demands, the heart of the story is about each sister discovering who they really are and where their talents lie, as they navigate a modern world that celebrates success over substance and wealth over well-being.
“In Pride and Prejudice, it’s fascinating because the five sisters come from a time where it’s really important for them to find a wealthy husband so they can be provided for the rest of their lives,” Hardin recounts. “My take on it is that Beth, the main character, has lost her job and has to move in with her parents. It has a lot to do with financial security and the future you want to have. In that way, it pays homage to the original story while still fitting the time we live in.”
The characters’ backgrounds also fit the times we live in. Instead of casting white gentry in Regency England, the characters are a racially, ethnically and sexually diverse group of friends living in modern-day America.
For instance, in Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte is Elizabeth Bennet’s best friend, and she believes marriage is less a matter of the heart and more one of a sound mind for financial security. In Hardin’s adaptation, Charlotte is a successful business owner who stays true to the character’s rational, sensible approach to life and also happens to be a lesbian dating Beth’s social media influencer sister.
“A story is powerful when it’s relevant to the reader or viewer,” says Hardin. “It needs to reflect society today. As a librarian, I know how important it is for readers to see themselves represented in a story.”