Private Project

Pizza Party

“We are not broken, we are a million shattered pieces glued into something strong and solid”

Based on a true event preceding the Larry Nassar trials, an unlikely pair come together at a dystopian pizza party for sexual assault survivors. #42; A quiet high schooler meets #1; A quick-witted litigator due with her first child any day now- flanked lovingly by her husband Max. Their relationship blooms and #42 becomes #1’s greatest teacher. Through solidarity, #42, #1 and every woman in the room begin to reconcile with and acknowledge the innocence that was taken away from them. Opening a portal into a dream-like world of leotards and little girl cries, of strength, joy and unrelenting fury.

  • Tessa Hope Slovis
    Shithouse, Law and Order SVU, The Affair, Actor Seeks Role
  • Tessa Hope Slovis
    Shithouse, Law and Order SVU, The Affair, Actor Seeks Role
  • Gene Gallerano
    Occupy Texas
  • Michael Slovis (Executive Producer)
    Breaking Bad, Game Of Thrones, Preacher, Walking Dead, New Amsterdam
  • Maria Heritier (Executive Producer)
    Heading Home
  • Becky Ann Baker (Executive Producer)
    Freaks And Geeks, Girls
  • Dylan Baker (Executive Producer)
    23 Blast, Selma, I'm Dying Up Here
  • Kyrha Lever
    Isle of Dogs
  • Tessa Hope Slovis
    Shithouse, Law and Order SVU, The Affair, Actor Seeks Role
  • Andrew K Meyer (Associate Producer)
    Like Glass
  • Christoph Plunkett (Associate Producer)
    Like Glass
  • Lauren Flack (Associate Producer)
    Like Glass
  • Margot Bingham
    Key Cast
    New Amsterdam, Boardwalk Empire, She's Gotta Have It
  • Jen Ponton
    Key Cast
    Dietland, The Blacklist, Occupy Texas
  • Catherine Elvir
    Key Cast
    Occupy Texas
  • Gene Gallerano
    Key Cast
    "Max "
    Occupy Texas
  • Demi Waldron (DP)
    November, Small Mercy
  • Lorraine Calvert
    The Sopranos (Emmy Award), Happy!, The Punisher, Daredevil
  • Tessa Slovis
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Drama, Dark Comedy
  • Runtime:
    12 minutes 20 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    October 14, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    20,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Ashland Film Festival
    Ashland, Oregon
    United States
    June 1, 2021
    Special Jury Mention
Director Biography - Tessa Hope Slovis

Tessa Slovis is a first time director based in Los Angeles. She began her career as an actor at age 9, and has appeared in 20+ musicals and plays in NYC, LA and regionally, and can be seen on screen in Law and Order SVU, The Affair, Indie Film "Actor Seeks Role" (alongside Pizza Party producer Dylan Baker) and SXSW 2020 Grand Jury Prize Film Shithouse.  As a writer, her solo play "The Question Of My Virginity" was an official selection of the NYC Flying Solo Festival. She is the co-writer/ performer of the cabaret series, "Swipe Right/Swipe Left: Love in The Age of Tinder" which has  headlined at NYC's Don't Tell Mama and Feinstein’s/54 Below. Her short stories and personal essays have been featured in and the Huffington Post blog. 

She holds a BA in Anthropology from Barnard College and an MFA in acting from the University of Southern California. She is a proud Latina Merit Scholar and the recipient of the 2019 USC Marshall School Of Business Performance Science Scholarship for her novel "Steep" which is currently in process.

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Director Statement

Survivor. Sometimes, I hate that word.

It has become the iron clad stamp-mark of strength on people who have been through the unspeakable. But I don’t always feel like that word belongs to me…Survivor…I don’t feel like an iron clad woman. I don’t think any sexual assault survivor truly does; we are people that have piece-mealed ourselves back together, and the result is a community of dynamic, complex individuals who are messy and flawed- who can forget about their trauma for minutes, days, or years. Who mask their pain in cynicism and quick wit- but still carry it uphill on their backs. Those are the characters that interest me as a writer.

And those are the characters of Pizza Party.

The Larry Nassar trial came rushing in on the coattails of the 2016 election at the apex of the #metoo movement. It bombarded our news cycle for weeks and then... it slowly slipped away. In the spring of 2019, during my final semester of my MFA acting program at USC, we were tasked to write a short film as an assignment for an on camera acting class, led by my now producer/ collaborator Gene Gallerano.

The Nassar trials were still in my head, I felt a unique connection to these women, who too were on that uphill journey- carrying, enduring, “surviving”. I began listening to the NPR podcast, Believed, which detailed the psychology behind Nassar's actions and highlighted a few of the survivor’s stories. It also mentioned that the night before the trials began, the litigators hosted a gathering for the victims and fed them… pizza. It was a blip in the podcast, but I listened to that moment over and over again. Pizza?

I was thrown by the juxtaposition of the innocence of gathering in a drab function hall for a slice of bad pizza and the brutality of Nassar's acts. This laid the foundation for the script of Pizza Party: A film about a dystopian pizza party for sexual assault survivors who all share the same assailant that unravels into an epic fantasy world where the survivors become ghost-like versions their younger selves.

After submitting the assignment to Gene, he pulled me aside and told me we couldn’t make this film in class. The iron-clad stamp mark was tossed my way- we had to finance it, produce it and make it for real. We joined forces with Stone Street Cinema, a production company based in my hometown of Montclair NJ and hit the road. It was important for me to shoot the film in my hometown. While Pizza Party isn’t directly about the Nassar trials (no real names were used), it was important for the setting to feel similar-A small North Eastern town that prides itself on athleticism; A big community with a small town feel.

We were interested in shooting it in a religious multi-use space- When we found the St. Lukes choir room we were sold. Speckled with small religious elements, and entrenched in an airy eeriness.

Discussing the project with DP Demi Waldron, we knew we didn't want the piece to feel didactic. Using the innocence/brutality dichotomy, I wanted everything in the world to feel a bit off. Visually we started to use references like The Lobster, Punch Drunk Love, Lady Bird, and When They See Us. All pieces that create a feeling of unbalance, with heightened colors and jarring cutaways.

Most of the film was shot handheld, finding moments of stillness when certain characters find power or clarity. Demi was supportive, bringing her experience and flare to every moment of production. We shot over the course of 2, 12 hour days with 25 actors and a 18 person crew. What came to pass was an experience as sacred as the story we were telling.

I had never made a movie before but I knew this was one of those particularly special processes, the reason why people make films- it was messy and challenging but every single person was connected with and empowered by the story we were telling.

Pizza Party is a story about finding power in numbers. Surviving, together. And that’s exactly how this film was made.