“Acting is a spring, a dive into a cold pool. Directing is a marathon,” muses Mary Stuart Masterson from the back of a cab on her way to the airport for an early flight to L.A. to promote her directorial debut, The Cake Eaters. “There are a lot of forces that be along the way that want to pull you off your path. It’s a very different rhythm to acting. I’m still running,” she laughs easily.

Set to premiere in New York City at Cinemonde on Monday, March 9th at 6:00 p.m., The Cake Eaters is a quirky, small-town drama that explores the lives of two interconnected families as they confront old ghosts and discover love in the face of devastating loss. At its heart is a self-actualized teenage girl’s (Kristen Stewart) desire to lose her virginity before her body and life are betrayed by Frederick’s Ataxia, a rare, inherited disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system, eventually resulting in speech disturbance, heart disease and the inability to walk.

Jerome Henry Rudes is the host of Cinemonde, a private film series of thought-provoking cinema. Set in the swanky lounge and screening theatre of the Tribeca Grand Hotel, it is through cocktails, hor d’oeuvres and the screening of a short film paired with a feature film, followed by a lively panel discussion with the film directors and actors, that Cinemonde engages the palette, mind and heart of the entertainment world.

Created by the director of the former 25-year-old Avignon Film Festival and the 13-year-old Avignon/New York Film Festival, Rudes sees Cinemonde as a natural progression in his long career. “The essence of Cinemonde is something that I feel is lost in the festival experience these days. These are movies that have been vetted and are worth your time. Everyone gets to have drinks, eat a little something and talk to the filmmakers. Festivals are no longer capable of delivering that experience.”

Rudes had Masterson’s The Cake Eaters at his 25th and final Avignon Film Festival in June 2008. “Mary’s a lovely person. She’s effective in a Q&A and I think the fact that she’s a recognized actress and now is directing movies is bold and deserves our support. This movie deserves our support.”

Having recently formed a production company called Barn Door Pictures, with multiple projects in various stages of development, Masterson’s perspective gained from an accomplished acting career in hits such as Fried Green Tomatoes and Benny & Joon influences her directing. “I don’t like to act like I know everything, which is something a lot of first-time directors do,” she says. “They don’t just stand back and listen and give you space. Acting is a process. You don’t get a result off the top. It’s lucky that the actors trusted me because they assumed I knew that. My tools gave me the environment to give them the space to do their best work and create a world in which they could believe in themselves—their choices, their character, their work. I also feel strongly about the crew—that everyone feels invested and valued.”

Rudes hopes Cinemonde attendees will discover interesting new storytellers, perhaps even take away a new friend or renew a friendship with an old friend and most importantly, encourage creative people to keep creating. “Future plans are to sort of listen to the ground and the beat of the people, to the footsteps of the people who are coming,” says Rudes. “In a word, it’s fun. This is something we need right now in a time where everyone is pressed hard. Getting people together to talk about ideas and movies instead of just being in our own little corners worrying and suffering alone… by getting together there is a social component, which we hope is beneficial.

The Cake Eaters is a movie that’s valuable to see,” Rudes continues. “It’s thoroughly independent. There is a back story to these movies. Someone went out and fought hard to make this story. Movies made in that way are more interesting to watch and have more heart. You feel you’re seeing a real work of art.” MM

Ashley Wren Collins is an accomplished actress and writer living in New York City. She welcomes your comments and thoughts at [email protected].