Selina Ringel is an award-winning writer, producer, and comedian. She is a Jewish Mexican-American that grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and now resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Dan Levy Dagerman. The duo are the co-founders of 2HandsProduccion, a film production company whose current project is capturing Selina’s real life pregnancy during Covid-19 as part of the fictional film “39 Weeks.”
Pregnancy During Covid-19
Pregnancy for any new mother is a strange, uncertain time. The body is constantly changing as the baby grows and emotions run high. It is also a time of excitement and anticipation as parents and family members wait to meet the baby. Every pregnancy milestone is a treasured moment. Parents long for each ultrasound appointment where they can see their adorable growing bundle of joy and listen to the heartbeat. Family and friends plan baby showers, shop for gifts, and ask to feel the baby kick.
These are moments we have all taken for granted. These are moments we expect every pregnant person will experience. For the fictional Eva Garcia from “39 Weeks,” these moments are taken from her when Covid-19 strikes. Her ultrasounds become a solitary event. Her family and friends must be kept at a distance to protect her growing child.
The film is a direct reflection of what pregnancy during Covid-19 is like for expecting parents, family members, and friends.
“Being pregnant during this time is like nothing that has ever happened in history,” says Selina, actress and producer. “Every single day the rules change about hospitals, workers, delivery, ultrasounds, everything!”
Selina and her husband, Dan, began producing the film before Covid swept the globe with the plan to make a fictional film that would incorporate the real-time progression of Selina’s pregnancy. They never expected it to turn into an inside look at pregnacy during a pandemic.
When asked about what she would like women to receive from the film, Selina says she would love for women who were pregnant during this time to really see themselves in the reality of the uncertainty of this new world.
“For a woman who runs anxious, has issues with uncertainty and already had a miscarriage, let me tell you that this is a very strange time to be pregnant,” says Selina. “But I also think these women and babies will be strong in ways they don’t fully understand yet. We have had to cancel our baby shower, let go of being surrounded by family, figure things out on our own that we never thought possible, and somehow coming out if it I think we will be so proud of the depth in character we have built.”
Vulnerability is not a weakness
“39 Weeks” follows the fictional Eva Garcia, a single mother by choice, as she embarks on her journey through pregnancy. Eva is strong-willed and think she can do everything on her own. The film explores the stigma surrounding vulnerability, asking for help, and the need for connection.
“The message we are trying to send is that asking for help and expressing vulnerability are strengths not weaknesses,” says Selina. “After so many years of fighting for women’s rights, equality, etc. we have sometimes started operating from a place where women need to be unemotional to be successful.”
This stigma extends beyond women too. For men, there is also a huge stigma against vulnerability. Anyone trying to be successful is often told not to ask for help, to do it all on their own. They are told help is weakness.
“It’s as though we need to stop being human if we want to be taken seriously.”
Reflecting on her own experiences, Selina says she spent many years trying to pretend she didn’t need any help or didn’t have any problems.
“Fake it til you make it, they say. And So I had always had to seem like I had everything together and to be honest it was not only exhausting but it made me less efficient,” she says. “It has been through doing some deep work on myself that I have realized that asking for help is a strength, that saying you need someone by your side is an asset, that reaching out when you need to can make all the difference and I want us to start seeing women, and humans in general, in a new light.”
Eva’s journey in “39 Weeks” is about her coming to terms with asking for help and understanding that she is stronger for doing so. Throughout the film she discovers that its okay to need people. She realizes she needs some sort of support system during her pregnancy and it doesn’t have to be a man, it can just be some form of human connection. This theme of connection becomes even more important for those going through pregnancy during Covid-19, and the film explores how single Eva finds support at a distance throughout her pregnancy.
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Filming in real-time during a pandemic
Selina and her husband did not originally set out to make a film about pregnancy during Covid-19, but thanks to their unique filming style, the project evolved into something they never could have expected.
“39 Weeks” is taking an approach not usually seen in fictional films by filming in real-time over the course of 9 months. Originally intended to simply capture Selina’s real-life pregnancy and bring Eva’s character to life, this filming approach has allowed Selina and her team to change and shift the narrative to incorporate real life events into the film, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests for sparked by the murder of George Floyd.
The fictional film feels almost like a documentary when we see the character, Eva, driving through crowd-packed streets as she struggles with her desire to support the BLM movement and her fear of going into a situation where she might get Covid-19 and potentially put per pregnancy at risk.
It’s so powerful and emotional to see such a real depiction of our current world. Most shows and films have not caught up to current times so it is often strange seeing the pandemic and protests absent from these fictional settings. But “39 Weeks” is boldly showing us the reality while still telling a fictional story. It’s a great mix of the documentary and the fictional film, brought together into one truly innovative style.
The film is set to be completed by mid-October and Selina and her team are currently exploring distribution options so that the film can reach the most people and make an impact. Selina hopes that all who watch it will get to experience what her journey, and the journey of so many other women, has been like experiencing pregnancy during Covid-19.