The opening scene of Pet Peeves, a short film written and directed by actress and longtime Chilmark summer denizen Brooke Adams, begins with a pretty, perky twentysomething in blonde, braided pigtails named Sherry (Sunny Mabrey) wandering from her new home in Hollywood to a neighbor’s bachelor pad for a cup of sugar. Instead, she gets a little something sweet of a different sort from the chiseled man after she startles him from swimming nude laps in the pool.
The plot shifts focus to Sherry’s depressed dog and her mamma’s boy boyfriend, but the twist returns when a pet psychic hired to cheer the toy-sized mutt delivers love life advice rather than canine counsel.
By the credit roll 20 minutes after the daylight skinny dip, the viewer has encountered a culture of Los Angeles people who really do pay dog shrinks like Dot (Jaime Donnelly) to drop down on all fours and gnaw on their index finger.
“This really happens,” Ms. Adams says, wearing her chestnut hair in a short ponytail. She talks, always, with her mouth formed in a smile. “I met one. She was absolutely serious about it . . . even over the phone she can communicate with people’s pets.”
The idea behind Pet Peeves originated from the true tales of Ms. Adams’s friend who hired a pet psychic for her own dog in distress. Since she wrote the movie, more of her pals have tried to soothe their cats and dogs’ stresses via pet doc.
But Ms. Adams turns her nose up at what she thinks is a quack practice. To her, pet therapy is the stuff of a Hollywood flick. And now, it truly is.
The film, scheduled to premiere Sunday at the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival at 2 p.m. at the Vineyard Playhouse, is billed as an “unromantic comedy.” It’s also Ms. Adams’ first script.
She penned the plot 13 years ago after deciding to tackle film writing and directing. Recently, she salvaged the script and spent three days filming at her home in L.A., with the aim of creating a calling card to help her prove her credibility when she soon attempts to write and direct feature-length films.
“I had my 60th birthday party and I shot Pet Peeves three days later. I thought, ‘I want to do something new in my 60s.’”
The film and this week’s festival are all part of Ms. Adam’s plan to shoot her first full-length film, a comedic drama she inked two years ago tentatively named She’s Her Mothers’ Daughter. Ms. Adams hopes to take the script, the story of an adopted teen with a rock star biological mother, to the Sundance Director’s and Screenwriter’s Lab in Utah next summer.
“The Lab [is] a support organization, which you really need — especially for a woman director over 60,” Ms. Adams says. “It’s unheard of, someone starting out now like me. It’s going to be really hard. But I’m game. I think it’s fun to try to do fun things.”
Ms. Adams began acting as a six-year-old on-stage in New York city. Until recently, she never stopped. Her film credits include starring roles in the 1978 science fiction thriller Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the 2002 drama about retaining youthful good looks, Made-Up.
In the late 1990s, Ms. Adams went on hiatus.
“Acting became more and more unrealistic, because as you get older, as a woman, you get much less viable, until you get much older and then you might get cast as an older woman,” she explains. “I was a leading lady when I was acting, but once I hit 45, forget it, no one is interested. I also had children. The whole thing about acting is it’s about you, and suddenly it seemed inappropriate. I didn’t feel like my life anymore was about me.”
So, she shifted her career. Painting became her answer to adopting a family focus while still creating. She took up portraiture using oil on canvas and eventually composed a large collection of illustrations of family and friends. A series she painted illustrating movie sets, crews, back lots and sound stages earned her an art show in California, and last summer, many of her seaside works appeared in an exhibit on the Vineyard.
“Painting people is a lot like acting, in a way, because you have to figure out what it is about the way [faces and expressions] tell you about what’s going on inside [people],” she says. “It’s kind of the opposite of acting, in a way. You look from the outside in.
“I think any kind of creative outlet is all connected to the others . . . writing, painting, acting, directing, editing — it’s all kind of the same.”
Millions of people have seen her face blown big on the silver screen or on their home television sets. Her art has been shown and sold. But it’s a different beast for Brooke Adams to watch people watch her films.
She worries a bit — things like, “What if people think this part of that part was stupid?” But she is eager, too. Sunday’s premiere showing will bring her one step closer to becoming a bona fide filmmaker.
“At 60, I’m sort of over worrying about what other people think so much,” she says. “Now I’m sort of just into having a good time with it.”