Cloning, Christianity & Identity Crisis: The Boylan Sisters
Identity Crisis explores the common question, what if I could fix what I think is wrong with me, would my life be better? Using the fantastic fictional illustration of cloning, the story ends with the poignant recognition that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, the Creator on purpose for a purpose.
We talked with the screenwriters behind this teen movie, Alexandra Boylan and Andrea Polnaszek, who are real life sisters and founded The Boylan Sisters where they are committed to making female driven, faith-based movies that appeal to audiences of all ages.
Interviewed for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: It’s so great to chat with you guys again, and I loved Identity Crisis. It’s timed at such a perfect time with everything that’s going on in the country and the world. Maybe talk to me a little bit about how the idea came up.
Alexandra Boylan: What’s crazy is we came up with the idea three years ago back in the end of summer of 2020. So it’s like God laid this upon our heart before we even knew what was going to happen with society, because originally the idea was we were talking about girls and what do girls struggle with, what a freshman struggle with in college, their number one struggle is confidence. So we wanted to address that in a movie of like, “There is no such thing as failure. You just try and try and get back up.”
And we thought it’d be really fun to do the illustration of cloning and then pointing everyone back to the creator of the universe that you were created, fearfully and wonderfully made on purpose for a purpose. And then it came.
And then as things started progressing these past couple of years, we were like, “Whoa.” We had a big, big message that we were about to send out and we’re so excited because we always want to speak life into young girls especially.
RM: I thought it was such a creative way because what female at any point in their life has not thought about tweaking a little bit like, “Oh, if I just had a little bit more courage here, if I just held my tongue here different outcomes would play,” like choose your own ending, right? And so we kind of get to see that play out with the main character. Talk a little bit about that delicate balance between really wholly being who you are but then having some influence into ways you can change.
Andrea M. Polnaszek: That’s a great question. Yeah. Well, I think that the movie really helps us to see that sometimes the thing that we think needs to change maybe doesn’t, and maybe we need to just be, like in this situation, more courageous to do what it is that God’s called us to do or to put our gifts and talents out there.
But then on the other side, there’s that slippery slope where sometimes there’s something that we actually really do need to change. And I always like to think about whatever’s lovely, whatever’s pure, whatever is praiseworthy, think on these things. And I think that we want to call people to that balance between making sure we’re thinking about the right things that we’re trying to emulate, but at the same time, what is it that are those special awesome talents that God’s given us that we just need to put out into the world and make it a better place?
RM: I’m sure we all can recall, but is there one that comes to mind for each of you where you might’ve thought that it wasn’t one of your best qualities, but it ends up being something that is so unique and amazing to you that you wouldn’t have it any other way? Like we see in the film, she wants all these different things and then the thought of somebody else going home to her family just breaks her heart, right? Or I don’t know. I thought it was so interesting to play with that and I can think back to times where I thought, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t have been so assertive there.” But that is something that has allowed me to be a leader in life, so to speak. What about with the two of you?
AB: I feel the same way about that, because being in Los Angeles, California, in Hollywood, trying to make a difference in Hollywood as a woman, and I would go into meetings for Switched and our other movies and I would be very bold. And at first I was like, “Maybe I was too bold in that meeting to say, ‘No, we need more messages like this.'”
And I would go into studio meetings and I would just call everybody out on, “Well, where are the women who work here and why are we not making more things for women or teen girls that are?” And then I would get like, “Oh, maybe I spoke up too much.” And then I found out that those studios I met with started hiring more women, started wanting to make more things for women and I thought, “Okay, God, thank goodness I stepped up and said something because without saying it, the change might not have happened. They might not have been aware of it.” So sometimes it is good to maybe have a big mouth and be fearless and say it.
AP: Yeah, the first thing that popped into my head was actually being a mom. I spent a long time comparing myself to other moms and thinking, “Oh my gosh, I’m just not doing it right and are they going to turn out okay?” And then when I really leaned into just who I am, and there are parts of me that are very controlling and like everything very organized and orderly, but then I also have the ability to be spontaneous and just live in the moment and be able to…
And one of the things I love doing was bringing our kids with us everywhere we went. And that meant they sometimes missed days of school. And I was not the cupcake mom in elementary school, I don’t really even like to bake. So I was like, “We’re going to bring the store-bought cupcakes, but we’re going to go on an adventure.”
And trying to find that balance where you can actually be at peace that, “Okay, I’m the mom that you got, and so this is what you’re going to get,” and let God figure out the rest. And then just not worry so much about that pickup line, pickup line meaning all the cars in line waiting to pick up their kids in elementary school and thinking, “Oh my gosh, my car doesn’t look like that and I didn’t do that.” But just being like, “Hey, I’m so glad you’re home from school today,” and grabbing them, hugging them and being me.
RM: Absolutely. That carpool line is a struggle. And if your car’s not washed…
AP: Or if it’s old and has lots of rust, that was my…
RM: One of the other things I thought was super neat with the film was the idea that you infused in technology and science with this idea of cloning which we see on the pages of the news too with different things that they’re trying to do and even within own humans, whether it’s medicine or just cutting technology using this. So where did that aspect come from or what did you pull on to kind of have the clone science side of it?
AB: Yeah, so the science came in because yeah, it was going to be a clone movie, so she had to be a brilliant scientist. And I think we really wanted to delve into… Science is our way of understanding the created order and not the separation of science and Creation. Actually, they’re together. You just can’t see the Creator in the scientific order, because He’s not here anymore. So that started our conversation.
And then actually, because we were looking into science, we went and searched out a female science Christian, and we found Dr. Georgia Dunston, who is one of the founders of the Genome Project at Howard University. She is an extraordinary woman. She has TED Talks and talks, she has a talk called The Genome Declares the Glory of God.
And we watched all of her talks and we were like, “This is amazing. We need to infuse this into our story.” And I mean, obviously we tell people, “You can’t go and clone yourself,” so. But we wanted to find some backing for the story to give it that depth.
And also just that, that talking about what if you could fix all the things you think is wrong with you only to discover that they weren’t really flaws, they were actually… God does not make mistakes, so. But we love the science part.
And the fact that we shoot the movie at Grand Canyon University and they have a huge science department and they were so excited to promote science to young girls, girls in STEM, girls in science.
RM: The cast was fantastic too. I mean, the lead was just darling and there were strong women surrounding her that all can still dress up and look, I don’t know, I feel like that sounds so horrible to say “look pretty,” but you don’t have to stereotype different people in different categories. They can all look good and they can still like to shop and do science, they can still be shy and still want to go on a date. So you kind of played with some of those there too.
AB: Oh, yeah. I mean, we want our movies to be Disney for Christians. So fashion is very important to us. Girls like to dress up. We want our movies to rival all the big time mainstream movies, and we want girls to watch it and go, “I want to dress like that and I want to tell my friends about this, we can watch it at slumber parties.” So all those details are very important to us because we want to be like the next Clueless and Mean Girls but for Christian girls.
RM: I understand that you have a book, is it the same story or is it complementing? What does that look like?
AP: We have a novel. This is the first time we’ve done, we always write our screenplays together, but we’ve actually adapted the screenplay into a novel. It was really fun because yes, it is the same story, but you’re able to go into the mind of the characters where on screen you don’t get to do that. So we really get to kind of go into the self-talk that Madison has and what she’s seeing and how everybody else appears to her. And we are also able to delve a little bit more into the faith as well, which was really fun.
AB: And we also, we’ve been learning that there’s not a lot of life-giving truth in some YA books, so just like our movies, we were like, “Well, then we should speak into books too so that parents have an option to share this novel with their kids and it’s fun, but it’s giving them life-giving truths.”
RM: So what else can we expect from The Boylan Sisters?
AB: We want to do Identity Crisis 2. We’re already working on that. And because you’re right, the fact that we came up with cloning right before now with this AI conversation, we were like, “Ooh, that could be a great sequel.”
And we also have a script that’s coming up that we’re working on raising the money for, it’s called Technology Tripping and it’s about a teen girl who’s addicted to her social media and her devices, finds all of her self-worth there, and she’s actually in a text-related car accident and is court ordered on a technology-free road trip with her guardian, who is her grandmother.
And they go on this road trip that heals family wounds, and they always say, “If you want a kid to talk, get them in the car and they’ll talk.” So she finally opens up about all the things that she’s been struggling with but hasn’t really been able to really address it because she’s been able to hide behind her phone.
And so it’s a really beautiful story that we have and we’re also want to do, we have companion materials for that as well. And then we’re working on some more teen girl stuff and family stuff like our movie Catching Faith. So we have lots of stuff in the works.