Nominated film, ‘Skin,’ earns kudos for native Detroiter and her Israeli husband.
By Suzanne Chessler
Photos courtesy of Jaime Ray Newman and Guy Nattiv
The journey from youthful performing with the Jewish Ensemble Theatre in West Bloomfield to being nominated for a 2019 Academy Award has been dramatic and fulfilling for Jaime Ray Newman, who has enjoyed diverse and notable stopovers along the way.
Although appearing on stage, in films and on television, Newman is being recognized for production skills in making a live action short film with her Israeli husband, Guy Nattiv, as director.
The nominated film, Skin, tells a powerful story of brutal white supremacists reacting to an innocent gesture and encountering the resulting reaction. The production is in competition with four others: Detainment, Fauve, Marguerite and Mother.
Weeks before and shortly after the Oscar winners are announced during a glam broadcast starting at 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, on ABC, all the nominated short films can be seen Feb. 8-28 at the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The program, The 2019 Academy Award Nominated Short Films — Animated and Live Action, will include every film in its entirety during each screening session.
“Ours is not an easy film, but I don’t think Guy has an interest in making escapism,” says Newman, honored to be nominated and appreciative of the subjective approaches to the artistry that went into all the films in the category.
“Guy pulled ideas from different events so it’s not a documentary. The cinema we love explores the darkest corners of the mind. We want to make art that evokes thought and debate. We want it to stir something.”
The nominated film came during work on a longer feature film Nattiv wrote as a docudrama. Bearing the same title and planned for release later this year, it probes the life of a notorious white supremacist who turns away from hatred.
While funding was being raised for the longer film, the short was produced and became a transition into the feature.
“Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, are big indie producers,” explains Newman, who grew up in Farmington Hills and attended Hillel Day School, Cranbrook and Interlochen before graduating from Northwestern University. “They saw the short and, within days, we were in New York for pre-production of the feature.”
Newman, who brings an on-camera perspective to the work she does with her husband in leading New Native Pictures, has not restricted herself to working with her husband. She next will be seen in the feature film Valley of the Gods starring opposite Josh Hartnett and John Malkovich as directed by Lech Majewski, and Midnight Climax with Anson Mount and Jason Patric as directed by Joseph Sorrentino.
Earlier work has placed her in TV series, including The Punisher for Marvel/Netflix, Bates Motel for A&E, Eastwick for ABC and, most recently, Midnight, Texas for NBC. Stage work near her Los Angeles home has included roles in The Gift with James Van Der Beek and Kathy Baker and Turnaround opposite David Schwimmer.
The recent film production initiative occurred as the couple anticipated the arrival of their daughter, Alma Ness, by surrogate after Newman endured a stillbirth and miscarriages. The two, entering their 40s, chose the name Alma because it means “little miss” in Hebrew and “soul” in Spanish, and Ness because it means “miracle” in Hebrew.
Nattiv associates ideas of parenting with the plot of the nominated Skin.
“I think this film shows that what you teach your kids can end up biting you,” Nattiv says. “In Hebrew, there’s a saying about fathers eating bad fruit and spoiling their kids’ teeth. It means if parents teach bad habits and bad stuff, the kids’ generation is going to suffer from it.”
Work and Family
Before working on both films titled Skin, Nattiv directed Strangers, The Flood (nominated for six Israeli Academy Awards and winning for Best Actor) and Magic Men (also a Best Actor winner at the Israeli Academy Awards).
“My wife and I work well together because we can balance each other,” says Nattiv, who met Newman through an acquaintance of her sister. “We have the same tastes and vibes, but we have different roles [as films are being made], and that helps. Jaime gives me feedback on everything I write. We have our differences sometimes, but, mostly, we think the same, and I would call it harmony.”
Nattiv, impacted by grandparents who moved to Israel after surviving the Holocaust, cherishes family, from 4-month-old Alma to the grandmother he acquired through marriage — Phyllis Newman, a Franklin resident.
When the Oscar nominations were being announced on television, the couple Facetimed with Phyllis so they could watch together.
“I got up early to hear the first announcements, and it was so exciting,” says Phyllis, accustomed to watching her great-granddaughter on FaceTime and looking forward to an in-person meetup being planned for Michigan. “I’m so happy for Jaime and Guy. They’re a down-to-earth couple well-suited for each other.”
As the Newman-Nattiv extended family anticipates the Academy Awards, the filmmakers themselves are moving on to new projects.
“Skin has been the first production I’ve done with my husband, but we’ve acquired the rights to a slew of true stories,” says Newman, who attended services at Congregation Shaarey Zedek before moving to California.
“My husband has just about finished his next script. It’s based on a true story about a grandmother who was a Holocaust survivor and moved from Israel to join a cult in Virginia.”
The 2019 Academy Award Nominated Short Films – Animated and Live Action will be shown Feb. 8-28 at the Detroit Film Theatre in the Detroit Institute of Arts. $7.50-$9.50. (313) 833-7900. dia.org/events.