In Sonja O’Hara’s film “Ovum”, 24-year-old Calpurnia Dylan is a struggling actress who comes across an ad from an egg donor clinic. In an exercise of method acting, she decides to learn all she can about the egg donation process by applying for it. But she is not the ideal candidate. A fun party girl and casual drug user, she has to lie about herself in order to be considered a worthy donor by the clinic.
Calpurnia finds herself drawn deeper into the world of egg donors where everyone is looking for an egg from a pretty girl and morally ambiguous doctors inject prospective donors with all sorts of hormones to prepare them for the process. Getting completely caught up in her exercise, Calpurnia goes beyond simply learning about the process and ends up deciding to donate her eggs. In the process, she gets involved in the world of people looking for “perfection” in eggs, which turns out to be a shallow process of choosing the prettiest donor. The only question is, will Calpurnia go through with the egg donation decide to back out at the last moment?
But Calpurnia has more than just her own baggage and the donor clinic to contend with. Isabella West, the older woman who is to receive her eggs, is herself a successful actress who didn’t get to where she is by being nice. Difficult and domineering, she doesn’t make life easy for Calpurnia. But toward the end of the process, the two form a powerful emotional bond that brings the unlikely pair together.
Sonja O’Hara was inspired to write “Ovum” based on events in her own life. One day Sonja discovered an ad for an egg donor clinic in Backstage magazine nestled among ads looking for actors. She thought it strange and saw the idea for a story in it. Fascinated, she learned all she could by investigating the clinic and the world of egg donation. After having some of her misconceptions cleared up, she realized what a beautiful thing it would be to give the gift of a child to another woman. Sonja wound up donating her eggs and using the money to fund “Ovum.” Because of this, the film is very personal for Sonja and touches on themes that are close to her heart.
Sonja herself gives this synopsis:
When a quirky, struggling actress tries “The Method” to approach an off-Broadway role, she’s drawn into the strange, shady world of egg “donation” clinics and the unlikely characters who populate them: from unscrupulous doctors with mind-bending fertility drugs to the broken, nihilistic model donors and notorious faded movie star who wants our heroine’s OVUM at any cost.
Is more at stake than just a role? What is the true worth of a human egg?
“Ovum” has been compared to “Black Swan,” “Melancholia” and “Juno” for different aspects of the film.
In addition to being a screenwriter, the Nova Scotia native is also an actress, and she plays the role of Calpurnia Dylan in the film. She came to New York City at 17 to study at The New York Conservatory For Dramatic Arts. Eventually she moved out to Los Angeles to find work in various horror movies and television. She managed to develop a fan base among viewers of the horror films. While in LA, Sonja became the personal assistant to actress Faye Dunaway. She drew on that experience as an inspiration for the character of Isabella West.
Before long, Sonja decided that she needed to return to New York to pursue more serious acting roles than the horror flicks she had been in. While back in New York, she studied writing at NYU, where instructor Jason Greiff had a big influence on her.
The film is being produced by Sonja, Vincent Petrosini, Karin Agstam, Anna Lauren Farrell and Jack Turner (“We Are What We Are”). Casting is underway with Judy Henderson & Associates, who are the Emmy award winning casting directors of Showtime’s “Homeland.” Matt Ott is directing.
Current cast members include Sonja herself in the role of Calpurnia, as well as Hassan Johnson (from “The Wire” and Spike Lee’s “Clockers”), Jay Gillespie, Jaspal Binning and Karin Agstam. Filming will begin next January.