Successful character actor Barry Primus spent seven years trying to get financing for his feature debut as a writer-director, Mistress. In the film, a once-promising writer-director, Marvin Landisman (Robert Wuhl), who now directs instructional videos, is sitting home one night, watching his own print of Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion, when he gets a strange phone call. A producer, Jack Roth (Martin Landau), formerly a bigwig at Universal, tells Marvin he was cleaning out his office when he came across Marvin's old script, "The Darkness and the Light." Jack claims he can get financing to make the film, and agrees to Marvin's stipulation that he be attached to direct. They "take a meeting" at a low-rent diner, and Jack brings along a gung-ho novice screenwriter, Stuart (Jace Alexander), to help Marvin polish the script. They meet with three potential backers, played by Eli Wallach, Danny Aiello, and Robert DeNiro, each one more meddlesome than the last, and each with a girlfriend (played by Tuesday Knight, Jean Smart, and Sheryl Lee Ralph, respectively) whom they demand be cast in the film. At first, Marvin adamantly resists changing his serious, downbeat, and very personal script, about an painter who commits suicide, rather than betray his ideals. But eventually, Marvin gets caught up in the momentum of actually getting his dream project made, and starts compromising. He agrees to cast the three women; he agrees to make the script funnier and sexier; he even agrees to change the painter to a photographer to please his backers. Laurie Metcalf plays Marvin's long-suffering wife, and Christopher Walken has a cameo as a tortured actor. Mistress was the first film produced by DeNiro's independent production company, Tribeca Films.