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Tatiana Fursternberg and Francesca Gregorini have something else in common besides royalty and fame and Ivy League educations: they mortgaged their homes to produce, write and direct Tanner Hall showing at this year's TIFF.

Charley Gallay/2006 Getty Images

Tanner Hall is this is the only film at this year's Toronto International Film Festival which can boast that it was written and directed by royalty.

The names of the co-writers and directors are Tatiana von Furstenberg and Francesca Gregorini, and if those names don't ring bells you haven't been keeping up on your Vanity Fair and the society pages.

Von Furstenberg, aka Tatiana Desiree Prinzessin von Furstenberg, is the 38-year-old daughter of Prince Egon of Furstenberg and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. She's also the step-daughter of billionaire media mogul Barry Diller. Francesca Gregorini, 41, is the daughter of Italian industrialist Count Augusto Gregorini. She's also the daughter of former Bond girl Barbara Bach ( The Spy Who Loved Me) and step-daughter of former Beatle Ringo Starr. Gregorini was engaged to actress Portia de Rossi until their break-up in 2004, when de Rossi took up with talk show host Ellen Degeneres. Her full name is Countess Francesca McKnight Donatella Romana Gregorini di Savignano di Romagna.

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Their film, Tanner Hall, is not, as you might think, a documentary about the freestyle skier and entrepreneur of the same name. Instead, it's a coming-of-age story set at a girl's boarding school in Rhode Island. Stars include Amy Sedaris, Chris Kataan and Tom Everett Scott, as well as a quartet of young actresses playing the four main students at the school.

Von Furstenberg and Gregorini, who spent their own boarding school years in England, met at Brown University. They now both live in Los Angeles and have been friends for about 20 years. Gregorini is god-mother to von Furstenberg's daughter.

They had made some short films together for fun and had initially planned Tanner Hall as a proposed TV pilot, but a producer expressed interest in developing it into a feature film.

According to the Providence Rhode Island Journal, both women mortgaged their houses to help pay for the $3-million production, which puts them in the position of most independent filmmakers, despite their wealthy bloodlines. (The New York Times reported that Barry Diller was the highest-paid executive of the 2005 fiscal year, with a total compensation in excess of $295-million.)

Von Fursternberg and Gregorini have something else in common besides royalty, fame and Ivy League educations: They like to rock.

The TIFF catalogue's modest biography describes von Furstenberg as the singer of the band Playdate, and Gregorini as a singer and songwriter.

If you want to see Gregorini in action you can check her out, wiggling her toes, punching the air, and singing the song, My Flight, here.

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About the Author
Film critic

Liam Lacey is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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