All interpersonal relationships are complicated. But there’s just something classically (even banally) fraught in the complex negotiation of emotion between Male and Female, a knotty 50-foot Route 66 twine ball full of interwoven power dynamics, sexual dysfunction and societal expectation. The heat fractals thrown off by this ceaseless XX/XY friction have propelled 10,000 of human civilization and countless works of art and storytelling—from Bible stories to sexy Netflix originals like Fair Play and May December. Or, for that matter, the three projects in this month’s Fiscal Spotlight.
Each of these three short narrative films center female protagonists, unmoored in the midst of an existential crisis brought on by a male counterpart. In two of the films, the male in question is a romantic foil—or at least perceived to be. The third explores the dynamic between student and educator, placing its dynamic in the context of artistic potential and the pursuit of superhuman perfection. A greater perspective on each of our protagonists’ situations is eventually presented, in a graveyard, at a party, and on stage.
As always, these films are being supported by Film Independent’s Fiscal Sponsorship program, enabling filmmakers to solicit tax-deductible donations and organizational grants in partnership with Film Independent. Learn how below:
December’s featured projects are The Other Side, little white lies and For Mr. Johnson. Read on to learn more about each film and how to support them…
THE OTHER SIDE
Project type: Fiction Short
Project status: Production
Writer/Actress: Megan Penn
Director/Writer: Paige Stark
Producer: Kira Vykhodtseva
About the project: A chance meeting with an older woman in a cemetery changes the trajectory of a young woman’s life, leading her on a humorous and poignant journey of self-discovery. The Other Side follows Scarlett, a young woman adrift in modern-day Los Angeles. Her mornings begin with a repetitive routine of visiting Hollywood Forever Cemetery, capturing moments through her camera lens. At the cemetery, Scarlett crosses paths with Clementine, an elderly woman devoted to a routine visit to her husband’s grave, igniting an unexpected bond. Their conversations prompt Scarlett to reevaluate her struggles with love, pain and the uncertainties of life. Their discussions prompt Scarlett to confront her past, reassess her feelings and realize her struggle isn’t unique to her generation—or even herself. The narrative captures Scarlett’s gradual transformation from emotional fragility to a newfound sense of self-assuredness. She learns that life’s uncertainties don’t define her; her vulnerability doesn’t equate to weakness. The Other Side delves into the complexities of relationships, nostalgia for a bygone era and the quest for personal growth. Through the unlikely friendship between Scarlett and Clementine, the film paints a compelling picture of resilience and the timeless pursuit of inner strength.
Meet the filmmaker: To learn more about The Other Side including how to support the project, click here. Writer Megan Penn is a New York born and bred actress, Method trained at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in a Conservatory program, at the Actors Studio and with Larry Moss. Her screen work has won several awards and accolades, including best acting awards at both the Seattle Film Festival and Nót Film Fest. Director Paige Stark is a filmmaker and musician born and raised in Southern California. Her work has appeared in Spin Magazine, Nylon, Flaunt, Fader, Interview Magazine and Nowness, among other publications.
LITTLE WHITE LIES
Project type: Fiction Short
Project status: Production
Co-Writer/Director: Erin Brown Thomas
Co-Writer/Lead: Ciara Krohne
Producers: Olivia Haller, Elle Shaw, Beth Napoli
About the project: little white lies takes you into the world of young 20-somethings of varying levels of workplace woes, many of them working in the entertainment industry. The movie focuses on a musician named Sophia. And though she’s moved to the city with creative aspirations, at this particular party what she is really intent on is asking her crush Jacob to be her plus one at her sister’s wedding. Jacob seems to like her, but he’s a little hot and cold. And over the course of the party, Sophia processes this with anyone who will listen. Of course, they’re all caught up in their own dilemmas, which only makes Sophia seem more desperate. Eventually, after some flashy dialogue and a literal flash mob, there’s a flashback and the big twist is revealed. A month ago, Jacob took advantage of Sophia. This revelation paints all their interaction in a brand new light and reveals the lie Sophia’s been telling herself: “If I can just make him my boyfriend, then it wasn’t really rape. And I won’t be a victim.” By positioning Sophia’s sexual assault against the backdrop of a party full of exploited dreamers, little white lies offers this commentary: Just because we get the job, the exposure, or the promotion—it doesn’t undo the abuse. The title little white lies refers to the question that every character answers: “What is the lie that you believe that allows you to continue being exploited?”
Meet the filmmaker: To learn more about little white lies including how to support the project, click here. Erin Brown Thomas’s films have taken home trophies from Academy Award-Qualifying events such as Hollyshorts and Cinequest. Other notable selections include AMPAV’s Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at Cannes Film Festival, Palm Springs ShortFest, Austin Film Festival and SCAD. Erin was a finalist for Shondaland’s directing mentorship. She is an Academy Nichol Semifinalist for her ensemble traumady The Body of Chris. Co-writer and lead actor Ciarra Khrone has been acting in film and theatre for over 10 years. In film she can be seen in the Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem for Nickelodeon, A24’s Waves and Netflix’s Labyu with an Accent.
FOR MR. JOHNSON
Project type: Fiction Short
Project status: Development
Writer/Director: Khana Tillman
Producers: Coleman Weimer, Harlow Brooks, Tola Omilana
About the project: In pursuit of a perfect showcase monologue, an insecure 17-year-old risks her mental and emotional wellbeing to win the approval of her demanding, but respected, drama teacher. Marie, a sheltered but ambitious 17-year-old girl goes to a performing arts school where everyone has big dreams and big personalities. The hallways hum with monologues, sonatas and gossip. In Marie’s acting class, it feels like your world can change with one perfect monologue. And it can with showcase auditions fast approaching. Her best friend Joanna is already the prized pig of the grade and Marie wants to finally wow the masses. In the classroom, esteemed drama teacher Mr. Johnson is God to his dutiful disciples. Seeking a new protege to mold, Mr. Johnson agrees to help perfect Marie’s showcase audition. Marie resolves to do everything Mr. Johnson asks of her, though his “exercises” push her to her psychological limit. Outside of these classroom walls, will she lose herself in pursuit of success?
Meet the filmmaker: To learn more about For Mr. Johnson including how to support the project, click here. A Southern California native, filmmaker Khana Tillman is an MFA candidate at USC for Film Production. She is focused on telling female-centric, coming of age stories which range in genre and time period. In 2018 she graduated with a BA in Theater and a minor in History from UCLA. Since then, she’s worked as a director and producers’ assistant for the upcoming A24/Film 4 Love Lies Bleeding, a production assistant for Showtime’s L-Word: Generation Q, and as an intern at the Oscar award-winning documentary company Tremolo Productions.
Learn more about Fiscal Sponsorship, including its benefits and eligibility requirements, by visiting our website. Check out our Sponsored Projects page to see the projects that are currently being supported.
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(Header: crowdfunding video for little white lies)