A true story about one meeting, one baby, and one big myth.
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer/Actor Katie Locke O'Brien
Watch film here: https://vimeo.com/259478576
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I'm a director/writer/actress, and last year, I also became a mom. Suddenly, I had to rediscover how the creative process could work in this new day-to-day, with a new identity. I couldn't imagine having the bandwidth to shower, nevermind make a film. I thought, "How can I possibly make a film with a five-month-old?" The answer was to make a film WITH a five-month-old. This is that film, based on a morning that actually happened to me.
I used the HBO Insider Comedy Short Challenge for the Women in Comedy Festival as an excuse and began looking for inspiration, but as soon as I had the experience on which this short is based, I had no doubt this was the story I needed to tell. I realized that there is not only so much drama--and comedy--that goes on in the daily life of a new mom, which no one else gets to appreciate because you spend most of your time alone with a baby. But also, there was so much about that struggle that I'd never understood or even considered until I was in that place myself.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
It's my hope that this film makes audiences see an antagonist that we don't often realize is there. What was important to me in the making of it was that the baby is not the enemy--he was being a perfectly good baby--and the guys with whom I work aren't the enemy either. They were really trying to be helpful and supportive. The expectation is the enemy. Babies are hard but doable, careers are hard but doable, but this societal idea we have that women should be able to do both while maintaining a perfect blowout is totally insane.
But of course, that can get heavy. So I took my favorite approach, which is to use comedy as the vehicle for bigger ideas, to make it palatable and relatable. Truthfully, there's so much comedy in just the Sisyphean task of trying to get out the door with an infant. And so you should watch because it's hilarious, and it's fun, and it's adorable...but then hopefully it leaves you thinking.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
This film could not have been more personal to me. At the time of making it, I was deep within the early stages of motherhood... exhausted, delirious, but also trying to understand my new identity without losing all that I was before. I just wrote and shot what my own experience was--turned up to 11 for comedy purposes, of course. But the beginning of motherhood is very isolating; you're home all day with a person who can't reply to you. I had no idea whether what I did all day was weird or crazy or totally normal. I just knew that if I wrote it, it would be truthful to my own life. I took this morning straight out of my actual experience.
So, it was incredibly satisfying and encouraging and unifying when I released the film and realized just how many moms were reaching out to me to say that it felt exactly like their own lives. That idea of trying desperately to find the "work-life balance" you've seen in so many ladies' magazine headlines...the feeling of never having enough time or attention...of feeling like you're never quite doing a good job at any of the things you're trying to balance... all of that was the personal place I was in, and by sharing it I realized just how universal that frustration is for women.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
Have It All was the first of the films I've made where there really wasn't any time for development at all! Or maybe it just happened at lightning speed. The whole process was 3 weeks, from conception to turning in. We shot over 2 days. For the first time – mainly because I had such limited pockets of time and attention to give to this – I had no room for second-guessing or being wishy-washy about different options. I knew exactly what it was and I was incredibly precise about framing, what each shot was, the pacing and the static feel of certain things. All to create the feeling of both anxiety and frozen time that happens in this story.
I wanted to mirror the military precision it takes to get through all the steps of just a normal morning with a baby if you have to be somewhere at any set time. So the shoot was super efficient and so was the edit. And the result was that I created what is probably the truest, purest expression of my sensibility and voice that I’ve made so far…because I had no time to do anything else, I suppose.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The response to this film has been greater than I could have ever imagined. In some way, what seemed during production to be a rather small, contained undertaking (in that it was a simple, tight story from just one morning in my life, made with a tiny crew in a short amount of time) actually became the most noteworthy and widely-played project I've made. We've received accolades and incredibly warm receptions from so many film festivals...including some pretty prestigious ones. The film was selected as a finalist for HBO's Insider Comedy Short Competition, a semi-finalist (top 15) for the NBCU Short Film Competition, it won the Jury Prize for all Narrative Shorts at Napa Valley Film Festival and Best Comedy at a few other regional film festivals. We were featured on Director's Notes and Film Shortage. It's a funny feeling to see something so personal and "normal" from your own perspective get that kind of attention. But then you realize just how universal the conversation you've started is.
On a more specific level, everything about the making of this film was very precise and intentional, in terms of the visual language, the soundscape, and especially the pacing of the edit. It has been incredibly gratifying to get feedback because people are really appreciating those choices. We shot in 8K on the RED Monstro with Sigma cine primes, mainly the 24 and 35. Since the home and the environment was such a big part of the story, that wide perspective helped keep that in the frame while staying intimate with this mom and baby. My brilliant DP, Andrew Brinkhaus, also made the choice to stick with wide lenses physically closer, which was more intimate and connected than long lenses ‘outside’ the relationship and ultimately contributed to the ‘stuck’ feeling as well. My composer, Barry J. Neely, and I discussed early on that I didn't want a traditional "soundtrack" but more of a soundscape that just gave the film a pulse...something that would keep time at the forefront of the experience and intensify the anxiety. And he created this phenomenal rhythmic underscoring that adds so much to the story. Finally, the edit was crucial, and Barret Bowman and I were meticulous about the pace. And all of these aspects have been called out or rewarded by various festivals. It's thrilling when people appreciate the craft in addition to enjoying the film as a whole!
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Absolutely. The audience response has been my favorite part of this film so far. From the very first screening, every woman in the audience came up to me to thank me for making the film and to say, "This is my LIFE." They felt very seen...and several women have told me they cried at the end as well. I honestly was blown away by that, because the film felt so personal to make, and because this is an issue that isn't discussed with the openness and vulnerability and seriousness that it deserves. I never expected the amount of discussion and connection that came out of it. What's more, I rarely had seen the type of mom that's in this film on screen. I think often, the comedy tropes of moms are either the fed-up mom with spaghetti sauce on her face whose children are hellions, or else the drunk, crazy mom who sort of regrets having children and is a disaster. Those are both very funny to laugh AT, but they don't feel like what my life as a mom feels like. And it turned out that many women really related to Jill in this film, who's doing the best job possible with everyone around her doing their best...and yet she's just up against an impossible task.
I think in addition to those surprises as a storyteller and a mom, the feedback surprised me as a director and filmmaker. I made this at a time when I felt I was probably too distracted or too tired to make anything good...when I wasn't even sure how to be an effective artist anymore. But I just plowed through, and every decision was from the gut, and in the end, the product has resonated with so many people that it ironically became the project that gave me the most confidence in my abilities. Now I can't wait to make the next one!
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
At this point, Have It All has played at many festivals, but that still means that it has been seen by a relatively small number of people. Because of the response, I get from EVERY woman who sees it, I am eager to help get the film out there in a more widespread way so that it can connect with and support more women who are having that experience, and perhaps spark a better conversation about this expectation. My dream is that every funny mom out there sees this and then feels a little more seen herself in the process.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
I think the most helpful thing at this point would be journalists and potentially distributors who might be interested. My goal is to find ways to share news about this film as widely as possible, to give the largest audience possible the chance to connect with it.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I would love for this film to have a reception that is the more widespread version of what it has had so far. Everyone who has seen it in person has been moved by it, laughed, cried, and identified. If that has happened for a thousand or so people so far (and by the way, I get a strong response from dads and also from people who are not parents too!), then my dream is to have that happen online in a way that allows hundreds of thousands of people (or more!) to engage with the story. And perhaps that even leads ultimately to a more productive conversation about parental leave, support for mothers, and the expectations we place on women in our society.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Can 21st-century moms really "have it all?" And why do we expect them to?
Would you like to add anything else?
I am just so grateful for the help getting this out there. Thank you!
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Simultaneously with this short starting its festival run, I also was accepted as one of 10 members of the inaugural class for NBC's Female Forward Initiative. NBC is actively working to solve the pipeline problem and get more women behind the camera, which is fantastic. We had a series of workshops with incredible mentors, and then each of us was paired with a show, to shadow directors on that show and then direct our own episode of that show. I directed an episode for season 2 of NBC's AP BIO in December, then joined the DGA, and my episode ("Melvin") just aired, so now I'm trying to work more in the episodic space. I also have a few comedy writing projects of my own that I'm pitching soon, and a couple of new projects to which I'm attached as a director. And, of course, I'm starting to look for what I'd like my next film to be, and for sure I'll be once again convincing the rest of the team from Have It All to come on that ride with me too!
Interview: April 2019
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Have It All
A true story about one meeting, one baby, and one big myth.
Director: Katie Locke O'Brien
Producer: Katie Locke O'Brien
Writer: Katie Locke O'Brien
About the writer, director and producer:
KATIE LOCKE O'BRIEN directed award-winning short films Lone Douche and Discard, and her 2018 short Have It All was a finalist for HBO's Insider Comedy Short Challenge, a semi-finalist for the NBCU Short Film Competition, and won the Jury Prize for Best Narrative Short at Napa Valley Film Festival. She directed pilot presentations for comedians Bryan Callen (The Goldbergs) and Ismo. Katie was selected for the 2018 inaugural class of NBC’s Female Forward Initiative and directed an episode for Season 2 of A.P. Bio.
KATIE LOCKE O'BRIEN was featured on the prestigious Young & Hungry list in 2017. She co-wrote and produced the award-winning festival short The Real Truth Behind the Real True Story. That team also collaborated on the feature dramedy The Thing Before the Thing, premiering in early 2019. As a writer-director, she has written four award-winning festival short films. Additionally, Katie has developed comedy series with IFC, ABC, and Warner Brothers.
Key cast: Katie Locke O'Brien (Jill), Hus Madhavji (Rick), Blake Silver (Miles), Chris Gross (Andrew)
Looking for: journalists, distributors
Facebook: Katie O'Brien
Hashtags used: #haveitall #mom #momlife #baby #comedy #womeninfilm