Lauren A. Kennedy

Revisiting Making "Two Gays & a Girl" & Festival Recaps

We shot "Two Gays & a Girl" back in July 2015. The idea was sparked when Kelsey and I were hanging out with Chris, gearing up to shoot our recently crowdfunded shorts "We Had Plans" & "Not Our Living Room" (both of which came about as a way to experiment with story form after Kelsey had gotten some worrisome personal news). Kelsey & I talked about doing another comedy series together after the shorts (at this point we were a year removed from shooting "Kelsey"), and we joked about basing it on the three of us and our friendship -- from there the title was born. We decided we'd put together a no-budget pilot presentation that would introduce the quirky characters we came up with. And if they and their dynamics resonated with an audience, we'd start talking storylines and see if we could get a series made. We figured it'd be ideal to just submit to NYTV Fest, see what happens, and then go from there. 

But production led to some mishaps. The performances were great and our usual small but mighty crew pulled it off in a weekend. But the biggest issue was our sound person bailing on us the morning we were to shoot an exterior walk & talk. Despite it being no-budget, we still had a bit of equipment rented or borrowed from friends, and everyone had cleared their busy schedules for the shoot this weekend specifically; so we had to follow through with shooting that day. Because of this, even though we had pretty solid sound overall, this scene was kind of a mess. It was a lesson learned, for sure. But we couldn't cut it from the final edit because it sets up most of the context for all the jokes in the second half of the pilot. So we cut the scene down as much as possible in the edit and did (DIY) ADR for what we needed to keep. I'm generally very against ADR from an indie filmmaking standpoint, but it was the better option over the terribly windy, changing-with-the-cuts original audio. We decided to submit to NYTV Fest anyway, despite knowing we didn't stand much of a chance with non-recognizable faces and some questionable audio. So then when we weren't accepted, I wasn't really sure what to do with it. I had largely stopped focusing on it creatively, having finally released Summit on VOD and was busy pushing that while having "Hello" on the festival circuit. And most importantly, Kelsey and I had moved on to starting development for our feature, About a Donkey. (I was also at the time on the verge of directing my new shorts "Night In" & "Enough," and producing Ryan's "Arm Bar." -- 2016 was a busy year, as is often the case for any year at CongestedCat.) 

I knew that the pilot didn't really work as well as a standalone short because it's more about introducing the key characters and setting up potential storylines rather than an actual contained story in itself. But I felt it was still fun and entertaining for what it is, so wanted to do something with it. I figured since it was shot in Queens, submitting to the Queens World Film Festival was a wise choice because it has that neighborhood feel; and I'm generally a supporter and believer in the mission behind that festival and the couple that runs it.

QUEENS WORLD FILM FESTIVAL RECAP

Screening in the beautiful Redstone theater at the Museum of the Moving Image was lovely. It was nice getting to see something I made with such a big audience in such high quality. The pilot got some laughs at the strongest moments, but I could definitely feel the weight of the runtime during the screening. As I knew in my gut, it doesn't quite work as a standalone short. I actually went home after and cut 4 minutes out of the final cut. Having the distance of not really watching it in a year and then seeing it with an audience helped confirm some beats I knew weren't working. Plus, no longer needing to hit the minimum runtime for a pilot competition allowed me to see it through my eyes as a director and less as a producer needing to meet specific qualifications. I couldn't cut too much without creating continuity issues and losing some of the setups for later punchlines; but even losing moments here and there that added up to 4 minutes really elevated it. As for the full festival, we didn't really get to experience it this year because we've been in production all month for About a Donkey. But the festival directors and associates were wonderful and welcoming as usual. I have to say, though, the Q&A was quite weird. They didn't give us mics in such a huge theater, made worse by the fact that I was losing my voice due to a cold. It didn't end up mattering, though, because it wasn't much of a Q&A. With 8 films in a straight lineup, I know from experience running IndieWorks that it's hard for an audience to process so many films and have a truly thoughtful conversation right after. And this block in particular was curated as having all Queens-based filmmakers as the only commonality, while genre and tone significantly varied. It should have been on the host to bring out the conversation against those challenges. But this host just opened it to the audience and then asked one rapid-fire question requiring us to identify which one of three (male) directors most inspired us in making our screened film. I think that was the question, anyway; it was hard to hear and awkwardly posed -- plus I was distracted asking Kelsey if she wanted to answer since my raspy voice wouldn't be audible. In any case, none of the directors he insisted on us answering with applied to our inclusive, comedy pilot; so I just made up my own answer, claiming Amy Sherman-Palladino as an inspiration. It felt appropriate since she is an inspiration both Kelsey & I have in common, and whose work matches the tone of our pilot; and I was determined to answer that question mentioning a woman. I will say that it's rare to experience a Q&A host that truly engages with each film in a specific and individual way (which is a big part of why I run IndieWorks the way I do), so I'm not singling Queens World out. It is worth noting, however, that of my three Q&A experiences at Queens World, I've had two older white male hosts and one younger queer black male host, and only one of them asked nuanced questions that pertained to my (and the other) film(s) in a personalized way. Can you guess which host that was? 

Anyway, as I said, not trying to knock Queens World. I do love the festival. They have way more class and integrity than most festivals, especially other local ones. And they're definitely not alone in this Q&A issue (in the past year of over a dozen festivals, the Ax Wound Film Fest Q&A experience is the only one I found truly insightful and well-run.) I just think what's the point of having a Q&A if it's not going to delve into the craft? Might as well just let the audience talk to the filmmakers afterwards if there will be no real conversation. Speaking of that, what was nice was that quite a few people came over after the Q&A and complimented the acting, and one person commented on how much he appreciated our use of color - putting bright colors against muted backgrounds - which is a cool thing only another filmmaker would make note of.

AltFest Recap

We had planned to only screen at Queens World, but the organizers of NewFilmmakers NY, who had invited our short "We Had Plans" last year, invited us to screen something again this year. I thought the pilot would be a nice fit for their AltFest (LGBTQ) series. So we decided one more screening for the cast & crew would be nice before releasing it online. Thankfully, I was able to get them the cut I had edited down in time to screen it instead of the original I sent. And I'm glad I did because it was cool getting to see the tighter version on another beautiful screen. There were only three films in this lineup, so the runtime in general felt less apparent - but even so, I could just tell the changes really helped the pace of the piece overall. The audience was small, only 10 people. The host (who's also the festival director) didn't attempt a real Q&A because of the crowd size but I appreciated his one-on-one attention, and he at least asked us what we're working on next and allowed us to plug our websites and all that good stuff. 

We plan to release it online at the end of next month after we're done shooting About a Donkey . In the meantime, check out the trailer! 

-Christina 

"HELLO" Online Premiere

Here it is, Christina's short "HELLO," shot back in March 2015. We've finally premiered it online!

A lonely soul attempts to make a connection with a visiting stranger, but her intentions don't quite match his interpretations.

Read about past screenings, Coney Island Film FestivalAx Wound Film Festival & Macabre Faire Film Festival

See behind the scenes and the making of HERE.

Director Statement
For two years, I was an Instructor for a mobile film workshop, which meant spending one week out of every month in a hotel room. I was always very aware of how alone I was despite being surrounded by strangers in other rooms. I was never personally lonely, but there's a certain loneliness to hotel rooms that you can just kind of feel. People pass through, never settling in, never making it a home. I often found myself thinking about all the stories that passed through; all the strange, unsettling, hopefully sometimes wonderful memories made there, and the potential 'ghosts' that lingered. This combined with my tendency to wonder about my room possibly being haunted led to the inspiration for "Hello."

One night after a long day at the workshop, when I couldn't sleep and found myself paying very close attention to the silence, the almost eerie silence of the room, I started freaking myself out with the possibility of not being so alone after all. In an attempt to appease my growing trepidation, I started pondering about ghosts; what would make them linger, what they could really want from a living person. I started entertaining myself with the notion of a ghost simply being lonely & bored -- especially having to watch all the people pass through the room they may haunt, and just wishing to make a connection with someone. As a huge horror film fan, I thought of all the cliche things that often happen as signs of a haunting and tried to find a funny, sweet or mundane explanation for them on the part of a ghost. Soon I was writing the script; and though I didn't get any sleep that night, I started the next morning very excited about this new script I had just written. I shot the film on no budget two months later and am very pleased with the final product, thanks to my small but mighty team of talented collaborators.

"We Had Plans" Online Premiere

We've finally released one of our new short films, "We Had Plans" online. Watch it now and let us know what you think (or feel!) in the comments. 

See the Recap of our NYC PictureStart Film Fest Screening HERE.

Read about the making of this film HERE.

See the Recap of our Queens World Film Fest Screening HERE.

See BTS Photos HERE.