Laura Keller - NB
By Mo Perkins
With global population at an extreme high, federal fertility lotteries now determine who can and can’t reproduce. When one woman learns that she will be permanently sterilized, her faith in the system is shaken.
“What if” is the most wonderful question you can ask yourself when starting out to tell a story. When I was approached to apply for the FUTURESTATES program, I was immediately intrigued by the challenge. Tell a story about the future, take something from this world and imagine it as it may become. Although I have always loved sci-fi, I hadn’t yet tried to write any. This was very new for me and really fun.
To start searching for an idea, I took my own pulse on what types of things were important to me currently. There is a lot going on right now in terms of privacy, personal liberty and what kinds of restrictions can be placed on an individual for the “greater good.” I’ve worked with women’s issues and specifically with reproduction in the past and I found myself gravitating towards that subject again, but in a new way. “What if?” I asked myself. What if in the future the population exploded and the debate about women’s reproductive rights shifted from abortion to enforced contraception? How would that play out collectively?
A little research brought some truly frightening realizations about the impact of having too many people on the planet. It was an eye-opening experience. Here we are at near seven billion. The number of people in the world has doubled since the 1950s. The United Nations is projecting a possible 10 billion by 2050. At 15 billion, some estimate that resources would be stretched to the point of famines, space shortages, energy shortages, water shortages, the list goes on. My sci-fi imaginings had a very real world basis. If we as a people don’t figure out how to manage our resources, how to regulate ourselves naturally, there could very easily come a time when our choices become more drastic, more limited.
Okay, here was a story I wanted to explore. But for me films that become didactic, films that tell an audience how to feel, are not enjoyable. I like the questions, I like the debate, I like character. So if we reached a point globally where we decided to control population out of necessity, how would that play out on a personal level? How would our current issues around sex, race, gender, and class interact with a mandate like that? Who would make the decisions? And what happens to the human spirit when it is denied the right of choice? I began to imagine a world where fertility was run by a bureaucracy much like the DMV. Slowly, Laura’s character started to grow.
—Mo Perkins, Writer/Director
Usually I like to think of pre-production as a scavenger hunt. You have a list with all the pieces necessary to make a movie, you set the shoot dates and then you meticulously hunt down what you need to make it work. The joy of it is that you never exactly know where your treasures are going to turn up.
Shooting Laura Keller, NB was not like this at all. It felt much more like a big party or a perfect storm. A handful of resources, actors, locations, equipment and artists landed for three wonderful dizzy days and I had the good luck to be a part of it all.
I had a clear vision of the story I wanted to tell and some key pieces in place from the beginning, but getting to the shoot felt like a leap of faith. For instance, we didn’t have a location for the Federal Reproductive Center (FRC) building until two days before we shot. We had been talking to a sheriff station down near Compton, but a big TV movie shot there the prior weekend and they decided they were done with film production, something that happens a lot in and around L.A.
It was a nail biting time. I’m driving around near downtown late at night after a meeting and I spotted the DWP building on Hope Street. It was like getting a crush. The lines of the building, the textures inside, it was perfect for our FRC, really a character in and of itself. I thought, that building is so fancy; they’ll never work with something in our budget range. It turned out they just happen to be doing construction on that weekend and nobody else wanted to be in their space. They said yes.
Similar gifts dropped from nowhere in the last weeks of prep. Panavision all but donated our camera and then Haskell Wexler (yup, that Haskell Wexler) said he wanted to come help out and Panavision donated a second camera. I had experienced this kind of energy before on shoots; there is a momentum to creating films and one piece of the puzzle seems to pull another piece in, but never exactly like this. It just all felt very magical.
For me that feeling of magic rolled right onto set the first day and continued throughout wrap. I felt blessed to be working with some old and dear friends and then excited by new collaborators. Under a tight schedule, I was gifted the chance to work with some really strong and talented actors and even when things got tight, it felt like play, the very best kind of play. At the end of our handful of days, all I could think was how grateful I was for the experience, how much I wished it could have gone on for longer and that I had better make a really good film to do justice to the amazing efforts of this crew and these actors.
—Mo Perkins, Writer/Director
Mo Perkins received a master’s degree in directing at UCLA’s School of Film and Television. In 2008, she completed her writer/directorial debut feature, A Quiet Little Marriage, which won a Grand Jury Award at Slamdance, the Audience Award at the Austin Film Festival, and was picked up for distribution by IFC. She has directed several short films and has written many feature scripts, including The Widower andThe Summer We Drowned, which was selected for the 2008 Film Independent directors labs.
Eli Akira Kaufman
Eli Akira Kaufman completed his MFA in directing at the UCLA School of Film and Television. He has written and directed several films, including Birthday Haiku andWinning the Peace for Showtime, which was the winner of the drama category in the Ovation Short Film Contest. Kaufman also directed live theater for the Francis Ford Coppola One Act Play Festival and also received a Student Emmy for his thesis film,California King. He writes and directs for GOOD.is.
Angela Sostre graduated with an MFA from the UCLA directing program in 2004. Her passion for producing led her to helm 20 graduate-level productions, including Chaos Theory, for which she won a Student Emmy. She works as a freelance producer/line producer, producing commercials, music, and PSAs, as well as several feature filmsJourney From the Fall, Blind Ambition, Chasing Tchaikovsky, The Wheeler Boys, and the 2009 Slamdance winner A Quiet Little Marriage. Her recent projects include Eye of the Hurricane, Family Weekend, and God Bless America.
Drea Clark is the associate programmer and filmmaker liaison for the Los Angeles Film Festival and an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California. She is also the head of Narrative Competition programming for the Slamdance Film Festival, where she previously served as executive director. Other recent stints include festival producer for IndieCade, a festival of independent video games, and producing with Dick Clark Productions for the American Music Awards, New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, and the Golden Globes.
Amber Benson – Laura Keller
Amber Benson is a writer, director, and actor. She currently writes the Calliope Reaper-Jones paranormal romance series for Penguin Books and her middle-grade book, Among the Ghosts, is coming out in paperback this fall from Simon and Schuster. She co-directed the Slamdance feature Drones and directed (and co-wrote) the BBC animated series, The Ghosts of Albion. Her acting work includes the Steven Soderbergh film King of the Hill and the indie feature Race You to the Bottom, for which she won Best Actress at Outfest. She spent three years as Tara Maclay on the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Martin Starr – Ben
Martin Starr is well known for his roles in the cult classics Freaks and Geeks and Party Down. Film roles include Adventureland, Knocked Up, Superbad, Walk Hard, Incredible Hulk, and Truth About Lying. Starr can currently be seen as a regular on the new series NTSF for Adult Swim and recurring on their series Childrens Hospital as well. He next appears in A Good Old Fashion Orgy followed by his lead role in the film Save the Date.
Trieste Kelly Dunn – Ester
Trieste Kelly Dunn was born and raised in Provo, Utah. She later attended the North Carolina School of the Arts where she studied drama under Dean Gerald Freedman. She has appeared in TV shows such as Law and Order, Canterbury’s Law, Bored to Death, and Brothers and Sisters. Film credits include United 93, The New Year, andCold Weather.
Robert Baker – Sal
Robert Baker, a graduate of the theater program at the University of Southern California, has had a substantial career in television and film. He has appeared in the films Leatherheads, Out of Time, The Ladykillers, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Save Me, Special, and the upcoming Hick. His television credits include Six Feet Under, JAG, CSI, Veronica Mars, and Cold Case. He also played Hercules on the series Valentine and recently finished a stint on Grey’s Anatomy as Dr. Charles Percy.
Rita Taggart – Dr. Antal
Rita Taggart is an established presence in television, appearing on shows like Taxi, St. Elsewhere, Night Court, Cagney & Lacey, Hill Street Blues, Kate & Allie, Almost Grown, Quantum Leap, Murder She Wrote, Northern Exposure, Coach, and Strong Medicine. Film credits include The China Syndrome, 1941, Weeds, Coupe de Ville, Mulholland Drive, and A Quiet Little Marriage.