Interview with Filmmakers John Klein & Kate Black-Spence (STATIC SPACE)

STATIC SPACE was the winner of BEST SOUND & MUSIC at the April 2022 Female Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

KATE: I read the novel, “Can You Hear Me?” by Geonn Cannon back in 2018. It was a very gentle, queer romantic story that I recommended to everyone at the time because it was without major conflict or trauma. It felt like a hug. Geonn dedicated the book to me because he based Jamie’s character on me. Though we’d never met, he had seen my work as an actor and we had struck up a keyboard friendship. By the time the pandemic in 2020 hit, I was writing on social media how hungry I was to write a new play but hadn’t found inspiration. He told me I could adapt his book for theatre. The isolation of Jamie and Noa felt perfect to explore in early 2020. I warned him I’d have to insert conflict and he encouraged me to make it my own. Thus, “Static Space” the play was born!

John Klein (a filmmaker/director I’d worked with as an actor for years and also someone I became good friends with) read it and called me to tell me I’d be crazy not to make it into a short film we could shoot during the pandemic. Given its isolated nature, I realized how easily I could write the film to never have two actors within six feet of each other. The idea of being able to create during the pandemic AND tell a story that would feel honest to our moment AND provide safe work to artists on and off camera… It was an easy sell from there.

JOHN: Kate said it all best. But in addition to obviously falling in love with the story and wanting badly to collaborate with Kate again in a more direct capacity, I’ll second that it was really motivating to just create something, anything, during that first year of COVID. And the fact that Static Space was both thematically and emotionally tied to those feelings of isolation and our need for connection, as well as being simply a COVID-friendly film to shoot, made it a really serendipitous project for us at that moment in time.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

KATE: I defer to John on the timeline, but I believe the first draft of the short was written in June, we shot in October, and were submitting to fests the following August? So I think it took just over a year.

JOHN: That’s almost right! I got ahold of the play in July 2020, Kate wrote the short in August, and we filmed in October. Editing took about six months, and sound and score were wrapped up over the summer of 2021.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

KATE: Human connection.

JOHN: Radio love. (That sounds way kinkier than it should.)

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

KATE: The broad brush stroke answer is: the pandemic. It meant finding a location where our crew/cast could live for the three day shoot so no one would leave and risk contagion. It meant finding a caterer who could accommodate everyone’s needs without going off property and without any assistance from another person in the food prep area. It meant finding a cast/crew who understood the precautions we were taking and who would put their trust and health in our hands to make art. It meant auditions on Zoom and a myriad of other complications… But I’ve always found the best art to come from the most challenging times.

JOHN: There were other production-related challenges as well, some related to COVID and some simply the usual, like weather! Our sound mixer, Matt, had a very tricky time in particular due to Mariah (who plays Noa) not being present on set for the radio conversations; we were adamant about Kate and Mariah having the conversations rather than having someone else read the lines off-camera, and that meant giving Mariah a separate audio recorder for her side of the conversation and having her Zoom into set, where Matt would transmit her audio to an earpiece in Kate’s ear and where I could get both sides of their conversation via AirPods to give them direction. It was wild, and also incredibly satisfying when it all worked perfectly!

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

KATE: I was giddy. Many people smiled while they spoke about the central love story and in 2020 when there seemed to be an abundance of heartbreak, I wanted to create something to uplift and rejuvenate the spirit. It was lovely to see that come through in audience feedback videos.

JOHN: Same! I’m still in awe of every facet of our team, but Kate and Mariah’s performances do SO much, and hearing how much those performances resonate honestly with people was great to see. I’m a cheerleader for the cast and crew, so whenever people call out things like the set design or the music, I’m just over the moon for them.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

KATE: Literally when John Klein suggested making my theatre script a short film. Historically I’m an actor on stage and film, who has just begun to write plays. Static Space marks my first short film I’ve ever written and I did it because we were living in a time where we needed to create safely. And I felt confident we could do that. Now that I’ve done it once, I’m not ready to stop.

JOHN: I’ve always been a storyteller, but I realized I wanted to be a filmmaker in college; one of the many joys I had on Static Space was getting to collaborate with my friend Bill Donaruma, who was my professor at Notre Dame and who instilled a love of cinematography in me.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

KATE: Philadelphia Story… Interestingly also a romantic film about loneliness, despite Tracy being surrounded by people and possessions.

JOHN: Well, I suppose right now it’s Encanto. Parenting is a heck of a thing. But I’ve probably seen Jurassic Park enough times to do movie karaoke with any scene in that film.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

KATE: Follow your filmmakers on social media and post about them/their project with relevant tags.

JOHN: More targeted networking opportunities, whether remote or in person!

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experience been working on the festival platform site?

KATE: I defer to John Klein on this.

JOHN: Coming from way back in the Without A Box days, FilmFreeway is just a dream. Easy submissions, intuitive setup, great for communication and cataloguing. I will say that I’ve noticed a trend toward a lot of festivals that make you pay not just for the submission but for the various award categories as well; most don’t do this, but I’d rather festivals make it easier on the filmmakers with a one-size-fits-all kind of submission.

10. What is your favorite meal?

KATE: Black truffle, pumpkin risotto with a nice glass of Chianti… No fair asking unless you’re coming over to cook.

JOHN: Eggs Benedict with hash browns. Plain and simple.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

KATE: John and I are hoping to leverage the success of our short film to make the feature film of Static Space which will follow the theatre script a little more closely and include Noa’s perspective and her own demons she’s fighting.

JOHN: I’m also working on an as-yet-untitled feature film with my writing partner Stephen Kniss, a family dramedy that we’re hoping to film this summer. Otherwise, just teaching film at Elmhurst University, and parenting. That’s plenty.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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