After A Successful Sundance, The Creators of 'The Dispute' Are Going Next Level
Meet Andrea Ellsworth and Kasey Elise, the creators and writers behind the new short film, The Dispute. Directed by creator of Illegal Civilization Mikey Alfred, the film follows two best friends as they wander outside of South Central Los Angeles after receiving a credit card in the mail. After the film premiered at Sundance earlier this year and received killer reviews, Kasey and Andrea decided to take the film to the next level. Currently in the process of transforming The Dispute into a full-length feature, the pair is also serving up their POV about intentions for the film, and how important it is for more female creative to get involved in the film industry.
What is The Dispute? How did you and Andrea come up with the idea to write this short film?
Kasey: The Dispute is a short film written by myself and my best friend Andrea Ellsworth. We’re both born and raised in South Central so we grew up with the mindset that “things” or “designers” were important and something that would make us happy. For myself I would always look up at the one percent and think, “Wow, if only I could have what they have I would be living in bliss.” Sometimes Andrea and I would lay on the bed and dream about the things and places we would go if we only had and opportunity to do so, like a credit card with no pre-set spending limit. This is where the story was born.
Andrea: The Dispute is our baby! It’s this really special piece about friendship and learning, that’s loosely based on things we’ve both experienced and felt. We exaggerated a lot, but essentially pulled most of these ideas from our lives or the “lives that we want.” We wanted it to be grounded in reality and emotions people actually feel. I think it’s really funny that we came up with the idea in Kasey’s room, while snuggled in the bed, because that’s where we come up with the idea to get the credit card in the short.
What is your intention with this film?
Kasey: When we started on this journey to write a film we imagined it as a full feature which follows the life of two girls living out their wildest dreams with an American Express credit card. Whom later discover that it’s not about the things that you have that make a better life, it’s about so much more than that. As we started writing we realized that going straight into a full feature might be a bit ambitious as we are both first time writers/filmmakers. So we sort’ve took the first act of the script and made it into a short film. That’s why the short kind of ends at the beginning of their journey together.
Andrea: We really want to see this get made into a feature, but we’re also open to a series. A lot of people were tagging Hulu and Netflix on the sponsored trailer that Curated by Facebook put out which is another idea we’re totally into. I just did a cool Netflix project, and I think it would be great to circle back with something I’ve created on my own. We’re actively using it as a proof-of-concept in our pitch meetings, but we also just want people to see it and either be inspired by the story itself or by what two little ol’ LA girls were able to come up with! We’re going to put stickers up, like Issa Rae did with “Awkward Black Girl,” which we’re excited about.
Where did you have your premiere? Can you tell us what that was like?
Andrea: We initially screened it at Sundance, which was surreal. Then we had a formal event that Facebook so generously put on for us at SXSW. Our big premiere was here in LA and it was insane. We had over 300+ people show up to support us! It made me feel so humble, grateful, and seen. People really like something I thought of. I’m still stunned. We did it at this super cute theatre on Wilshire and the musician Aminé hosted our Q&A. I took so many pictures that day and think I smiled in every single one.
Kasey: It was inspiring for me. Seeing all those people come out and support something that we wrote in our bedroom was very encouraging. It made me feel like I could dream bigger and it also showed me how much hard work, believing in yourself and focus pays off. The next day we literally opened final draft and put all of our attention in making the full feature because the screening made us realize that we could actually make this happen if we believe in it enough.
How did this film manifest from being a short film to being made into a full-length feature film concept?
Andrea: We’re currently doing rewrites on the first draft of the feature but it all happened quicker than I could have imagined. Kasey and I were eager to get right into it so the minute we got off the plane from SXSW we put pen to pad. I think it took us maybe 7-9 days to finish the first draft. We didn’t waste any time at all!
Kasey: I spoke briefly about the feature always being the intention behind this short but seeing people’s reaction to the film online and in person really made it clear that we have something here and that it would be well received as a full length. There’s so many young women out there like us that come from similar backgrounds and its important for a perspective like this to live in mainstream media. I can’t speak for everyone else but personally I’ve learned a lot of my lessons and ways of thinking from movies and tv.
What was the process of collaborating with Illegal Civ and Malcolm Washington like?
Kasey: Mikey Alfred founder of Illegal Civ and Malcolm Washington are very well versed in filmmaking so entering the collaboration I just wanted to learn from them. They’re both so careful and thoughtful about every detail, which is why we literally went through like ten drafts of our fifteen-page script. At first it’s natural to want to resist massive changes being made to your script but when I opened my mind and separated myself from the story I realized the only reason for these changes is to bring more truth to the characters and their journey. It became about what made more sense for the story rather than who has the “best” ideas. In these moments I really started to learn what it takes to be a great collaborator and filmmaker. What Andrea and I wrote was beautiful but they really made the story come off the page in a way I never imagined.
Andrea: I have to say I really appreciate both Malcolm and Mikey for bringing this to life and with such taste and style. They’re colleagues and friends, which is the ultimate collaboration in my opinion. They’re both going to be legendary and I’m honored to say they’ve had a hand in my very first piece.
Can you tell us the importance of being a young African American female creative and the importance of encouraging more female creatives to get involved in the creative process of the film industry?
Andrea: It’s so important to make your own stuff and believe in yourself, as a creative, for one. But I believe it’s especially important for African American females to tell the alternative story in order to encourage a shift in perception and break the mold on the same antiquated narratives out there. There’s so many people telling African American stories from a secondary perspective. I want to hear real, unfiltered stories rooted in firsthand accounts and authentic philosophies. I want to see stories that reflect the vulnerability, beauty, and romance inherent in Black culture. I’m going to continue to show up as a creator. I hope I can inspire many other beautiful black women, young and old, to vocalize their own unique perspectives as well!
Kasey: I grew up in a family with so many personalities, characters and storytellers. One of my favorite things to do is to sit around in the kitchen and just listen to the many stories that live inside of my mom, my dad, my brothers and grandmothers. These stories make me crack up laughing and they also bring tears to my eyes because I can feel the struggle and the pain in their voices and in their eyes. I also am someone who loves film/tv and the most frustrating thing is that I don’t see stories and characters like the ones that live in my kitchen up on the screen. I see our story being told in a different way, which lacks truth, perspective and meaning. This is only because these stories are being told by someone else. I realized that the only way I can see my truth in mainstream media is to create it myself and that’s why being a young African American female creative is important. We can’t let someone else tell our story because no one else has lived it the way we have and no one is going to care they way that we do. We need young African American female creatives not only in front of the camera but writing these stories, directing them and bringing them to fruition, that’s the only way to shift the narrative.
Styled by James Phlemuns
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