Brief Take received the unique opportunity to participate in a 3:1 press junket for the film Mother’s Little Helpers, in which Kestrin Pantera stars in, directs and co-wrote the kickass film, which is being released by Gravitas Ventures. It’s a bit funny, it’s serious, there’s some touching moments, it’s really our kind of film.
We spoke with Pantera along with David Giuntoli (with whom we previously spoke when he was promoting his series A Million Little Things), as well as Sam Littlefield, who we know as Mouse on Batwoman and gives a really funny performance in the film as well. The three have incredible chemistry, and spoke to each other for a few minutes, while we sat back and listened, to the point that the publicist on the line actually had to prompt us to start asking questions (which we were thrilled to do). While we’re keeping their stuff to ourselves, we’re more than happy to share a condensed and edited version of our rollicking chat with David Giuntoli, Sam Littlefield and Kestrin Pantera of Mother’s Little Helpers.
Brief Take: David, we know you worked with Gravitas Ventures to distribute the feature in which you starred and co-wrote, Buddymoon. Kestrin, as director, writer, star, producer, you are now working with Gravitas, how did you know that this distributor was the place for Mother’s Little Helpers?
Kestrin Pantera: I would say that they are just huge lovers of the craft and the career of David Giuntoli, that’s what I, that was my…
[David and Sam laugh]
KP: I love Buddymoon so much that he and Flula (Borg) and Alex (Simmons) did such a great job on it, so I was excited when Gravitas was interested in distributing this movie as well. My team had a good relationship with Gravitas, so it seemed like a really seamless, magical home for it. And I love Gravitas, they have a lot of awesome movies. My brother-in-law was so excited when we sold it to Gravitas, I was like: “We sold it to a company called Gravitas”, and he was like: “Gravitas Ventures? Man, I watch all their indie movies”, so hometown crowd.
David Giuntoli: Let me give some really cool backstory you might not even know, Kestrin, and then everybody can just move on from me. The reason we even…Alex, Flula and I made Buddymoon because we saw Kestrin’s previous feature, which is called Let’s Ruin It with Babies. And we were like: “Gosh! Kestrin is the standard-bearer of this strange mix of eccentricity and absolutely fully-grounded ability to carry out [chuckles] the enormous undertaking of making a film”. And I just try to glom on to creative people like Alex and Kestrin and Flula, much like the thing that is attached to the bottom of a shark.
DG: And then be parasitic off them. But the reason Buddymoon was made was because of Kestrin Pantera, believe it or not.
KP: Wow. Some very powerful words, David.
KP: The reason that David Giuntoli is in my movie is because my husband, who is in my first movie, Let’s Ruin it with Babies, who is not an actor, insisted that Dave Giuntoli be my husband this time around. So thank you from Jonathan Grubb, my husband, to you, David Giuntoli.
DG: Oh, Jonathan!
KP: For relieving his acting service.
DG: [chuckles] Was an honour, was a pleasure.
BT: This film is so much fun and a little dramatic and you all seemed like you were having the best time filming it. Is there a name for this type of genre of movie?
KP: I mean some would call it a word that is equally vilified and adored, but I’m not even going to say it. I kind of use the phrase “funny drama” right now.
Sam Littlefield: Are you avoiding the term “dramedy”? Is that the word that you don’t want to use?
KP: [laughs] I think so.
SL: It is, there’s an unfortunate affiliation I think with the word “dramedy”, I would say that’s the closest “official” genre that our movie is in. But I think that Kestrin, she really set out to do a film that celebrates experiences like this: loss and grief and being stuck with your family, and it’s kind of cool for the movie to be coming out right now because I feel like it does speak to what the world is experiencing at this moment in time.
BT: Did you anticipate having a prophetic scene in which your characters struggle to use Google Hangouts?
KP: I didn’t know [chuckles] the Google Hangouts scene of the siblings’ extended family getting on the phone together, that I would actually be predicting the 2020 national nightmare that we are living today, but here we are.
SL: I’m learning that we have to be really nice to Kestrin, because apparently she’s a prophet and she can determine the history of our planet. Who knew?!
KP: Are you saying that because I got knocked up while I was making my movie that was about being afraid of getting knocked up?
SL: [laughs] Yes, that’s what I was talking about.
BT: I heard that you didn’t have a casting agent, Kestrin. What is it like working with people that you trust?
KP: It was a very blissful, fast 11-day shoot and I really cast it based on the best actors that I knew. And Sam and Dave are among them, and I was really nervous and excited to ask because you never know if someone’s going to want to go along with your crazy scheme, but it was one of the happiest days. Talking to both of these guys and them both saying yes was a real life-changing moment. So I love you guys both so much, and acting in my movie, you’re both very, very talented.
DG: Ah, Kestrin!
SL: I think that Kestrin said something like: “I’m making a movie next week, I can’t pay you, that’s all I can give you, would you join my movie?”. [laughs] And I was like: “Sure! Fuck yeah. [laughs] Let’s go”. Kestrin makes so many cool things, she has this awesome travelling RV karaoke bus that we went to and we took to South by Southwest, had the most amazing time. This movie is kind of the gift that keeps on giving. We have had so many incredible experiences together and we’re such a close, tight-knight group of really dear friends. And it does really feel like a family in a lot of ways.
BT: Kestrin, why was it so important to give your members of the cast producing credits on this movie?
KP: I think that they very much earned those credits. A lot of people improvise in big movies and then the writer gets the credit for the actor’s improv. I figured it was very much the least that I can do and even just having another credit in some path you want to take later in your career can be really helpful, having a writing credit on IMDb, and as far as co-producer credits, they very much earned that as well. I’ve been driving my team into the grindstone in this eleventh hour of filmmaking and I’m super grateful for them. Dave and Sam are both kind of producers and filmmakers in their own right, so it’s been earned, [chuckles] it was an easy choice to make.
BT: Dave, Sam, how important is that filmmaking experience to you in your acting roles?
SL: Well I feel like people always ask: “What’s a character that you really want to play?”, and I never really think of it that way, I just really love story. When you pertain it to acting, it’s kind of like that character is being applied to one facet and one perspective of this overarching story, so they’re kind of one and the same to me. Producing and writing and all that stuff is borne out of trying to create more work for myself, but this year in particular, I think it’s been this lovely marriage in between the two realms in which I’m making projects like this with Kestrin and Dave, doing other things, each lends itself to the other.
DG: I think the thing that is most exciting to many of us who have gotten into this business is the act of creating. I remember when I was a kid, my dad rented a camcorder for my birthday. And before my birthday happened, I destroyed it, because I tried to use it so much and create little characters, and a buddy of mine was always a dude and I was always cross-dressing, I thought it was the best.
DG: [laughs] And I just loved goofing around and creating things which made people laugh or made people lean in and feel connected. Los Angeles is very much a sprawling city, and the people who really thrive in it: Sam, Kestrin are the exact types who do, they’re able to cobble together this found family of doers who are really artistic, driven and it’s just in their nature to create. I think it so much fun, it’s the most fun there is. It’s better than saying words that are written for you.
BT: This film also had an incredible visual aesthetic. What was it like sort of living in this world?
SL: Meena Singh, our cinematographer, was so amazing. And in a lot of ways, in doing the scenes, it was all so ramshackle, slap it together, get it done, do what you need to do, and everyone was so on their feet and working and living in the moment. I’ve never had such a collaborative experience with my cinematographer. We were constantly communicating, and it was such an interesting dynamic in that regard. But also Kestrin developed the world, she built what it looks like and from where it comes.
BT: Why is it so important to make a movie with your friends?
DG: You take it, brother.
SL: Okay… [laughs] As artists, that’s how we relate to one another. It’s a lifelong commitment, from the way you wake up, to the way you go to bed, it’s what drives you, it’s what made us get into this ridiculous industry that has so many pitfalls and complications along the way. You really have to be committed to it entirely, and I think that this journey requires likeminded people that share that same deep passion for making stories and making films. And it’s a very intimate relationship being able to share that experience with people that you love and that you respect. And I think that it’s a testament also to the work itself. I think that you feel that and see that in the movie that this is a shared commitment amongst people who care about each other.
BT: What is the best way to experience this movie?
KP: For us, we thought that we were going to be releasing this with Alamo Drafthouse in Los Angeles and New York and that we were going to get to play in all of these theatres across the country, and then that just went away, right? And it felt really personal and it was like: “Boo hoo!”. And then you take a minute and you’re like: “Wow, like [chuckles], if there’s ever been a moment that something is not personal, this is the most universal experience.” Everyone is experiencing the loss of something that is important to them or the loss of someone who is important to them. And that’s what this movie is really about, that regardless of how personal your grief feels and how personal your pain may feel, that it is a universal experience that happens and unites us all. But there are moments of levity and brightness and comedy and fun and it does actually help us deal with those moments. And in this movie, it’s a bunch of people who are coming home to be with their Mom and it’s a bunch of adults [chuckles] stuck in a house with a boomer parent with whom they’re fighting, but also loving, loving so much, and that’s what I would like people to expect going into it. That it is an emotional roller coaster ride and that it is the same ride that we’re on right now as a country, so hopefully there is something in there that can give us something on which to reflect back and feel seen in our own experience and find the light in the dark.
DG: It appears that Kestrin has directed the first quarantine comedy. Perfect.
SL: [laughs] Well put.
BT: Sam, how has this period of time affected your well-being as an artist looking into future?
SL: When they closed the borders on California and Trump declared a national emergency, I was up in Vancouver filming Batwoman and I was too afraid to get on a plane, and so I took a Greyhound bus across the border and into Seattle, Washington holding Lysol Wipes up to my face as a makeshift mask. And I went into quarantine with my sister and her family. And we made a little short film with my two nephews on my iPhone about a mime and a magician [chuckles] and their relationship. And I’m actually really excited about it! [laughs] But the point to which I’m getting is that I really feel like we’re at such an interesting moment, in which the technology has really met the moment. I feel like I’m really excited about the art that is about to come out because I feel like we’ve been kind of chained to this idea of production value. And big budget maddening of the feature film industry has gotten so specific and particular, while there’s these 60, 80, 100 million dollar movies being put out. And now we’re not being granted that luxury. But we do have this technology at our disposal in which we are sort of forced to be as creative as we possibly can and make art deliberately on our own. I’m personally very excited about this moment when it comes to art.
BT: David, how do you feel at this time as an artist that is looking into the future?
DG: Very grateful, honestly, that 1. [chuckling] We have a movie in the can that we get to promote with my friends, which is incredible. You know… As it is, it is a perilous industry. I think that as actors and directors, we are a little more accustomed to this kind of business of: “Are we going to be able to make it or not?”. And so I, for one, feel kind of grateful that I’ve developed a rind, [chuckles] around my heart, guys, around my heart. No [laughs], I think that I’m incredibly grateful for what we’ve already filmed. I think that I’m grateful that I hopefully have a job to which to go back, but I do think that it’s going to be a shift in our collective consciousness, to Sam’s point, that it’s going to change the way that things are made out here, for every moment after this pandemic. And…yeah. That’s what I got.
BT: Kestrin, for what are you most excited about this film?
KP: I’m excited for the performances that the actors bring to this film. It’s some of the best acting I’ve seen, out of everyone that is in my cast, [laughs], Dave, Sam, Breeda [Wool], Milana [Vayntrub], Tara [Karsian}, I mean, everybody put it out there on the floor. I have not seen people act so hard, and especially because a lot of the stuff that they were saying was improvised, I think that there’s a raw truth to it that speaks to the ages, and I’m so proud of them and I’m so honoured that they’re in it, and I’m so grateful. I can’t wait for people to see their work.
Mother’s Little Helpers is now available On Demand