Charlotte Kennett believes short films are magic and her latest project ‘Psycho Baby’ proves it

Cinema is going through a queer renaissance. It’s evident within on-screen representation in TV and film, the rich queer characters developed, and in the perspectives of the LGBTQ+ directors and screenwriters creating the content. Filmmaker Charlotte Kennett understands that well. 

While her filmmaker credits appear in music videos for artists like Cassidy King, Rxseboy, Bennie Felix, and Anne Reburn, and in webseries, like Chapstick, Kennett works steadfastly on her own brand of queer stories. Her latest short film, Psycho Baby, is a fabulously dark comedy centered around the relationship between Andra (Savannah Summers), a person living with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), and Sadie (Truman Flyer), a person addicted to love.

INTO chatted with Kennett as part of our Get INTO It interview series where we dished on the magic of LGBTQ+ short films and how she got Andra and Sadie’s relationship just right in Psycho Baby

With a penchant for dark comedies and a focus on LGBTQ+ representation in film, what three words would you use to describe your artistry and why?

I’d say curious, tender, and insatiable. Filmmaking is all questions and answers, a craft of wondering about people, relationships, and the world. Curiosity is not only a prerequisite but also a byproduct of filmmaking itself. In the script phase, questions pop up constantly and while you’re attempting to answer them, new ones emerge. It’s the same on-set, a colorful garment or a choice an actor makes can change everything and so you’re curious all over again. Growing up, my mom called me the “question queen.” So I guess not much has changed. 

I can’t help but be tender, I’m all goo baby! I lead with my heart because I trust it a lot and I’m always looking to soften and settle more. The reality is, there isn’t a single person on set who couldn’t use more tenderness in their lives. We’re making films that are meant to affect people, but it also affects those who are actually making the film. Being tender is a pillar for me.

Insatiable because it’s just true. As an artist, I can’t ever manage to get full. I’m all in on the next meal. I think this is both a strength and a weakness. But since I can’t help it, I choose to embrace it. What’s next? What are we cooking?

What queer pop culture moment defined your childhood?

The Madonna and [Britney Spears] kiss at the VMAs, Katy Perry’s song “I Kissed A Girl,” followed up by flashbacks of watching the HBO channel when no one was around. I distinctly remember the pool scene in Wild Things. Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen too, of course.

Your latest project Psycho Baby, a queer dark comedy, follows the relationship between Andra, a diagnosed psychopath, and Sadie, a person addicted to love. What research went into this short film to get Andra and Sadie’s dynamic right?

A lot of research went into the language of the script, since the film heavily relies on voiceover from Andra’s POV. I had to make sure the dialogue was representative of her lived experiences. I consulted with folks on the ASPD spectrum, most remained anonymous, and they generously shared their personal experiences, stories, and everyday struggles. This insight was invaluable and really helped me get into the skin of Andra. It allowed me to write her character with nuance and specific detail.

A major driving force in wanting to make Psycho Baby was the desire to create ASPD representation. Gruesome slashers might be box-office hits, but are not at all reflective of the ASPD population. 1 in 22 people are psychopaths. These are our friends, neighbors, co-workers, children, and spouses. The media has run away with this false narrative of violence and brutality, when less than 1% of all psychopaths are violent. And as far, as Sadie goes (SLAA), I pulled from my own personal experiences.

Once they were flushed out, the dynamic came together naturally, like what conversation would they actually be having right now? Allowing moments to be awkward if that felt true. Keeping both Sadie and Andra grounded and true to themselves is where I think a lot of the comedy and heart of the script comes from.

What do you think LGBTQ+ short films can do (either storytelling-wise or visually) that feature films or TV shows aren’t able to do as well?

Short films are magic. For me, LGBTQ+ shorts will always be formative and important. Growing up, queer shorts were often the only LGBTQ+ content I could easily access. Additionally, I think the slice-of-life and bite-sized nature of a short has the edge over a feature in the sense that you can take bigger swings. Shorts have to accomplish a lot in a little time, but the limitations yield incredible results. 

Most importantly: making short films is empowering. It’s something you can get up and do without a huge budget or a studio greenlighting you. And with LGBTQ+ content specifically, you don’t want a cishet executive telling you how to write about your queerness or community. With features, they often want to re-shape the content for commercial appeal and return on investment. There’s less erasure in queer short films. You can tell your story exactly how you want. Less barriers and diffusion before your idea hits the screen. And short films raise great directors. It’s a necessary pipeline –  the often DIY nature of making shorts is your film school. It’s priceless, really. 

In that same breath, it’s really hard to make a great short film. I wish streaming services gave the medium its due and distributed them in a more serious, mainstream way. All the major streamers could easily add a short film category on their respective apps (I’ll wait).

As a creative, you’re bound to collaborate with a variety of people. What does a dream collaboration look like to you?

I know a dream collaboration when I feel it. It’s a mixture of alignment, safety, levity, and expression. All channels need to be open and we should both feel like we can say whatever or ask for help. I appreciate when a collaborator can match or raise my excitement on a project. A dream collaboration is passionate, communicative, and grounded. I hope we work hard, but laugh harder. I don’t mind if someone wants to challenge me a bit either, I think that’s a good thing. I want to rise to their occasions, and them mine.

Psycho Baby’s Andra has her own obsessions. However, what underrated movie, song/album, podcast or TV show are you obsessed with right now and why?

Right now, I’m into everything Reneé Rapp, tarot cards, and mushroom foraging (god, I sound gay). As an insomniac, I’ve been loving the content on Aura. And as far as underrated goes – Nasim Pedrad in Chad on Roku Channel. I can’t believe more people aren’t talking about this series. It’s one of the best comedy shows out right now! Nasim is at the top of her game.

With your first web series Chapstick debuted almost a decade ago, where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

Indie filmmaking is at the core of who I am and how I’ve come up as a creator, so I plan to do even more of that, but on a larger scale. By then, I’ll have made my directorial feature debut and (hopefully) a strong follow up. I also see myself directing episodic television. And since I’m practicing the art of manifestation: In ten years, I’m a showrunner on a series I created for HBO.

Psycho Baby premieres on February 14 on the YouTube comedy channel Sleep Late.

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