Oh Baby! How Brooke Trantor Explores the Female Experience
In a world where women are often under- or even misrepresented in cinema, director Brooke Trantor and her short film Oh Baby! are defying expectations in more ways than one. The film, which has been running the festival circuit for several months, follows a young woman, Jane, as she goes on a first date.
Jane is peculiar in a way that’s both relatable and over the top. While ordering an appetizer, she exhibits a mix of 2000s-era Zoey Deschanel quirkiness and current Internet lingo, as when she can’t remember the word for salsa and tests out some creative alternatives. The waiter looks on skeptically. After a few exchanges with her date, Jane gets up to use the restroom. Upon her return, we learn that Jane is extremely pregnant and incredibly determined to get laid.
What follows is a charming examination of female sexuality and motherhood. Trantor, who acts in addition to directing, met Jane’s actress Kate Morgan Chadwick in an improv class. After visiting the set of one of Trantor’s other projects, Chadwick approached Brooke with an idea based on a dream. According to Trantor, Chadwick dreamed she was working on a project in which she was pregnant and Trantor directed. At the time, Chadwick and her husband had been attempting to have a baby but had not yet conceived. Two weeks later, Chadwick called Trantor and announced she was pregnant, and the writing process began.
“We were all kind of tapping into two announcements—having a real baby, and making a film baby.”
Using the dream as a foundation, the two realized their mutual desire to explore sex and sexuality through a woman’s eyes. Trantor lists a number of shows such as Dead To Me and Fleabag as influences for the short. “All of these shows are tackling real, substantial experiences in a woman’s life that might be perceived as dark, but we wanted to tell it from a comedic standpoint and make it really grounded as well, so we hope that little glimmers of those stories pop in there,” says Trantor. The two women began the project by improvising dialogue together, which Trantor found quite fun. Jane is a version of Chadwick, she says, and so everything ran smoothly.
More difficult for Trantor was the fund-raising. Films, even short ones, are incredibly expensive, and Trantor needed money to bring her vision to light. The pair decided to reach out to Seed& and Spark, a female- run business and funding platform dedicated to raising money for film projects. The two crafted an announcement video that doubled as both a pregnancy announcement for Chadwick, who sent it to friends and family, and a request for donations to the film, which Chadwick requested in lieu of traditional baby shower gifts like baby clothes and diapers. “We were all kind of tapping into two announcements—having a real baby, and making a film baby.” Trantor says.
Chadwick’s actual pregnancy put the production on a tight, nine-month deadline. Trantor, who’s never been pregnant, says that making sure that Chadwick was ok while wearing multiple hats during production. Due to the nature of the film, Chadwick was often put in a vulnerable position as an actress, and a busy one as a producer. Trantor made sure Chadwick was comfortable, and had time to take care of her body during the grueling shoot days. “I knew it was going to be a lot on Kate, and first and foremost, before she’s a collaborator, she’s my best friend, so I really had to have two different parts of my brain. One is creative and wants to get everything done, and one is protecting Kate…” Trantor notes.
“All of these shows are tackling real, substantial experiences in a woman’s life that might be perceived as dark, but we wanted to tell it from a comedic standpoint and make it really grounded as well.”
In hindsight, Trantor says the experience was wonderful. As an actor she’s no stranger to the difficulties of Hollywood, which is why she decided to write and direct. Trantor notes that every role on a film set is all part of storytelling. She’s keen to collaborate with others on set and admires outspoken creativity. Trantor says she “wants to learn forever,” which inspires her to invite ideas from others.
As Oh Baby! comes to a close, it poses an interesting question. Jane, a single woman whose singular priority seems to be debauchery, asks herself if she’ll become a good mom. For the most part, this is up to the viewer to decide, but Trantor has complete faith in Jane, saying that Jane has “chosen herself over what life could’ve brought.” Jane has decided to bring a baby into the world on her own despite traditional societal expectations and potential consequences, and Trantor sees this as a strength, the beginning of a promising relationship between Jane and her baby.
Trantor says she’d advise future filmmakers to follow their gut and to find people that you love to work with. It’s clear that the success of Oh Baby! is due to both. Having found success in film festivals and in-person viewings, Trantor and Chadwick plan to develop the short into a full-fledged television series that Trantor says will portray the ins and outs of pregnancy—especially the parts the silver screen is less familiar with.
Trantor and Chadwick take an often-overlooked perspective and add a dash of delightfully uncomfortable humor, creating something that works whether you’re laughing at Jane or with her. The short is well worth its 10-and-a-half-minute runtime, even if the viewer’s intention is to gain insight rather than understanding. The duo’s future endeavors will likely be warmly met if they can manage to bring the same mixture to the forefront, and no matter what happens in the future, Oh Baby! is clearly made with love.
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