Last weekend, the 17th Annual Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival closed out its weekend with the world premiere of “Seeking Dolly Parton,” a film about two women who decide to start a family using an ex-boyfriend as a sperm donor. (The “Dolly Parton” in question is a rose.) When the man moves in with them and realizes he still has feelings for his ex, problems abound. EDGE spoke with stars Michael Worth and Kacey Louisa Barnfield about the film, which they shot in record time.
“It was funny because Kacey and myself and her friend Raffaello who’s in the film were sitting on Venice Beach, and started talking about getting a film done,” said Worth. “When you’re making films, you can be passionate about a great idea, but by the time you actually shoot it and go through the permits, contracts and negotiations, you’ve lost that energy. So this one, we wrote in a couple of weeks, and shot like a play.”
Worth said that once they had the script, the got on the phone with investors the next day and raised money for it. From the conversation on Venice Beach to the last shot in Berkeley, only 58 days passed, said Worth. Barnfield, who had worked with Worth on a film in Bulgaria, was flattered when he approached her to star in the film.
“He had this idea for a lesbian film, and I was like, ‘oh yeah!'” said Barnfield. “What drew me to it was the character Charlie’s more masculine, artistic energy. I was drawn to playing a more tomboy character and Michael had me in mind for that. I’d never really played a part that tapped into that, and I liked being honed in on my masculine side, feeling free, wearing boys’ clothes, walking like boy, not having to worry about makeup and what I looked like. It was very freeing.”
Being able to express herself and tell stories like this was a godsend for Barnfield, she said. Instead of getting caught up in the politics of an industry that keeps people waiting for permission, she was able to immerse herself in the work, and be inspired.
Worth said a big part of his success lie in picking the right people to work with. He chose Barnfield, Raffaello Degruttola and Anya Monzikova, and a cameraman with a lot of talent. He said it was all like a big camping trip, and was over too fast to lose that passion. He relied on his actors to make the film come together.
“As an actor, for me to get to play like a kid is so freeing and wonderful,” said Barnfield. “Michael writes a script but allows us to find ourselves within the script. It really is a wonderful creative experience.”
Worth said that they chose the name of the film based on a varietal of rose called the Dolly Parton, and were pleased to see it growing in the park they shot at. The flower represented the womanliness of the characters. But the film is not about Dolly Parton.
“It’s a bit of a red herring there,” said Barnfield with a chuckle.
But the film is about relationships, with Worth playing Josh, the ex, and Barnfield playing Charlie, the new partner. Monzikova plays Cerina. Toward the end of the film, said Worth, they faced some production issues and started to have to shift the story. They decided to leave it open to change and growth.
“Ultimately, we have a lot more in common with each other than Cerina does with them,” said Barnfield. “The film leads the audience to come to their own assumptions about how things will end, with a nice surprise at the end.”
The film was released on May 2 at the Miami Film Fest. The great thing about creating a film with a small budget, said Worth, was that there wasn’t as much pressure on distribution and sales. Instead, the players can enjoy the reception it gets and see how it touches people’s lives.
“The key was not making an issue or activism film. It’s just about people,” said Worth. “Once you’re introduced to them, you can throw everything else out the window and focus on their problems and relationships.”
The reception has been good so far, and its success has spurred Worth to work on three other projects he has been sitting on. He said he wants to try to project the lessons he learned shooting small films to improve his work on big-budget films. For now, you can check out “Seeking Dolly Parton” and see how spontaneity transfers to the silver screen.
“It would be wonderful for as many people as possible to see it,” said Barnfield. “Hopefully it will touch the LGBT community and everyone else, because it’s about love. It’s universal. And it will make you laugh and cry.”