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The Columbia Chronicle

Film with Columbia connections comes home to Chicago for US premiere

Carolina+Posse%2C+associate+professor+and+associate+chair+of+the+Cinema+and+Television+Arts++Department+stands+outside+her+office+on+the+fifth+floor+of+1104+S.+Wabash+Ave.%2C+on+Wednesday%2C+Sept.+13%2C+2023.+Producer+of+American+Parent%2C+Posse+began+working+on+this+project+two+years+ago+and+now+awaits+its+premiere+on+Friday%2C+Sept.+22.
Addison Annis
Carolina Posse, associate professor and associate chair of the Cinema and Television Arts Department stands outside her office on the fifth floor of 1104 S. Wabash Ave., on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023. Producer of American Parent, Posse began working on this project two years ago and now awaits its premiere on Friday, Sept. 22.

A new film about a lesbian couple raising a toddler during the pandemic is a collaboration between a Columbia professor, a retired dean and an alumna.

“American Parent,” which will have its U.S. premiere on September 22 at Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema on Clark St. in Chicago, follows a lesbian couple who are juggling their careers and being new parents as the COVID-19 pandemic ends and life returns to a normal.

The trio met during the course of “American Parent” Director Emily Railsback’s academic career, she said. Carolina Posse, currently an associate chair and professor, was a producing professor in the Cinema and Television Arts Department at the time. Retired dean and Professor Emerita Doreen Bartoni was Railsback’s thesis advisor and a co-writer on the film.

Railsback and Bartoni worked on some projects they developed but never finished, said Railsback, who directed and co-wrote the film with Bartoni. She graduated with her Master of Fine Arts degree in directing in 2014. When Railsback gave birth ten days after Chicago’s COVID-19 lockdown, she conceived the idea for the film.

“I wanted to tell something about that chaos of motherhood and the balancing of couples’ give and take,” she said. “We talked about the visual metaphor of a seesaw.”

“COVID and motherhood has shifted their identities,” Railsback said. “The film is about their relationship and the give and take between the two partners as one person’s career struggles and the other’s takes off.”

The film features a well-educated lesbian couple who work in their respective careers and are new parents, she said. The couple is raising their toddler during the resumption of everyday activities during COVID-19’s decline.

The film’s target audience is couples who are trying to find balance in their relationship while additional responsibilities mount due to parenting, Railsback said.

“I think this is a look into students’ possible future if they want to have kids,” she added. “Things like, ‘how do you have a career?’ ‘how do you balance lifestyle with a career and family with a career?’ This is a look at what the realities of life are.”

As the film’s producer and co-executive producer, Posse had many different roles and responsibilities. They were from being involved at the beginning stages of a film to the end with exhibition and marketing and included her creative collaboration with Railsback and Bartoni, she said.

She said the film, which was shot two years ago, was produced in a non-traditional way.

“This was the first time I’ve ever had a non-scripted project,” Posse said. “We decided to go a different route. One, was the director’s idea to proceed this way. We decided to go for it because we were just coming out of COVID-19. It seemed like it was the right time to try something interesting and different.”

While the method of funding for “American Parent” is used more often these days, there was no script.

“The film is mostly improvised,” Railsback said. “We basically had a micro budget when we started. We were able to raise enough funds through crowdfunding to shoot production including grant writing and other funding after we wrapped for post-production.”

Posse said the logistics of production were a challenge because of the film’s relaxed schedule and improvisation.

“You can’t fully prepare for what the actor is going to provide on the screen or in that moment,” she said.

Bartoni and Railsback decided to feature a lesbian couple in order to fictionalize the story and to speak to the unique struggles of LGBTQI+ parenting.

“Through my lens of everyday issues, my wife and I were always getting mistaken as sisters or relatives,” Bartoni said, who was also a co-executive producer. “There’s many opportunities where one needs to say, ‘Actually, she’s my wife.’ I’ve brought more of the authentic experience of being a queer couple.”

In the end, there is not much difference in parenting when it comes to gender preferences, Bartoni said. The film addresses the all-inclusive aspects of parents in general who have a one-year-old and are trying to navigate that new reality.

“American Parent” premieres Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at 7:00 p.m. at the Landmark Century Centre Theatre.

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About the Contributors
Robin Sluzas, Former Senior Reporter
rsluzas@columbiachronicle.com   Robin Sluzas is a senior journalism major, primarily covering the School of Media Arts. She has also covered politics, and arts and culture stories. She worked for the Chronicle from August 2021 through December 2023.   Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
Addison Annis, Photojournalist
aannis@columbiachronicle.com   Addison Annis is a junior photojournalism major, minoring in video production. She has covered politics, cultural events and Chicago protests. Annis joined the Chronicle in August 2022.   Hometown: Plymouth, Minn.