In our ongoing column Deep Focus, TrunkSpace is going behind the camera to talk with the directors, writers and producers who infuse our world with that perennial pop culture goodness that we can’t get enough of.
This time out we’re chatting with the writing/directing duo – and twin sisters – Kailey and Sam Spear about their new short film “CC,” whether or not they have super powers, and why one of them is haunted by a “Supernatural” curse.
TrunkSpace: You both shared writing and directorial duties on your new short film. When you go into a project, do you have a clear understanding of who will be focused on what or is it more fluid? How do you ensure that you don’t veer into each other’s creative lane?
The Spear Sisters: It is definitely more of a fluid process. We don’t have specific jobs to stick to that we assign to each of us. Rather, we will float back and forth between covering different pieces of what needs to be done. For example, when we are writing we don’t start by saying, “Okay, you take structure, I’ll take dialogue.” Nor do we sit side by side and write everything together line by line. We talk about what we want to do with the script, the ideas for the characters, plot, tone, etc, and then go off and write scenes separately – sometimes in a different room, sometimes across the table from each other. We send the script back and forth, writing new material and revising the pieces we have received from the other. We discuss new ideas or characters that arise as we go so that we are always on the same page with what is being added to the story. When we come to the time where we have a script that we are both happy reading all the way through without feeling any bumps or irks, then we know it is good to go.
It is similar for directing. We float back and forth between being in different places; one behind the monitor giving notes to the camera and one closer to the actors. If there are a few actors in a scene, we might divide and conquer so that each actor will be talking about the scene with us separately, but at the same time. If we see an adjustment that could be made, there are many times where we don’t have to talk to each other about it, we just give each other a look to see which one of us is going to go and deliver the adjustment.
We are lucky that we always have a unified idea of where we want to go with the project. We can use our two different minds to get us there. We trust that even if we’re trying out different ways to get there, the desired outcome will be the same. We have differences of opinion, absolutely. We bring different ideas to the table. But we have always been good at talking them through and determining which direction is best for the project. This can be in any part of the process: writing, directing, editing, etc. Think of it like this: When traveling, we both decide on the town we would like to visit. We decide that we would like the trip there to be fun. We both go out and find different roads of how to get there. Then we take a look at the roads that each of us has found and decide which one is the best one to take. We might choose to take Kailey’s road because, although Sam’s may take us down a nice winding road by the ocean, Kailey’s takes us past the world’s biggest squirrels. So far we have been cruising down the same creative lane. We just make sure that the lane is big enough to fit the two of us.
TrunkSpace: Would you say that you both share a similar creative POV? And if you don’t, where do you venture away from each other?
The Spear Sisters: We do share similar sensibilities, yes. That might come from growing up together and having many of the same influences.
We have many twin friends, and it is not always that case that those creative sensibilities are shared. We remember growing up and having people urge us to take different paths, to try aiming for different careers. “You both want to take the film class in high school? Why don’t one of you take dance?” But we both wanted to take film, so we did. We didn’t choose to go into film because one of us wanted to and the other followed. We both happened to be drawn to the same thing. We did not want to give up our dream just because we had a twin sister who happened to want to do it too. It is a similar case with the types of stories we are drawn to and the vision we have to bring them to screen. We happen to be drawn to similar stories and come at them with similar ideas of how we would like them handled.
Unless we are actively trying to throw wild ideas into the pot as a creative exercise, there are not many times when we dramatically venture away from a similar creative POV. Of course, we bring different ideas of how to tackle the project (we need a new character here, this needs to be darker, this line is too cheesy, this would be better in a lower angle, we should leave more breathing space in this edit, etc), but we are playing in the same realm.
TrunkSpace: What do you hope “CC” says about who you are as directors, not only to a general audience, but to those people within the industry looking for the next generation of writer/directors to spearhead future projects?
The Spear Sisters: “Spearhead.” (Laughter) Love how perfect that word in context!
We hope that this film will show that, no matter how much time and money we are given, we are dedicated to giving it our all in order to bring a story to screen that delivers dynamic characters, engaging visuals and thought provoking questions that carry beyond the film itself. We want people going to see a Spear Sisters film to know and expect that the film they will be watching has been crafted with intention and care. There will never be a Spear Sisters film made where every aspect from casting, to lighting, to shots, to sound, to color, etc, has not been meticulously thought out in order to better serve the story.
We are also hoping that this film helps communicate our interest in, and our ability to do, genre films. Often women are pigeonholed into drama. Now, don’t get us wrong, there are many dramas that we are interested in doing! But where we really have the most fun is telling a story that has something extra to play with in terms of story world and tone: a supernatural murder mystery set in a 1920 asylum, a dramatic thriller involving a ghost of a murdered king, a swashbuckling steampunk action/adventure, an AI nanny robot mystery. Genre films give such a great opportunity to explore important questions about the human experience from different angles. They have the ability to not only let us have fun being creative as storytellers, but to push the audience to expand their creative minds as well. We would love “CC” to remind people that there are many female directors like ourselves out here who would love to, let’s say, take on a “Black Mirror” episode or a “Star Wars” film. The Spear Sisters would love to spearhead a “Star Wars” film. Young Leia film, we’re lookin’ at you.
TrunkSpace: Is there a concern that you will be pigeonholed as a creative duo as opposed to individual creators? Do you see a day when you’re directing projects separate from each other?
The Spear Sisters: We are not worried about being established as a creative duo. We plan to continue co-writing and co-directing. We realized a long time ago that we can take advantage of the fact that we happen to share similar creative sensibilities and are both passionate about making films. We want to do the same types of projects and joining forces just makes us stronger when it comes to making them happen. Right now, as we begin our careers, it is beneficial for people get to know us as a creative duo as that is what we foresee continuing into the future.
Now, we don’t know what the future holds. There may be a time where we both have projects we want to do that the other has no interest in. If that happens, we will go ahead and do our separate films. If people get thrown by that, well, it means The Spear Sisters are established enough for people to get thrown when we do something different. So I think we’ll manage! Right now though, we can’t see the day where we would be directing projects separately from each other. We have too many shared projects we still want to get on screen!
TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the film?
The Spear Sisters: Honestly? That we got it made!
Every film has its challenges in getting onto the screen and this one had some unique ones for sure. “CC” was made through the Crazy8s film competition in Vancouver. The winners of the competition are given eight days and $1000 to make a film. But there were several competitive phases to get through before even getting to the challenge of making the film. First, we sent a video pitch for “CC” alongside over 200 pitches from other filmmakers wishing to make a Crazy8s film. We were narrowed down to a group of 42 to come in and pitch our films to a panel of industry professionals. We did our pitch and were narrowed down to a group of 12. These 12 wrote and submitted their scripts. Of those 12, six were selected as winners of the competition. “CC” was one of the six! So, as winners, we had eight days to start and finish our film! That’s from the start of shooting to handing in the edited film complete with sound, visual effects and color. Yep, it was tight for sure!
Which brings us to what we are second most proud of (a very close second): our freaking fantastic cast and crew! They not only worked hard to get it done in the time we were given, they made sure that every aspect was executed with intention and care. We feel incredibly lucky to have had each one of them on this film.
TrunkSpace: Time always seems like the one commodity that is lacking on a set, but did having a fixed deadline help you to stay organized and shoot exactly what you needed?
The Spear Sisters: Yes, the timeline really did make hone in and become super aware of what exactly we needed to tell this story. There was no time for anything extra. We had every shot planned out very specifically, and we used every one of them. When it came to editing (which we had an incredibly short amount of time to do), our choices were already narrowed down for us as we didn’t have any extraneous shots. We knew when a moment was going to be covered in a close-up, and that is the only way we shot that moment. We had a futuristic phone that required visual effects anytime the device was seen while it was on. We determined when exactly the phone was needed to be seen on screen, and hid it from camera anytime it was not giving us new information. That made the epic task of finishing VFX in time a little easier.
TrunkSpace: You’re also both working actresses. Do you think understanding how both sides of the camera works makes you stronger directors, particularly in getting what you need from actors through their performance?
The Spear Sisters: Yes. We came from a theatre background originally, then moved into film and TV. Coming from an acting background helps us do our work as directors for sure. We approach a project character first. Knowing what the character is going through helps inform our other choices for the film. How the camera is moving, what the color timing is, what the sound choices are, etc. They are all chosen specifically to support and enhance the character’s journey. When we are writing, reading a script, or editing, there is always a part of us that is playing the characters through as well. Making sure that we know what is important to focus on. We feel like directing is, in a way, playing all the characters at the same time.
When it comes to getting what we need from the actors, having been on their side of the camera helps us know what they are going through, what they need to help them, and what could prevent them from doing their job to the best of their ability. We know what it is like to get a confusing piece of direction, to get a page of new dialogue right before we are supposed to start shooting, or to try to settle into an emotional state when the set is loud. The more that you know about what the other person’s job requires, the more you will know on your side what you can do to help that process and get what you need.
Having worked as actors, and among fellow actors, we also understand that everyone responds to different types of direction in different ways. What might work for one might throw someone else off entirely. Some actors want you to tell them their character’s entire backstory, some just want to know where to stand and when to move. Different actors need different things from us. It is part of our job to get an understanding of what works best for each actor in order to get what we need. We like having conversations with our actors before we start shooting to get a better sense of how they like to work and how we will best work together. This can be rehearsal (we love rehearsal!) or just chatting over coffee.
TrunkSpace: We have an unnatural obsession with “Supernatural” around here and we couldn’t help notice that both of you have appeared on the series. Is it a bit of a rite of passage for actors from Canada to appear on that show at some point in their careers and what was that experience like for you?
The Spear Sisters: Yeah, “Supernatural” to Vancouver must be what “Dr. Who” is to London. At one point or another, if you are an actor in the city, you’ll be on the show. And what a great show to be on! We both have had so much fun working on “Supernatural.” We have both worked as actors, background performers, and in the casting room as videographers for “Supernatural.” There is such a wonderful team of fantastic folks on that production! We’d love to work on it again.
Kailey has had a fun string of characters on the show. First she played an attendee of a chastity group meeting. That was a funny scene. She had to learn a lot about chastity groups and abstinence before playing this character, which was interesting. She learnt all about No Nut November, which is the perfect chastity challenge where you are not allowed to masturbate, have sex, or ejaculate. Why November? Well, apparently it’s a spin on the popular No Shave November charity challenge where you are banned from trimming your beard. It’s amazing the sort of things you learn when you are researching for a role or character! Then she played Beth, a research assistant who gets her throat slit by a demon. Not such a funny scene. But it involved some awesome practical effects to get that blood going. Kailey wore a prosthetic neck so that a tube of blood could be pumped up through it to pour out after the slice.
Then we both got cast as twin demons sent by Lucifer to deal with Crowley. That was great! One part involved dropping huge knives out of our sleeves in unison before going to attack Crowley. It was the first time that we were cast as twins on TV and it was a really fun scene to do.
Now, funny story about Sam’s appearances on “Supernatural.” Funny… is that the right word? You can decide. The first TV role Sam ever booked was a role for “Supernatural.” It was the role of a waitress at a diner. It was two lines, but you know, first role on TV – big deal! The scene was cut for time. The character of “waitress” was never seen. The casting director said, “Don’t worry this just means Sam can work on the show again.” So, when we booked the demon roles, there it was: the time Sam was going to make it to screen on “Supernatural.” And the scene was cut out of the final edit. Those twin demons were never seen. Sam has still never had one of her “Supernatural” characters make it to screen. (Unless you keep your eyes super sharp, you might spot her as a nun in the background of the episode “Mother’s Little Helper.”) But that means Sam still could show up as another character on the show! So, let’s all cross our fingers and hope that Sam’s “Supernatural” curse will be broken this season. Come on Season 14! Maybe they could bring back those demon twins, eh. Wouldn’t that be fun?
TrunkSpace: What is your best case scenario when it comes to your careers moving forward? Do you hope to find a balance between acting and directing? If you could write your own professional future, what would it look like?
The Spear Sisters: Absolutely. We would love to move forward keeping both acting and directing in our lives. We can’t imagine giving one of them up or doing only one of them.
We have our own projects that we would like to direct, but are also very interested in taking on adaptations or working with someone else’s existing script. Our current dream project to direct is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. This is a film that we have been wanting to do for years. Our version will keep Shakespeare’s original dialogue but set the story in our modern media-crazed world with a female Hamlet as the young royal.
We would love to see some great dynamic roles for us in the future. We love that acting gives us the opportunity to work on projects separate from each other, but we would also LOVE to join a project together playing twins. Now, not as a gimmick (as is painfully common to see when adult female twins appear on screen), but as fully developed characters that just happen to be twins. It is not something that we have seen much of and we would love to be part of bringing those characters to screen. And, while we are writing our dream future, let’s make them pirate twins!
TrunkSpace: We’ve all heard stories about the connections that twins have, but can you give us some insight into how being twins impacts your creativity? Does the one of your creative outputs inspire the other? Does having a creative twin make you a stronger creative person?
The Spear Sisters: Oh yeah, well, we come with the regular set of twin powers: we can read each other’s minds, feel what the other one feels, have our own secret language, etc. So that is useful.
(Laughter) Nah, we lie! No superpowers here, sadly.
We do think that we are lucky though. We don’t take for granted the unique situation that being twins who happen to have similar interests has put us in. We are wonderfully primed to join forces to get things done. We do think that it makes us stronger. We always have that person there to bounce ideas off of. Someone to tell those weird story ideas that pop to mind. We can bring our own ideas to the table, and build on what the other has brought. Having someone else there beside you who is equally as dedicated to making things happen is a great motivation. We give each other energy to keep going. Choosing to work together means that we are both accountable to the other, and supported by them. Having someone there who both supports you while pushing you to do the best, sometimes in that brutally honest way that only family can get away with, keeps us creating. It keeps us motivated to keep moving forward, to keep trucking ahead, even when the path ahead may be a treacherous uphill climb.
For more information on “CC” and Crazy8s, visit here.