Bola Ogun’s first feature The Water Phoenix involved a mermaid and underwater effects. For her second outing, Ogun kept it closer to home. She has created a short based on and inspired by her own sister’s coming out story. Are We Good Parents? features Lauren (Traci Thoms) and Bill (Sean Maguire), who have always assumed their daughter was gay, in the same way that most parents assume their child is straight (until given notice). Suddenly, they worry they have not provided an open environment that allows their daughter to be herself. Lauren and Bill do some introspection on their own parenting and ask, “Are we good parents?”

Are We Good Parents? made its debut at SXSW earlier this year and just screened at Outfest.

I caught up with Bola to talk about her film.  Read our chat below:

It was such a great story. I was talking about coming out stories and it made me think about how I wish we all had stories like this.

Yes. Absolutely. I wanted to turn the typical coming out story on its head and lean toward where we are today and if we aren’t there today, hopefully, we will be soon.

How did this story happen for you? I know your sister inspired it?

Yeah. She told me when she was 19. I was confused about why she felt the need to hide it. So, the parents in the story is my reaction to if I was a parent knowing my daughter is gay and how confused I would be about her hiding it. That’s how it came together.

I was grappling with that and trying to figure out what should I do with that feeling and being an artist and filmmaker, I decided to make a film out of it.

Did you talk to your sister before you made it into a film?

I mostly just did it. I did it and asked later. I conceived it as a three-act structure. Hailey Chavez is a friend of mine. She’s smart and funny and will be able to get it. She was absolutely right for it. She’s gay herself and was able to connect to it on a personal level and bring it to the page that I would not have been able to do myself.

I told my sister later and her approach to it was, “Whatever inspires you to do more stuff.”

What about the short story approach?

It was more tangible and more realistic format that I could do. As filmmakers, we’re thinking about the bigger picture and making a feature, but it’s so hard to get those done when you’re not already a name. I knew I could make this work, right now and get it out there and that’s why I chose to do it as a short.

What was the process length?

This was shorter than my first. The Water Phoenix. from writing, that to completing it took about three years. From the visual effects and stunts. This one, we came up with the idea in March. We were hoping to shoot in April. We locked the actors, it actually got pushed to July

I loved the setting of keeping it as an interior film.

The first idea was super ambitious. With this, the goal was to tell a meaningful story and putting more of what I wanted to see more of in the world. It’s an interracial couple where they’re not talking about being interracial because couples don’t talk about that every single day. sometimes they just live and they’re being people which is what I wanted to showcase.

I wanted to shoot in one house. Tatiana Olsak and I met about something else to network, talking about what we did. As I talked to her, I realized she’d be a great producer. She found me options to shoot a location. Her place was one of the options. I saw the orange wall and thought that was perfect and that was where they belonged.

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to shoot upstairs, but as you see in the divide between the living room and the kitchen. We moved around in the space to make it bigger than it actually was.

How did you cast for the roles?

It wasn’t unusual. Rachel Imbriglio our casting director, Tatiana and I all sat down and came
up with our list. Rachel was the one who thought of Sean Maguire, Tatiana thought of Traci Thoms and I was looking to see how to get the script to her and tried to figure it out. I tried the approach of, “If you like it, will you help me?” Luckily, it happened and she loved it. Sean had been doing Once Upon A Time for a few years and I was hoping he’d want to ditch the Handsome Robin Hood for a while and he loved it. He’s a huge advocate for social issues.

Gabrielle, that I got through Rachel. She has a great relationship with coaches and talent agencies. She has a path where she is casting associate for kid’s shows. She was the one who found Gabrielle. I saw her and loved her. I saw so many readings where Maya was the angsty teen, but that’s not who Maya is. She loves her parents. Gabrielle got that immediately and I thought, that’s her, that’s Maya.

As a female filmmaker, I noticed you had a large female crew. Was that deliberate?

No. I totally understand how people would see that. There are some people who approach it that way, they only want to work with a female crew. You can end up with an all-female crew and not make that the goal. For me, they were all just happened to be women. At the end of the day, it wasn’t my intention. They’re people and they’re the best people.

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