SXSW 2020 Interview: Katie Marovitch and Kerry Barker on the Pressing Issues of “Waffle”

“We’re friends that know stuff,” Katie (Katie Marovitch) tells Kerry (Kerry Barker) at one point in “Waffle,” though it couldn’t be further from the truth. Katie, an heir to the Jansen waffle fortune, has barely any familiarity with human interaction with her family’s money presumably inoculating her from the general population, but she’s invited Kerry up for an evening of pillow fights, truth or dare and dancing, most likely based on what she’s seen in the movies. For her part, Kerry couldn’t possibly be prepared for what comes after, with her predilection for waffles getting her into this unexpectedly sticky situation.

Their on-screen alter egos may have blind spots, but as the co-authors of “Waffle” as well as serving as the short film’s stars, Marovitch and Baker have crafted a devious little comic thriller that doesn’t miss a trick. Under the sharp direction of Carlyn Hudson, “Waffle” shows the pair’s pajama party growing more and more uncomfortable when it becomes clear their friendship isn’t predicated on the most wholesome of reasons and the disparity in their economic circumstances creates a vicious power dynamic that not only they find themselves unable to escape, but indicts an entire culture where everything has been comodified and readily available for the right price.

Although Katie and Kerry can hardly trust one another, Marovitch and Barker take “Waffle” places that one imagines could only happen with deep faith in the other’s abilities and project a unique comic voice together, enough so that Marovitch felt comfortable speaking for them both in a recent interview via e-mail following the film’s makeshift premiere online, where it can be streamed for free from now until April 30th on Mailchimp, in partnership with Oscilloscope, after its planned debut at SXSW was sidetracked by the coronavirus. A welcome and entertaining diversion from what’s going on in the real world, the two shared how “Waffle” was born out of the desire to create a universe of their own.

How did did you initially come to collaborate?

We worked together at CollegeHumor, where we connected over a shared love of all things macabre. Our first collaboration happened when we won a grant to make a sketch for CollegeHumor’s CH2 site. It was such a natural partnership that we knew we wanted to work together more. We were inspired to make “Waffle” after we both got deeply into Yorgos Lanthimos films and wanted to create our own strange world, like he does so well.

Katie met Carlyn when she started directing CollegeHumor sketches, and she was an obvious choice for this short. Carlyn is so good under pressure and has this very calming energy that we love. She’s also incredibly creative and has some weird ideas that match our weirdness. Kerry and I often talk about how lucky we got with Carlyn.

How did the idea for “Waffle” come about?

“Waffle” started as a conversation about the dangers of a society that has grown so isolated that friendship becomes a service you must pay for. Then it expanded to include themes about social status, income inequality, and female friendship.

Since the characters are named Katie and Kerry, did the writing process involve you embracing the character you’d play and working out the dialogue that way?

Oh, we definitely embraced these characters during the writing process! It’s very natural for Katie to play a big, crazed character and Kerry is just a wonderful actress who can handle anything. [We] remember when we started saying “and then I do this…” or “and then you…” while writing, we had fully become these characters.

Was the look of these characters in mind from the start?

One of the first things we decided was that the setting would be a middle school-style sleepover for a sad heiress who was far too old to enjoy that sort of thing, so the pajamas were a natural choice. We had fun picking them out. We spent a long time finding each other pajamas that were bizarrely childish for Katie and very adult for Kerry.

Anything unanticipated come up during shooting that made it into the film you really like about it now?

Yes! We ran out of time to shoot the final arts-and-crafts scene [that plays alongside the credits] at the house we rented. This was definitely for the best because we were able to shoot the scene on a much less stressful day in Kerry’s backyard, and we all love how it turned out. It really made sense to shoot it outside and in the daylight.

Although this is an unusual situation as far as putting the film out into the world, what’s it like to get to the finish line with it?

Regardless of what happened with the festival world this year, we are so incredibly happy and proud that we made this short. It took years of hard work, and it all really paid off. We’re already working on a longer version of the short, so be on the lookout for that!

“Waffle” will be streaming here until April 30th. A list of future screenings is here.

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