By ELAINE ALFARO
During the seventh month of her pregnancy, La Mesa resident and filmmaker Kate Morgan Chadwick began a project that would make an impact not only on her career but also her personal life. Chadwick had been developing a short film with her long-time friend actor/director Brooke Trantor, and at the peak of her pregnancy, the script transferred from paper into reality.
Chadwick’s “Oh, Baby!” is now streaming at the 2021 San Diego International Film Festival.
While the 11-minute film begins as a comedic look into the unfiltered experiences of Jane, a single pregnant woman looking for one night of fun, it was also written with the hopes of creating a discussion revolving around maternal, female and sexual empowerment, according to Chadwick.
Chadwick filled the roles of executive producer, writer and actor in “Oh, Baby!,” leading as Jane. The film was prompted by Chadwick’s personal experiences trying to balance career and family life within the film industry.
“In Hollywood when you’re a pregnant woman, you’re told to excuse yourself for a while, go have your baby and come back once you’re rested,” she said. “I just don’t ascribe to that. I wanted to keep working as an artist while I was pregnant and not just sit and twiddle my thumbs.”
Film writing was a more recent artistic discovery during her pregnancy, but Chadwick always had a love of acting and theater. Growing up on Mount Helix, she discovered theater as an alternative to outdoor sports, and, in her words, “it stuck.”
“I found that I felt very at home on stage, even at a young age,” she said. “I felt permission to create, and play, and tell stories.”
From that point on, acting remained an influential force within her life as she attended Francis Parker High School and participated in San Diego Junior Theater at Balboa Park.
“Life is just such a series of choices,” Chadwick said. “It’s funny when people ask you questions like, ‘How did you get into it?’ It’s just little steps in front of each other.”
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in theater from Fordham University, touring the country with the Broadway cast of “Grease,” and doing film/television work in Los Angeles, writing ended up being the next “step” in her career, but it wasn’t the easiest.
“There’s a lot of red tape around writing,” Chadwick said. “I think a lot of people are writers and don’t even know it. I think sometimes you’re scared to tell some stories. But really, you can be brave and scared at the same time. That’s what we’re doing in life.”
As Chadwick and Trantor began brainstorming “Oh, Baby!” during Chadwick’s pregnancy, both felt drawn to show the collective, authentic and real experiences of women.
“In films or television shows that focus on a pregnant woman, Brooke and I have discovered a lot of that is from the male perspective — the male lens,” Chadwick said. “We wanted to create a character and scenario where [there is] this woman who is pregnant and having this baby on her own.”
Completed at the end of 2019, “Oh, Baby!” was set to hit the festival circuit, but much like the rest of the theater and film industry, everything came to a standstill in 2020.
However, “Oh, Baby!” still managed to make its mark, even in the online world, receiving an Audience Choice Award from Blackbird Film Festival, Best Comedy from the Indie Film Festival, Best Short Film at the Dances with Films Festival, and official selection from the Florida Film Festival. But for Chadwick, this film is much more than the awards it has received.
“It’s really a labor of love,” she said. “When you make a short film it’s not like you’re doing it to make money or anything; you’re doing it because you have something to say and you want to make something beautiful. I want people to laugh. I want people to question their own ideas about women’s roles in our society. We put a lot of pressure on pregnant women. We put a lot of expectation on motherhood. Sometimes the way we view single motherhood is layered and perhaps somewhat negative. I want people to check those when they see this film.”
“Oh, Baby!” is streaming at the San Diego International Film Festival which is running from Oct. 14-24. Head to sdfilmfest.com for more information.
— Elaine Alfaro is a former San Diego Community Newspaper Group intern and a journalism and international studies student at Point Loma Nazarene University. Check out more of her work on Muck Rack.