You never know where a night of karaoke is going to take you. Following the Saturday SXSW premiere of “Mother’s Little Helpers,” Breeda Wool and her cast hopped aboard director Kestrin Pantera’s mobile come-one-come-all karaoke party bus, the RVIP.
“It sort of transports you into an alternate universe where you’re no longer afraid to sing karaoke,” Wool says of the Burning Man-esque RVIP roaming around Austin, Tex. “And everybody supports each other, just screaming at the top of their lungs. And [Pantera] transferred that type of mentality into her filmmaking. So you arrive and everybody’s there to support you, and you just sing at the top of your lungs.”
It’s both a metaphor and quite literally what happened for the community-made film. Pantera only had an idea and outline of the film when Wool called her last year.
“I was like, ‘Hey, I’m around for a month if you want to do something before I go off to [shoot] ‘Mr. Mercedes,'” Wool recalls. “And she called me the next day to be like, ‘We’re shooting a feature film. We’re shooting at [costar] Milana [Vayntrub]’s house. We’re doing this right now.'”
Eleven days of shooting and many months of editing later, and voila: a SXSW premiere. The film is based on a true story, inspired by the death of Pantera’s father-in-law. The “script” was improvised, and as a result the main cast are all credited as cowriters for the project. “Kestrin would sort of say, ‘This is point A, this is point C. Can you make up point B?'” Wool says.
Guided by their own personal experiences with grief and loss, the cast created an exploration of the comedic side of death, with hopes of shining a light on a universal experience that is also somewhat of a taboo topic.
“My father died on [TV series] ‘Unreal’s’ premiere at South by Southwest four years ago. So to return here with this movie with my entire family at South by Southwest, it’s so extraordinary — with a movie about the death of a parent, with all of these great friends also with their loss, with a karaoke RV,” Wool says. “Last night, people were singing karaoke at the top of their lungs and sharing stories about their grief and loss, and had completely cleared the air of taboo. It ruled.”
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