The Grey Area, a film by Atlanta production group House of June, is a short film that was screened during the New Mavericks shorts block at the Atlanta Film Festival this year. The film, a mini expose into the everyday life of a group of girlfriends during the course of one night, explores the connections and relationships between young women of color.
“It started as another idea,” Ebony Blanding, co-director and writer told me. “We had two days to reconceptualize it.” The film was a submission to Sessions, a 6-month Atlanta Film Festival workshop and program that focuses on developing producers, directors, and actors. When the trio reviewed the initial film in the days counting down to the Sessions deadline, they decided to rethink the project altogether, shoot, and put together a new film.
The film centers around the dynamic of three friends, one caught up in the idea of crashing a wedding while her friends attempt to talk her out of it. Amber Bournett, the film’s co-director, director of photography and editor, said “it was like the film that wasn’t supposed to be seen.” The new footage was shot in one bedroom setting, and despite being reworked in such a short time, the film has been well received and was selected for the New Mavericks program of the film festival.
“The Grey Area is really a story of women communicating in one space and loving on each other,” said executive producer Tempest Rogue. The major battles waged in this film are internal as young woman struggle to come to terms with their emotions. Ebony, who wrote the script, said that “you’re an adult and you’re supposed to get over things,” an experience to which she could personally relate and which she chose to explore in the movie. The film asks, an adult woman, how long is reasonable to maintain feelings after a relationship has ended?
“We hit on subjects that happen to people every day in daily life,” Tempest said, “and I like that.” This is not the only film that The House of June has produced which touches upon a relatable daily life problem, and it’s clear this theme carries throughout the mission of the group overall. “It’s an obligation to tell our stories because they are not told enough,” said Ebony, indicating that featuring not just women of color but also men of color in a variety of genres and contexts is important to the group. “There are not enough stories to show us in varied atmospheres,” she said.
“I think our films by default are stories about women,” said Amber, “that’s where we are right now.” Though they aren’t making any promises as to whether or not this theme will continue on in future films, the three are committed to continue making films together. In short, “we like making films,” she said.
I asked the trio if they thought that their personal friendships had an impact on the outcome of the film. “Absolutely,” replied Amber, “as it would with any film group outside of one director… I feel like how we interact with each other ultimately affects how the final product works out.” A common theme between The Grey Area and the group’s professional relationship is their ability to collaborate while also keeping one another in line.
“Your girls hold a mirror up to your face,” Tempest told me. The group considers the ability to assess the emotional state of their friends, and knowing when to “call each other on the bullshit” to be an important part of a healthy social life. While they acknowledge that it’s okay to have emotional responses to the challenges they face, it’s good to be honest with one another. Sometimes a reaction might be a bit too much, and “your friends are like, well girl maybe you shouldn’t respond that way,” said Amber. Equally important, however, are the concessions that friends make for one another. At times it’s best to rally in support despite personal misgivings, “she’s right girl, let her have it y’all,” Tempest explained.
The three friends work together under the umbrella of the indie filmhouse House of June, “they’re stuck with me and I’m stuck with them,” said Ebony, laughing. Though apart undoubtedly the three would continue working on films, the collaborative atmosphere that they have cultivated has proved to be a fruitful one. “We do certain skilled things that make House of June what it is,” Tempest told me. Just like in The Grey Area, the three keep one another in line and on task. “When someone falls short, the other people are there to check you,” said Amber.
In the process of filming, which can be very unpredictable but can also be magical, the three hit a good stride working together. “You can tell that we’re all getting along because we got that Cinderella dance, that sweep you off your feet kind of thing,” Tempest said, “that definitely happens.”
The House of June has put out three short films including The Grey Area, and they are currently wrapping up a web series called The Shrink in B6, a series that features a young woman who becomes an informal Craigslist counselor after dropping out of college. Here again the plot is influenced by Ebony’s personal experiences, calling upon her personal history and social life to bring her characters to life. The Grey Area is set to make a few festival rounds this year, including the Charlotte Film Festival, after which the team will focus their energy on their first feature length film, Fried Ice Cream. “The summer is ours,” Tempest said, beaming.