The Regular is a psychological thriller directed, produced, written by Tara Olajidé, and shot by award-winning DP Lola Michaels. The film stars Izzy Kelly in her first leading role and actor and playwright, Tiwa Lade. The film follows (Izzy Kelly), an unassuming young woman who’s a regular at a diner consumed by the weight of societal expectations. All these complex emotions culminate in an apparent fixation on the Waitress (Tiwa Lade). The Regular is an exploration of idle thoughts and dark recesses of the mind. The short examines the conflicting interaction between infatuation, sexual desire and religious devotion.
The short is Baire (pronounced BY-RAY) Studios’ debut short film. Baire Studios is an all-female, multi-ethnic collective of artists and filmmakers.
Thank you so much for talking with us. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
It’s like such crazy question. I think I am still figuring out who I am. In terms of like, what I live to create a filmmaker as a writer. I would describe myself as someone who’s come through a lot different things. So that’s something that’s really evident in my work like, not to be annoying, but every actor that I’ve right has some sort of scar that they’re working to heal.
And yeah, I don’t really know if I can describe myself because every single day, I’m a different person with other sounds crazy like I would say, Black woman from London by way of Nigeria. I write. That is like, my passion it is the thing I think about all the time. It’s on my mind when I wake up, it’s on my mind when I go to sleep. When I’m eating. I think about writing when I’m reading, I think about writing.
I definitely understand that. I would like to also ask a little bit about the short film and maybe a synopsis of it.
So The Regular is a short film that sort of chronicles a person’s journey with two things in their life, like their developing sexuality, and their relationship with traditional religion. Specifically, Abrahamic religion. So there is this young person who very clearly is, has been raised in a certain way in the church has been raised to think a certain way. And they have these evolving feelings.
Which, in the short, we sort of see that manifests through the person’s fixation on one particular character, and how those things conflict and it’s almost like when you… it’s almost like a combustion, you know, when these things meet, it just kind of feels like so cliche, you know, throughout this. Two things that are so difficult to digest in the same vein and how it sort of walks up this character’s like sense of being, and her ability to even process like the natural world around her.
I thought it was interesting is that you will use the words both combustion and cliche about this film. Could you explain why you chose these words?
I think, cliche to start with, when everybody has what like a coming of age moment, and I feel like in the era of expanding our understandings of identity, you know, and like the queer experience, the Black experience, all of these things, like, it’s just so like, run of the mill almost now, which, in one sense, is like amazing, because it’s like, this is so great that this sort of formula of like, a young person discovers they like, same sex person, there in most conflict, boom, that’s, the story is great that that is so normalized.
At the same time, what I’ve always found interesting with coming of age stories, especially with marginalized communities, it’s not like a cookie cutter as formulaic as it sounds on the surface, it’s not. Because each person’s story and each person’s relationship with that conflict it’s always different idiosyncrasies, and different flavorings, that make each person’s story different to the neck.
You know, even if there’s another person in the world or another narrative that hits similar veins as my short film The Regular, it’s not going to be the exact same because the regular is her own person. Or be it like she’s made up *laughs* not a real person. I feel like that is the combustion in the sense of it, you know like Powerpuff Girls, like in the beginning when Professor X is like, just mixing all this different stuff.
Then also, another layer to the use of combustion is like, especially growing up and like discovering who you are developing as a person. There’s so many layers to who you are. And again, going back to like a chemical reference, you think you’re one thing and then another element enters the fold. Everything is bubbling over, inside itself. You know, when it reaches a fever pitch, in the short film for instance, it reaches a fever pitch of almost devastation.
Basically, The Regular has all of these feelings welling inside of her that she doesn’t really make sense of, and it doesn’t really go anywhere. It kind of ends, anticlimactically. Some people might see that through in a tangible way. Maybe coming out, fully accepting a wall, maybe leaving the church but in the short film we don’t really know what twist the reveal makes, right? So that’s what I mean by combustion.
I also wanted to ask another question. The Regular talks about sexuality. And I wonder, because you talk about coming of age films as well. Why is it important for this to be a film about queerness? About sexuality? Why is sexuality so significant to the storyline, because there’s so many different ways of the kind of combustion that you talked about, because I really do love that word, of kind of being like, ‘Oh, crap’, there’s so many of those moments. I wonder why it is that sexuality is important to the short film.
I feel like speaking from personal experience, is so interesting. How… in terms of finding yourself, you struggle through something and maybe you express that to an older person. And they’re like, ‘Oh, this is just normal’ like ‘ this is just whatever’, it’s just water off a duck’s back. But then, when you discuss sexual identity, it’s met with like,*dramatically gasps* ‘shock!. She might be a gay!’,and it’s just like, why does that have to be so melodramatic?
It’s literally just like how people are born like, nothing more, nothing less. I’ve always found that the melodrama of not necessarily the young, queer person finding themselves but like, the melodrama that the world meets them with, is what I’ve always found so interesting. I’ve almost now, reasoned that to be like some sort of a poison, that can corrode your mind and can be a toxin in how you relate with your own queer identity. Because it’s not like you struggle to accept who you are, for some people, of course, but it’s more so the fear of, okay, I’m queer, fine.
What will the world say? And how do I navigate the world? And the dangers that my identity, my innate identity? How do I…navigate the world now? You know what I mean? The whole concept of coming out, like, what even is that? What even is that? Do you know what I mean? I feel like the melodrama of it all it’s poisonous. That’s the way that you relate with yourself, it impacts the way that you experience a really pivotal moment in your life. I’m very big on radical softness. I’m very big on being gracious to yourself. Those are things that I constantly struggle with, even to this day, I don’t think I’ll ever get better at those things, sadly.
But for me, even though the film is kind of like a wild ride, in how we demonstrate that, you know, this young person trying to navigate the outside world’s response to them. I feel like that’s really what it’s about. It’s just like, again, how does religion intensify that toxin within people, and I feel like, the thing that I feel like is most important that I’m trying to wrestle with this is not necessarily the state of being a queer person, but how queerness is received by the world at large, and how that can really impact a young queer person’s relationship with themselves. Not because they have any sort of self-hate, not because they are uncomfortable with who they are, but because it’s just like, I just want peace, but I know that you guys are not going to give me it.
Yeah I get that! This definitely does not sound like a love story, which is, I think, interesting for a movie of about queerness, because a lot of them are. Yeah, I thought that was very interesting. When I was looking at it.
I love that you said that because that never occurred to me because I feel like the obsession. On the surface, it seems like the obsession is with this other woman. But it’s more about the obsession with religion and what she thinks she’s supposed to be, and the scriptures what the scriptures say. And that is where her obsession lies. But when you’re in someone’s mind’s eye, you perceive things in a really interesting way. Like, you might think that when you’re in a relationship, someone that you have a friendship or whatever. You might fixate on something without understanding where that fixation is coming from.
But in this film, you do know where it’s coming from and the obsession I think is, I don’t want to spoil it, but like the obsession is definitely not a healthy one that’s very clear, but also really tragic and sad. Because you can tell that this person is just overcome with so many emotions that they don’t understand themselves. And they sort of feel like they have to give in. It’s like extremes. Like, I can’t. It’s almost like I can’t be queer and be religious, which is, my personal belief doesn’t really make sense. But the same as like, how can you be like, overly pious and be a proud African so to me, it just doesn’t make any sense. So those are extremes and then which extremes as the regular end up taking. She does something drastic. I’m very dramatic so *laughs*.
*laughs* Yeah, I kind of thought about that, because I wondered, why specifically does the regular’s story need to be told right now? And why also by you? Because I love the description of it. But I just wonder why now?
I don’t know, I just think to me at this time, I feel like, as important as that queer element is, I’m talking about my own experience. I was majorly sort of addressing my dissolution with institutional religion, and sort of like cutting those cords. You know, all of these like, verses and Baptists and quotes, made up by weird men in bizarre clothes 1500 years ago, that have nothing to do with my Black ass. Like, why? Why have I made chains out of words by people I don’t know.
Who even said that? Like, what does that have to do with me? You know, like, how am I allowing all of these things to constrict my relationship with myself? There’s always this tiny fear in my head, like, gosh, I can’t believe I said that. Or when I doubt something. I’m anxious. Like, I’m on thin ice! With who?? So that is why it was really important for it to come from me. Because I needed to remind myself that nothing that blooms in fear is good. Nothing that blooms in fear can nourish you as a person
Yeah, I think that’s amazing. What do you think that viewers should take away from this film you talked a little bit about religion. So I’m assuming that that’s part of it.
So obviously, approach.. anything that calls for like undivided devotion and piety with like, a whole spoon of salt. So first of all that’s what everyone needs to know *laughs*. Second of all, I want people to walk away with this knowing that someone from an immigrant household with literally no money and a day job could make this. You know with her PTO and you can do it too! And we, our stories unfined, unpolished, however jarring they might be like, are just as valuable as anybody else’s.
You don’t have to make stories that are digestible for every audience because this film definitely is not just like the run-of-the-mill short film. In the way it’s told, so don’t feel like you have to follow like, stupid videos on YouTube by like weirdos who don’t have any credits about how to write the perfect narrative, like who the fuck are you? Shut up. We can do what we want to do.
However, we want to do it, period. Another thing I want people to take away from this is like there’s so much beauty in our little communities and the places that we’re from. I want people to like watch The Regular and feel themselves reflected in it. And just enjoy the things that are imperfect about it. Enjoy our ambition in the story that we were trying to tell with the tiny means that we tried to tell on and yeah. Just really that was that’s really the main takeaway. I mean, the story’s cute *laughs*.
Understandable. Yeah, I definitely get that. Right now you’re trying to get more crowdfunding for this short film. What would you want to say to someone who’s interested in funding who’s interested in the movie?
It’s more than me, it’s more than The Regular. First of all, especially if you’re not a minority person, putting your money where your mouth is, and showing us that you care by investing in our stories, and investing in stories that are written by us, produced by us, directed by us. It’s one thing to say you care about minority voices, and then you stop us when it’s time to direct, you stop us when it’s time to write, you stop us when it’s time to produce. Give us the money and let us tell our own stories.
There is so much confidence that can be built in quite a racist and rigid industry such as the British film industry, when young Black people are funded for their work. And young Black people who have a stake and say at every point of creation, like Michaela Coel, like an Issa Rae. Those are the kind of people who need more of a push, like, who needs more investment. It’s all well and good to give someone money, but then they’re just like an elevated figurehead. Let me control my words. Let me mold my own characters, let me hire the cinematographer. I will hire the costume designer, like, this is so much bigger than this project, like a gateway.
And for me, for anybody who wants to invest in this, but most especially for anybody who’s not of a minority experience, it’s really important for you to invest in a way that is on it. Don’t just give people money, if at the end of the day, it’s not going to go anywhere further than that. This is a combination of so many different things. I’m a depressed person, I can’t live without medication, I’m not the same person when I’m off it. And for me to have made this, it felt really felt amazing to be able to make this with nothing. You know, it’s just a reminder to myself that I can do more.
But of course, the means like, sort of hold me back a bit. There are so many other things I would love to produce and to make on a different scale. And Baire studios I worked with an amazing roster of femme filmmakers, but there were so many other filmmakers out there, who I’d love to work with. I don’t believe in closing rank. You know how some people just like only work with the same cinematographer.
Like no, there’s definitely another Black female cinematographer out there, just as talented Lola Michaels who I worked with. There’s another sound pre-production tech just as talented as Rute Gomez that I worked with who’s out there that I would love to work with. So I want to just keep moving forward and waxing stronger in my convictions, then my craft. So investing in this will help do that and help give more people more credits. And yeah I’m broke so *laughs*.
*laughs* You got to add that part. I think that’s really important. Thank you so much for talking with me. I’m very I’m excited for this movie. I hope that you get the funding that you need because it sounds really really cool, honestly.
With crowd-sourced funding, Baire Studios will be taking care of outstanding invoices for their production team and cast. They’ll also be tending to their editing and post-production costs related to festival fees and marketing.
Any surplus will go towards establishing The Collective as a legal structure and will go towards providing their collective members with resources such as laptops, screenwriting, and editing software fees to help them continue to create on their own terms.
For more from Sydney, check out her recent piece featuring some of our favorite bisexual characters!