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Serious Play

Directors: Kate Mason and Lindsey Phillips

United States, 2023, 14 min

Festival Year:2023

Category:Narrative Short

Genres:Comedy, Drama, Narrative, Hybrid, Documentary

WINNER: Audience Award

Cast:Sonal Aggarwal

Crew:Writer: Kate Mason. Producer: Liz Beeson. Story Producer: Swetha Regunathan


Life is a nonstop hustle for juggler and comedian Payel Gupta until a one night stand with a mime leads to an unexpected pregnancy.


About the directors

Kate Mason - Kate Mason is a writer, performer, and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Her artistic career blossomed in New Orleans, Louisiana where she studied improv, sketch, acting, and drag performance. By night, she can be found in various states of clown performance or in drag as Squirt Reynolds, winner of the title of Mr. Congealed at New Orleans’ 2018 Miss Pageant Pageant. By day, she is a programmer for the New Orleans Film Festival and Programming and Events Associate at Film Independent. She has performed stand-up and sketch comedy across the SouthEast and MidWest. She received a Bachelor’s in Art History and Archaeology from Boston University and a Master’s in Art History from Tulane University.

Website Filmography

Lindsey Phillips - Lindsey Phillips is a documentary filmmaker and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. In her work, she celebrates unique traditions and idiosyncrasies of place, culture, and communities, finding the humor and humanity in complex places. She is known for directing and editing "The Exceptionally Extraordinary Emporium," a film about the significance of costuming in New Orleans, and “My Name Is Marc, And You Can Count On It,” about Cleveland’s late-night commercial cult icon Marc Brown. Her films have screened at numerous film festivals across the country, including the New Orleans Film Festival, Cleveland International Film Festival, Indie Grits, Sidewalk Film Festival and Eastern Oregon Film Festival, among others. Her work has appeared on the second season of Reel South on PBS, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, Vox, and CNN’s Great Big Story.

Website Filmography

Filmmakers' note

Serious Play is the result of a collaborative process, not just between myself and the crew, but between myself and Sonal (Payel). Both Sonal and I are multi-hyphenate creative writers and performers, who often find ourselves spread too thin. I’ve always felt overwhelmed with making time for all of my creative pursuits, while also trying to make a living and enjoy life. As a woman in my mid-30s, I’ve also struggled to figure out how I could add being a mother to my already packed schedule. When we talked about how each of us would handle it if either of us got pregnant, Sonal told me that she would never consider an abortion because she felt that if she got pregnant as a 37-year-old, it would be crazy not to have the baby. I confessed that while I was interested in having a child now, I could also picture my life without one being very happy, but my current partner really swayed me in the direction of becoming a mom. Both of our nuanced perspectives, I believe, represent the confusion a lot of women our age have about motherhood. Despite both of us feeling it would be fine to not have a child, we couldn’t shake the reality that our feelings were not absolute, but could be changed by circumstance.
Initially I met Sonal through an interest in working on a project about jugglers. I found my way into the juggling world through attending juggling festivals as a kid with my father, a roboticist who loves juggling for its connection to physics. But when I got to the juggling festival, I found there was much more to pique my particular interests. Eventually, after years spent working in film festivals and doing comedy on the side, I decided to pursue this story, and found enthusiastic collaborators in Liz Beeson and Lindsey Phillips, two women I met from the film and comedy communities in New Orleans. We all felt excited to make a hybrid film where we could explore the real community of jugglers while infusing the story with my comedic writing. When I met Sonal, there was (and continues to be) a fertile conversation going on in the juggling community about inclusivity and representation. Who gets to look silly on stage? In a park? How does a group committed to playfulness approach these weighty topics? Between Sonal’s readiness to dig into these topics and her undeniable charisma, we knew she was perfect to be the star of our film.

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