By Valerie Milano
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 9/15/23 – Growing up, we all had to find out who we are and who we want to be. We also found out who our parents want us to be, and more often than not, those two visions are far from the same.
This is the topic of the award-winning short film, Pivot, written by Robyn Campbell and directed by Anna Gusson, about growing up in a world where there are many differing opinions on how a girl should behave.
Based on a true story, the seven-minute animated short – which was produced and animated by an almost exclusively female team of artists – shares the story of 12-year-old Ashley, who is being forced to wear a frilly dress by her mother while Ashley has other ideas about who she is and what she wants to be.
In an exclusive interview with The Hollywood Times, Campbell and Gusson explained how the story and direction are really very typical of how children must very often battle the ideas and perceptions of others to be seen for who they truly are.
“It really is about the objectification of people, in particular children who don’t meet what their parents expect from them,” said Campbell, who wrote the story largely based on the experiences of a childhood friend who grew up resisting the ideal her mother had for her.
“Her mom forced her to wear these awful dresses for any celebrations holidays, school picture days, whatever,” Campbell said. “She was forced to wear something she absolutely hated, and that didn’t align with who she was at all. Now, as an adult, I never see her wearing a dress, not in a million years.”
“Twelve years old is a key moment in childhood and growing up,” Gusson said. “If you haven’t found yourself by that time, you’re certainly about to. You’re developing your own tastes and what you want to look like. You have your idols and what you want to be.”
This is where the film’s central figure finds herself. Ashley plays basketball, and she has found she needs to learn to pivot on the court to become a more effective player. As she is working on that lesson in her bedroom, her mom brings in a filly, fancy dress that she wants Ashley to wear. Ashley’s reaction is … well, it’s do what mom wanted.
“(Parents) often see someone who is very similar to them,” Campbell said. “There is the understanding, of course, that parents are excited, they want to relate to their kid. But often times, the way that parent imagines relating to them is that their kid is going to bend to them, is going to be like them, when the reality is that your child is a completely independent being that will have their own thoughts and feelings, their own likes and dislikes, that may or may not be similar to the parents.”
The trouble comes when both sides resist making that “pivot,” Campbell said.
“It is very harmful to any person to be forced to be in a box in that sense. And for children, the most important thing for their mental development is for them to be seen valued and known” she said.
In the case of the film, the dress is the villain, and in Ashley’s mind, it becomes a monster with which she must do battle. Gusson said the epic confrontation with the “monster” is symbolic of a child standing u for thwi4 own defining vision.
“It is about finding the courage to stand before your loved one and hoping they will accept who you want to be versus what they would expect you to be.,” Gusson said.
“When you are putting your own stuff onto your child, you’re not seeing them, valuing them or knowing them” Campbell said. “It appears to be just a dress in our film, but what it really is, is a mother not even knowing or valuing the child for who she really is, which is a huge problem.”
Campbell also explained the “monster” also represents the battle Ashley is fighting within herself.
“Truly it is fear that stops us from having boundaries with people – fear of rejection, fear of not being good enough, especially when you are young,” she said. “Disappointing mom is terrifying to her, and I think kids in general struggle with this.
“It can be a visual representation, it can be clothes, it can be morals, it can be which sports team you root for, it can be anything … and the dress is an example of this,” she said.
Click below for our exclusive interview:
Pivot is an international success, having been selected by more than 30 festivals, winning multiple awards, and screening at critically acclaimed festivals from Korea to Switzerland to Brazil and the United States. Most recently, Pivot was screened at the 19th Annual HollyShorts Film Festival, and it has qualified for consideration for the 2024 Academy Awards.