One of the most entertaining aspects of the Capital City Black Film Festival (CCBFF) is the variety of short films submitted. Each film has a shorter than normal time frame to explore powerful subject matter, and many of this year’s submissions did so. Out of many amazing films, perhaps none were more moving and captivating than Spencer Glover’s “Best Short Film” winner, Message Read.
Written by Glover and fiancé Karris Forte, Message Read tells the story of a deceased father desperate to reconnect with his son from the afterlife. But the father must choose between remaining in a purgatory-like existence and finally moving on to his final resting place. We connected with Glover to pick his brain about the events in his life that led to this film’s conception.
CCBFF: What inspired you to do this film?
Spencer: “The film is a love letter to my father who passed when I was 6. I didn’t recognize the impact that it would have on me until I got older. I was in my early twenties, fresh out of college and in a really difficult period in my life. I wasn’t sure of how to really survive and take on so many challenges. I really need a father figure in my life to guide me as a man.
One night my father [came] to me in a dream. I couldn’t hear his voice, but I remember him smiling. I woke up sobbing but at the same time felt an overwhelming sense of calmness. He never came to me before and in a weird way, seeing him made me feel like I was going to be [okay]. I held onto that experience and coupled it with a moment that would happen years later. It seems really trivial, but whenever you text on an iPhone, the ellipsis that pops up during a response can be the source of a lot of anxiety. During an argument with a friend, I texted a LONG paragraph about how I felt. I watched that ellipsis come and go and was dreading the response, but it never came and I haven’t [spoken] to that person since. I combined those two experiences into a script and then took it to my fiancé and co-writer of the film, Kariss Forte. We dove into a new version of the script together and really poured our life experiences into it and “Message Read” is the result of it. [It’s] truly a labor of love and I’m so glad we got to tell this story.”
CCBFF: Many filmmakers from the 2020 festival had to make their films during the pandemic and under tightened restrictions on the film industry. Is that an issue you ran into?
Spencer: “This film was actually shot in summer 2018 and post production was completed a year later in 2019. It was a huge task to make this film happen because we had a combined cast and crew of [more than] 30 people on set and that was over the course of four days. The entire set was built which meant we constantly had art and set [decoration] teams coming in and out. Along with that, our two principal actors were flown in from [Los Angeles] and [New York]. It was a lot of juggling schedules and making the best use of our time in the studio. Huge shoutout to our producer, Larry McGee. He championed that area and made it flow smoothly. I can honestly say that I don’t remember hearing or seeing many problems and that’s just a testament to his skill and knowledge. Making a film was already pretty difficult pre-pandemic so adding an extra layer of health and safety protocols makes it feel nearly impossible at times. Not to mention social distancing for actors and scene work must feel really odd. More power to anyone creating during this time.”
CCBFF: What lessons did you learn while making this film?
Spencer: “This film definitely gave me the courage and confidence to trust my vision no matter how crazy is sounds on paper. I knew that going into it the vision was there, but communicating it with others would be difficult if I wasn’t on my A-game. I really dove deep into creating storyboards, mood boards, and providing enough references so that no one felt like they couldn’t see what I was seeing. I think that process really cemented the trust that I now have in myself as a filmmaker.”
CCBFF: If you could have your audience walk away with one message from Message Read, what would it be and why?
Spencer: “I’d like for viewers to walk away from our film with a message of comfort. Losing a loved one will hurt and it’s never easy, but that pain doesn’t last forever. It does get easier with time, and we shouldn’t feel guilty for moving on. Keep that person in your heart, because the best way to honor them is to live a full life.”
CCBFF: What is in your film future?
Spencer: “I’m currently polishing the script for what I hope to be my debut feature film. It’s a modern western, currently titled Slow to Pay, and is about a college dropout who goes to war with a private bank over reparations owed to his family. My other passion project [titled] The Versatile 100 is about a multi-racial teenager coming to terms with his cultural identity, all while fighting to keep a legendary black high school marching band alive. It’s Drumline, meets Mr. Holland’s Opus, with a touch of Superbad. Both of these films are being developed under our production company, Rm. 108.”
CCBFF: Where can we keep up with you online?
Last but not least, learn more about another winner and his work Isaac D. Rowe and Man in Me: The Documentary that won the “Best Documentary Feature Film” on our Reel Blog.