Set to premiere at the L.A. Shorts International Film Festival on Friday, July 26th, Lacktate is a darkly comedic short that "delivers a fresh, twisted take on the loneliness and vulnerability of new motherhood." Lacktate is the directorial debut of Francesca Ling and is written by Ilana Turner, and they are the subject of our latest Q&A! Continue on to hear about their experiences making the film, working with Rochelle Aytes, and more:

What led to you two teaming up for Lacktate and what was it about this story that made it an ideal project to work on?

Francesca: Ilana and my husband, Adam Scott Epstein, are often writing/producing partners, and we’ve been friends for many years. When he told Ilana that I was on the hunt for a new project, Ilana had this fun script she had written out of an exploration of some of her experiences as a mother. She reached out to me about the script, and I immediately felt a connection.  And I looked forward to the chance to collaborate with someone whose talent and work ethic I admire.

Ilana: Couldn’t agree more. I wrote Lacktate -- a film with a talking Breast Pump as a character -- to talk about the darker, weirder side of becoming a mother which can be hard to talk about. Luckily that was a conversation Francesca wanted to have!

Francesca: So I shared my vision for the story and what I felt was important to express, and our different perspectives, myself not yet a mother, made it compelling to craft the story together.

Ilana: It was a gift to be on the same artistic page right off the bat, and very easy to follow Francesca’s lead in terms of tone for the finished short film. Plus, we produced the film with Adam -- bringing it full circle.

This is a film that hinges on the performance of Rochelle Aytes. Can you talk about your work with her on-set and why she was perfect for this role?

Francesca: I am lucky enough to call Rochelle my friend, and I know her to have such a strong work ethic. Having worked with her before as an actor, I also knew Rochelle had the emotional depth necessary to carry the film. I was thrilled when she agreed to do it! Working with her was seamless as we had a common language, and I was able to direct her through the more delicate moments of the story with nuance and certainty.

Ilana: When Francesca suggested Rochelle, I was immediately on board. Rochelle has incredible inner strength and stillness, so I knew she’d compel us to stick with her as she navigated the film’s twists. On set, I read the Breast Pump’s lines, and it was super fun to see Rochelle’s reactions. Later, I recorded the Breast Pump’s dialogue as V.O., which I also love to do. Francesca voiced the A.I. assistant, so we were both all in on several fronts.

Lacktate is a very timely film that covers a number of social topics, including our the pressure put on women in the workplace and living in an ever-connected world. Why was this such an important topic for you to cover and did you draw on any personal experience?

Ilana: When I had the first of my two daughters, I remember how bizarre pumping milk felt emotionally, physically -- and psychologically. I’d hear repeated phrases in the mechanical rhythm of the pump and when I talked to mom friends, I found I wasn’t alone. It got me thinking about how isolating new motherhood is -- and also how isolating life can be for everyone, given our current capability to work efficiently without seeing each other in person.

Francesca: And on this topic of isolation, I felt it was so poignant to isolate our main character in all aspects. She is confined to her office during the film’s entirety. She communicates with people only by phone, text, or email, so there’s no human interaction. Her assistant is AI, so her most depended upon companion isn’t even real - it’s no wonder she’s hearing voices. And my connection to our main character’s feelings of guilt and anxiety regarding being a career woman and not being with her child come from my relationship with my own mother. I am incredibly close with my mom, who I have always been in awe of for her tremendous accomplishments in her field (she has an Emmy lifetime achievement award in Journalism), and I know how she struggled to consistently find a work and home life balance.

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Lacktate will premiere at the L.A. Shorts International Film Festival on Friday, July 26th at 7:45 pm. To learn more, visit: