In new Sci-Fi short CC, single mom Lena Howard (Sharon Taylor) rents CC (Jewel Staite), and Artificial Intelligence Device or AID, to watch her young daughter Adelaide (Audrey Wise Alvarez), and everything is going perfectly…until it’s not. Created by the Cloverhill Nanny Agency to function as a caregiver, CC’s role is to provide support to Lena, but as she spends more time with Adelaide, she begins to believe that the time she spends with Adelaide, the knowledge that she had learned about her – through the information input by Lena and the nanny agency – makes her a better mother.
After things turn violent, Cloverhill begins an investigation, but rather than being concerned about the human lives placed in danger, they focus on the bottom line proving as always, that for some people profit is more important than people.
Technology is ever-changing and advancing, and as it does, humans give more and more control of their daily lives over to it. We depend on it for navigation, information, communication, and even observation of our children. As humans, it would make sense to realize that something we create could and would eventually pose a threat to us because we ourselves are our own worst enemy. Despite a short run time Sam and Kailey have created a suspenseful thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering exactly how things will end for everyone involved. The film addresses many tops that we in today’s modern society face. From the pitfalls of capitalism and the unforeseen ways in which it can impact our lives to a mother’s concern for her child, to the insecurity and doubt she has about her abilities as a parent, who struggles with the pressure of being the sole financial and emotional support for her child.
In an interview conducted via E-mail, I had the opportunity to pose some questions to writing and directing twin sisters Kailey and Sam Spear, about their film, and the effects of technology on society.
Carolyn Hinds: Many people have either grown up with, or hired Nannies and babysitters – I myself have worked as a Nanny in the past – and it’s always been fascinating how Nannies make such great villains. Why do you think that is?
Spear Sisters: We have also worked as nannies and as babysitters. They are so important! Parents give them their trust to take care of some of the most people in their lives: their children. Passing over the weighty responsibility of the life and wellbeing of your child obviously comes with fears. Fears that the person that you trust to take care of your child may fail. Fears that your trust with be betrayed. The fear that your child’s caregiver will surpass you in your child’s heart; that your child will love your nanny more than you. The fear that you are replaceable. When we explore our greatest fears we find the villains that push us to face them. We find that is why nanny characters can be such good villains. They should be trusted.
Hinds: As a viewer, once CC took that turn to the dark side I saw her as the villain because of the threat she posed to the family, but as the writers and directors, you consider to be one, or just a misunderstood AID?
Spear Sisters: We don’t actually see CC as a villain. CC is just a machine doing what she was programmed to do. For us, it is the company working behind her that are the true villains of the story. They are the ones that did not do all the work necessary to keep humans safe before they rushed their product to market. They are the ones who place the best interest of their shareholders above the wellbeing of the families.
Hinds: As technology has increased, so have the methods through which humans monitor each other. Starting out with basic video surveillance such as “Nanny Cams” hidden in toys, to live feeds via interactive security systems. Do you think there will ever come a point when humans would actually leave the care of their children to a machine such as CC (Jewel Staite)?
Spear Sisters: Oh yeah. With how quickly technology is progressing, we don’t think it is a stretch to imagine a device created that has the ability to take care of a child. Already there are devices being created that can watch them, interact with and teach children. Technology is progressing exponentially and we think that it is only a matter of time before we are faced with a product that is able to take care of our children effectively. But who will be behind this product’s creation? What will they want for you and your child? What will be the lasting effects of being raised by this product? It is important to start asking these questions now before we find ourselves right in the midst of dealing with the consequences of not looking forward and setting boundaries and rules while we still can.
Hinds: Why do you think humans are so quick to hand over control of our lives to technology despite knowing how dangerous it can be?
Spear Sisters: Because it’s easy! Life is hard. Keeping on top of all the responsibilities life holds is hard. Technology has made the world faster, and we need more help to keep on top of everything. When something is presented to you to make anything easier, it’s often accepted with gratitude. We think the problem is that, while the benefits are clear out in the forefront, the dangers are less visible and harder to spot. It’s easy to ignore potential dangers until they become real dangers, especially when those dangers are so well hidden.
Hinds: As a working single mother, Lena had no choice but to hire someone to look after Addy while she was at work, but because of what happened does she blame herself for it?
Spear Sisters: Oh, she’ll have to go to counselling for sure after what happened! What CC said makes her question her value as a parent. That’s part of what we wanted to explore with this short. There is no easy way through parenthood. We wanted to explore the expectations parents put on themselves and the struggle to live up to an unattainable ideal. Lena has weaknesses, yes, but that doesn’t make her a bad parent. Even if she understands the AID programmers were at fault for what happened, at the end of the day, Lena will still be left questioning how to be the best parent she can be. Does that question ever go away? We don’t think so – but we don’t have children.
Hinds: There’s always one thing tech companies in sci-fi films have in common, and that’s they’re always lead by people like Erin (Susan Hogan) who seemingly lack a moral compass and conscience, but these same CEOs always want their machines like CC to mimic the same qualities they lack. Was this taken into consideration when you created the character of Erin?
Spear Sisters: That’s an excellent observation! With Erin, we wanted a character who was completely focused on the business. She represents Prosper, and she has to act for the whole business. Concern of individual wellbeing goes to the wayside with her. She has a massive amount of employees and shareholders, and she places that above “smaller matters”. She’s very utilitarian in that regard. Her views on the creation of CC: she creates things that serve a purpose. The appearance of emotion that the CC product utilizes serves a purpose: it gets clients to trust the machine. So we weren’t necessarily thinking of the qualities Erin herself lacked as being a part of the product, but rather the qualities she identified as essential to ensuring the product was effective. It does open up interesting conversation for sure though!
Hinds: It’s not explicitly said in the film, but was Adelaide aware that CC was AID, and if so do you think her ability to become so attached to her made Lena feel more threatened?
Spear Sisters: Yes, she would know that she was an AID. Though at her age, that doesn’t change the way she feels about her. What she is feeling coming from CC is care, connection, attention, support, and love and what she feels for CC in return is love. She wouldn’t understand really what the difference between an AID and a person really is when they seem to act quite similarly. We definitely think that having Addy become so close to a machine would make Lena feel more threatened. It is CC who Addy holds dearest in her heart, who she trusts the most. Not only does Lena feel her own value and place in the world being threatened, part of of her is also feeling Addy’s future being threatened. What happens when Addy outgrows CC and CC is wiped and assigned to another child? What happens when Addy truly comes to understand that she was allowed to make such an important emotional connection with a machine that never truly loved her back. What does this do to the relationship between Addy and Lena?
Hinds: During casting what were you looking for in the actress who would play CC?
Spear Sisters: We were looking for something super specific for the role of CC. We knew we needed the person who played CC to be able to balance the sense of warmth, compassion, and trustworthiness needed for a “perfect nanny” while also having a strong and confident core that would be able to unapologetically challenge Lena. CC needed to be the type of person children would love to play with and hug, but also the type of person who you would believe could step in front of a bus to protect their child. We thought of Jewel quite early on in the process; she’s a super talented actor who we knew would be able to balance all these qualities in a genuine way. We are thrilled she came on board the project! She was absolutely wonderful.
Hinds: When you came up with the concept of CC, did you intentionally set out to have the main characters, and most of the supporting be all female?
Spear Sisters: Yup! We find there is a lack of representation of females on screen, and we want to do our part in correcting that where possible. Not only do females rarely get the central roles, supporting roles tend to be restrictive in representation as well. Eg. We wanted to make sure our police officer was female as there are many female officers in the world, but they don’t show up on screen as often. Humans learn from what they see on screen – they learn what their society should look like and these ideas affect how people live in the real world – so even while making a small sci-fi detective mystery film, paying attention to that is important. That’s not so say we don’t care about male representation, we just ran out of roles in this one! Actually, it was important to us that Oliver be male because often females are given the more emotionally sensitive roles which does a disservice to the representation of males.
Hinds: What is the creative process like creating films with your twin sister?
Spear Sisters: We are lucky in the fact that once we come up with an idea, we are very much on the same page with which direction we want to take it. We trust each other with direction because we know that we both have an understanding of where we want to go with the project and what our desired end result it. We may try different ways to get there, but knowing we’re on the same page in terms of vision is key.
Hinds: What was the trickiest or most difficult part in bringing the film to life?
Spear Sisters: Everything (laughs)! It’s always hard to make a film. Though I guess this film came with a very particular set of challenges. It had to be made in 8 days! It was made as part of Crazy8s, a pitch competition that sees 6 winners win $1000 and 8 days to make a film. We had to shoot and do the entire post production in that time frame, which is CRAZY! And of course, low budget filmmaking always is a challenge. But we had an awesome team that made it all possible! We also had some incredible sponsors donate equipment to. We really couldn’t have done it with the amazing work and volunteer hours of many people!
Hinds: Will female-centered Sci-Fi films be the genre you stick with, or do you intend to branch out into other in the future?
Spear Sisters: We love any films with good characters, but we have a particular love for world building too. That’s part of why Sci-Fi appeals to us so much; it brings great characters into a new type of world. We are keen to branch out into fantasy as well. We really want to do our part in contributing to female representation on screen and for that reason we will keep to female-centered project or ones with a nicely balanced cast.
Hinds: Can you say anything about your next project?
Spear Sisters: We are currently working at writing an original feature. There’s not much we can share at this point, but it will definitely have elements of mystery and world building that we have so much fun with!
CC was made available for streaming on November 7, 2019 by DUST, a division of global content studio Gunpowder & Sky, is the first premium sci-fi entertainment brand that reaches fans across all platforms, giving voice to both emerging and established filmmakers.