Q: What was the inspiration for Baby Steps?
In 2018, I began to find new language for myself in terms of gender. I was amazed by this knowledge and felt the world opening itself to me now that I was stepping into it as my full, unabashed self. In making Baby Steps, I hoped to crystallize this time of intense discovery and change in a short film. I wanted to pay tribute to my younger self, and all that she dreamed of and endured. What resulted was incredibly vulnerable and worthwhile. I think of Baby Steps as my hineni film — a coming out and a ‘here I am’ in under eight minutes.
Q: Can you elaborate on the use of water, especially the sound, in your short?
As I began to assemble the film, I sorted through hours of webcam footage and pages upon pages of old chat conversations. In many of those moments from my past, I was performing a version of myself that I thought would appeal to others. As I edited, I realized that the film needed a counterpoint to the onslaught of YouTube videos and text messages — a quiet space of sorts. I find solace in nature, in water. I wanted viewers to understand how I was (and am) when I’m not performing for anyone. The rushing sounds and suggestive images of water helped me offer a glimpse of that internal space in the film.
Q: Did you do the animation for this project? If so, how was that process? If not, how was it working in collaboration with an animator?
I did all the animation for the project! I had used animation in a few films before, but this was my first time bringing together different styles in one piece. My mentor for Baby Steps, Professor Rian Brown-Orso at Oberlin College, encouraged me to try both physical and digital animation. I animated most of the film using Photoshop, but also drew sections with ink on paper. I fell in love with the direct cinema technique of painting directly on film, which is where the blues of the water images come from. Baby Steps was an incredible process of developing my own animation style, which I can’t wait to bring into my future projects.
Q: What film/media/music inspired you while working on this project? What content are you currently inspired by?
I was inspired by the film Eighth Grade, which reflects adolescence with so much intimacy and care. That film incorporates social media in a way that feels grounded and real, so I studied that for this project. Right now, I’m feeling most inspired by my daily practice of writing down my dreams. It helps me start the day thinking in fluid and non-linear ways — the perfect mindset for creative work!
Q: Any thoughts you’d like to share about screening this film in a Jewish context?
A fundamental part of Judaism is questioning. The journey of Baby Steps is one of exploration and curiosity, and I see that as a deeply Jewish pursuit. Filmmaking requires such an inquisitive spirit, and I think I owe mine to both my queerness and Jewish upbringing.
Q: What projects are you working on currently or in the future?
In 2018, I made a short experimental animated film, Witness, about being a woman in a world where women go missing every day. I’m now making a follow-up piece that asks how we can imagine our way out of that world and build a safer and more tender society. Those are big questions, but I’m thrilled to be working on such a challenging and meaningful project.
Q: Lastly, gefilte fish: delicious, or disgusting?
Right now I’d say disgusting, but I take an adventurous bite every Passover!
Kira Findling is a writer and filmmaker based in Berkeley, California. She believes in storytelling as a form of activism and is devoted to making media with and about women and queer people. Originally from Northern California, Kira graduated from Oberlin College in 2019. Her films have screened at festivals and events in the United States and the UK. More information can be found at her website, www.kirafindling.com.