Ohio University

Six Feet from the Mirror: Relationships and Self-Reflection During COVID

Within several hours, Kid (Julie Olivo) and Rosemary (Kezia Waters) will go their separate ways. Within two months, fourth year HTC film student Julie Olivo, the creative force behind Kid and Rosemary’s cinematic relationship, will graduate, and also, go on their separate way.

“I’m about to exit a stage in my life with people that I’ve grown really close to, and really love and care about,” Olivo ponders. “There might be a part of that that has influenced this idea.” This parallel between artist and character extends even further as Olivo actually plays the role of Kid. “I feel like that character closely related and is inspired by me.” Olivo is no stranger to acting, as they previously played the lead role in their deeply personal, experimental second-year film.

Julie Olivo acting in a decorated bedroom, wearing a pink dress.
Julie Olivo portraying the character Kid.


The pandemic has also influenced Olivo’s thesis film. Like many of us, Covid has left the northeastern Ohio native re-processing our spatial relationships to our surroundings, whether its the immediate proximity to the disease, or the hundreds of miles that separates us from loved ones. “The story definitely evolved to tonally lean on that [Covid-induced isolation],” Olivo remarks. “My sisters are the most important people in my life. Being away from them, and during this time - that is scary - and not knowing what is happening to them, has definitely nudged the story into that direction.”

Kezia Waters, looking left to right, sitting in a dimly lit bathroom, torso to head depicted.
Kezia Waters portraying the character Rosemary.


That direction of the importance of nurturing relationships is a key ingredient for the film. “I really want people to just be able to take away this feeling of love and friendship and wanting to express to people in your life that you care about them  - this fearlessness to express love for other people,” adds the filmmaker. “I want people also to have fun and be inspired by the clothing.”

This love for fashion is on full display in “A Portrait of R+K.” Olivo explains, “a lot of the stuff that I make is inspired by fashion and clothing. When I am coming up with stuff that I want to make, the clothing really informs the character - a lot of western and medieval styles.”

Julie and crew behind the scenes, a doorway, to the right of it, a bookcase.
Julie and crew behind the scenes.


Apart from creative decisions, the pandemic also informs the technical side of production Crew sizes are kept minimal, but this too, also provided unique benefits. “Working with fewer people makes collaboration easier in a way,” says Olivo. “It’s easier to communicate with people, and if people want to contribute ideas, they can.” Traditional thesis film sets often feature crew sizes twice that size. On Olivo’s production, “everyone can be a part of it, exist on the set, be part of the world.”

The collaborative nature of Olivo’s process, with its emphasis on inclusion and diverse storytelling, speaks to the thematic concerns of the film. “It’s about witnessing queer relationships on screen and seeing them exist as they are, instead of focusing on identity. It’s about representation and seeing new people on screen.”

Crew behind the scenes, a bookcase behind two people.
Crew behind the scenes on set.


Olivo credits Ohio University School of Film for providing the space necessary to creatively explore their voice. “It has given me so much freedom to do what I want and discover what I really like to do - what makes me happy. Making clothing, stylizing characters, the freedom to write movies,” praises Olivo. “Something that I probably wouldn’t push myself to do outside the program.”

Kezia and Julie in a bathroom, Julie attending to Kezia (they are portraying Kid and Rosemary).
Julie Olivo wearing corset