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Layaway - Directed by Kaitlyn T. Busbee

Left by their mother to fend for themselves, two siblings in Iowa learn to live by their own code, until a choice becomes a secret that tests their trust in each other.

Director Biography - Kaitlyn T. Busbee

Born and raised in Iowa, Kaitlyn T. Busbee’s award-winning films explore female-centric stories. Reveling in both the drama and the humor of everyday life, she strives to excavate and deeply explore what makes us tick as humans by examining moments both big and small.

Busbee is currently an MFA candidate at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in Graduate Film. She received the Martin Scorsese Scholarship Grant, Maurice Kanbar Scholarship, and the 2023 ARRI Volker Bahnemann Award for outstanding cinematography. She was also awarded the Black Family Film Prize, a competitive financial award, for "Layaway." Busbee is the recipient of a 2024 Spike Lee/Sandra Ifraimova Production Fund grant for her upcoming graduate thesis film, "Jarfly."

Busbee was DP on the short film "In Passing," premiering at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival. She was DP and Field Producer for Uprooted, part of an HBO Max/Sesame Workshop docuseries ("Through Our Eyes"), about the climate crisis told from the perspective of affected kids. Most notably, Busbee was Co-Director, DP, and Editor for the indie feature "These Hopeless Savages." After screening at over 30 festivals worldwide, the film is now available on Amazon Prime and Apple TV through the film's distributor.

"The Legend in My Heart," her feature shot in China, won Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Universe Multicultural Film Festival. Her comedic short, "Sexpert Franzen," played Tribeca’s 30 Under 30 Film Festival where she was named “one of the next wave of gifted young filmmakers.” Her recent short film, "Bed Bugs," just completed its festival run. The film screened at 13 festivals, received 5 awards, and recently had its broadcast premiere on PBS.

Busbee is in development and workshop on a feature screenplay set in the world of "Layaway," writing a TV pilot exposing the underworld of the alt-right through the lens of small-town America, and in pre-production her thesis short film, "Jarfly," to complete her MFA.

Director Statement

"Layaway" all began with my obsession over the rising costs of being human. On both literal and emotional levels.

Admittedly, growing up I was cocooned. That’s what parents often strive to do, particularly in times of stress. Although my family struggled with money and financial instability was an unfortunate norm at times, I was only half aware; most of the time left blissfully lost in the whims of childhood and the comfortable picture that my parents painted. But, when I did become aware, it colored my world, my actions, my inner life. A seed was planted deep within, money equals stress.

That was the late 90’s. Twenty plus years later, the landscape has shifted and the gap in the economy has widened further. The National Low Income Housing Coalition released a report that examined the increasing gap between wages and rent. With rental costs rising faster than wages, on average, a worker earning the federal minimum wage would have to work 103 hours a week to afford just a one-bedroom apartment. When we couple low-wages with skyrocketing rent hikes and a shortage of affordable housing – the expense and sacrifice of surviving in America begins to grossly reveal itself. This is a driving element of what I want to explore within my work. I want to illuminate the people caught in this harsh reality, particularly the kids.

"Layaway" is set amongst the backdrop of a family faced with this dilemma. It is not simply a story about houseless teens, but how that manifests and feels; how circumstance impacts the actions we take and the thoughts that guide us. The film strives to delicately explore the complexity of family dynamics and roles with the increased responsibility that we place upon others and ourselves. It brings to light the universal feelings of yearning for what we don't have and learning to live with and embrace what we do have. Many of the thoughts that were tumbling through my mind in the 90’s, but now matured and actualized.

I’m continually inspired and influenced by the work of Andrea Arnold: her rawness, the authentic feel of her films, the texture and atmosphere. I also worked to harness my background in documentary filmmaking approaches and ideas. Setting up loose guideposts to keep the action of the film alive while letting the actors play and explore the written script without the feeling of restriction. Embracing the natural imperfections. That’s my goal with all filmmaking, that it never feels stifling, but freeing and real. I believe we succeeded with "Layaway" in capturing that sense of freedom and play, all cushioned within circumstances that feel quite the opposite. That paradox of being human is what I hope the audience takes with them from watching this film.


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