Love is literally in the air in this wonderfully creative short by rising talent Nicole Delaney, about a smitten mosquito voiced by Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live, Inherent Vice) and the human hunk she’s got her eye on, Jay Ellis (HBO’s Insecure, Top Gun: Maverick). Delaney’s sharp script, co-written with filmmaker Sonya Goddy, grounds a unique, playful take on “The Little Mermaid” in a tale of romantic yearning as funny and surprising as it is relatable. Executed with dynamic camerawork that puts a subversive twist on the female gaze, the film was produced for FX’s Cake anthology series.
Delaney and cinematographer John Wakayama Carey were excited by the possibilities of their heroine’s unique POV, and took advantage of them to design a visual style that would directly evoke her emotional highs and lows. When she is euphoric, drone shots soar over Los Angeles; when melancholy, they switch to a more lyrical, handheld camera. Delaney is interested in the potential for more dynamic, cinematic visuals in comedic filmmaking, and here the swooping movements, lush colors and lighting lend her work a distinctive poetry and emotional intensity.
“Falling in love sucks, so I set out to tell a story that played in an arena I’m all too familiar with; unrequited love. Point of view, specifically ‘the female gaze’, was crucial in the writing and execution of this film, so that our mosquito could go after what she desired, and through her love, create magic. It was just as important for me to portray a Black leading man as a fully realized character who experiences love, loss and heartbreak, while simultaneously reversing stereotypical gender roles by making the young man the object of desire.” NICOLE DELANEY
To achieve this particular tone between melancholy and absurdism, drama and comedy, Delaney turned to favorites like Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love (2002), Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989), and the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man (2009) – and to her superb cast, who make her offbeat fantasy feel real and lived-in. She also enlisted the help of Steven Kutcher (Jurassic Park, Arachnophobia), a professional insect handler, who shot real mosquitos with macro lenses, that they then composited with frames of the basketball court.
Nicole Delaney studied film at Columbia, and premiered her first short, YOYO, at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. She is one of the writers, creators and executive producers of Nobody’s Princess, a series currently in development at Amazon Studios, that will put a contemporary spin on four fairy tale classics. She is also developing other series, both comedies and dramas, and is writing a feature for Sony based on her own family.
- Credits for
- Michelle Buteau, Anna Cordell, Jay Ellis, LaRoyce Hawkins & Maya Rudolph
- written by
- Sonya Goddy & Nicole Delaney
- produced by
- Fabio Costabile, Nicole Delaney & Alvaro R. Valente
- co-produced by
- Alex Smith
- John Wakayama Carey
- Roni Pillischer
- Ariel Marx
- Brandon Zuck
- production design
- James Bolenbaugh
- costume design
- Jordy Scheinberg