"When I go inside of a sheet fort I feel transported to an alternate reality...a world within a world," explains Kira Bursky. For the screenwriter and filmmaker, this mystic aura around sheets, forts, and childhood shaped the scene for her latest film, Closet Made of Sheets, a three minute short about two girls reflecting on their secret desires.
As Bursky and her co-star and collaborator Elizabeth Austin settle into the sheets and whisper their fantasies, they come to life in vivid detail around them and, through it, a potent (and much-needed) bisexual narrative emerges on screen. It's no secret that the LGBTQ community often overlooks or outright erases bisexual identity, which makes this story so important for Bursky, whose previous films have dealt with all manners of sexuality. As she explained to OUT, "Because of bisexual erasure, I've been fooled into feeling I don't have an audience for my bisexual-themed work, but I know now that this is completely inaccurate."
With the release of her latest film and a handful more projects in the works, Bursky is on a one-woman mission to bring visibility and make enchanting films in the process. We caught up with the filmmaker to talk about her co-star, pansexuality, and fighting the desire to stay silent.
OUT: The film is reminiscent of the forts we'd make out of sheets and chairs as kids. Did this inspire the film?
Kira Bursky: Oh yes! Childhood sheet forts are a big inspiration to the set design of many of my films, actually! When I go inside of a sheet fort I feel transported to an alternate reality... a world within a world. For Closet Made of Sheets, I was playing around with the idea of "closeted" sexuality and desires, the transient and safe imagination-fueled world within a sheet fort and the playful innocence that can be at the heart of sexuality.
You write, direct, and star in the film. Tell me about the other actress you picked for it.
Elizabeth [Austin] and I are very close friends and collaborators. Together, we've acted in four of my films and, in total, she's acted in seven of my projects. For this story, I wanted to capture the essence of a fun and real friendship--a close connection where the lines between friends and more than friends can easily blur.
Liz and I worked well off of each other and improvised most of the interactions. The opening scene where we're drawing mustaches on each other has happened in real life before! Because of our friendship, it was really comfortable and natural for us to just goof around and talk about sexual fantasies. Liz is incredible to work with and I'm grateful to have her as a collaborator and partner in crime.
Bisexual erasure is obviously a huge problem in media. How do you hope this short film will combat that?
Bisexual erasure is definitely something I've grown to see and feel more clearly in media--and in life. In my teen years, I wanted desperately to identify as "one thing or the other." I think I just really wanted a bold, clearly-defined identity. It was frustrating because, as much as I wanted to declare myself a lesbian, I fancied many men, women, and people who didn't have a clearly defined label. So what was I? I'd now venture to say I'm pansexual, though I'm not the biggest fan of labeling myself at all. I love people for people and that's that!
I've really struggled with confidently making bisexual content. Because of bisexual erasure, I've been fooled into feeling I don't have an audience for my bisexual-themed work, but I know now that this is completely inaccurate. I really want to showcase the layered feelings of loving people beyond gender. I feel it's my duty as an artist to dive within myself and unearth the thoughts and feelings I'm afraid to speak out loud.
By telling this particular story, I hope to combat the bisexual "shushing" and contribute to the greater picture of a world with bisexual representation and a world that supports the pursuit of human pleasure and exploration. Speak out, share your truth, and be vulnerable. Your words may grace the ears of someone who thought they were all alone.
Did you set out to create a narrative around bisexuality or was it a natural decision?
This was a natural decision. I set out to make a film about expressing our secret desires free of shame. Sexuality is so much fun! It can be a constant adventure because there's so much to discover. Some people like being with multiple people, some like being blindfolded and tied up, some like people of the same gender, and some like all of the above. Sexuality, kink, and desire are blurry, beautiful and full of infinite possibility.
How does your own identity factor into the film?
With each film I make, I push myself to express what I'm afraid of. It can be very hard to talk about sexuality and identity because there's a chance you'll be rejected. I love exploring my sexuality and daydreaming about my fantasies. Part of me would rather be silent, but the bigger part of me realizes life is short and I might as well live boldly, freely and with joy.