UT alum, Austin filmmaker make SXSW debut with ‘Call Me Mommy’


Logan Dubel, Senior Life&Arts Reporter

Filmmakers Taylor Washington and Haley Erickson took their seats at the Long Center on the first day of the South By Southwest Festival, anxiously awaiting the screening of their film selected for the Texas Shorts session. The lights faded, and “Call Me Mommy,” hit the big screen, making it the first film to play at the global festival. 

“There was our movie — we got so used to watching it on our own, editing it and getting it perfect.” Erickson said. “You just never know until you’re in an audience, and as far as the reception goes, I was blown away.” 

The screening marked their SXSW debut after seven years of partnership. After graduating from what he called his dream radio-television-film program at UT in 2011, Washington eventually moved to New York, but returned to Austin to shoot an event for Pandora. Drawn to Erickson, his field producer on the project, they chatted at a party a few days later and decided to try a filmmaking partnership. Seven films and seven years later, they reached their biggest milestone yet. 

Dubbed a comedy, the directing duo said “Call Me Mommy” received plenty of laughter from their festival audience. But for just a 13-minute short, the film delves into serious topics such as the fears of motherhood and passing along generational trauma. In the comedy, a pregnant woman enlists a struggling actor to roleplay her daughter-to-be, highlighting the challenges of parenthood and the need for grace. The story proved to represent more than a social commentary, Erickson said.

“A huge part of this (film) has been happening in the backdrop of my personal life. I lost my mom in September of last year,” Erickson said. “It’s been this wild journey making this film and then editing it while I was going through this massive loss that has everything to do with the story of the movie.”

In addition to directing, Erickson, who holds a master’s degree in screenwriting from the University of Melbourne, co-stars in the film. She said that even through the lens of laughter, telling a story of motherhood felt timely.

“We’re sitting in a state that is taking away a lot of decision-making for (mothers), and I hope that our film makes people laugh, but makes them think about their relationship with their mothers or their kids,” Erickson said. “I also hope that our story is one of many that gets told about the complexities of that relationship and why that decision should be a choice.” 

Although the script-to-screen journey can take years, Erickson said this project moved quickly. After drafting the plot as part of her master’s program in November 2021, she shared it with Washington, wondering if it sparked his creativity. Washington said after feeling immediately drawn to the film, he joined the project, and the pair began shooting. 

Washington, who remains in New York, and Erickson, based in Austin, work for separate production companies, but said they come together to tell important stories through laughter. 

“We both got into this to broach tough topics, but (also) to make people think and feel,” Washington said. “Comedy is the format, but where’s the heart in the story? Always heading towards that is the real goal.” 

The duo said SXSW opened new doors, including the possibility of turning “Call Me Mommy” into the next item on their bucket list — a full-length feature. 

“We’ve been overwhelmed and grateful for the positive outreach we’ve gotten,” Erickson said.  “The dream for filmmakers showing at a festival like this is to set yourself up for future projects. It really makes me feel quite emotional, especially in retrospect.”