'Imbalance' follows the challenges created by a budding relationship between a professor and grad student T.A. as they grapple with passion versus reason | Credit: Courtesy

When filmmaker Dale Griffiths Stamos was in college, it was not uncommon to come across or be involved in a professor-student relationship. She’s noticed, however, that in the wake of Title IX and the #MeToo movement, these relationships have become increasingly taboo. Griffiths Stamos is a self-described feminist and Title IX supporter —  but the Santa Barbara–based writer also likes to push the envelope. So, her upcoming feature film Imbalance tackles this issue head-on, featuring an ethically ambiguous relationship between a professor and a graduate student.

Dale Griffiths Stamos is a director, producer, writer, playwright, and poet based in Santa Barbara. | Credit: Courtesy

Imbalance, which is currently in the pre-production stage, follows 50-year-old philosophy professor Elizabeth’s dilemma when she and her 38-year-old teacher’s assistant develop feelings for one another. The film asks the questions: “Even when consensual, does the power imbalance taint any such relationship? Are the tightening rules necessary to protect everyone? Or do those rules go too far?”

Griffiths Stamos isn’t intent on providing absolute answers to those questions, as she doesn’t see the issue as black and white. Rather, she hopes the film will spark discussion about power imbalance in relationships, especially within the ivory tower.

“The older generation of academia is going to look at this one way, the younger might look at it a different way,” she said. “I hope that I’ve shown enough sides of all of this, that at least professors watching this will go, ‘Yeah, I recognize these aspects. I may not agree with where the writer came down,’ or ‘Yes, I do agree with where the writer’s at with this. But I recognize that these are indeed the gray zones of this area.’”

In an effort to create a nuanced story and multidimensional characters, Griffiths Stamos looked to her own experiences for inspiration. “I feel like I’m in all my characters,” she said. But in this story of passion versus reason, she especially resonates with the character of Elizabeth. Both she and the character were raised by an intellectual father who instilled within them the value of reason. Then, the rest of the storytelling becomes a matter of “throwing rocks” at the characters.

“I find myself wondering, you know, what happens to someone whom I relate to so deeply when I put her in that situation,” she said. “It’s almost like you’re trying to put your characters in the most difficult thing that could happen to them. That’s what you do as a writer, that’s your job.”

Imbalance will be Griffiths Stamos’ first feature film, which “seemed like the natural evolution” after creating six award-winning short films. In her decades-long career, she’s also been nominated for a writing Emmy for a CBS Schoolbreak Special, received rave reviews for her plays, and taught story structure workshops. “Live enough years and you can get a lot done,” she said.

Of course, making a feature film is no simple task. Imbalance will be roughly eight times as long as her typical short films and will require even more money to produce.

“It’s very daunting, the most daunting part is raising money,” she said. “It’s a whole other game. It involves a lot more advanced work. It involves a lot more stamina. You know, doing a three-day shoot, versus a 21-day shoot, you really have to keep up your energy. You have to keep up good feelings on set.”

Griffiths Stamos plans to shoot the majority of scenes in Santa Barbara this coming February and March. Right now, she and her team are searching for local places that can serve as coffee shop and office locations, as well as catering and snack donations. They also hope to accrue a mostly Santa Barbara-based crew, with spots for a script supervisor and assistant director currently available.

Monetary donations will help pay the cast and crew, along with many technical expenses. For more information about the project, including opportunities to get involved, click here.


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