What makes something land?
1. The Meat of It
I really don't know. I think a lot of it is in how the film is handled. Focus and A24 know a lot about presenting a film. Fox Searchlight did too, before it got swallowed by Disney. My means have been limited, but I'm trying (and continuing to try) to get this piece of front of the right eyes. The festivals above are small, but they're still attended by real people, and some of the real people in these various cities have apparently gone for my strange little beast. I do not know why this is. At a hefty 33 minutes it's too long to be a short film (programmers hate long shorts), too short to be a feature, has barely any plot, no villain, no resolution, and is centered around the not-exactly-trendy topics of grief and death. All this, and they're still going for it?
I am grateful.
Not just that they've given my film and especially the people who made it a boost, but more deeply because they must feel, too, what I felt, what compelled me to bend over backwards trying to convey.
What do you do when the world you know ends?
We experience it on different scales as we wander through life: a toy that won't go back together; a partner who loses interest; a family that breaks apart, a livelihood lost, friend or lover killed. It happens, and you pause. What we do in the Pause is critical. How we choose to see, moving forward. It's important to take your time with it. Who ever said they understood an event better while it was happening, as compared to years down the road, assisted by the helpful wisdom of hindsight and softening reflection?
I tried to engineer this film to be as rich with color, sound and life as possible, the better to get around the fact that it's thirty minutes of people talking, but also to elevate the fact that probing into grief and death really means considering life and joy. This is where you quote Sophocles, because he always says things better than we can, doesn't he:
"Many have tried, but in vain, with joy to express the most joyful;
Here at last, in grave sadness, wholly I find it expressed."
I'm kind of glad I didn't happen upon these lines before making the film. I might have felt I didn't need to!
2. Latest Updates
A special thanks to Bucharest– we were in their Long Story Shorts International Film Festival, where we won Best Screenplay, and were also nominated for Best Short Film, Best Actress (Meagan), Best Actor (Ross), and Best Director.
Over at the Bucharest ShortCut Cinefest, we were nominated for Best Actress (Eleanor).
Additionally, we played a shorts program of spiritual and philosophical short films at London's Dreamers of Dreams Int'l Film Festival, where we got nominated for Best Narrative Short. Here's an interview from there between myself and the wonderful Anya Patel (video, 13m).
3. On Boys
I've written and spoken at length about the female roles in this film elsewhere (here, and here and here, among others), and I'm grateful for the attention and accolades those roles have received. Let's talk about the boy role for a moment.
Every major role in MIT getting awards attention so far except Marty's is a little like everybody in The Irishman getting nominated except Robert DeNiro. The film doesn't work without him. Most great films about men, especially masculine men, interrogate or deconstruct masculinity, as they should; but this isn't a film about archetypal men, and I wasn't aiming for that approach with its male character. Our contemporary discourse has been invaluable in further illuminating how men shouldn't behave. Excellent. But what should they do instead, in the negative space which opens up? People like role models. After centuries of being told they're supposed to know everything, fix everything, and own everything, what is modern man supposed to look like?
This question is both harder and easier to answer than it seems. You can only bemoan the John Wayne archetype for so long before realizing the act of moving toward something positive becomes more useful than moving away from something negative. They're not the same thing.
"Let black men be soft," writes contemporary artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, in an appeal to expand and make more sensitive the narrow definitions of manhood which dominate black American culture. Her encouraging of gentler sides hasn't exactly gone over unanimously, but that's precisely the sort of role model I wrote the Ashley character (played by Ross and Marty) in my film to be. As a character, he is an attempt to answer the above question, and the fact that I considered casting a woman in the role is probably telling. But it had to be Marty. He kills it. He positively beams out of every frame he's in.
It's not a political film. I don't get much out of casting generalizations along gender lines. It's a human film, and all this chatter is secondary. I bring it up only by way of emphasizing that sometimes the best qualities live in plain sight. He's doing things with that role which won't be appreciated until later.
Film Threat says of Marty:
As Ashley, Martyn G. Krouse carries the bulk of the emotional load along with Eleanor Moseley as the older Emma.... Krouse plays it calm and focused, never resorting to an over-the-top ugly cry. I understood precisely the weight of what he was thinking and feeling.
UK Film Review writes:
Finally, the cast play their parts to the nth degree as well, specifically Krouse and Moseley who are responsible for carrying the film's substantial emotional heft and do so with aplomb, while their younger counterparts also shine in giving the film its welcome sense of hope.
Thank you, actors, for making this film come alive in the way it does. Thank you, crew, for making everything glow. Check out the (updated) trailer below, and I hope to screen at another film festival near you soon!
More on our film here.