In “The End of Love,” which opens Friday, March 22 exclusively at Harkins Valley Art, Mark Webber plays a struggling actor who kindles a relationship with a single mother (Shannyn Sossamon) and begins to realize that he can no longer remain in denial about the real-life consequences his choices have on his own son.
Question: Your real-life son Isaac plays your son in this film. He was 2 years old at the time and, obviously, could not learn any lines yet he is in almost every scene with you. How did that work?
Answer: My director of photography Patrice Lucien Cochet came over and started filming us. We shot on these Canon 5D cameras - which are very small and not invasive at all. Patrice would stand off to the side and film us. The whole film was improvised but it was very structured improv. Basically, I wrote a treatment with this very specific story that I wanted to tell about very specific characters and how they related to each other. I set up very elaborate settings between me and my son so that no matter what we were doing in these improvised moments it would be fueling the story and these plot points that we needed to hit.
Q: That explains why it feels so much like a home movie. Is that what you were aiming for?
A: I wanted to blur the lines between reality and fiction. I wanted people to experience this film in a way that they don't normally experience movies. A lot of times, you go see a movie and say, “That was a great movie” or “That was a great performance.” I wanted to try and extract that a little bit and make it feel a little dangerous and a little odd at some points so you say, “What is this? Is this really this guy? Is this really his child? Did this really happen?” In order to achieve those kinds of emotions that I wanted to invoke in people, I shot it with a cinéma vérité/fly-on-the-wall style. That way, I was able to set up situations and make them feel like real life as opposed to people performing.
Q: What was your motivation for making this movie?
A: The reason I make films right now is all about exploring different themes and questions that I'm thinking about in my own life. The writing process is very therapeutic. I always draw from a lot of my own experiences. This movie in particular is all about what it means to be a single parent. It also touches on my childhood. I had a very rough childhood and was homeless for a few years with my mother. There is a scene in the film where we are kind of kicked out of our place and that was something that I experienced countless times as a child.
Q: I normally like to ask filmmakers what they learned about their self from their project. I’d like to modify that question for you, though. What did you learn about yourself from Isaac?
A: I learned that I am definitely a lot more patient in my life now. I'm really glad that I am, too. As an actor, you are always striving to be present and in the moment and somehow convince the audience that you really are having this human experience. I feel like so much of life in general is just an exercise in being present. As human beings, we are so obsessed with our futures or are dwelling on the past and that affects our level of happiness on a daily basis. Being a parent is the most extreme exercise in being present because children are always present. They simply go from moment to moment. They are not concerned about their future. They are not thinking about their past. They are just rolling with what is currently happening. This whole film was made essentially in real time, going from moment to moment with my son - who really guided the entire film.
Q: Finally, what is your greatest take-away from your experience working on this motion picture?
A: I set out to make a film about a father and son that you really haven't seen before. So being able to make this with my boy - who was just 2 years old at the time and was really just learning how to speak - was an amazing experience. What was really awesome about this whole movie was knowing that I had this beautiful gift for my son where when he is at the age he is able to watch this movie he can sit down and be shown this film that he starred in when he was just 2 years old.