Mark Webber talks ‘The End of Love’, his 2nd effort as writer/director
On March 1st, The End of Love will open in limited release. Written, directed and produced by its star Mark Webber (Scott Pilgrim vs the World and For a Good Time, Call) and also starring Shannyn Sossamon (A Knight’s Tale and Our Family Wedding), the film is about trying to pick up the pieces of a life shattered by a tragic loss. It also stars Webber’s real-life son, Issac Love. TailSlate sat down with both Webber and Sossamon recently to talk about the film, among other things. First up is The End of Love‘s writer/director.
TailSlate: Aside from movies you were in or otherwise connected to, what is your favorite film?
Mark Webber: I couldn’t pick just one. The first one that always comes to mind is Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It is a big influence in my own filmmaking. I would also put The Goonies right up there.
TS: If there was one movie you could remake, what would you remake?
MW: That’s a cool question! <pause>
TS: You want to get back to me on that one?
MW: I would love to remake Labryinth.
TS: Excellent choice! I like that.
MW: I would love to remake that. Totally. I’m obsessed with puppets and I would love to make a movie on that scale without digital effects but with old-school puppetry.
TS: Wires and strings, and like the Muppets?
TS: Your love of puppetry and stuff like that is clearly one of the reasons you’re such a good father and you can see that on screen.
MW: Thank you.
TS: You’re welcome. This is a very personal film for you, isn’t it?
MW: Yeah. Extremely personal.
TS: Was it hard to make a film that was so personal and put so much of your life up on the screen for everyone to see?
MW: Not really. At this point in my life it’s like that’s all I want to do. For me it was like just this huge sigh of relief. I love vulnerability.
TS: You wanted people to be able to share your experience.
MW: In movies I go and see where I see a really authentic moment and a real human emotion, I’m like oh, that’s amazing. Who is that?
TS: I’m puzzled by the title. It says one thing but then the film is saying that love never ends. Was that deliberate?
MW: In a way. The idea being you have to come to an end in life a lot of times, in order to have a beginning.
TS: A point of demarcation.
MW: Yeah. And this is where this guy is. Also it was the end of the love of his life.
TS: It’s very clear in the film that we’re seeing reality and we are seeing fiction and the line between them blurs. What makes it so effective is that you’re able to blur that line and unless someone studies your story they have no idea where the reality ends and the fiction begins. Was it difficult for you to find a way to blur that line?
MW: It was. This movie was incredibly hard to make. It’s really hard to make something look like it is hard to make. I think people don’t realize that it takes so much effort to make something come across as simplistic.
TS: I think you’ve hit on something there. In a way it is very simplistic and yet it is also complex, layered with levels of increasing complexity.
MW: Yes. And that’s what I was trying to do.
TS: I felt the use of the home movie footage was really effective. Even though it was so differently visually, it wasn’t jarring. Did you do something special to make it work that way? When you study film, they say you can’t do it that way.
MW: It was a very meticulous little process. I think the reason why it works is because it is very connected and rooted in the story and the emotional journey. In many films where that happens it is clearly a device and you just feel it more.
TS: Like the one frame that’s in color in Schindler’s List?
MW: Exactly. There you go.
TS: That’s jarring
MW: It is. But in End of Love it is so integral to the film it works.
TS: I was intrigued by your character’s arc. Had he achieved some success and then lost touch with it? Is that why he had all these connections, knew all of these people and was able to get auditions like we saw?
MW: Yeah. Yeah. That’s full-on reality in Hollywood. This whole industry is illusion-based. It is one big grand illusion. Even within the industry people think that people are something they are not, or this will make this happen. Really, the majority of working actors are living paycheck to paycheck.
TS: Or worse.
MW: <nodding> Or worse.
TS: You’re an actor? Really? At what restaurant?
MW: Totally. You can be well-known and have that happen to you.
TS: The scene where the car was towed. It seemed like you were piling misery atop misery for your character. Was that deliberate?
MW: It was completely deliberate. Let’s push it to the brink. I’ve really experienced that a lot in my life so I wanted to put it in.
TS: How hard was it casting all of those cameos and bit parts? (Jason Ritter, Michael Cera, Amanda Seyfriend and Aubrey Plaza all have small roles)
MW: Not at all hard. I met Jason when we did a play together in London. We did “The Distance From Here”, a Neil Labute play.
TS: Love Neil LaBute.
MW: It was the first production ever of the play and it’s an extraordinary one. Jason’s been a really great friend of mine. I’ve been very fortunate to work with a lot of great actors and it was “hey this is my film” and people were very willing to participate
TS: The Michael Cera bit worked very well. Was some of your reality in that scene?
MW: For sure. I’ve had my own struggles and also just the idea of your self-worth being wrapped up in your accomplishments as an actor.
TS: How wrapped up are we in our lives when who we are is defined by our resume?
TS: Isaac was amazing. He steals every minute of every scene he was in. Was he just living or was he acting?
MW: He was living although he started acting at the end and that was frightening. If he wants to be an actor I want it to be because HE wants to be an actor. Not because his dad is an actor or because other people are telling him he’s really good at it. I want him to find it on his own. But the whole film was built around him and his moods, and me knowing him and being able to orchestrate these elaborate situations where I could live in the character. So no matter what he did, it would be right.
TS: So it is fair to say that when we’re seeing him on screen, that’s just his life. It’s very effective because it is so real.
MW: It is really real. We couldn’t repeat anyting there was never a slate in front of his face.
TS: In the last sequence did you do something deliberately to make the color “pop” more? Change the visual presentation?
MW: I did. It was just the cut and the music. My first film that I directed I really relied on the music to inject emotion that wasn’t really there. As a first-time filmmaker it was very much style over substance. I was lacking an emotional core of truth, so let me flower it up. In this movie the music is basically a backdrop and there is no score for the film. In that last moment the film kind of opens up a bit and becomes more traditional with some score.
TS: Do you think there are filmmakers out there that use score to inject the emotionality that they are unable to create with their words or visuals?
MW: 100 percent of the time. It’s something that has been really eye-opening and fascinating to me as a filmmaker. To see a scene that looks flat and then to add some music and it becomes something else. It’s part of the medium but it can also become a huge crutch.
TS: To cite a good example of it might be in the Star Wars films when Darth Vader’s music plays in the background as he moves. To make him more menacing without being artificial? But in some romantic dramas it is totally artificial.
MW: Exactly. Those are perfect examples.
TS: What is your next project?
MW: I’m doing a film called The Fun in Forever. I’m writing it with Teresa Palmer…
TS: I like her. I’ve just seen Warm Bodies and her next film Love and Honor.
MW: Warm Bodies I loved. She’s a fantastic actor. We have written this script together and it’s about a marriage and its breakdown. A particular kind of tragedy happens but we’re doing it in a way that uses what I’ve learned from End of Love. The way in which we created these two characters is a way we can achieve similar levels of love and vulnerability and that’s what I want to do as a filmmaker. To keep blurring the lines. We start shooting in April.
TS: If you could go back and re-do the story in The End of Love and do the real story, just the end of a relationship rather than a tragedy, would that be more difficult? Because the end of a relationship is traumatic, but nowhere near as traumatic as tragedy.
MW: Yes. This film was an exercise for me in the mundane but it was a constant tightrope balancing act. Because real life can be dull and boring. So I had to be conscious of the three act structure. It was a lot of fun for me. So doing it if the relationship had just fizzled out would be much harder.
TS: How did the rest of the cast feel about being upstaged by your son?
MW: They loved it. Going in I said “guys, there is no way anyone is going to be better than him.” The conversation we have about life and death was the whole movie; building up to this moment I could only shoot once.
TS: No take two for that scene.
MW: Of course not. It would be evil as a parent to put him through that twice. Especially something so profound and important to him. It was so exhilarating to do. To see him at that moment and to have it captured on film. I am looking forward very much to sitting down with him someday and watching the film.
TS: That will be awesome.
MW: I can’t wait!
TS: Last question. Did I miss the disclaimer that said no goldfish were harmed in the making of this film? (there is a scene where a goldfish dies on-screen)
MW: There were none. It’s funny too. I’ve been a vegetarian for much of my life. Even the fish flapping around was uncomfortable for me. So we bought ten dead fish that had died in the tank at the pet store. The live goldfish ended up in the koi pond at my DP’s house.
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