Post-production, festival attention, and eventual release are bound to alter a filmmaker’s perspective on a film — particularly so, if the work is an intensely personal document of fatherhood starring their real-life son. Actor/director Mark Webber has done just that though with Isaac Love — two years old during filming — for “The End of Love” (read our review) and a week before its theatrical opening, he chatted with us about the journey from Sundance, Isaac’s performance, and his next directorial effort.
The drama, which also stars Shannyn Sossamon, Frankie Shaw, and cameos Michael Cera, first appeared in U.S. Dramatic Competition at Sundance 2012, where Webber landed involvement with three films total: “The End of Love,” “For a Good Time, Call…,” and “Save the Date.” All three were picked up for distribution, and when we caught up with him last January, he explained, “As an artist, you live for moments like this.” But more than one year later, he’s found some equally rewarding qualities.
“I actually just watched the film for the first time a couple weeks ago since Sundance, and it was an incredible experience,” Webber said. “I felt like I was finally able to watch it completely objectively, and have this really beautiful and emotional reaction to it on so many levels. To see my child at that age — he’s four-and-a-half now — and also just seeing the impact that he’s had on people is really special.”
Webber’s interactions with Isaac, as struggling LA actor “Mark” in the film, are indeed the most striking moments; they capture a quiet realism between father and son that, in the instance of one climactic conversation about life and death, was completely genuine and educational. “That was the first we’d ever talked about that, so the first time I had a conversations with my son about death is in the film,” he explained. “You know, we could only shoot that once. There wasn’t a take two, and the film wouldn’t really work if we didn’t have that. So it was really a fascinating process, knowing we were doing the film leading up to this conversation, and kind of trusting that it would enrich it.”
That adherence to reality means Isaac lands in an unconventional role of unaware participation, something Webber fully realizes. “[Isaac] remembers the production, but I don’t bring it up and try to intellectualize it with him. To him, we just made some videos together.” As for a future in film, he says if Isaac wants to become an actor, “I want that to be a choice that he comes to for himself.”
He continues, “With ‘The End of Love’ I think I really found my voice as a director. It’s the style that I want to continue making films, which is the blending of reality into fictitious settings, and achieving a certain level of naturalism and vulnerability that you don’t normally see.”
For his next directorial foray into realizing that quality, he’s picked the relationship drama “The Fun in Forever,” which stars both him and “Warm Bodies” actress Teresa Palmer. “Me and Teresa wrote this film together — she’s producing it, I’m directing it — and we’re using a lot of real life relationships, family members and friends, to tell a love story in a way you haven’t seen before.”
Describing the film as “capitalizing off the way ‘End of Love’ was made” but “definitely more cinematic,” Webber has actually already begun shooting. “Because it’s very non-traditional, there’s been elements that we’ve already shot, but we start official production in Australia [Adelaide, Palmer’s home town] at the beginning of April, and then shoot in LA during May and June. And then the hope is to premiere it at Sundance next year, and then take it from there.”
Indeed, the next few months sound like they will be busy ones for Webber. Meanwhile, “The End of Love” is currently available on VOD and iTunes, and hits select theatres on March 1st.