With only an 80-page outline to guide them, there were a lot of blanks to fill when “Endings, Beginnings” director Drake Doremus hired Shailene Woodley to star in the film just two weeks before shooting began. In between casting and shooting, however, Doremus, Woodley, and co-star Sebastian Stan made a two-day road trip up the California coast to the film’s Bir Sur location, swapping life philosophies along the way.
“We ended up driving for five-and-a-half hours and the amount of inside jokes and the vulnerability that came from that drive alone really drove our characters forward,” Woodley said at an “Endings, Beginnings” panel discussion the day after the film’s Toronto International Film Festival premiere. “The first day of filming, we had to be very vulnerable with one another, intimate with one another … I felt like all of us were riding on the same frequency.”
The film chronicles Woodley’s Daphne on her journey to find love for herself and others while dealing with deep emotional scars and navigating a love triangle with a grounded professor (Jamie Dornan) and his passionate party-boy best friend (Stan).
“Everything in my life changed from this movie,” said Woodley. “I thought I knew who I was, I thought I was in a perfect relationship. And I did this movie and it made me question a lot of things about myself and my decisions. I think it’s because of the amount of truth and the amount of realness that we were all giving one another,” including take after take of improvised scenes.
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“We call each other ‘searchers,'” Doremus said. “I mean with everything, every situation it’s, ‘What’s the meaning of this? What’s really the truth about that? What does this mean?'”
As he did with his celebrated “Like Crazy,” Doremus (and on this film, co-writer Jardine Libaire) drafted an outline with action points, suggested dialogue, and a clear idea of each scene’s “main event” rather than a traditional screenplay. Doremus said the impetus of the movie was based on mistakes he had made in his own life and was a way to process a breakup.
In the edit room, Doremus worked closely with editor Garret Price to first select scenes that felt the most honest, which was the baseline to decide if something could end up in the movie, he said.
Ensuring they had something to work meant improvisation scenes and taking advantage of their own emotions, whatever they happened to be. “I came to work one day and I couldn’t stop crying,” Woodley said. “It was just very emotional. And then (Doremus) was like, ‘You know what, let’s just change some things around and let’s just shoot this.'”
“Endings, Beginnings” is currently seeking distribution.