by Luke Hickman
In Mark Webber's 'The End of Love,' Webber plays a version of himself who's coping with the passing of his girlfriend, the mother of his two-year-old son. The film stars Webber and his real son Isaac. Frankie Shaw is the mother of Issac and appears in flashbacks as Isaac's mother. It's fun because Issac's parents are played by Issac's real-life parents. Jocelin, however, is one of the few actors in the film not playing his/herself. After speaking with Mark Webber about his directorial debut at Sundance, I was given the opportunity to speak with Frankie and Jocelin about their roles in the making of 'The End of Love.'
HDD – Luke Hickman: Frankie, as a mother, how hard was this process – allowing Mark to use your child as the driving force in his film?
Frankie Shaw: Do you want an honest answer?
HDD: Completely honest.
Frankie Shaw: So, I read the outline. It was six pages. And I thought it was like. "Whatever – this totally isn't going to happen. This isn't going to be a real movie. This is someone with a little 5D camera – which doesn't even look like a camera – and you're shooting Isaac being Isaac." That's totally what I thought. And then I watched a rough cut – cut to eight months later – and I had a mini freak-out. Part of me thought that I'd turned a blind eye. So I talked with Mark a lot about it and what the film meant. And really, the one scene that I had trouble with was the camping scene. I had to process feelings of "was I a neglectful mom?" We talked though it and he assured me that [he didn't do anything damaging to Isaac]. As you see in the film, Isaac is crying and every time I see it, I'm uncomfortable.
HDD: Probably just as uncomfortable as when you're a parent and you -
Frankie Shaw: - you do something that makes them uncomfortable. Right! And here's the thing: you can't be a perfect parent. And it's about learning and understanding your motivation and your intention and possibly making a better decision next time and making amends for a mistake. I think it's really valuable for our children that you can say, "Honey, I'm sorry that I was upset this morning. I didn't get much sleep. I'm gonna try to engage with you now and be present with you."
HDD: And they're so forgiving.
Frankie Shaw: And they're like, "Ok, Mom. I love you. Let's play fireman!"
HDD: It's the best.
Frankie Shaw: Oh, yeah.
HDD: After about ten minutes of watching the film, I said, "This has to be Mark's kid. There's no way that this little guy is an actor." Had it not been Isaac, the movie would not have worked.
Frankie Shaw: And Isaac is a special little kid.
HDD: He's awesome! And it's so cool because every parent will connect with it. Now, Jocelin, how is it playing yourself in a movie – well, a version of yourself?
Jocelin Donahue: I was [playing] a character [in the movie] because I'm playing Mark's ex-girlfriend, yet we've never been in a relationship before. I would never leave someone so cruelly as she does! If someone said, "I have a kid," I'd never say, "Ok, I'm outta here!" That's not who I am, but that's who the character is. She's an actress type playing a little more ambitious – you know, hot-shit – than I am in real life, but that was fun being able to play that kind of character. But at the same time, my name is Jocelin too and I'm in there somewhere.
HDD: Do you fear that might tarnish your image? You come across as so cool when we first meet you, but then turn cold quickly?
Jocelin Donahue: I don't think so. I feel like she comes across like, "Oh, we're catching up and you're gonna say you have a kid in the middle of kissing me? And you're gonna tell me you love me? Why don't we go get dinner first?"
HDD: I think she's cool until that point, then it all turns around.
Jocelin Donahue: Yeah, I'm definitely in a more vulnerable position to be playing a version of myself than to be reading lines that someone else wrote for you. But I just trust Mark so much. He is really such a truthful storyteller that that's just part of the story. It has to be there and I'm grateful that I got to play that role.
Frankie Shaw: You know what's really cool about her part is that it's the only part that anyone auditioned for. Everyone else was someone that Mark knew and this part was someone that he knew, but she was pregnant and couldn't do it. So it's actually a strong testament to Jocelin that she got the one part that needed to be filled.
HDD: You were found worthy to join. Very cool. I didn't know that.
Jocelin Donahue: It was really cool. I have to say that it wasn't a traditional audition because there was no script to audition. It was just me meeting Mark and talking about who I am who he is and what he wanted to do. And then on the day of the shoot – there were a couple nights where we shot those scenes – we just had to throw it all together and create a back story and be intimate in a way that tries to show people who have been in a long-term relationship before. It was thrilling, the excitement of that scene and of the process was just really creatively wonderful.
HDD: Had you done any work without a script prior to filming 'The End of Love?'
Jocelin Donahue: No. This was the first time.
HDD: And this was completely unscripted, right? You just had bullet-points on what needed to happen in each scene?
Jocelin Donahue: Exactly. There was the goal, the scenario, the set-up and what had to happen in the end – him saying, "I have a kid," and me saying, "I'm outta here." That was it.
HDD: Wow. Did Mark direct you to act the way you did, or was most of that improvised too?
Jocelin Donahue: It's like Frankie was saying – somewhere between feeling bad for him, realizing that he's drunk and maybe we shouldn't be doing this right now - that we're going too far - so it was kind of a fine line between being cold and being the ambitious actress character.
HDD: Do you believe that Jocelin, the character in the movie, would have been with Mark has this not been the case?
Jocelin Donahue: I hope that you can feel the love that we had before, but she's just in a different place in her life and she can't deal with someone who has a kid right now. Maybe that's too overwhelming to deal with.
HDD: Thank you. Is this your first time here at Sundance?
Jocelin Donahue: This is my first time.
Frankie Shaw: I was here in 2010 with 'The Freebie,' which was with Katie Aselton and Mark Duplass. And that whole movie was improv too. But that's it. This is my second time here.
HDD: So, Jocelin, being your first time, how's the festival going?
Jocelin Donahue: It's so exciting to be here. It's every actor's dream to be part of Sundance. This is the goal of independent filmmaking – to get here and celebrate what Sundance is.
HDD: I'm sure we'll see you both back here again soon enough. Do you two have anything lined up that might see here next year?
Frankie Shaw: I leave tomorrow to shoot this indie [film] in Texas, a really dark story about this very hick family with a matriarch that's overpowering everything. The son has cerebral palsy and I play this fucked-up daughter that just went through a tragedy. This guy comes to town and as a local farmhand and sort of shakes up the family.
HDD: Is the goal to get that playing here next year?
Frankie Shaw: Let's hope!
HDD: What about you, Jocelin?
Jocelin Donahue: I worked on a couple of other films that we're waiting to see where they go – one called 'Free Samples,' a comedy with Jess Weixler as the lead. She's super funny. And then I did this other called 'Live at the Foxes Den,' where I sing. It was my first time auditioning with a song and performing a song, so that'll be exciting.
HDD: Do you sing?
Jocelin Donahue: In the shower (laughs) and karaoke. It was nerve-wracking up to the point of doing it, but on the day of shooting it, I had a lot of fun. Both films are just being finished now, so hopefully we'll hit the festivals soon.
HDD: Well, hopefully I'll both of you back here next year. Thank you!
Frankie Shaw: Thank you!
Jocelin Donahue: Thank you!