by Luke Hickman
Mark Webber may not be a household name, but if you're a fan of 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World' or keep a finger on the pulse of indie filmmaking, you definitely know who he is. This year he's not only starring in three films at the festival, but he wrote and directed one of them, 'The End of Love,' with his toddler son as his co-star. Just about every one of the actors in the film plays a character version of his/her self, including Michael Cera, Jason Ritter, Aubrey Plaza, Amanda Seyfried and many more. The day after the film's world premiere, Mark sat down with me to talk about what went into making his experimental film, why it works and - of course - I bring up 'Scott Pilgrim.'
HDD – Luke Hickman: Correct me if I'm wrong, but 'The End of Love' is the first film you've brought to Sundance as a director, right?
Mark Webber: This is the second film I've directed, the first one here as a director though. Right.
HDD: I saw the film yesterday and absolutely loved it.
Mark Webber: Thank you!
HDD: It's one of those extremely personal films that, as a parent, it's just as real as life. The opening scene, watching Isaac wake up, rub his eyes and kick you in the ribs to wake you up, is awesome. I've got two daughters and watching that just made me miss them.
Mark Webber: Right?!
HDD: What a great way to open the film. You had the audience connected and laughing from the first shot of the movie. It's touching.
Mark Webber: Thanks, man.
HDD: How did you capture these moments on film?
Mark Webber: Isaac was two-and-a-half when we filmed and I basically had a really awesome kind of rehearsal experiment process. The whole film was very experimental – the way it was made. I basically had my director of photography come over and spend a lot of time with Isaac. We shot on these small Cannon 5D cameras - which were very discreet - and I just had him come over and spend time with me and my son to "make some videos." We did this basically every day until it was normal.
HDD: Did it take long to capture footage that was useable, or did he adjust to it quickly?
Mark Webber: It was kind of right off the bat, pretty magical. I'll tell you why – the biggest thing is because I'm always there with him, so being there as his dad allowed me to really key in on his mood and rhythms. I built the whole movie around him, so basically, we shot on his schedule depending on how he was feeling. "Today he's a little crankier, so it would be better to do this scene." You know what I mean?
HDD: Yeah, he was the star.
Mark Webber: He was the star! The whole thing was made around him and in that way we were able to get perfect access. We were able to get the camera right here (holding his hand just inches away from his face) for some of those shot. The opening sequence that you talked about, when he's eating cereal, the camera is right in his face – and he doesn't even look at it. It was magical.
HDD: While watching it, I was wondering, 'How did he get this performance out of this kid?' Then, at the Q&A afterward, I realized, 'This is his kid!'
Mark Webber: (laughs) I love to work with a feeling like we're not making a movie – even when I've made traditional films. As a director, I was able to create this environment that allowed me to live in-character and to strip everything away so it was about me always being there and present. And as a filmmaker, I had to make sure that the story points were right, creating the stakes and the tension for the scene, so that what we would do between me and my son would be just right. We shot a lot of stuff. The conversation at the end about life and death was done in one take with two cameras and it was not something that I was going to repeat because it would be weird. As a father explaining how things live and die - when this was just starting to come into his consciousness - wasn't something that I wanted to repeat. We've got only one time to do this. And how this translates on-screen is awesome because it's real.
HDD: The Isaac stuff is all real, but how about the other fictional stuff with your character? It's said that you write what you know – where did you get the rest from?
Mark Webber: You know, basically this movie is just about relationships and human interactions and the vulnerability between the two. The interaction between the other woman in the film is sort of drawn up by past experiences. Using my other friends to play versions of themselves made it a fascinating process.
HDD: Are you a single parent?
Mark Webber: Yeah. Frankie, the mom, is in the film. She's in the very short flashback sequences.
HDD: So those are real home videos shown in the beginning?
Mark Webber: Yeah. That Bright Eyes song that was playing in the beginning, "The First Days of My Life," that was playing in the room. That's not something that I added in. Then I had to go and get the rights from Bright Eyes. "Listen, this was playing in the room when my son was just a year old. Do you know how much this means to me?" The mixture of that with the other cinematic elements and blurring it, for me, was just so rewarding as an artist.
HDD: One thing that I really enjoyed was how the other actors play themselves – or better put, characters of themselves -
Mark Webber: Just so you know, Michael Cera is not like that at all. His place that he lives in so much more humble. (laughs) He does not live in a glass mansion.
HDD: Does he carry a gun around?
Mark Webber: (laughs) No. He does not carry a gun around. He's not like a dick like that. We wanted to have fun with that, to poke fun at the version of what a young Hollywood star would be and how they're perceived.
HDD: I'll tell you, being a 'Scott Pilgrim' fan, it was a whole lot of fun to see a big part of the cast of reunited.
Mark Webber: (laughs) I know, right?!
HDD: I was watching it, constantly pointing at the screen saying "Look! There's – oh, and she's here too! They're all here!
Mark Webber: (laughs) That was cool, right?
HDD: What's really funny is that while I was watching all of you in the Q&A after the premiere, a buddy was riding a bus on Main Street with Mary Elizabeth Winstead. He text me saying, "I'm here with Ramona while you're there with the rest of them."
Mark Webber: Yes! That's so cool!
HDD: If you'll let me geek out for a second, one of my favorite lines from 'Scott Pilgrim' is when Crash and the Boys are playing and you've got subtitles on the screen -
Mark Webber: (laughs) Oh yeah!
HDD: - while saying, "Dammit, Scott! You're freaking me out!"
Mark Webber: (laughs) I know. I know. That movie was so cool.
HDD: Back to the topic – what's next for you?
Mark Webber: What's next is I'm doing a film called 'Panarea' that friend of mine Adam Mansbach wrote. He's a New York Times best-selling author. And my other friend Adam Lough is directing and we've worked together two other times on 'Bomb the System' and 'Weapons.' Jim Jarmusch is producing and I'm starring with Chloë Sevigny.
HDD: Nice! Will we see you here with it next year?
Mark Webber: Hopefully! That'll be the plan.
HDD: Have you filmed anything that's yet to come out?
Mark Webber: I actually have two other films here: 'Save the Date' is in competition -
HDD: I'm actually supposed to interview you again in two days about 'Save the Date' -
Mark Webber: Cool!
HDD: - so don't say too much about it now.
Mark Webber: (laughs) Awesome! There's that and 'For A Good Time, Call …' - another film in the premiere's category.
HDD: I'll be seeing that during the Press & Industry screening on Wednesday. What can we expect from 'For a Good Time, Call …?'
Mark Webber: I actually haven't even seen it yet. I just know that Lauren Miller and Ari Graynor are incredible. Ari is amazing, so expect a really funny movie.
HDD:Awesome. Thanks again and I'll see you on Tuesday.
Mark Webber: You bet!
Unfortunately, Mark had to bail on the 'Save the Date' press day so that he could further promote his own film, 'The End of Love.'