(Courtesy of Richard Smykowski)
In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, writer/director McKegg Collins discusses his post-apocalyptic romance from Abandoned House Productions and Fitch Fort Films, Eros Point, starring Asta Paredes and Clay von Carlowitz. Collins reveals how the drama unfolds when an unseen foe disrupts the relationship between a married couple.
With Eros Point hitting the film festival circuit, McKegg Collins and I dive into the collaborative undertaking of making this short film. We talk about the filmmaking process from its initial concept to the actual joint production between Abandoned House Productions and Fitch Fort Films. So if you love director’s commentaries as much as I do, this is one you’ll definitely straight-up enjoy!
Villain Media: What was the inspiration behind Eros Point?
McKegg Collins: When I was in college, I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s brilliant short story, “A Temporary Matter,” and it really stuck with me. I thought for years about wanting to adapt it as a short film. Then when I realized how bad of an idea it would be, I decided to try to write something original, instead of butchering Lahiri’s transcendent story. I liked the idea of creating “A Temporary Matter,” and putting it in The Walking Dead’s world.
I was in the midst of a really prolific summer, where I was experimenting with various genres and storytelling techniques. I wanted to experiment with telling a story visually with as little dialogue as possible. It was also an exercise in what Mark Duplass (Room 104) refers to as, “The Available Resources School of Filmmaking.” I had a cabin, an incredible team of people ready to work, and I was eager to work with Asta and Clay again after working with her on The Runaround Club. Through all those factors, Eros Point sprung forth.
Villain Media: Eros Point comes across a tragic breakup tale. Tell me about that aspect.
McKegg Collins: I looked at a lot of movies that deconstructed the nature of relationships. Two big ones were Kiarostami’s Certified Copy and Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years. In particular, 45 Years haunts me and I was fascinated by how much is being said through silence, rather than through spoken words. Musically, three albums circulated in my head throughout development — Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens, Goodness by The Hotelier, and Stranger in the Alps by Phoebe Bridgers. All three albums are about loss and pain, but they are also about realizing the beauty of life. Sometimes we have to trek through the darkness, in order to come out clean on the other side.
VM: Tell me about working with Clay von Carlowitz (Evan). From my interpretation, Evan is the everyman trapped inside an extraordinary situation.
MC: That’s exactly right! Tale as old as time really. We have such scruples about masculinity and the nature of it in this culture; I really wanted to explore that. We so often try to mask our true emotions, with a joke or façade, that everything is fine. We’re not nearly as strong as we purport ourselves to be. Evan is constantly distracting, constantly putting on a brave face. Sarah sees right through that and chips away at his veneer throughout the whole film.
Clay is such a naturally kind and goofy person; he fit those aspects of Evan’s character well. But I also wanted to explore the darker side of him. I had worked with Asta before, but never with Clay. I was really excited to get to know him better as an actor and as a person. We worked hard to develop that trust in each other, to go to such an emotionally draining place. I’m honored he placed his trust in me.
VM: Tell me about working with Asta Paredes (Sarah), who also has to sing in the film.
MC: Sarah is a hard role to tackle because of how much depended on not saying much. Asta has such an expressive face, so I knew she’d provide some really beautiful shades in Sarah’s character. We’ve known each other for a number of years. I’ve always admired her tenacity and warmth. She and I worked together to develop Sarah into this strong, powerful being. There’s a remarkable strength to women that I find entrancing and keep exploring in my work. Sarah is dying, but she is not in mourning. When she takes that breath near the beginning of the film, she’s accepted her fate. For the rest of the movie, she’s in a stage beyond the five stages. Now she needs to guide Evan through the same.
That’s the purpose of the song peppered throughout the movie, “Never Have I Ever.” I feel a lot of couples have their “song” that harkens back to their best times. But often, that song can suddenly have a different meanings, as the relationship develops. The motif of the song is an unspoken contract Sarah and Evan make; “Once I sing this, you have to fulfill your end of the bargain.”
Asta and I talked about the mood we were trying to capture with the song. And once she came up with lyrics, we sent them over to Zach [Lapierre], who just knocked it out of the park with the arrangement! Zach is a brilliant songwriter and Asta’s a lovely lyricist; so it was a winning combination!
VM: What I thought was interesting about the story was how the past and present were intertwined. Tell me about keeping both timelines in check when writing the script and during filming.
MC: I love the idea of how our past informs our present. When times are tough, we tend to revert to the moments, when things weren’t so bad. Sometimes, we even try to recreate those times. But you can’t get that moment back. The only thing you can do is move forward. Showing the past in Eros Point was crucial to understand what Evan is trying to get back to. To harken back to the past, in order to escape the very pressing and deadly future. It doesn’t work out of course, because you cannot live in the past forever. It’s a dangerous notion that Sarah beats out of him in the end.
On set, I tried to keep the moments in the past for the end of the day. It was always crucial for me to get the most emotionally draining aspects of the film out of the way first. That way, once everything was over, we could all take a break, decompress, and go back to happier times. The flashbacks had a looser feel to them, a more collaborative effort between the actors and the crew. Near the end of the day, everyone’s tired and it felt like everyone could unwind a little bit. It was a lot of fun shooting those flashbacks, which resulted in some of the most beautiful shots in the whole film.
VM: Eros Point stands out to me because it focuses on the emotional core of the zombie story, much like Maggie and Les Revenants. Tell me about finding the emotional arcs with your cast.
MC: Les Revenants was such a unique and stunning piece of television! I’m really drawn to this new trend I’m noticing in film. I’m not even sure what to call it; “alt horror” or something like that. Stories that have horror/supernatural elements to them, but are really rooted by a deep emotional core. 45 Years, Personal Shopper, and to an extent Hereditary, are great examples of what I’m talking about. It’s also led to this era of deceptive marketing in the genre — like It Comes At Night — that really allows the story to subvert the audience’s expectations, and give them something more profound and everlasting than they were anticipating.
So with Eros Point, I was excited at the prospect of a post-apocalyptic setting, but worked to keep the focus on the emotional arc of this couple. It primarily centers on this transference of strength. Sarah has always been the stronger of the two, while Evan was content to be the nurturer. However, now the sh*t’s hit the fan and Evan’s not sure if he can survive without her. Sarah is trying to show him how to move on. She’s pleading with him, “You have to do this, because if you don’t you’re dead and I may as well have died for nothing.”
We had extensive rehearsals to really work that out. Throughout pre-production I gave Asta and Clay materials that influenced Eros Point, and what they meant to me and their characters. We really got to know each other through the process, and that really informed their individual arcs. The first draft of the script was colder, more cynical. Yet through working with Asta and Clay, I discovered how much these two characters loved each other. It shaped the story into something more bittersweet, instead of just bitter.
VM: How did this project change you as an artist?
MC: There’s a quote from Robert Bresson that’s been bouncing around in my head lately — “You will not know till much later if your film is worth the mountain range of efforts it is costing you.” I’ve spent the last couple months analyzing how Eros Point went and how I’ve changed since. To say that productions take a lot out of you is like looking at the sky, and saying it’s blue. This production put my organizational, theoretical, and improvisational skills through the ropes course. But looking at the final product, it was well-worth scaling that mountain.
I made some real strides as an artist, but also made mistakes. However, I don’t see it as a deterrent. I’m not taking my ball and going home. I could fill a book with the things I learned, but the most important thing I discovered from Eros Point was that despite the mistakes, it made me want to keep creating in order to improve as an artist. To bookend this section with another quote, here’s one by Jack Nicholson that really struck me — “The minute that you’re not learning, I believe you’re dead.” I have to keep learning.
VM: How can readers find your movie?
MC: We had a preview screening a month ago that went over really well! As of right now, we’re sending it out to festivals. Word on the street has been really positive and we’re looking forward to hearing back soon!
VM: What are you working on now?
MC: The folks at Fitch Fort Films and I are working on making some shorter projects to keep up the momentum that we’ve started with Eros Point. You can stay up to date by following Fitch Fort Films on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube!
I’m the Literary Director of Break A Leg Productions that presents staged readings throughout the year in New York. I’m directing a reading of this terrific play called, When We Get Good Again, about a service that writes term papers for students. We’re finalizing a date, but it will be sometime in November. I come from the theatre, so I’m excited to go back to my roots!
Readers can find more about Eros Point here:
[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity. Links are highlighted in bold.]