To illustrate how long it can take Sundance Film Festival hits to arrive in theaters, look no further than "The End of Love." Mark Webber's second effort as a director premiered to strong reviews at Sundance in 2012, but is only first opening to the general public on Friday, some 14 months later. (The film is also available via on demand services.)
Webber, best known as the lead singer of Scott Pilgrim's band Sex Bob-omb in "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World," stars in "The End of Love" as "Mark Webber," a struggling actor trying to balance his fledgling career and his role as a single dad. In a twist, "The End of Love" co-stars Webber's actual son, Isaac Love, as his onscreen son. (Isaac's real mother appears in the film in flashbacks as Isaac's onscreen mother.)
"The End of Love" is an early year triumph, a thoughtful indie comedy with moments of heartbreaking -- and also heart-warming -- drama. With the film out in limited release on March 1, Webber spoke to HuffPost Entertainment about the difficulties of making "The End of Love," what he learned from his first feature, "Explicit Ills," and what famous people do when they hang out.
What was the hardest part about making this with your son?
It's like, what wasn't hard about it. It's so hard to make something seem so effortless and off-the-cuff and simple. It takes so much more effort to make something seem effortless. For me, I had to be the dad; I had to be a sad dad; I had to be the director, the production assistant, the DP [director of photography], in certain situations. It was wearing so many hats. It was a really hard movie to make, but so rewarding because of that. With Isaac, what was so cool is that he was always in the moment. So, having me orchestrate and create all these situations so I could fully inhabit this character, it turned out that anything that he would do would be right for the film. That was a really exhilarating way to make a movie.
How much of the process did you explain to Isaac?
No. What he did know was that my DP, Patrice Cochet, came over in what you could call the rehearsal period -- which was really just me seeing if I could make a movie in this way. Isaac knew that Patrice was making videos of us. From the iPhone or whatever, we've shot videos together and taken pictures, so he knows what that concept is. Eventually, it got to the point where Patrice didn't really exist. The more I didn't regard Patrice as being there, the more Isaac didn't. The film would only work if it was complete reality for Isaac. There were never any slates. There was no crew. I would get Patrice up and running and then just start living the moment with my son, based off of me knowing his moods and patterns and rhythms. Like, "OK, in this moment I know he's going to be a little cranky, so it's a good time to shoot the dinner scene."
Isaac's mother plays a small role in the film, so she was on board with this, but was it difficult to convince her that Isaac could handle such a big role?
Yeah. First and foremost, nothing matters more to us in this entire world than our child. His well-being and his safety is paramount in both our lives. We have a really great friendship and we co-parent in a really beautiful and creative way. It was easy for me to convince her because she knew I would only do this if I knew it wouldn't be harmful to Isaac. Which made it that much harder to make this movie, just because it wasn't traditional in any sense. We would shoot for 15, 20 minutes at a time with Isaac, and on days where it was just Isaac, that was our day. We would probably clock in like an hour. It was like, "All right, everyone; go home! Come back tomorrow, after naps. At about 2:30, after Isaac had his nap, we'll have another 25 minutes there." Isaac was never working. It was so non-invasive. There were no lights. There was none of that. Patrice is such a lovely great man and a father himself that everyone around was just fun to be around anyway.
During a key scene, your character goes to a party at Michael Cera's house, and people like Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson and Alia Shawkat are in attendance too. You know a lot of them from prior projects, but do you all hang out? Is that the reality -- minus Cera acting like a complete jerk, as he does in the film?
It is! What's really cool is that you get lucky every now and then by working with people who are really like-minded and awesome and you develop pretty strong friendships and bonds with them. Everyone who was there in that room that night came for a reason. First and foremost, we love each other and want to support each other. Amongst me and that group of friends, there's probably three or four major game nights that happen. We'll get together and play running charades or Celebrity or Scattergories. So, yeah! [Laughs] Minus Michael with a handgun and kind of being a little obnoxious -- and Michael, in reality, is the sweetest guy in the world -- it was pretty much like, "OK, here's a normal little get together."
This is your second film as a director; what did you learn on your first one that carried over here?
My first film, when I went into it, I was younger. I had made a bunch of films as an actor and had worked with a bunch of incredible directors and I thought, "I really know what I'm doing here!" I was really overly ambitious. I shot my first film on 35mm and old Panavision cameras. It had a huge cast and there were all these interconnecting stories and it was a little overly ambitious. It was a little too much at once. There's still things that I really love about my first film. The beautiful thing about making movies is that the movie still speaks to a lot of people. I'll have people come up to me and say, "I love that movie." To me, as a filmmaker, all I see are its flaws. Going into making "The End of Love," I wanted to capitalize off of the knowledge I learned from all the trial-and-error of the first one. I wanted to make a movie that had an undeniably strong emotional core. That was really about two people, whereas my first film had like 30 people. As an actor, I've always been obsessed with naturalism in film and reality. So, as a filmmaker, it was really exhilarating to create a world that really embraced that for me. It actually couldn't be more different than my first film -- just in terms of the story, the process, everything. Coming out of the making of "The End of Love," I've figured out my voice, in a way, and my style in the way I want to build off it. The next film I'm making, I'm making in a very similar way.
In the film, you play "Mark Webber, struggling actor." In reality, you've got "The End of Love" and starred in a couple of well-received indies last year, like "For a Good Time Call" and "Save the Date." Are you happy with the direction of your career?
It's funny, man; I am happy. Like, I'm definitely happy. I'm happy because I've only ever done what I wanted to do. I've had many opportunities throughout my career to sell a piece of my soul. Maybe go in a different route. Things that would compromise my happiness. And I never want that. Because I've avoided that, I'm really happy. I've only really been a part of films that I want to be a part of. Now I have a career as a filmmaker. One of the beautiful things about making your own films is that you get to share the love. For me, just the auditioning process is horrible. It's miserable. It's the worst. "Please like me! Please like me!" To now be in a position to write things for people and not have them audition. Be like, "Hey, I wrote this for you, do you want to do this? How can we make this the best for you so you can do the best work you've ever done?" It's exciting for me. That's where I see myself headed. If people want to put me in their movies, I will do it -- I'm just not as willing to jump through so many hoops anymore [laughs]. I can't! I've paid my dues and I feel like I'm in a really good place right now. I'm pretty psyched.
EARLIER: Photos from the 2013 Sundance Film Festival