I Made a Short Film About Love Awhile Ago and Here It Is

My short film “Phoebe, 2:13AM” is now playing up at Culture Unplugged. I can’t embed the Flash file below, but you can watch it here. This is the synopsis I wrote years ago; it still fits fairly well: After a night out with friends, Phoebe leaves her friends early for a rendezvous with her elusive boyfriend at his apartment late at night. Thinking only of love, she stumbles upon much more complicated emotional terrain and discovers the limits of passion and romance.

It’s weird to watch this film I made awhile ago; it almost feels like the work of a stranger, but then again, it is so undeniably mine. It is just so painfully vulnerable; it makes me so uncomfortable to watch. I’m proud of its openness and its near-desperate honesty, but it’s hard for me to sit through. Watching it with an audience was excruciating. And it’s such a quiet movie; I can understand now why films get so busy with action and noise. It’s a nice buffer so you don’t hear your stomach churn.

I wrote it quickly, originally as a small non-thesis film. I needed a chamber piece: something small, not many actors, one location, a compact period of time. It cost not a lot of money to make; I was saving up my money for a bigger thesis film, which I actually never got to make. I was lucky; I found two actors, Stephanie Ellis Brown and Doug Roland, who I loved working with, so even though it wasn’t an expensive production, it was a rich experience.

There are some things I wish I’d done differently, I’d wish I’d made the encounter at the door more sexual, for one thing. I’d wish I had more time to improvise. But I’m still really proud of the ending, and getting that moment at the end when she looks up at him was one of the best experiences I’d ever had in directing actors.

People who’ve seen it sometimes ask me (if they’re really brave) if it really happened to me. This is the real story, the director’s commentary: the actual incident was inspired by a friend of mine, who was dating a girl who laid her heart bare to him. He knew he didn’t return her feelings fully. He told her she was a lot of fun. So the film is, in some way, my way of showing him What It Feels Like for a Girl. I think if you were to summarize my creative uber-output, it would be “What It Feels Like for a Girl.”

But, I know that moment: when expectations and hopes and reality don’t align, when sometimes sees you as Right Now and you wish you were actually Forever. But you’re not, and it’s so painful to realize. Sometimes I imagine Phoebe in the years after this little cinematic Polaroid: how she’d get quieter, more closed-off, “smarter” about love, more strategic, losing her beautiful open-hearted foolishness. But eventually I think she would unfurl again to happiness and become wiser about offering up her heart to the right person. Maybe that’s the next film, the next story to write: the moment you crack open just a bit and then the love comes pouring in.

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