Caleb is an innocent young boy who worships at the altar of his astronaut father, who was lost in a tragic space accident. When Caleb shows an interest in the girl-next-door, his mother frets about potential rejection and what it will do to his heart. A doctor confirms her worst suspicions when he diagnoses young Caleb with a rare disease: if Caleb falls in love, his heart could explode. Caleb focuses his passion on model rockets instead, but when his childhood sweetheart returns, the feelings that flare in his heart provoke a lifelong predicament. Is love worth the risk?
Produced by: Kieran Thompson, Drew Donnay
Cast: Patrick Blakely, Lauren McKnight, Brandon Tyler Russell, Julia Putnam, Amanda Pajer, Bill Suplee, Mark Daugherty, Kyle Newacheck
6 questions with Caleb Couldn't Love director, Kieran Thompson at the half-way mark.
Thursday, August 31st, 2017
1Hi Kieran! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, what was the initial seed that inspired you to make this film? Thank you for having me! Caleb Couldn't Love was my thesis film at The Los Angeles Film School. The initial idea was inspired by a friend of mine who (for a short while) felt he might be physically incapable of falling in love. I was fascinated with the idea of that. I then imagined a boy who was diagnosed with a disease, where falling in love could cause his heart to explode. Eventually it evolved to, what if he just thought he had this disease... would he take a chance at love?
2You shot this film on super 16mm film. What are your thoughts on film and how different is it on set when shooting on film vs. digital? We shot this in 2008. At the time there weren't many quality digital options available. This was even pre RED and DSLR. Every time we shot digitally on something like the Sony F900, even with cinema lenses and a 35mm adapter with a spinning ground glass, those films never "felt like a movie" to me. Thanks to a little help from Kodak we were able to afford to shoot on Super 16mm.
Shooting on film forces you to be very prepared before you get to set. Then rehearse until you have it just right. You can only do 2 or 3 takes. Just before we shot the scene where Caleb's mother admits she's lied, we realized we may not have enough film. We had to minimize our coverage and rehearse rehearse rehearse. During the final shot of Caleb in that scene, when he's saying "no, no" the film ran out. You can see it begin to happen in the final cut. But the cast and crew rose to the occasion and we got what we needed.
For the audience, there's a magic to film that aids in the suspension of disbelief. Digital cameras have evolved greatly. Now I often can't physically tell the difference, but I believe audiences can feel the difference when something is shot on film, even if only subconsciously.
3You made this short before your feature Broken Leg. How did this film prepare you for making a feature and what's the biggest thing you learned from making this film? This short was meant to explore the idea that "love is worth the risk". That theme guided every scene while writing the script and while on set. I learned it was not only important for my films to explore a theme, but a theme that was meaningful to me. When I look back on Caleb Couldn't Love, I'm most proud of the story. It all begins with story.
4Emotionally this film feels similar to Broken Leg. They're both heartfelt dramas with a lot of comedy. What is it about this mix that attracts you to it? Heartfelt and tender are words often used to describe my work. I've come to realize those words also describe who I am as person. I strive to put myself into my films. Any time I've fought against that I haven't been as satisfied with the results. I've learned I need to go with my gut and make something I'd love to sit in a theatre and watch. Then trust there are others like me who will connect with it.
Life is often funny, even in the darker times. In Caleb Couldn't Love one of the biggest laughs comes when Caleb says, "next you're going to tell me Dad wasn't an astronaut". Our actor Patrick wasn't trying to be funny with that line. He played it true, and for Caleb that's a very difficult moment. That line is very heartfelt. We didn't intend for it to be a joke, but I love that it gets a laugh. It helps us feel for Caleb. That line taught me a lot about comedy.
5You made this film almost 10 years ago. Are you still proud of it? Do you wish you could change some things? What are your thoughts on it now? I'm absolutely proud of this film and delighted that it's still finding an audience almost 10 years later. We had such a fantastic cast and crew who brought this film to life and it's fun to see where they're at in their careers now.
I don't know if it's possible for a director to look at their own work and feel completely satisfied, I've never felt 100% that way. After months in the edit on any project, it's easy to only see the flaws. It used to get me down. But now I look at those "flaws" as signs of growth. I obviously didn't set out to make a mistake or do something wrong. The fact that I can see those things now means that I've learned and grown as a director. I always hope to push myself on each and every film. I have so much to learn and I know I'll never be done growing.
6What's next? I just finished my latest short film Between the Lines which is the first short film I've directed since Broken Leg was released. I'm very proud of the piece. It follows a couple on their first date. They met online and carefully studied each other's profiles. They come to the date ready to be what they believe the other person wants them to be. They say what they think the other wants to hear. It's not until they share their true thoughts and feelings that they begin to connect. It was my first opportunity to apply what I've learned over the past few years and I'm quite proud of the work of our cast and crew.
I'm also in development on my next feature script. It's been a long journey but if I've learned anything over the past 10 years, it's that the story is most important element of any film. It can be tempting to rush towards filming, but if you don't get the story and script right, you're wasting your time with anything else.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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