Showcase Filmmaker Spotlight: Elizabeth Earhart
By Travis Trew, Programming Associate
South Jersey native and NYC transplant Elizabeth Earhart has been to Philly Film Showcase before, as the lead actress in the psychodrama Forlorn Rose. She re-teamed with writer/director Justin Boswick for the moody, chatty ensemble dramedy about them. In it, a young woman named Alex (Kelsea Feder) attempts to convince her brother Daniel (Boswick) to patch things up with her friend Anna (Lena Herman), who Daniel recently dumped. Alex’s plans are thrown slightly out of whack when Daniel’s ex-girlfriend Blair (Earhart) unexpectedly turns up. Cooped up in a tiny Brooklyn apartment, these four complicated characters are forced to hash things out over the course of one boozy night.
PFS: You’d worked with Justin Boswick on Forlorn Rose. How did about them. come about?
EE: We bounced around the idea of doing a film that was entirely character-based, with less fluff around it. We thought, “What would happen if we had four characters in the same story, and everyone was fighting to be the protagonist and fighting to be the person that’s right?” And from then it spiraled, and we started talking about shooting in New York, and how we could do it in black and white. Just doing things that we’d never done before.
PFS: It seems like it was a pretty collaborative process. Was there any improv?
EE: Yeah, it was a super collaborative process. It went through a lot of different phases of the interactions between the different characters, how they reacted, and what their paths were. And then when we got on set it was so, so improvisational. Almost nothing was strictly scripted. We did at least one take every time where everything was improvised. And there were last minute changes, like in the scene between Alex and Blair, where they’re smoking. The smoking wasn’t in the script and we were like, “We should just try this. It would add another level of back-and-forth, and another confrontation.” So we just did it last minute and I think it worked really well.
PFS: Was improv a practice that you’d worked on before?
EE: Yeah, sort of. I trained in improv in drama school and have done some improv troupe work here in New York, but nothing that serious until I worked with Justin on Forlorn Rose. We got to set and Justin was like, “I’d rather you guys just improv, do whatever you want.” And I was like, “Uhhh…” But it was actually really fun. And it helped develop the character work. It helped us dive further into the characters than you can normally do with a short film. And Justin is really good at editing improv so it works.
PFS: So if you develop an idea that really works do you carry it over into the next take?
EE: Yeah if something really works we’d definitely carry it over. And then they’d say, “OK, we’ve had enough of that, let’s try something else.” In the scene with all three of the girls—when Daniel is out of the room—I think it started with my line, “That’s the problem with men.” We had a couple takes where they were like, “OK we get it. That line is over. It wasn’t as funny as you thought it was. Let’s try it again.” So there’s definitely a give and take, and you just try to get as much as you can in the time that you have. And then it becomes Justin’s job to make it sound good, look good, and be cohesive in the final project.
PFS: Obviously you live in New York so it made sense to film there, but was the setting a big part of how you conceived of the whole project?
EE: Yeah it was probably the first thing that we planned. It was the thing that started it all. Justin and I have done all of our projects in the Philadelphia area, and everybody is from Philly and Jersey. I had been living here for about a year and he said, “I just really want to come and shoot something in New York.” So we thought, “What is the most sort of ‘New York’ story that we can tell about people that are our age?” We’re not 25 and successful, and we’re not fashion gurus, and we don’t have big, fancy, beautiful “New York” lives, we’re just sort of broke and live in shitty apartments. And it’s raining all the time and we struggle to deal with our friends. So we decided to write about our generation and what our tribe of people is like in New York.
PFS: How did you approach playing Blair? Was she someone you felt like you had something in common with or was it a stretch?
EE: Yeah for sure. There’s a lot that I had in common with Blair. We wanted to show an aspect of someone who is searching for something but doesn’t quite know what she’s looking for. So she’s always chasing a high, or some excitement, or a new place. But she doesn’t quite know what she’s looking for. When we first meet her, I think the script says something like, “She still looks like she’s coming down from the night before.” She is much more of a party girl and much more of a free spirit than I consider myself. But my goal with her was to make sure that she was her own person and didn’t fall into the manic pixie dream girl trap. I didn’t want her character to exist for Daniel’s character. I wanted her to really have her own life. He was a cog in her machine if anything.
PFS: There is that line in there about the manic pixie dream girl, where Blair says to Alex, “Did you just label me?”
EE: Yeah that was improv. We really wanted to destroy that stereotype a bit. And she just kind of threw it in and we all thought it was hilarious so we kept it.
PFS: It seems like more and more films and TV shows don’t feel the need to designate a clear protagonist. Everyone’s allowed to have a push and pull between being sympathetic and obnoxious. Is that something you guys talked about?
EE: Yeah absolutely, because that’s how people are. Not everybody is going to like you, and not everybody is likable to every single person. Everybody has their flaws and makes mistakes. Daniel is super flawed. He comes across as this sweet guy and you’re thinking he’s made a mistake and you want him to get his girl back, but then you realize that he just up and left this girl. And then all of the sudden he wants her to come back to him? That’s really messed up. And you see Alex, and you think, “Wow, she’s kind of rude.” She’s getting in her brother’s business, and she’s mean to Blair. But things move forward you see that maybe she and Blair actually have a rapport, and maybe she’s been hurt too. The only person who really gets a full arc in the story is Anna, who at the end is really the one who solves her problem and leaves. Which was not the way it originally ended. We were going to have them get back together. We had a meeting and we were like, “Nuh-uh. That’s not happening. She’s not going back to him.” It was definitely about making sure that every character was both flawed and really likable.
PFS: Do you guys have any more projects in the works?
EE: Yeah, we have a couple. First off we’re working on developing about them. even further. We’ve dissected the script and really looked at everything we’ve done and thought maybe we can take it further, maybe make it into a series and see what goes from there. We’re also shooting another improv short film in the Philly area, called Sandcastles. It’s going to be fully improvised on a beach between two friends who are discussing their future and where their lives are going to go, what they’re scared about, and how they’re feeling about moving on from their hometown. And we’re working on a couple of other projects. It’s hard to get work, so we’ve sort of just started to make our own. And it’s been really fun to make our own projects, and work with your friends, and create the stuff that you want to make.
about them. will screen on Friday, June 9th at the Prince Theater’s Black Box as part of Philly Film Showcase, an exhibition supporting new work by talented, up-and-coming local filmmakers.