Up Close &
With Mark Webber
Webber is a talented, sensitive young filmmaker whose latest film,
"The End of Love," which he wrote, directed, and starred
in, is a semi-biographical, beautifully crafted story about the struggles
of a widower father, played by Webber, tending to the every day
needs of his two-year-old son Isaac, played by Webber's
amazing real life son Isaac Love whose performance could stand
as an acting lesson on spontaneity and moment-to-moment reality. Shot
in the Cinema Verité style of filmmaking, we witness, in
exquisite up-close detail, the every day challenges the dad, a struggling
actor, is facing, ranging from trying to get a handle on the profound
loss of his wife, to financial difficulties, to just plain physical exhaustion.
One very poignant scene is Webber auditioning for a role while
Isaac is romping around the room. Although there was a scripted
outline, much of the action was improvised by everyone, including supporting
roles by Shannyn Sossamon, Jason Ritter, Amanda Seyfred, and Michael
Cera, all of who played themselves.
Webber recently sat down with your reporter
for an exclusive interview and the following has been edited for content
and continuity for print purposes.
Cohn: When did you begin the writing process?
Mark: I was a new dad when I started the writing process.
I had just become a father and my days were spent with this little boy,
my son and I became fascinated with the idea of making a movie with
the most realistic father/son portrayal because that was my reality;
being a dad.
Two-and-a-half-year-old Isaac Love stars in "The
End of Love," with his writer, director, actor father, Mark Webber.
Cohn: How old was Isaac when you started shooting?
Mark: He was two. Just before two-and-a-half.
Cohn: How long was the shoot and did you shoot
as he got older?
Mark: He was two-and-half throughout, but we spread
it out over about two and half months because our shooting days with
Isaac would be a half hour and that was it. So our days were
short and it was all built around him, his moods, and his rhythm. I
didn't have a crew and we made it for such a small budget, so I was
able to extend it over a lot of time to protect him and also to be able
to get the performances I needed.
Mark Webber on Isaac's performance: "Isaac,
ironically, is the best actor in the film because as an actor youre
always trying to be present and be in the moment and seem truthful and
authentic." Courtesy Photo
Cohn: How did you get that extraordinary performance
out of him?
Mark: Basically, my DP (Director of Photography)
Patrice (Cochet), is a dad as well and he had spent time
with me and my son before and in the whole rehearsal period, it was
basically Patrice coming over for a few weeks and making videos
of us. He would just sit off to the side and film us and Isaac
was aware of the IPhone that could record things and take pictures
and eventually it got to the point where Patrice didn't really
exist which is what I wanted to have happen, almost like you have this
documentary similar to Cinema Verité style and that's
what happened. It got to the point, where the whole process was second
nature to Isaac that Patrice was always filming us.
Cohn: Did you get Isaac to memorize lines or was
it mostly improvised?
Mark: Every moment between Isaac and me was entirely
improvised and predominantly with all the other actors as well, but
it was highly structured improv the idea being that you can only really
improv effectively when you are very prepared. So, I created this character
and lived in character essentially around him and created this story
and the set ups so the stakes were there and the emotional tension was
there. No matter what Isaac and me did, it would be right and would
serve the story. It was really just to capture the innocence and essence
of a real child at that age. Usually in films you see kids like the
wise old kid who solves all the problems or the bratty kid and it's
not a realistic portrayal.
You were going through a personal break-up. Were
you depressed at that time and did you feel doing this film was a way
out of the depression?
Mark: For me writing and filmmaking is a therapeutic
process. It reflects themes that I'm going through at a time in my life
and yes, I was going through a break up. I think, as most people are,
I'm fascinated with love, relationships, and my daily life so I'm very
inclined to make films about those things. They say write about what
you know and this was definitely writing about what I knew and it's
a very therapeutic process. It's really interesting for me as a filmmaker
to go back and look at the films I've made and see where I was at that
point in my life and also where my ideals were and the beliefs that
I had and look at the ways I've grown and evolved and apply that to
the next thing. So, yes, my son's mom and me had recently split and
it became a catalyst for me exploring these themes that I'm fascinated
with like grief and loss and carrying on, and parenting.
Marriage is difficult under the best of circumstances
and perhaps in Hollywood even more so. Is there something you learned
from making this film that you can take with you to the next relationship?
Mark: Yes for sure. Being present. I think that's the
thing everyone struggles with in life. It's like your either thinking
about the past or focused on the future and you're daily life, moment
to moment, is suffering in some way because you're always there or you're
always here. Being a good parent is really about being as present as
you can at all times because children are. Isaac, ironically,
is the best actor in the film because as an actor you're always trying
to be present and be in the moment and seem truthful and authentic.
"It got to the point, where the whole process
was second nature to Isaac that Patrice (DP) was always filming us."
Mark: Children are literally going from one moment to
the next completely enveloped in what is happening. It's interesting
to see that the older you get how you lose that and how desires and
grasping for things start to come in. You start to want that thing that's
over there as opposed to enjoying what's happening with you right now.
So, this movie was a way to realize it's all about being present and
the more present I can be in my life and be right there with whoever
I am with, including my son, the happier I'm going to be.
Do you have joint custody?
Mark: Yes. In reality the relationship between my son's
mom and me is amazing. We're best friends. It wasn't this nasty, tumultuous
thing. It was kind of like we knew we weren't meant for each other and
probably never really were. We tried to make it work for the sake of
our child and now as two adults who love our child and want to be great
parents, let's make this work. It's completely 50-50 and she's still
very much a part of my life. As we tell Isaac, many families
look different. Some families have two dads. Some families have two
moms. Some families live with their dad and their mom. It's really all
he's ever known. As a child of a divorce as well, when it happens later
on in life, it's a little harder as a parent to deal with that because
for me, I certainly took it on and put it on myself and thought I was
responsible somehow whereas with Isaac, all he's ever known is dad's
house and mom's house.
Did something surprise you during the shoot?
Mark: Yeah. I anticipated on some level how hard this
was going to be, but I was really surprised at just how hard it was
to make this film. In a typical film you have a crew and your producers
and people setting it up and you literally have sets. I was manipulating
and taking real life environments and making them my set. We never slated.
I would have to get people set and start living life over here and make
sure they're filming and also be a dad at the same time. It was really
taxing. I was also surprised to see how much of a challenge it was working
with the other actors in this way because Isaac really became
the high standard to live up to and it was quite an adjustment to make
sure that we all maintained that same level of authenticity.
As Isaac's dad, how did you protect him from the
dark place your character was in?
Mark: What I didn't anticipate was that I was so conscious
of making sure that he didn't feel like we were doing some big thing;
that he wasn't working, but that we were just living our lives. Although
it is nuanced and subtle, I was living in a darker place around my child.
Although they were for brief, little short bursts of time, there were
enough to make a little impact on him and that was difficult so I was
really hyperconscious of overcompensating with playing and going out
and having fun and being my normal self again. We only worked in short
bursts, but then as a product of that, he started to pick up on dad's
kind of playing a game here and although he's two-and-a-half, and we
never had a conversation about acting, and that he was acting, he started
acting towards the end of the film. Also there's this one thing I would
do a lot of the times. I would tell Patrice that I need a minute
to kind of get focused again and literally the last couple of days,
Isaac was doing something and looked up and said 'I need a minute.'
Does he have an agent yet?
Mark: No. He was a non-voluntary participant in this
thing. He wasn't like 'dad, I want to be an actor.' People love him
in this film and I've sheltered him from that because he's just being
himself. It would be the wrong route for him to want to be an actor
because he's getting all this praise. I want him to want to be an actor
because that's what he wants; not because people give him attention
and love for it. So, no agent yet.
Mark: " As soon as I figured out that
Superman wasnt real - that it was this guy Christopher Reeves
playing Superman that seemed amazing to me." Courtesy
Was there a pivotal moment in your life when you
knew you wanted to be an actor?
Mark: As soon as I figured out that Superman
wasn't real - that it was this guy Christopher Reeves playing
Superman that seemed amazing to me and was the thing I wanted
to do. I had kind of a harsh upbringing and the idea of being a movie
star seemed so enchanting. It was like that must be the most amazing
What was harsh about your childhood?
Mark: I was born in Minneapolis but grew up in
Philadelphia. I was homeless for two years with my mom from ten
to twelve, living in abandoned buildings, like total, full on, crazy
poverty. I grew up in extreme poverty. My mom had me when she was sixteen
and we lived in a car for the first year of my life. I went through
a lot of adversity and struggle in my life so the idea of being an actor
and all that comes with it, seemed like the best possible thing. Also,
on a daily basis, I was a natural performer in a way. I guess it was
escapism. I was always imagining different things and creating characters
in my head and things like that so it's like the world I became accustomed
Did your character in the film parallel your own
"Ive become really
fascinated with realism and how to keep stretching and pushing
that boundary for me as a filmmaker." Courtesy
Mark: Basically, for me, I was in a way at the end of
my love, the love of my life so it has many different meanings. This
man is very much in the end of his love
the love of his life is
gone and the film is about how I have to come to ends to have a new
beginning. Life is a cycle of ends and starts.
What do you think the audience will take home?
Mark: I'd like them to have an emotional reaction and
to identify. The cool thing is that I've had a lot of single dads, which
you know in the grand scheme of things, there isn't a tendency to focus
on single fathers; it's usually single moms and it's been really beautiful
for me having guys say hey, thanks for making a movie that really shows
what parenting is and I want people to feel invigorated and that they're
watching something different and new. As for me, using this relationship
with my son, I've become really fascinated with realism and how to keep
stretching and pushing that boundary for me as a filmmaker.
You certainly have made a beautiful, poignant
film and I wish you much luck in your personal and professional life.
Mark: Thank you.