Interview with Claire Harris the writer and producer of brand new Aussie film 'Zelos'



Zelos is an independent Australian dramedy, made with a majority female crew - including writer, director, producers and camera department. Check out the trailer and then what Claire told us about the making and inspiration of the film.

Synopsis

Zelos (from the Greek – meaning ‘zeal’ and ‘passion’ but also ‘jealousy’ and ‘suspicion’).

Bernard is the 35-year-old he always planned to be. He has a successful career, a meticulously neat beachside apartment and a girlfriend, Sarah, whom he adores. But his pristine existence is turned upside down when Sarah confesses an affair.

To salvage the relationship, Sarah insists they equal the playing field: Bernard should sleep with another woman.

A man who would never cheat is asked by the woman he loves to have sex with someone else to save their relationship — a compromise which may ultimately destroy them, as love becomes corroded by jealousy.


1. What made you decide on this storyline?

I started writing this story when I was in a long term relationship - the story never happened to me, but I was interested in the way that infidelity and jealousy can affect a couple over time, even if the relationship isn't directly threatened by an actual affair. We've seen a lot of films that explore this theme, so I thought it would be more layered to switch the traditional gender roles and have the women as the one who has cheated and the man as the more idealistic or romantic one who has to navigate his feelings about the infidelity.

2. How was the casting process conducted? Did you have actors in mind?

When the script was in the final stages, we held a public script reading - with actors performing in front of a live audience. We were really impressed with our cast and some ended up taking supporting roles. For our leads, we weren't able to hold auditions so the director and I trawled through countless showreels, narrowed it down to a few and then asked them to send self-tapes. We found Shannon (Sarah) first and then it just so happened that she'd done a short film with Ben (Bernard) and we thought they looked great together.

3. What were the challenges in creating this film?

So many! The film was shot over a few weeks with a small crew, so everyone had to take on multiple roles. Our resources were limited so we had to find some way to deal with whatever came up - from shooting outdoor scenes under a flight path to not having enough people turn up for our crowd scenes (our Associate Producer came up with a creative solution and sourced last-minute extras from Tinder). But the challenges didn't end with the shoot either - it's been a frustratingly difficult process getting the film from completion through to release, which I think is the case for most indie filmmakers in Australia. It feels like pushing a boulder up a hill....

4. The film is about adultery; what’s the message you want to give?

I had one Christian organisation tell me that the film promotes adultery, which took me by surprise - I'd never thought of the story as being pro-infidelity. I like films that raise questions rather than answer them, not coming down firmly on one side or the other but forcing you to go away and think about the themes. In all our Q&A screenings, there's always been a lengthy discussion after the film about the topics it explores: modern romance, online dating, open relationships, cheating - so my intention is really to get people thinking about these things instead of preaching at them.

5. Tell me about the Lift-Off Film Festival?

Lift-Off is a global film network that hosts festivals around the world, including in the UK, US, Europe and Japan. It receives over 2500 entrants worldwide, so we're very happy to be selected. The festival runs for a week in Sydney with a program of Australian and international shorts and features. The audience gives a score to the film after the screening, and the winners are given further opportunities to pursue their film careers. It's being held at one of my favourite cinemas, the Dendy in Newtown, and it's going to be lots of fun so come along!


6. Why predominantly female crew?

We didn't necessarily set out with the intention of putting together a female crew. Starting with a female director and writer who were also producing, I think the project naturally attracted more women. Jo-Anne (the director) had worked with our cinematographer before, so people were drawing on their networks and bringing along other women with them and it grew from there. We also had some wonderful men working with us, but I think having a majority-female crew created a different dynamic on set and everyone was excited to be a part of that.

7. Why Sydney?

Because it's our hometown and we love it! We always envisioned Zelos as a "postcard to Sydney" that would showcase some of our favourite places - such as Manly Beach, the Harbour Bridge and Balmain waterfront. We made a conscious effort to make it recogniseable as Sydney. I think mainstream Australian cinema has a tendency to overrepresent suburban and regional settings and I've seen a lot of indie films recently that are set and filmed overseas. We wanted to put people like us on screen: young urbanites living in an Australian city speaking in Aussie accents.

What: Sydney Lift-Off Film Festival

Where: Dendy Cinemas, King Street Newtown

When: 5.45pm Wednesday 22 November

How much: $20

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