this hollywood couple broke up irl and made a film about it
Eugene Kotlyarenko and Kate Lyn Sheil are an awkward L.A. former couple who star in A Wonderful Cloud, a film about an awkward L.A. former couple.
What do you do after a break-up? How can you stay friends? In the case of writer-director Eugene Kotlyarenko and actress Kate Lyn Sheil (of House of Cards and The Heart Machine) they chose to make an improv rom-com movie about spending a weird 4th of July weekend together in Los Angeles after having ended things. It's called A Wonderful Cloud and they play more-or-less themselves. Using short clips filmed on their phones when they were actually a couple, their story mixes together the real and the invented in a way that's amusing and also rather tragic.
Filmed in just over a week on location at taco stands, seedy club nights, and pretentious pool parties, the movie paints a portrait of what L.A. is like now for its alt-fashion-and-art crowd, with many faces from that scene making cameos in the movie (artists Rachel Lord, Niko Karamyan and Tierney Finster, director Lotfy Nathan, photographers Zach Shipko and Luke Gilford, fashion designer Barf Queen). Lauren Avery has a show-stopping appearance as Lauren, a self-involved poet trying to get over a messy break-up with a juice cleanse. Eugene, 29, tells us what it's like making an indie movie about a break-up with an ex-girlfriend.
How autobiographical is this tale?
I would say all movies are at least partly autobiographical, right? You know, we shot in my apartment and that stands as my apartment. I use my name, Kate, who is the lead in the film, uses her name. Did we really have a company together? No. But are we still friends after having had gone out? Yes. Other people are completely fabricated. We really did go out, so you do have the sense of ambiguity. What is real, what is false? How much of their relationship are they playing out in front of the camera? How much of the interaction with the other characters is real?
Why did you cast accomplished actors alongside friends that don't really act?
I love tone mixing. That's really important to me, and I think films should do a lot more of that. Kate is really serious and her acting style is about realism, and she brings a lot of emotion; and then you have these over the top, scene-stealing, hammy caricatures of types, and they give it life and joie de vivre with their silliness. To mix those two worlds I thought would just be fun for me. Not only in the film, but as the director.
How did you choose them?
There are just some people in this world that I'm lucky enough to know, who I think are born stars, born performers - whether that's how they function socially or that's just something I see in them. I start thinking, 'Well, this person would be great as my girlfriend, or this person would be great as the desperate station manager.' They're funny, and weird, and interesting, and have a lot more character than a lot of the people who are sanctioned by the Hollywood system. Hollywood used to be about stars, about faces and voices and all these different qualities, and that's what I'm interested in still.
Was it hard to convince Kate to make a film about your relationship?
I'll say it was her idea, kind of. She was visiting L.A. and we were hanging out. She said, 'How's it going?' and I said, 'Pretty bad, I'm writing this script and it's taking a really long time. It's very frustrating.' She was like, 'Why don't you just make an improv movie?' and I was like, 'That shit is boring!' But then we started to talk. She loves cinema, and we talked about how there were a lot of improv films historically that we liked, and what's stopping us from making a really good one?
How was it emotionally, re-treading those old grounds?
I wonder what Kate would say? I think we were both down to play at it, and if in playing at it you can invoke real feelings that's all the more valuable for the movie. And whether I experienced that while I was acting? Yeah I did. Did I understand that I was invoking things for the sake of the movie? Yeah. Was it painful, when shooting was over that day did I have a million thoughts racing through my mind that were emotional? I'm getting emotional now.
I don't know if Kate felt anything but if she did, I think she also knew that if she was going through shit it was for the movie, so it was okay. If we exploited our emotions for a moment, we knew it would be captured by the camera and that would connect with people. For the 4th of July fireworks scene where we were fighting, we had the argument in a public place and this couple walked by and asked, 'You guys okay?'because they didn't see the camera, it was far away. I was like, 'Yeah, we're just making a movie,' 'Oh my God that sounded so real. You guys were really going at it,' they said. The wife was like, 'We have fights like that all the time,' and I was like, 'Yeah but you guys love each other right?' They said, 'Yeah we love each other, but we don't get paid like you do to have all them fights.' I think it felt real at least.
A Wonderful Cloud opens October 23 at Laemmle's Playhouse in Pasadena, and also becomes available on iTunes then.
Text Dean Kissick