katrinaolson.ca - KO Review of Echo Lake & Interview with Director (CIFF 2015)

Posted on Saturday, September 26, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Movie: Echo Lake

KO Review of Echo Lake & Interview with Director (CIFF 2015)

Review by Katrina Olson-Mottahed x CalgaryMovies.com

Echo Lake is a minimalist drama about Will played by Sam Zvibleman, a 30- year old, functioning alcoholic, struggling with adulthood. When his estranged father dies, Will inherits the family cabin in the remote Sierra Mountains, and then promptly gets kicked out of his girlfriend’s apartment. He heads up into the Northern California woods in need of a place to crash and intending to sell the cabin, but upon arrival, realizes that’s easier said than done. With the help of an unwanted dog, a nosy neighbor and a possible new romance, Will is forced to reexamine the stories he’s told himself about his family and childhood, and decide if he wants to head back to Los Angeles and fix his sabotaged relationships. Echo Lake is a story about the things we inherit, whether we want to or not.

Will Baxter…. Ugh, he just seems like the worst kind of boyfriend you could ever have, and also the one that would play the victim after he gets dumped for legit reasons. I struggled the entire film to find something likeable about this main character. From his constant swearing, to farting to his lack of regard for all living things except himself just made me dislike him so strongly. Will is a emotionally broken alcoholic and was abused by his alcoholic father as he tells us throughout the film.

The problem was his girlfriend Erin (played by Christine Weatherup) was not likeable either and the audience learns nothing about her other than she likes cupcakes and the film Princess Bride. I get this is an indie film, but there has to be at least one protagonist the audience can empathize or relate to with in order to stay connected to the film. For me it was Otis (the dog), but his role was too short.

The neighbour Roger played by Don Yanan, and brother sister duo Luke and Christie (played by Chris Mollica and Jillian Leigh) were all solid characters, but Will’s character just seemed to be under developed. The flash backs to his shitty relationship told us a bit about him, but I wish they had been flashbacks to his childhood to the trauma he suffered in order to feel sorry for him. Otherwise how can you trust a self centred alcoholic? I felt he may have been that he was telling his girlfriend these lies to avoid her meeting his father.

As far as an indie films go, Echo Lake has a rough charm. It is the kind of film I would expect to see at a mainstream film festival. The establishing shots are gorgeous and picturesque, but the edits are a bit abrupt. The soundtrack goes with Will’s character. Catchy indie songs by cool bands. One specific song during wills break-up by Why? called Yo Yo Bye Bye, I couldn’t get out of my head and kept playing over and over in my brain when I couldn’t sleep at night.

Echo Lake isn’t what I expected, which I liked, but after the film ended I was like “meh…” like I gave up on Will. Its like, everyone has issues (some more disruptive than others) and even though the film insinuates there is a resolution in Will’s life that changes the course towards the end, and the way his character was written, I highly doubt it.

Echo Lake is screening in the New American section of the Calgary International Film Festival on Monday, September 28, 2015 at 7:00 PM and Saturday, October 3, 2015 at 1:00 PM at the Globe Cinema.

Calgary Local Scene Event Listing: Calgary International Film Festival 2015 >
CalgaryMovies.com's CIFF 2015 Coverage >

Interview with Director Jody McVeigh-Schultz

Writer & Director Jody McVeigh-Schultz had time to answer a few of my questions about his film while he was in Calgary for the Calgary International Film Festival 2015. 

KO: Did you and the actor who plays Will Baxtor (Sam Zvibleman) go to school at USC together?

JM: Yes Sam and I met at USC film school. He’s actually a non-actor (a writer/director himself) but I thought his performance was amazing. In some ways having experience on the other side of the camera and knowing how subtle he could keep it worked to our advantage.

KO: You wrote such an unlikeable role for your friend to play!?! How was that?

JM: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been given the note to make Will more likable. That said, I hope that people see the humanity in Will, a character who needs more than anything to be able to grieve (for his father, but even more for his lost childhood, his lost sense of family). And yet, grieving is something Will has no idea how to do. He doesn’t even know how to tell the woman he loves that his father is dead. He’s that terrified of dealing with the baggage. He’s buried it that deep. I hope audiences will come to empathize and root for him, because that experience of not knowing how to grieve is a universal one.

KO: Where did you film Echo Lake?

JM: We really tried to build a film around locations that already existed and came ready-made with all this character– like the cinder cone area and the cabin. The story was really born from knowing that area in Lassen National Park and having so much nostalgic attachment to it. I knew I could make a movie that involved that landscape under a tight budget and let those epic views and lava formations provide a form of production value we wouldn’t otherwise have had. The concept of the inheritance and the estranged father really just came out of wanting Will’s experience to be one of coming back to a place full of childhood memories unwillingly. To have him resist the beauty of the place at first because of all the baggage it carried, to create a sense of internal conflict.

KO: What do you hope people take away from this film?

JM: I’m not sure there’s a particular message I’m trying to have people take away. Mostly I tried to provide viewers with what I myself look for in a film which is an experience of realism and empathy, perhaps for someone who’s not inherently empathetic. That said I’m interested in exploring the relative temporary-ness of human things (especially in comparison to the earth itself) and the ways in which we create narratives about our pasts in order to justify current behaviours even when those narratives don’t hold up. Hopefully, some if that stuff comes through in the film.

KO: How long did it take you to make this film (pre & post production?)

JM: I worked a day job as a tv editor on Duck Dynasty and then Drunk History. The entire time I was cutting this film so, while production only took 21 days, post took forever. Lesson learned: hire an editor, other than yourself lol. That said I want to work in feature films so it was important to me to build on my feature editing experience.

All images courtesy of Circus Road Films


NOTE: The showtimes listed on CalgaryMovies.com come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to CalgaryMovies.com.