Beth Dewey’s drama, ERASING EDEN, is so spare that you may feel she erased her entire crew and the majority of what was supposed to be the cast in the original script. The story of a woman’s hard (as hell) knock journey to self-actualization on the way to her own wedding via a post-drinking blackout journey through a barren and un-welcome Downtown L.A., is so laser focused on the title character that you get the idea it was Dewey, actress Breeda Wool, and maybe a hapless P.A. instructed to be a Sherpa with craft services skills serving as the entire crew of the film. And it works. Whatever the process was to get there, however the decisions were made by Dewey and her writing partner Justo Diaz to not simply streamline everything but strip it down completely so we would be left with a woman and herself to tell her story and carry the film, ERASING EDEN holds your attention and doesn’t let go.
1 So, Beth…not a fan of weddings?
Ha! During the process of making this film, my marriage began to unravel and the story began to reflect that. Originally this film had a different storyline. After the initial edit, I began to work with writer Justo Diaz and we re-wrote the film in post using techniques I’d learned from editing reality TV. Art really began to imitate life.
2 How much research did you do on blackout drinking as you developed the script?
I did “research” on blackout drinking in my college days where I would wake up places not knowing how I got there. I quit drinking when I turned 31, but that was part of the initial inspiration for the film.
3 Guessing there wasn’t much of a budget for filming permits, describe how you and your crew went about “stealing shots” throughout L.A.?
Back then we were using a Canon 5D Mark III, which looks like a still camera, so people thought we were shooting wedding photography! They would drive by and yell “Congratulations!” My DP Yasu Tanida (“This is Us,” “The Blacklist”) and I were truly excited about the unencumbered freedom of shooting micro budget. It was liberating to roam around with nothing but a bounce board and a DSLR camera. He is so talented he could make an image look amazing by simply using a household clip light.
4 How did you approach the challenge of balancing what you might assume the audience’s desire for things to work out for Eden versus her repeated efforts/decisions to self-sabotage?
Justo and I dubbed that adding “unicorns” to the story. We added as many unicorns as we could, and Justo helped us not to vilify the men in the story. But as a complex character study, Eden’s personal power comes from both her ability to both create and destroy. Sabotage is a form of control she exerts over her life that feels like personal freedom, so for her it’s a win.
5 Watching the film, I thought about how this idea might have been approached by a male director. So, let me ask you, as a female director, what you believed you were able to bring to (literally) the direction of the film and the storytelling that possibly wouldn’t have come from a male?
We often see men in roles that are a complex character study, but not women. Eden is a modern woman who is self-actualized, self aware and self-destructive. I was bent on reinforcing the fact that a man isn’t going to fix her and she knows it. Working with actress Breeda Wool was amazing, particularly in this respect. She has such intellect and insight around feminist themes.
6 How much of a challenge was it to “get it right” when it came to the bruises and cuts on Eden’s face throughout the film (bearing in mind that we spend a day with her and she receives medical help at a certain point, etc.)?
We shot the film over the course of a year, so getting it right was challenging. We shot Eden waking up beaten in the desert first, with our Key Make Up Artist, Molly Tissavary. She did all those cuts and bruises in literally fifteen minutes in the back of my car! Her work set the blue print and we were later blessed with Make Up Artist, Sweet Pea, who stepped in when Molly wasn’t available. It was a challenge, but both those technicians are rock stars.
7 As a female director doing a micro-budgeted film, what are some challenges that people might assume you would have that, in fact, don’t exist?
On a project like this, there are no cash and prizes. No one was clocking in just to get a paycheck. I doubt there was any gender bashing because we were too busy making a movie.
8 Would you see it as particularly tragic were someone to down an entire bottle of nice scotch in that manner?
Yes. It is suicidal drinking.
9 Your main character is (let’s just say) a woman of few words on camera. Can you describe how that helped you (and Breeda Wool) create the character of ‘Eden’, as well as how it made it particularly more difficult for you?
Without dialogue, we become acutely aware of Eden’s behaviors and reactions. In preparing, we spent a long time talking – literally for hours. Breeda asks a lot of questions, which is my favorite way to prep.
During shooting, we had to keep asking ourselves—would Eden really do that. Like the masturbation scene – it wasn’t in the script but it made sense to us as something the character would do in that moment.
The bigger challenge came in post. In order really get the story track, we added Eden’s messages to herself so we can get inside her head. And it felt good to hear her voice.
10 Popcorn or Candy?
Most definitely popcorn. Hate the sweet stuff.
ERASING EDEN is available on multiple VOD platforms, including Amazon Prime.