“Love Sarah” is the debut feature film from director Eliza Schroeder. The film is a sweet little comedy/drama about three women who are brought together by the loss of their mother/daughter and best friend, Sarah. Together they decide to open a baery to honour Sarah’s memory. Editor Bianca Garner caught up with Eliza to discuss the film in further detail, how the strong women in Eliza’s own ife inspired the three main characters and which Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet film inspired her the most. Please find the interview below!
Bianca: Hi Eliza, I just wanted to say how I found “Love Sarah” to be such a pleasant watch! It was a film that I didn’t realise how much I needed with everything going on in the world currently. Could you talk about how the story for “Love Sarah” emerged?
Eliza: It’s always nice to hear positive feedback especially when you set out to make a film for people to enjoy. The film is based on my own original idea. I did a masters in Feature Film at Goldsmiths University in London, and we had to develop one project which is where the idea of “Love Sarah” started to evolve. I spent years making short films and commercials, putting the idea aside but these characters were always with me. I met Rajita Shan, the producer, who is a wonderful partner, and we took on the screenwriter Jake Brunger who really took the idea and transferred it into a great script.
Bianca: What I really love about the film is the relationship between the three main female characters, who are all really well developed. What was the process of developing those characters and do you have a favourite one?
Eliza: I come from a big family (I have five siblings), and I have very different, and very strong women in my life from different generations so I have always been fascinated in exploring the dynamics of these generations and how they interact with each other. I think it’s really interesting to look at how women (no matter their ages) all help to inspire each other, so I really wanted to represent this in the film. In terms of whether I have a favourite character? I guess I like Mimi (Celia Imrie), because she’s so complex. I’ve tried to sprinkle in different aspects and characteristics in these women, and I have always tried to take in the characteristics I love most in other people whether it’s that they’re edgy or difficult and have that be combined with their more softer side. My grandmother in a sense did inspire Mimi too.
“I hope “Love Sarah” touches people in different ways and they can find a little bit of themselves in each of the characters.”
Bianca: How did you manage to balance the serious and more dramatic aspects of the film with the lighter, more comedic elements? Was this a particular challenge for you?
Eliza: When I originally brought the project to Rajita it was more darker in terms of tone, because I’ve always been interested in telling dramatic stories that have deeper layers and touch people that way. Both Jake and Rajita wanted to bring in more comedy, which I think the story definitely needed to create the right balance. I wanted to touch people, but also make them laugh at the same time, and have the comedic moments feel earned in that sense. Throughout the production, I actually lost my own mother, so showing the effects of grief and loss and also showing what good can occur too, was very important to me.
Bianca: The film really handles the struggles and process of grief in such a realistic fashion, with each character dealing with their loss in their own way. Was it your intention to portray the different stages of grief in the three main characters?
Eliza: We did want to ensure that we portrayed how grief affects people in different ways. If I look at my own family and my own siblings, I can see how each one of us is dealing with grief in our own unique way. I think that’s very interesting to explore, especially in terms of how some people grieve in a more internal way, whereas other people like Isabella in the film, deal with it by working all the time. I found that for myself, my life is not the same now that I’ve lost my mother, and I am very respectful of people’s grief. I hope “Love Sarah” touches people in different ways and they can find a little bit of themselves in each of the characters.
“Living in London, which is this amazing diverse city, I wanted to bring that world onto the screen.”
Bianca: Could you talk about the casting process, were there any particular roles that proved difficult to cast?
Eliza: I was fortunate to have a wonderful casting director who brought us a great selection of actors to choose from so it was quite hard! Once we had Celia on board for Mimi, everything seemed to just fall into place. I felt extremely lucky to have Shelley Conn and Shannon Tarbet join the team of strong women. On set all three of them connected instantly. They respected each other and also respected me, and I was nervous being a first time director, and also a female director as well! I was also nervous about whether or not I would be respected because I am also a foreign director. I’ve lived here for fifteen years but English is not my first language. I didn’t really have to worry because they all connected with each other and myself brilliantly. The atmosphere on set was wonderful, it was such a great collaboration.
Bianca: One of the big themes of the film is the idea of people and communities coming together, which is definitely something we all need right now. I love how the bakery and food brought people together, what research went into finding all these unique baked goods from all across the globe?
Eliza: It was such a great experience, because we had such a collective mix of people of all nationalities in front and behind the camera. We had a great food stylist who helped us a lot with our research. My producer went around London too, to track down different recipes and talk to bakers. It was very important to all of us to ensure that theme stood out as well as being as real as possible. Living in London, which is this amazing diverse city, I wanted to bring that world onto the screen. We learned a lot during the process of filming, and I’ve been on my own quest to experience as many different foods from different countries as possible!
Bianca: Watching the film, I just kept wishing I’d been on set! It must have been so much fun to try all that food!
Eliza: I had a crew of about 40 to 50 people and literally people were standing there behind the camera asking when they could finally get to try the food! We kept saying, “Not yet, we still need them for shooting.” Then the moment we were done with the baking and kitchen scenes everybody swooped in! It was all very delicious.
Bianca: Do you have any filmmakers whose work you admire?
Eliza: I love Nancy Meyers, I love the humour in her films. However, for my own films I would want to infuse a little more darkness and reality. One of my favourite films is “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” by Michel Gondry. I think the script by Charlie Kaufman and direction is so strong. It’s such an amazing world that has been created by Kaufman and I find it so inspiring.
“Love Sarah” is out now.