Daryl Wein spoke with Solzy at the Movies recently about the new film, How It Ends, co-written/directed with Zoe Lister-Jones.
The film was shot on location in Los Angeles during the pandemic and features a star-studded cast. While it was produced during the pandemic, it is not about the pandemic. Instead, it is about the last day on Earth.
In addition to Lister-Jones, the film stars Cailee Spaeny, Whitney Cummings, Tawny Newsome, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Logan Marshall Green, Bobby Lee, Fred Armisen, Glenn Howerton, Bradley Whitford, Ayo Edebiri, Sharon Van Etten, Olivia Wilde, Paul W. Downs, Raymond Cham Jr., Lamorne Morris, Angelique Cabral, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer, Helen Hunt, Colin Hanks, Charlie Day, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, and Pauly Shore.
American International Pictures will release How It Ends in select theaters and Premium VOD on July 20, 2021.
What was the genesis for the project?
Daryl Wein: The genesis for the project was we were a few months into lockdown and feeling pretty depressed about it and sad and worried about the state of the world and humanity. We were trying to figure out as artists what to do and if we could create at all under those circumstances. We were doing a lot of inner child work and work on ourselves in therapy and trying to not feel so depressed and we were also bored by being stuck inside every day.
Zoe and I started coming up with this concept of what if we made something that captured a surreal moment in time in the empty streets of LA but also have it reflect kind of what we felt like we were going through and go on this kind of existential journey of the soul that was reflective of what we were going through during pandemic, which is really pausing and having to deal with yourself and things coming up that are unexpected. And have it be on the last day on Earth, which is what every day felt like. It felt like this apocalyptic landscape. We just started creating from there and writing and then it just blossomed into this kind of anti-apocalyptic narrative that we want it to be funny and also heartfelt the same time.
How cathartic was it to write the screenplay and explore some of the issues you were feeling during the early part of the pandemic?
Daryl Wein: It was really great to work on something during that time where so much time is spent inside. It was helpful to work together through those feelings in the in the form of the screenplay. When I say great, I just mean, I think for Zoe and I, writing, conceiving, and working on ideas is how we process emotion and what we’re going through. It’s like a journal for us in many ways so that’s kind of how we look at it and how this kind of started.
Could this film have happened without the pandemic?
Daryl Wein: We would have made something but this film was very uniquely designed and created for the pandemic. It’s not about the pandemic but it wouldn’t have happened like this otherwise. We were like, Okay, we can’t shoot inside so maybe we can create a narrative that takes place mostly outside and have it be a walkabout. Nobody walks in LA so that was fun to us to capture the city with emptiness, which you never see either. That was all really appealing to us and all these amazing actors that we knew were sitting around with nothing to do.
When you’re working with a cast of this nature on a limited budget, how much room is there to improvise?
Daryl Wein: Lots of room to improvise because we had half of it scripted. The other half, we had a structured outline with room to improvise around. We had story beats that we knew we wanted to hit but then we let the actors kind of riff in between the lines.
Pandemic aside, what was the most challenging part of the production?
Daryl Wein: I would say emotionally and physically trying to pull it off with such limited resources and help. It’s so difficult to make a movie—there’s just so many factors involved. That was very tough and then the all the health protocols made it just extra challenging and scary. We did it safely and outside, like I said, six feet apart and all that stuff. Those were really the biggest difficulties.
Was it weird not to see any traffic?
Daryl Wein: It was weird. We have never seen LA that empty. We emphasized it and enhanced that by really picking angles, streets, and places where there were very few cars and people.
What was the biggest challenge that came with doing post-production during a pandemic?
Daryl Wein: I had a couple editors helping me so we were spread out remotely. We didn’t get to be kind of in the same room together. Again, just not having a post-production supervisor or production facility to work out of—we were all working from home so that that creates its own set of challenges.
Was there someone that you all wanted in the cast but couldn’t get because of the pandemic?
Daryl Wein: There are some people that weren’t ready. But luckily, 95% of the cast that you see were so excited to dip their toe back in. It was everyone’s first time getting back out there. It was a mixture of feelings and really beautiful to capture that energy.
This past year has been very unique as far as film festivals go. What did you make of the reception on the film festival circuit?
Daryl Wein: It was great. We premiered at Sundance and it was tough to not see it on the big screen. But it was virtual and that was interesting. They did a great job pulling that off and so did South by Southwest. Tribeca was outside and we went to that and did it on the big screen and that was really fun. Festivals are so amazing when it comes to showing your work and getting people to talk about it and know about it. It was great to see people’s reactions and show it.
What do you hope people take away from viewing the film?
Daryl Wein: Hopefully, they’ll look into themselves and figure out what they need for their inner children—the little people inside of them that might be crying out or craving something more. Maybe this will be a catalyst for them to think about those types of issues in their lives. We also just want people to have a release and laugh and have fun coming out of this last year, which is why we lean so heavily into the comedy.
I’d say over here, I’ve been watching more comedies than anything else.
Daryl Wein: Yeah, exactly. It’s been pretty bleak so anything funny is a ray of light.