Celebrating the enduring universal nature of love across the ages, Canadian Writer/Director Shervin Kermani’s temporally fluid short Eros, depicts the intimate moments shared by lovers over the course of a thousand years in a single spot. You can watch Eros below, after which Shervin recounts how what began as a simple single location shoot ballooned into his most ambitious project to date, uniting a cast of collaborators eager to pull off the seemingly impossible.
The initial concept for Eros came after Alona Metzer, my good friend and producer, asked me to come up with a simple idea we could shoot in one location over a weekend. As I was thinking about what this film could be, an image came to me of floating through a single location over centuries and discovering the generations of lovers that walked that one spot over time. Naturally, Alona wasn’t very impressed by my ability to follow instructions.
At the time, I had recently gone through a difficult breakup and I was heartened by the idea that love was much larger than my own (or any) particular love story – that it happened in every circumstance, cyclically, forever. By analogy, love is like a forest, and while individual plants (or relationships) wither and die, the forest is continually in bloom. I wanted to make a film that captured that bigger picture.
I was heartened by the idea that love was much larger than my own (or any) particular love story.
There was a lot of experimentation with the couples and time periods in the writing process. I wrote 18 drafts of this script (more than anything else I’ve written), some with as many as a dozen time periods and filled with dialogue and independent storylines. I eventually whittled it down to the essential elements I wanted to convey and what it was that excited me about the idea (getting lost in individual storylines and dialogue, for instance, started to distract from the essence of the film).
The bookends of our story’s timeline (a present day couple and a pre-colonial indigenous couple) were always a part of the story, but I considered many alternative options for the three ‘middle’ time periods in the film. Ultimately, I settled on 1850, 1920, and 1972 because they were sufficiently distinct from one another while being visually rich and interesting time periods to represent in a non-verbal film. With the interplay of lovers, we tried to include diversity in ethnicity and sexual orientation, though this proved to be challenging as some eras’ historical prejudices became subplots that diverted the overall flow of the piece. These decisions were not made as political statements. They are there because they are real.
We wrote a lot of grant applications. All except one were rejected – most funding institutions probably realized it was a crazy idea. It was the Ontario Arts Council who awarded us a grant for $10,000. While we were thrilled, it wasn’t nearly enough to make the film in hard costs alone but after running out of all other funding options, we faced the difficult decision to either give the money back or to make the film anyway. We chose the latter and got to work.
Once we fully committed to the project, people came forward from all directions to help us. Our location was an empty warehouse that was generously provided by Ayz Waraich, who was very supportive in getting the film off the ground. Early on, I had settled on establishing the film’s five different time periods in a single continuous long take. The long take seemed like the best way to create the continuity of location, and to capture the dreamlike surrealism of traveling through different eras. The warehouse was a great fit and we started building all the sets there in May of 2016, and finally started shooting on July 8, 2016.
During those two months, we were at the warehouse every week building the sets from scratch alongside dozens of volunteers, who generously gave their time, effort, and skill in order to bring this film to life. It moved me deeply to see how hard they worked and how much they believed in the project. As momentum started building, our tiny movie with no resources suddenly had a huge array of them (including equipment, set dec, location support, and building materials) provided from people and companies who similarly believed in our team and wanted to help. I have to thank Alona and Production Manager Tricia McLeod for securing much of that support.
Balancing the distinctness of each time period while maintaining the film’s cohesion was tricky.
Even though we worked tirelessly for months to build the sets, the paint was still drying when we started rolling – there was just so much to build. By the time we had finished the sets on the shoot day, we were chasing daylight and had less than 45 minutes to pull off an extremely difficult shot. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Cinematographer Kristofer Bonnell and his amazing team for pulling it off under the extraordinary time pressure. I cried when we finally got the shot.
The film was shot on Kris’ Red Epic Dragon, with a 50mm Kowa Anamorphic lens and diopters. I had never shot anamorphic before, but I was very passionate about using the format for this project, as it added the necessary breadth to tell a story of this scope. Pickups were shot with Nick Haight, another accomplished cinematographer, who leant a complementary spherical aesthetic to the closing shots of the rock.
Post-production on the film took longer than anticipated. Balancing the distinctness of each time period while maintaining the film’s cohesion was tricky, especially since we could not find any references to draw on. Our Editor Lauren Piché and I worked very hard on intercutting the six different couples in a way that felt fluid, balanced, and simultaneously built towards a climax.
The montage at the end of the piece involved a lot of improvisation from the actors. Some things I knew I wanted (running, for instance), but a lot that ended up in the montage were spontaneous moments that emerged unexpectedly as we shot. During the editing process, we started to find patterns in the actors’ spontaneity and let that inform the flow of the images. This was a time-consuming process, but my hope was that this would underline the ways in which each couple was both unique and similar.
Of all the elements, the music was the most challenging. Finding a score that balanced the film’s emotional and historical shifts took a lot of experimentation and I’m very proud of the work Composer Spencer Creaghan and his team contributed to the piece. There are so many people to thank, and this film exists because of everyone involved who came together to make something many people said would be impossible.
Eros is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.