Love Sarah director Eliza Schroeder talks about her experiences as a new filmmaker and the influences behind the film.
Love Sarah is a film that follows the story of the title character’s bereaved daughter, Clarissa. Mourning the loss of her mother, she decides to open the bakery that Sarah always dreamed of owning. In her endeavour, she is joined by friends and family who come together in their shared grief.
For Schroeder, the portrayal of grief and loss was a very important aspect of the film she wanted to make. During development, she sadly lost her own mother, who the film is dedicated to. “It became very important for me to deal with grief in an emotional way, but at the same time also to give people hope,” she said. Hope for the characters in the film comes from the bonds that they form with each other, especially the relationship between Clarissa and her estranged grandmother Mimi, played by Celia Imrie.
These newfound relationships were not only created from a shared sense of loss, but also form the basis of the characters starting to deal with it. “When you turn your life upside down, or you let someone else into your life, you can start dealing with grief and you can live with it after a while,” Schroeder said of the film’s message.
She says she wanted the film to have a hopeful outlook on grief that emphasises the need to think about the positive impacts our lost loved ones had on us, and to carry forward the lessons we learnt from them.
Set in Notting Hill, the film celebrates the vast multiculturalism of London. The characters cater for people from countries the world over, making treats that would not usually be available in the UK.
“I’ve lived here in London for 15 years, coming from Germany. Berlin is very multicultural, but I think nothing can beat London. It’s such a hub of multiculturalism and I really, really love that about the city,” Schroeder said.
Although the film is in no way political, in a post-Brexit-referendum Britain it’s hard not to see this celebration of cultures coming together as a political statement. In the film, one of the characters alludes to Brexit by mentioning the government ‘kicking out’ people from different countries. “We were debating that line quite a bit because the producer was always wary of making too much of a political statement out of it, but for me it was quite important,” Schroeder said.
“London is such a diverse city, and why on Earth would you take that away from the city? Who would ever come up with Brexit? That’s my approach because I’m coming from abroad but I call this my home.”
Schroeder set up her own production company, Rainstar Productions, in 2008, having found her way into the film industry through her academic studies. “I did a masters in literature and cultural studies in Berlin, and then I came to London to do a masters in feature film,” she said of her journey towards directing.
“From there, with a friend of mine, we just said ‘we need to make short films and we need to get experience, why don’t we just create our own company?’”
She soon learned directing on the job, through making short films and commercials. When it came to making Love Sarah, the project was inevitably difficult to get off the ground.
“It was always quite ambitious for a first-time director because it had so many characters, but the story was in my head over a long period of time. I always thought it was quite a big commitment to make such a film so I decided to park it for a while.”
After gaining more experience, she met the producer of Love Sarah, Rajita Shah, who said that the script was touching but ‘too dark’. She suggested that another writer be brought in to work on it.
“She brought Jake [Brunger] on board and he was just brilliant. He accepted for me to be by his side and to keep the characters that I had in mind, and it transformed the script to what it is today.” The characters running a bakery was one of the changes that was made to the story in order to ‘lighten it up’. “I love cakes. For me, it was immediately the best idea ever!”
As a female filmmaker, Schroeder feels that women still face more obstacles when making films, but is hopeful that the situation is improving. “I think things are getting better, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. As a woman, to achieve the situation where you get respect on set is still quite rare, but I think we’re getting there,”
She said that her experience on the set of Love Sarah was extremely positive, especially working with Celia Imrie. “She was very respectful of my position [as a first-time director] and at the same time I could learn a lot from her.”
As for what’s next, Schroeder says “I’ve always wanted to direct a thriller. I guess as a director you want to show that you can do something different!” And that’s just what she’s going to do…
Love Sarah is out now on DVD and on demand.
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