Talking ‘Giving Birth To A Butterfly’ With Theodore Schaefer And Patrick Lawler

As Diana (Annie Parisse) finds out the hard way in Theodore Schaefer‘s Giving Birth to a Butterfly, internet scams are the worst. If there’s a will (and a car), though, Diana might stand a chance of getting her money back — a chance worth asking her son’s girlfriend, Marlene (Gus Birney), to drive.

Trying to put the beauty of Schaefer’s dreamlike and theatrical film into words is a tough trick to pull-off, but hopefully this interview with Schaefer and co-writer Patrick Lawler helps get across what makes this film such a masterpiece:

Photo Credit: Cinedigm

Rachel Bellwoar: Twins have long been a subject of fascination in the movies. What made you want to explore that subject here?

Theodore Schaefer and Patrick Lawler: For us this is a film less about twins and more about the twin selves. We had this image, Frida Kahlo’s Two Fridas, in our heads as we wrote, which we replicate in the final shot as it is indicative both of the conflict that Diana has and how she resolves it. The film deals with that duality within all of us, so the manifestation of the Ninas is more a reflection of that than it is an exploration of actual twins.

RB: As a couple, Diana and Daryl couldn’t be less on the same page, yet while many films would try to counterbalance that, by providing some sense of why they ended up together in the first place, Giving Birth to A Butterfly doesn’t do that. Did you ever feel any pressure to try and soften these characters or show a happier time in their marriage?

TS and PL: No. We wanted them to be real. Their backstory has been Daryl’s story: the dreams, the naming of the kids, the controlling of the vehicle — but this is Diana’s story. Her transformation, her metamorphosis.  Diana must discover her voice, independent of Daryl’s.

RB: Anyone Diana would’ve gone on this road trip with would’ve made for a fascinating pairing, but in the end, she winds up asking her son’s girlfriend, Marlene. Did you always know Marlene would be the character she’d go on this journey with, or were there other options considered?

TS and PL: Marlene had to be the choice, and it’s all related to the themes of the twin selves. She represents a younger version of Diana.  They both had to evolve and grow.

Photo Credit: Cinedigm

RB: Who was the hardest character to write for, and do you have a favorite scene from the film?

TS and PL:  I don’t think there is a character that was harder to write for than the others. The way we write is we sort of create a synaptic character, they’re all intimately connected. The second you have Diana you create Daryl, which in turn creates Drew and Danielle because of how they all interrelate and shape one another. As we build Diana they all became apparent.

Picking a favorite scene is really impossible for either of us.  It’s like picking a favorite child. Though we will say some highlights that we really enjoy are: Marlene’s monologue and the incredible cameo of the man spilling grapefruit (it’s Patrick), Diana’s deer monologue, and Monica’s final performance. We’re writers so we like the scenes with words, and as a filmmaker Ted likes the scenes that can elevate words with the visuals.

RB: Pet stores aren’t always associated with beauty yet the one in this film definitely is. Did you always know you wanted to use that location or did Drew’s job come about because that location was available?

TS and PL: Yes, Drew always worked at a pet store. If you put an interesting character in an interesting setting you have something magical. Visually we always were attracted to the deep blues of the fish tanks. Though it may not always be viewed as a beautiful space, it is a very strange and somewhat eerie place full of life and possibility. It also played a big part thematically for us. Animals are very important in this film and especially those in cages.

RB: I love how the camera becomes a character in this movie. Whether it’s looking away, or down, when another character is talking, or moving around during a monologue, the camera has a personality and that’s something you usually only see in mockumentaries. What made you want to get the camera involved in the story instead of invisible?

TS and PL: There’s a lot in the film, the camera work, the 16mm, the rounded edges, that points the audience in a certain direction. It disarms you on a level because you are fully aware you are watching a film. However, what this really does, hopefully, is make you more open subconsciously to the themes and ideas within the film. The emotions and ideas become more resonant, so instead of these things distancing you they actually lull you in and allow you to let go of your need for plot or reality in the way we normally view it.

RB: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Theodore and Patrick!

Giving Birth to a Butterfly will be available to stream on Fandor starting today.

As Diana (Annie Parisse) finds out the hard way in Theodore Schaefer‘s Giving Birth to a Butterfly, internet scams areCOMICONRead More

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