SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Director and filmmaker Timothy S. Meeks not only sends us into a delightfully addicting, and voyeuristic journey in his most recent film, To Us, but he also allows the viewer to reflect on how they view marriage and relationships in today's modern world.
The film craftily follows a newlywed couple who instead of enjoying what is supposed to be their sacred wedding night, begin to question their relationship. Will they become another statistic of divorce or will their love endure until death do them part?
NewsChannel 3 sat down with Meeks, a Solvang native, to gain a deeper insight into his film.
How much did you draw from personal experience when creating this film?
Yea that's the question I've been getting a lot (laughs). I'm not married and I have not been married, but the inspiration...it's more of an observation because I was searching for what marriage represents in my current generation, and inspiration of when I worked at a bunch of hotels. I worked at one in Solvang and I worked at one in L.A.
I was a bellman so I would check in a lot of newlyweds, and be in the hotel room with them in their first moments of being married, and I found out it wasn't always the most blissful thing that you'd expect. It was like staleness or routine, like if it was only a Tuesday instead of the most sacred day, supposedly, of their relationship. So I would leave the room and be like "what is going on? How did they get to that point when it's no longer sacred," because I had my own ideals of what a wedding night might be or what a relationship might be. So I started exploring that in my writing.
Is it farfetched to say that this film projects a society in which we live that has changed so much, that we fool ourselves into thinking the world is still the same as it was from the time our grandparents were young?
I'm more interested in how the film reflects on the viewer after they see it. What their interpretation is of marriage and relationship…I think it has definitely changed since our grandparents got married.
I think, also, my two characters in the film are split. They're divided, where Beth is holding on to those ideals that have been passed down to generations, of who her new husband is, on what she wants out of him. She's putting him on a pedestal. Then we have David who's holding on to the past, and they're colliding in the moment. So I think it's up to the viewer to decide where they fit in that spectrum of how they view marriage and how they feel about relationship.
Is it a fair assumption that this film explores taboo subjects? If so, how?
I wanted to explore the ideas of "each other" in a relationship instead of what is actually true…I think though, that after you're married nothing should be taboo…Even though it feels that way, I feel it should be open to explore if you plan on spending the rest of your life with that person.
A recurring motif in the film is water. Can you explain the significance behind this water motif?
That's a good question. It came naturally in the theme just as a kind of baptism or rebirth for the characters. And they keep constantly finding that this metaphor of a water baptism cleanses them of whatever their dealing with at the time.
A very noticeable aspect of the movie was the small presence of dialogue. Why did you decide to have very little dialogue in your film?
I find that the heaviest moments in real life are not the ones that are spoken but rather those where you're sitting in the moment. It's that heaviness and that weight where as humans we realize the mistake. And so when I started writing I said "That's what I'm interested in." I'm interested in the moment in between moments…in that quietness, that stillness, where you almost feel the oxygen has been sucked out of the room, and the characters are gasping for air, dealing with what they realized about each other.
The audience has to see, visually, and then see how it reflects on them instead of just telling them.
Seems like a very pessimistic movie wouldn't you say?
It depends on who's viewing it. Someone might think that if they [the characters] work hard enough they're gonna figure it out. It all depends on, I think, the viewer.
One thing I really wanted the movie to say is that love, or relationships, is complicated. It's a bunch of things at a time. It's not just black or white. And even though it's your wedding day or your honeymoon it's still complicated. There's still hard work that needs to take place.
Without revealing too much, why did you decide to go with the ending you did?
I didn't want to tell the audience what was next. I felt that if I told them, one way or the other, exactly what was going to happen, then they wouldn't have to leave the theater thinking about their own personal relationships and how they view marriage. Instead I'm leaving it- "this is where they're at in marriage, how does this reflect on you?"
What message should audiences leave with, after watching this film?
(Laugh) I don't think I can answer that. I think that would be up to the viewer. I just want them to think about their own view of marriage and relationships. That's my goal…That they will have to think about themselves and why they're drawn to marriage, or why their drawn to their significant other, and what that means to them. That's the goal.
One of the many things that filmmakers have to face are those obstacles that pop up when making a movie. What were the challenges and hardships you experienced while making this film?
Well, I'll tell you about one story on the second day of filming…Our lead actor James, we were shooting a lot of stuff down at the beach, he was walking alone, and we had just finished up his sequence, and we were about to move on to the next setup.
We start loading up the car and he starts yelling out obscenities, and we go "what's going on?" and he says, "I lost my F-ing wedding ring! I don't know where it is!." He'd lost his real wedding ring. He's married. And he says "I think it fell out of my pocket. I don't know." And we're staring at a giant beach full of sand. And we're like "OK man, we're gonna start looking. Where do you think it could have been?" "Maybe this area" he said, which was the size of a football field.
And the whole crew, which was very small, started searching the sand for the next hour. We got the reflector out and we started to see if we could catch a reflection off his wedding ring. And I told him, "James it's up to you when we move along to the next setup...You're wedding ring is very important to me." So he starts feeling guilty and says, "you know what, let's go." So we shot for the rest of the day, and you know, he's pretty bummed out.
He called his wife and told her the situation, and we're all just trying to move forward and even try to joke about it, even though it's not that funny (laughs). It was quite ironic because of what is happening in our film.
Then two days later, one of my roommates who had a metal detector, went down [to the beach] to give it one last shot…He called me an hour later and said "I found it!" It was kind of one of those small miracles.
How does it feel to have your film be accepted into the acclaimed Santa Barbara International Film Festival?
It's awesome. It's kind of surreal. The idea that I get to screen my film where I use to go see movies as a kid is pretty amazing…I'm just honored more than anything. It's so cool!
Anything else you would like to say about your film that I haven't asked?
I guess the first thing that comes to mind is just to ask the audience to have patience with the film. It's that kind of thing where you might see it initially and then a day later you're like "Whoa! What was that all about?"
Tim, thank you for taking the time to sit down, and talk about your film.
To Us, will be playing at the 29th Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Friday, February 7, 2 p.m. at the Lobero Theater and Sunday, February 9, 4:40 p.m. at Metro 4 Theater.
Get your tickets now.
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