How Jill Andresevic Captured Love in the City

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Published July 1, 2011

 

MARION AND ALBERT, ONE OF THE COUPLES PROFILED IN LOVE ETC.

In the new documentary Love Etc., Jill Andresevic captures hearts breaking and mending through the five boroughs. The film tells the stories of five couples in five different stages of their relationships, from high school sweethearts to a couple nearing their fiftieth anniversary. Among those profiled are a single gay man as he prepares to adopt, a divorced father trying to find love again, and a newlywed couple whose relationship is quickly unravelling. Andresevic also uses the city itself as a character, finding a way to showcase New York through tiny moments that show a wonderfully romantic version of the city—a version that is usually frustratingly rare offscreen. We caught up with Andresevic to talk about the stories that didn’t make the cut and nearly getting ditched by her subjects.

GILLIAN MOHNEY: Why did you want to set the documentary in New York?

JILL ANDRESEVIC: New York City is such an inspiration. Here on the train you’re just crushed up against all these different sorts of people from different places and ages and times. It’s so much fun.

MOHNEY: How did you go about finding the stories?

ANDRESEVIC: We started with ten stories, and we shot seven to completion. We had to cut two from the movie.MOHNEY: What were the stories you had to cut?

ANDRESEVIC: Ironically, they were single women. I never expected it would be so male-centric. The reason why we culled it down to the five stories is those five stories with the edits worked the best together to equal something bigger. The two stories we had to cut—which was awful for me—it was heartbreaking to have to cut those stories. We shot them over the entire year. One of them, we had access to this one person, to everything in her life. But we didn’t have enough access to her love life—there are things people are willing to show or not show.  They can give you everything that you want, but only aspects of their personality. I didn’t expect that.

MOHENY: What was it like shooting people when you’re dealing with these very vulnerable relationships?

ANDRESEVIC: You pick things that are very ordinary.  There are their daily lives, and there are also moments we chose to film. With Scott [the gay man about to become a father], he had a date, and he didn’t tell me that he was having a date that night. We were just going to film him on set and then I was doing the interview with him and I said, “What are you doing later?” and he said, “Well, I have a date.” And I almost fell out of my chair. He was like, “You would like to film that, wouldn’t you?” I tried not to jump out of my seat. I said, “Yes, I would like to film that.” That was pure luck.

MOHNEY: Was that the only time that people surprised you on camera?

ANDRESEVIC: I had no idea that Chitra and Mahendra [the newlywed couple] were going to divorce on the couch. I didn’t know. That was literally three weeks after their wedding. I would never have predicted that. I’m really grateful that they gave us that much access to their lives.

MOHNEY: How sensitive were you to shooting people’s daily lives? 

ANDRESEVIC: It’s just being in the right place at the right time… they just gave us these moments. I’m sure there are a bazillion moments that we didn’t get. But we did get these moments that gave us interesting insight. I was really fascinated by this idea of looking at everyday love and extracting a sense of the extraordinary out of the ordinary. We live every day—day-to-day. Maybe our memories have a collection of these moments that are more profound than others, but you can capture wisdom from these simple situations. I love with Chitra’s mother was talking about what makes you rich in life and she’s sitting at the table and she says, “It’s not money that makes you rich; it’s having someone in your life.”

MOHNEY: That was incredibly moving.

ANDRESEVIC: Here’s a couple they came from Guyana—a classic immigrant story—they struggled to make it… But they’re talking about some fundamental things in our lives and it’s so heartfelt and it’s true.

MOHNEY: You have these great act breaks between the stories, where you just captured people on the street.

ANDRESEVIC: The idea of capturing those vignettes—I called them New York moments—[came] because when I came to New York, I would just watch things that happen on the train or on the street and what we did, wherever we were, we would fish for different kinds of moments that naturally occur… That’s the way I saw New York when I first came, as a series of snapshots, little things that happen that are very quiet but have a beauty to them.

MOHNEY: What have the subjects’ reactions been?

ANDRESEVIC: They all saw it at the Hamptons festival last October, and they all met for the first time at the Hamptons festival.

MOHNEY: How was that?

ANRESEVIC: It was good. They all seemed to be fine. They all got along fine. After the movie was over, we brought everybody up. The audience asked them what they felt about the film, and I didn’t even know what they thought yet. That was interesting. I didn’t know how Chitra and Mahendra would feel. Chitra went up to the mike and I was like, “Is she going to like it or not like it?” And then she just goes, “Actually I thought it was good.”

LOVE ETC. OPENS IN NEW YORK TODAY. FOR MORE ABOUT THE FILM, VISIT ITS WEBSITE.