MEET: Edward Zorab
words Aleksandra Georgieva
This coming-of-age short film reveals the complications of growing up and falling in love. The plot takes place in the 1960’s when Jimmy meets Cadence at a vegetable stand and starts exploring romance while facing the frustrating imperfections of his home life. With hallucinations of a suicidal spaceman happening on the background of it all, Jimmy is devoted to finding answers to life. With a lot of aspects for the viewers to relate to and an original thought featured in the plot, this film is as complicated and captivating as it could get.
This is an interview with the writer and director, Edward Zorab, who started turning two novels into a script in 2013. By analyzing some aspects of his youth, he created a draft filled with honesty and in August two years later, it was developed it into a film. Lasting five days, the rehearsals together with the shooting took place in Hampshire and Wiltshire creating the perfect atmosphere of a rural environment and a hint of a theatrical piece.
Edward shares his ambition to write truthfully about the ‘aches and pains of growing up’. What triggered his idea for the storyline was the simple realization that regardless of feeling isolated or surrounded by a crowd of people, most of us go through similar life experiences. This is exactly what gave the plot a taste of honesty making it so easily relatable to. When asked if he relates himself to his main character’s emotions, Edward spoke about personal experience as the basis for quality writing. He mentioned Salinger, Kerouac and Hemingway as some of his favourite authors and highlighted their tendency to write ‘themselves into their work even when they “didn’t”.
The writer of Spacemen says he hates the expectation of short films to have a punchline or a gimmick. ‘Evocative emotions, the poetry of everyday life, and the articulation of emotional truth through art’ is the criteria he follows in the process of creating his work. In addition, he’s against centring the plot around a twist and doesn’t believe that the audience can’t be too emotionally ambitious as well as the assumption of this having to match the duration of the film. In his opinion narratives should be genuine and organic rather than fulfilling an ‘equation-based approach to art’. In other words, readers won’t necessarily have had the same experiences as the characters but the story will be coming from a heartfelt place and this should give it authenticity. ‘It’s art, not maths’ Edward states. ‘You can’t ‘manufacture’ meaningful narratives.’
When asked about his own childhood, he describes it as idyllic but finds himself to have been ‘a pretty lonely kid’. However, as this helps creativity he wouldn’t change things in retrospect. The sense of theatrically which Edward believes is common for people in the industry has helped him make important life decisions based only on ‘how cinematic the consequences would be’. When talking about unity, Edward explains how fears and insecurities are a common thing for people and if Spacemen helps its audience understand that, he would feel like he had made a difference. Afraid of being sentimental he still brings up the beauty of sadness alongside with the one that comes along with happiness. ‘The film is riddled with the awkward idiosyncrasies we go through’. That way it gives us an idea of others’ lack of answers to life, as well as our own. However, Edward describes the character of Adam Woods as an outsider. In Edward’s eyes, his determination ‘to be a romantic maverick’ is ‘just another identity crisis’ yet it doesn’t in any way make him unauthentic. It doesn’t let him represent a lot of today’s youth either, regardless of the fact that the story takes place in the past. ‘He’s pretty far from Kardashian-following/Stan Smith-Shuffling/Ketamine-Sniffing kids, but perhaps a fascination with rebellion links them in some way.’
Focusing on rural Ireland during the sixties emasculated men had no place in the working class as it was revolving quite a lot around responsibility and masculinity. This is exactly what Jimmy’s Father represents while his son is very ‘compassionate and eager to give love and reassurance’. Ed talks about people’s opinions on the little coverage of Jimmy’s Father’s character as he only appears in two scenes. The writer argues with that stating that in short films one should know when they’re ‘trying to tackle too much’. Relating both of his characters to the topic of switching from boyhood to adulthood and more precisely boycotting against it Edward summaries that ‘the adult world is not an environment either one of them feels qualified to be in, and they’ll both be damned if the other’s going to force them into it.’
If by this point you’re still wondering about the meaning of the spacemen, the story behind his role ‘personifies the loss of innocence’ as the writer connects it to encapsulating growing up. ‘I had this weird idea I’d written about a dominatrix sex scandal. The kid in that story stumbles across the smashed up body of an astronaut gimp-suit-esque thing. “If he looks up the sky”, I thought, “then that kid’s still got it”. He still believes’ Edward Zorab says. ‘If he looks around him, thinks rationally, then it’s already happened. At the beginning of our story Jimmy looks up; by the end, I’m not so sure he would.’
Within a culture of collectors and replicators, it turns out the biggest challenge over creating and filming the scenes was sourcing a replica of a spacesuit that would be accurate and fit the Spacemen’s budget. ‘Money-but that’s boring’, Ed assures us ‘no-one wants to hear about that.’ Love, on the other hand, is an ongoing subject of interest. ‘We’re sold a catastrophic lie from a very young age’ he says and that way ‘fiction loses its grasp on us’. He believes in honest stories that lack emotional censorship and romanticize disappointments as much as successes. ‘I think for a film to genuinely resonate with an audience and to touch them, it’s got to poeticise the mundanity of real life.’ He also talks about love being aspirational in the eyes of young people and even compares it to a phenomenon while when we’re older this transforms into a ‘coping mechanism’, transcending fear. With that in mind by the end of the film Cadence and Jimmy, played by Evelyn Lockley and Adam Woods, are much closer to one another than they are at the beginning.
Edward Zorab himself describes the reflection of all the hard work the team has put into the making of Spacemen as touching. As well as messages over their social accounts the appreciation over the film varies from people getting a tattoo inspired by it to talented artists sharing their own take on it. ‘It’s funny. I sort of had to make this film, otherwise I was going to keep re-writing it into every single one of my scripts.’
With very talented people on board Edward says how changing the colour grade at the last minute was made possible and how rehearsals took a lot of time and dedication but everyone did a great job. ‘Now I’ve got to spend the next 5 years repaying favours!’ Ed reassures almost as if he’s making a joke. Throughout the entire process of the filmmaking, the scenes had to be precisely choreographed which was the case with Cadence and Jimmy’s first date, Scene 10. Yet the overall organization allowed the team some spontaneity as well. ‘I remember the scene where the spacemen packs his suitcase and leaves Jimmy; Adam tried something new on the day and had all these tears streaming down his face. We all kicked into gear after watching his rehearsal and got it in one take. Everyone got goosebumps, and there was this unanimous agreement that that was the take. It was the last shot of the day and I got a bit teary. It still gives me shivers.’
After two years of writing, planning, directing and editing Spacemen was finally completed. ‘By the end, we knew it was done. You can spend months tweaking and retouching things but deadlines have a funny way of giving you a sense of clarity.’ The storyline intrigues its audience by connecting and emphasizing on some of the fundamental aspects of life. It is admirable the way this film enriches our culture inspiring us to give some thoughts about life, over love, and the dilemma of growing up in a world where you’d feel unaccepted. Edward’s fresh and inspiring ideas are tangled into the scenes and the result is an audience captivated by the charming idea of honesty that cracks noticeable in every aspect of Spacemen.
For more information and updates on Edward Zorab's production plans, please visit his page: