Interview with Filmmaker Stephen Keep Mills (LOVE IS NOT LOVE)

LOVE IS NOT LOVE is the Romance Festival Feature Film winner of BEST FILM for 2021.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I had to jump. At some point the writing and re-writing gets a flat tire and you have to get it off the page and that’s a long road where doubt and desire walk hand in hand. You just have to stop thinking about it and do it. You have to begin by accepting all that you don’t know and just hang on to the threads of what you do know and start to build a visual version of what had been safe in print. I mean, it’s skydiving. The motivation was to throw myself out of the plane and see if I could eventually land. It’s thrill-seeking, basically, to make an indie. You court your own elimination and somehow and from somewhere draw the confidence that you can do it.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this feature?

Script was done fall of 2016; pre-production done in mid 2017 and shooting began; shooting ended late spring 2018; editing finished summer of 2019; completed post and tweaks at the end of 2019 and the start of 2020. Goes by fast and it never ends. Always a new hoop to jump through and that keeps it alive.

3. How would you describe your feature film in two words!?

“An eye-opener.”

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Admitting it was done. You always can come up with something else, but if it’s done, you have to allow that.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was moved. They got so much of it and were so open and honest and keen in their assessments. I was impressed by the connection I felt between their souls and the film. The film embraced them and they hugged it back. I’ve listened to the Vimeo several times. I just love it. I’ll listen to it some more.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this feature film?

The film deals with a conflict deeply embedded in all of us, I think. The wish for intimacy at odds with the wish for security. And somewhere on the head of each of those pins is the fullness we call love. It’s elusive, we think we can find it, we reach for it and it vanishes. We look away and it taps us on the shoulder. I wanted to discover the dramatic equivalent of all these feelings and deceptions and yearnings. I wanted to catch them and lose them simultaneously.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

A Man For All Seasons. I love good performances and Paul Scofield’s was hypnotic. I was a young actor and I wanted to study how he did it so I could do it, too, and each time he escaped my analysis. This was his role, his lifetime role, and it’s thrilling to watch an actor inhabit a character so much that time stops all around him.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I think they’re great. Once you get your project all set up it’s really easy to submit to festivals and they have so many that use them. They have lots of details such as organizing your selections and non-selections, your percentage of festival selection and the regions that you have submitted to. They’ll catch you so you don’t submit to a festival twice . You can create a wish list. They notify you when submission dates are upcoming. When notification dates are upcoming. I do have a wish, though, for more info on foreign festivals. I don’t see Rotterdam, I don’t see many Mexican festivals, or upper-tier French festivals. They have festivals that play in Berlin, but not the Berlinale.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Richard Strauss’s Im Abendrot, the last of his Four Last Songs. It soars with romance, loss, hope, despair. It captures the sound of your soul in the great maw of love. Plus, every great soprano has sung it, each in her own way. I have about 20+ versions of it and they’re all different and all sublime. Two I favor: Lucia Popp for her nostalgic take and Gundula Janowitz for her sense of immediate pain.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

One of the audience members said she detected an essence of theatre in Love is not Love and she’s right. I do draw some dramatic energy from what you might see on stage, so it’s not surprising that I have optioned a play to make into a film. The playwright is Italian and passed away in the 1950’s. I’ve been in contact with his estate and have a green light. It’s a great tale about a family in political quarantine, removed from all familiarity except each other. Two inspectors appear and the confessions and the guilt begin to tear them up. It’s a nightmare of exposure, but there are some really funny elements to it and some very resonant revelations. I like it because I wish I could have written it.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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