Luke Eve, Karen Eve and Maria Albiñana.
In March, director Luke Eve headed to Spain to marry his fiancé, actor and writer Maria Albiñana. But when the pandemic hit, they had to cancel their wedding two days out from the event.
The pair have since spent the last two months in strict lockdown in their Spanish apartment – together with Eve’s mum, who had travelled from Australia for the wedding.
After dealing with the initial emotion of the situation, Eve and Albiñana released their story had hallmarks of a sitcom.
Eve pitched it to Screen Australia as a heartfelt short-form drama, shot from the apartment via mobile phone, with the trio starring in and producing it together. Each episode would explore the aftermath of cancelling the wedding, and the various stages of the pandemic.
They agency was on board straight away, and the 10 x 8 minute series – titled Cancelled – premieres on Facebook today.
“The Screen Oz online team saw the potential but also saw the immediacy. They were amazing in pushing it forward,” Eve tells IF.
Eve is well-versed in short-form, having created, produced and directed the acclaimed mental health series Low Life and High Life, both of which sold around the world to platforms such as Canalplay, Amazon Prime, BBC3, Channel 9, and Fullscreen.
He and Albiñana wrote the Cancelled scripts together, and the result is personal.
“We obviously dramatised things a little for added drama or comedy and we have reshaped certain moments – mostly for structure more than anything – but it’s all there. Warts and all. It’s pretty confronting… We didn’t even bother giving our characters other names. They’re Luke and Maria and Karen,” Eve says.
Producing the show has not been without its challenges – Eve and his mum had never acted before, and there were many hats to juggle as everyone was at once cast and crew. But Eve says the chance to work with his mum and fiancé has been “life changing”.
“The biggest challenges were really the logistics of having three people in a scene who were also shooting and doing sound. So who would hold the camera and where would we place it? Often the other actor in the scene is holding the camera as well so most times we were acting against the other person who wasn’t even there. So we had to fake eyelines all the time,” Eve says.
“When I did scene breakdowns I had to think about how I wanted to shoot it with limited hands. But I loved the restrictions – we embraced them in a sort of dogma style way.”
Shooting on a mobile phone also provided a surprising amount of freedom – its small size allowed for shots from inside cupboards, fridges, bathroom floors and outside windows.
“The dynamic range is really small compared to a full chip camera but I’ve been quite blown away by how great it has handled a very contrasty apartment. Our apartment has a lot of windows and I wanted to use available light all the time – because it’s all we had. So I mapped out the house according to when and what time of day we could shoot certain rooms for certain scenes.
“The next big challenge is the lens – it’s so wide so you have to be super close to the actor which is weird.”
Creating the series has been cathartic, and helped to process the situation at large.
“People are strange beings – we often don’t give ourselves the necessary time to deal or cope with disappointment or stress or change. We quickly adapt and move on for better or worse. And that’s what we did. We had to. Cancelling the wedding was devastating. But ultimately the decision was an easy one because it became about people’s safety. And after that, it became about protecting my mum. And ourselves and others. So we just buckled down and moved on. We didn’t really process everything that had happened because everything happened so quickly,” Eve says.
“Writing and acting and reliving the scenes really helped us understand what we had experienced. There were probably more tears and anger in the writing room and on set than there were at the times these things were actually happening to us,” Eve says.
The cancellation of his wedding hasn’t been the only blow Eve’s faced during the pandemic; his debut feature, I Met A Girl, starring Brenton Thwaites and Lily Sullivan, also had its planned release canned.
Written by Glen Dolman and produced by Adam Dolman, the film follows an aspiring musician who embarks on an epic, cross-country journey to find the woman of his dreams – who may be all in his head.
“Learning that our planned release later in the year at a major festival was shelved was a real kick in the guts. It’s felt like I’ve waited my entire life to make a film and then the world ended before I could get it out there!” Eve says.
“We have local distribution with Tait Brady and Label and AMP are looking after international sales so we’re working closely with both of them to work out a strategy that is best for the film. It’s really frustrating as the landscape keeps changing and I just want people to see it. I’m incredibly proud of the film and I think it’s the perfect film for these times – it’s heartbreaking and bittersweet and beautiful and I think audiences would really relate. So hopefully we have some good news to share on that front soon.”
Beyond Cancelled, Eve’s working on the third and final iteration of his mental health trilogy following Low Life and High Life – Mid Life. Written with Anna Lindner, it’s the story of a woman in her late 40s coming to terms with crippling anxiety.
“I’m really excited about delving back into that world and finishing the series with something very powerful that affects so many of us.”