- LOS ANGELES
Known for a brand of emotionally honest storytelling that’s struck a responsive audience chord through both long and short-form fare over the years--prime respective examples being Like Crazy, which won the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize for best dramatic feature in 2011, and The Beauty Inside for Intel and Toshiba, recipient of three Grand Prix awards at the 2013 Cannes Lions Fest--director Drake Doremus has now added to his feature filmography while embarking on a new chapter in his commercialmaking career.
On the former score, the Doremus-directed Endings, Beginnings--which debuted at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival--is set for digital release on Friday (4/17) and will later be available on demand come May 1. The romance/drama, which Doremus co-wrote with Jardine Libaire, was originally slated for theatrical release on May 1 by Samuel Goldwyn Films but those plans fell by the wayside due to the coronavirus crisis. Still, Doremus is enthused over the prospects for Endings, Beginnings, which delves into an individual’s at times confused search for personal fulfillment, trying to make sense of relationships while finding a greater purpose in life. Doremus hopes the story can perhaps help people to connect and self-reflect during this time of pandemic-induced social isolation.
Endings, Beginnings stars Shailene Woodley as Daphne, a thirty something woman dealing with love and heartbreak over the course of a year. She moves back to present-day Los Angeles to live in her sister’s poolhouse to get her bearings. As she grapples with life, Daphne seems to complicate matters further by becoming involved with Jack (portrayed by Jamie Dornan) and Frank (Sebastian Stan), who it turns out are best of friends. Each man is distinctly different and brings out something different in her. In trying to decide between the two, Daphne faces a sudden turn of events which leads to a self-awareness discovered in the most surprising of places.
Doremus was drawn to novelist Libaire to help explore life’s mysteries and the quest for self-realization in Endings, Beginnings. He was enamored with her novel "White Fur," a transgressive, psychedelic Romeo and Juliet story set in mid-1980s’ New York City. In telling Daphne’s story, Doremus sought out female voices, not just that of Libaire but also such collaborators as cinematographer Marianne Bakke, production designer Almitra Corey, and of course Woodley who delivers a tour de force performance. Doremus explained that he wanted to tell the tale of a woman in the midst of chaos still striving to find peace, love and understanding--albeit in seemingly all the wrong places. She somehow ends up finding what she strives for despite--or perhaps because of--making what appear to be the wrong choices.
This marked Doremus’ first collaboration with DP Bakke. He recalled being deeply impressed by her lensing of Turn Me On, Dammit!, Bakke’s first feature which went on to earn her the Amanda award for best cinematography at the Norwegian International Film Festival in 2012. Directed by Jannicke Systad Jacobsen who also wrote the adapted script, Turn Me On, Dammit! earlier won a Best Screenplay honor at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival where it was also nominated for best narrative feature. Doremus noted that Bakke also operated the camera on Endings, Beginnings, exhibiting an affinity for accommodating improvisation. “She’s a very intuitive filmmaker, always searching for the truth in things,” assessed Doremus.
Whereas he hadn’t worked with Bakke prior to Endings, Beginnings, Doremus has a long track record with editor Garret Price; the two went to film school together at the American Film Institute (AFI). collaborating in many different ways and on varied projects. Price cut Doremus’ first feature, Moonpie, as well as assorted commercials over the years for the director. Recently, Doremus produced Love, Antosha, a documentary on the late actor Anton Yelchin, which marked Price’s directorial debut; he also edited the film.
Doremus observed that with overlapping projects--Love, Antosha and Endings, Beginnings--and the switching of roles, he and Price had a somewhat hectic year-and-a-half stretch, which included getting Endings, Beginnings ready for the Toronto International Film Fest. “It would normally be hard to do this side by side but our relationship made it a special experience,” assessed Doremus. “We are close friends, honest with each other, and the work just kind of naturally flowed. It’s been awesome ”
The overall esprit de corps on Endings, Beginnings was also awe-inspiring, according to Doremus, noting that he and the cast bonded over lengthy soul-searching conversations, trusting enough to be vulnerable with each other, enabling them to go “to many different places” in the film, exploring relationships and going far beyond a director asking an actor to “feel this or do this.” Instead, Doremus and his lead actors had shared emotions and experiences, allowing them to be open and to tap into their feelings on camera.
As alluded to earlier, Doremus is accomplished in the branded arena. His aforementioned short film, The Beauty Inside out of agency Pereira O’Dell, earned three Cannes Lions Grand Prix honors in 2013--for Film, Branded Content & Entertainment, and Cyber--as well as a Daytime Emmy Award and Best Branded Content distinction at The One Show. Doremus has also directed commercial projects for brands such as Google, Samsung, Tylenol, and Facebook.
Doremus recently joined production house WETHEPEOPLE for commercials and branded content. The move reunites him with company partner/executive producer Susan Rued Anderson, whom he teamed with years back at B-Reel, which produced The Beauty Inside.
Doremus said the appeal of branded work spans different levels, affording him opportunities to be experimental and to work with people for the first time whether it be a production designer, DP, 1st AD and so on. “That brings out and develops different muscles in you. If you work with the same people over and over again, that can be awesome because you have a shorthand with each other. But it also can get stale so it’s important to work with people you haven’t worked with before.”
The director added that branded projects can bring him to new countries and communities for the first time. He observed that experiencing new cultures and people can affect you directly and/or subconsciously, helping to bring a new dimension to you and your work.
Besides Like Crazy and Endings, Beginnings, Doremus’ filmography includes his feature-length directorial debut, Douchebag, which premiered in the dramatic competition at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. The next year Like Crazy won that fest’s top honor, and was later released by Paramount Pictures. Doremus debuted yet another film, Breathe In, at Sundance in 2013, starring Guy Pearce, Like Crazy star Felicity Jones and Oscar nominee Amy Ryan. Breathe In was released in early 2014. Doremus’ next film, Equals, a futuristic love story produced by Scott Free and starring Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart, made its world premiere in competition at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival and was released by A24 in 2016. The following year came Doremus’ “Newness starring Hoult, Laia Costa, Danny Houston, Matthew Gray Gubler, Courtney Eaton and Albert Hammond Jr. It too premiered at Sundance and was released by Netflix in the fall of 2017. Doremus’ subsequent feature, Zoe, debuted as the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival’s Centerpiece title. Starring Ewan McGregor and Lea Seydoux, the film was released in 2018 by Amazon Studios.