Updated: Jul 1
Lights, camera, action! Step into the intriguing world of "To Eli, Forever" (2023), a gripping film that will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. In this blog post, we dive into the mind of the talented director, as she shares her inspiration, challenges, and creative decisions that brought this thrilling drama to life. Get ready to unravel the mysteries behind the story and witness the magic that unfolds on screen!
Drawing Inspiration from the Depths of Heartbreak
Imagine a story born from the depths of heartbreak, fueled by personal experiences. Abbrielle Tuel, the director of "To Eli, Forever", found inspiration in her own past, a poignant tale of a sudden and unexplained breakup. This emotional turmoil became the foundation for the story of Dahlia, a character who, like the director, finds herself lost and heartbroken after losing her boyfriend Eli. Through the film, she explores the journey of acceptance and the power of moving forward.
We spoke with director Abbrielle Tuel to learn more about this:
"I wrote this story based on my first serious relationship. We were together for about three years, and he suddenly cut all contact with me out of nowhere with no explanation. I was head over heels for him at the time, and this occurrence made me feel so lost and heartbroken. I would imagine him in places around my house and neighborhood quite frequently to cope, and eventually I had to learn to accept him being gone for good after grieving for so long."
Balancing Drama and Horror
Creating a harmonious blend of drama and horror was no easy feat for the director. She aimed to craft a story that would stand on its own as a drama, even without the thrilling elements. By delving into the depths of the characters' love and the challenges they face, the director ensured that the story remained captivating and complete. To infuse an additional thrilling edge, she cleverly exaggerated certain aspects, taking audiences on a gripping emotional rollercoaster.
Casting the Perfect Ensemble
Behind every great film lies a talented cast. The director took a unique approach to the casting process, reaching out to local talent through We Are Casting, a student-run organization. Grace Lyons, a remarkable actor, was chosen to portray the resilient Dahlia, while the director's good friend Kyle Raynor stepped into the role of Eli. Their chemistry and performances breathed life into the characters, capturing the essence of the complex relationship.
"...I held auditions for the role of Dahlia and casted the wonderful Grace Lyons. I actually didn’t have anyone audition for Eli ironically, but my good friend Kyle Raynor offered to play the role and I was super grateful for that. I don’t think it could’ve worked out better, really. They both performed fantastically."
Capturing the Magic on Set
Every scene in "To Eli, Forever" was crafted with utmost care, but one stood out as the director's favorite. The poignant moment when Dahlia locks eyes with Eli after putting away his belongings held a special place in her heart. In this scene, vulnerability shines through, and the characters' chemistry and shared history are palpable. Witnessing this magic unfold on set was a rewarding experience for the entire team.
Creating a thrilling film comes with its fair share of challenges. Tuel reveals that the most daunting tasks were the stunts involving falling and choking. Safety was of utmost importance, and precautions were taken to ensure the actors' well-being. Additionally, maintaining consistent lighting throughout the shoot and post-production posed a challenge due to the time constraints of shooting in a single day. Despite these obstacles, the team persevered and delivered a remarkable final product.
A Personal Interpretation
"To Eli, Forever" leaves ample room for audience interpretation, which the director finds truly fascinating. She believes in the beauty of allowing viewers to create their own understanding and connection with the characters and the story. Films are open to various perspectives, and in this dialogue-light film, the director encourages audiences to exercise their imagination and draw their own conclusions.
"...It intrigues me to let the audience take away what they want from the film. That is the beauty of film; there is rarely a “correct” way to watch one, and there isn’t a right way to interpret one... In To Eli, Forever. (2023), because there is very limited dialogue, I believe there is a lot of room for imagination."
Impactful Directing Decisions
Behind the camera, Tuel faced a pivotal decision while shooting the poignant eye-locking scene between Dahlia and Eli. Realizing that her initial directing approach lacked clarity, she decided to change tactics. Instead of dictating the actors' actions, Abbrielle engaged in a conversation with them, allowing the characters to guide the actors performances. This shift created an electrifying atmosphere, resulting in a scene that left an indelible impact.
"...I remember thinking to myself about how I can better communicate after a specific take, and I pulled both actors aside into a separate room to talk to them alone. Instead of describing what I want, I asked them to tell me what is happening right now in the story. This was already helping. Once Kyle and Grace were on the same page, I gave them each an action verb to work with. This conversation alleviated so much confusion – I could tell just by looking at their faces when we were done. We shot the next take, and boom. It was electrifying."
Tuel worked closely with her creative team to bring the horror and drama aspects of "To Eli, Forever" to life. Abbrielle ensured that everyone involved understood the characters' deep connection and Dahlia's plight. Extensive discussions and character analyses with the actors fostered a deep understanding of their roles. Simultaneously, the crew focused on perfecting the thriller aspect by meticulously setting up lighting and shots, thus creating a seamless balance between drama and suspense.
A Bright Future
Director Abbrielle Tuel has an exciting future ahead. She plans to venture into new creative territories, starting with their personal YouTube channel, where she will aim to showcase short films intertwined with her writing entries. Additionally, she is working on a poetry book and launching her own production company. The tantalizing prospect of upcoming projects promises to keep us on the edge of our seats, eagerly awaiting more captivating stories from this talented filmmaker.
"To Eli, Forever" (2023) encapsulates the power of love, loss, and the resilience of the human spirit. The director's personal experiences, combined with her creative vision, have brought forth a unique and captivating film that will leave audiences longing for more. As we eagerly anticipate her future endeavors, we can't help but admire the passion and dedication that went into making this mysterious and thrilling journey come alive on the silver screen.
To follow Abbrielle's journey in filmmaking, follow @DarkMindPro @abbrielletuel on social media or visit her website at https://shorturl.at/tIX19