Every Day’s Like This, a short film written and directed by Lev Lewis, is part of both Telefilm Canada’s Not Short on Talent programme at the 2021 Clermont-Ferrand Market and has been selected at the International Short Film Festival itself.
Emotional yet understated, the film is a simple moment spent with a small family as it mills about their den, discussing things like groceries, the Oscars, and determining the date of their mother’s medically assisted death.
The director was kind enough to share some insights into his scriptwriting process, which was informed by unfortunate events in his family’s life.
“The film originated as a feature screenplay and was about a woman on life support in a hospital and her family gathering around her,” says Lewis. “I got some grant money to produce that, though I was never satisfied with the script and never planned to shoot what I had submitted. It was around this time that my mother received a cancer diagnosis and eventually received a medically assisted death.”
“The more drafts I produced, the more the film came to resemble my own life. Initially I had kept some distance, and though there are distinctions, most all of the details — and certainly most all of the tone and emotion of the piece — is drawn from what I remember of that very dramatic, very sad, often dull period of my life. The experience of caring for someone with a terminal illness has a peculiar duality to it, as each day brings a great deal of uncertainty yet you’re always marching towards the same inevitable outcome.”
“Dull” is not an accurate description of Every Day’s Like This — the short is profoundly moving in its quiet study — yet it’s the perfect word to express the daily “routine” of its characters. (“I wanted this film to capture how the mundane can live within the most dramatic, heartbreaking moments of life,” says Lewis.)
I wanted this film to capture how the mundane can live within the most dramatic, heartbreaking moments of life,” says Lewis
“This is a pretty new experience for me,” he adds. “Every other script I’ve written or film I’ve directed has been personal, but not personally taken from my life. Having this well of experience was extremely helpful, although consistently nerve-wracking. I don’t mind digging into my past and mining that emotional territory, but it brings with it a responsibility to the others who were there to get it right.”
In the film, the mother resides in a room upstairs, a room we see members of the house go in and out of. But it was Lewis’ decision to keep those quarters private.
“The decision to not see the mother was what got me writing,” says Lewis. “I knew I was going to make something that drew from my own life and that wouldn’t have much in the way of plot or payoff, but it wasn’t until I saw the image of the empty hallway and the closed door and the family members coming and going that I had enough of an actual, tangible idea to start typing. It’s a decent device for a movie that doesn’t really have many hooks and it pretty accurately represents a feeling that much of my family shared while my mother was dying. Her bedroom became its own sort of domain and you entered and exited carefully. Not that we didn’t see her — we saw her all the time — but there was a sort of separateness that emerged and I think in the film her omission creates a similar impression.”
As for the short’s inclusion at Clermont-Ferrand, Lewis is looking forward to expanding its reach — and, possibly, its scope.
Every Day’s Like This is such a meaningful film to me, both in its content and what I learned about filmmaking through its process. I really am honoured to have it play around the world and reach more and more people. “I’m currently cobbling together memories and ideas for a feature version,” he adds. “I have the basic idea down and plan to start putting pen to paper in the next few weeks.”
All films selected as part of this year’s Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival will be available to watch online January 29 to February 6, 2021 (and until December 31, 2021 for Shortfilmwire+ subscribers).
Jake Howell is a Toronto-based writer and freelance film programmer.