Claire J Harris Zelos Interview

Claire J Harris Zelos Interview

Zelos meaning Zeal and Passion, but also Jealousy and Suspicion.

Cast: Ben Mortley, Shannon Ashlyn, Ainslie McGlynn
Director: Jo-Anne Brechin
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rated: MA
Running Time: 87 minutes

Synopsis: Bernard is the thirty-something he always planned to be. He has a successful career, a meticulously neat beachside apartment and a hairstyle with just the right amount of gel.

He adores his girlfriend Sarah who's about to move in when she returns from overseas. But Bernard's pristine existence is turned upside down when Sarah confesses her holiday romance. To salvage the relationship, Sarah insists they equal the playing field: Bernard should sleep with another woman.

A man who would never cheat is asked by the woman he loves to have sex with someone else to save their relationship – a compromise which may ultimately destroy them, as love becomes corroded by jealousy.

Release Date: September 8th, 2017
Screening Details: Facebook

Interview with Claire J Harris, Writer/Producer

There comes a time (or times) in every long-term relationship where the spectre of infidelity emerges - whether real, imagined or a flirtation with the possibility. But what if, in trying to patch up the fallout from an affair, you inadvertently worsened it? Zelos explores what happens when jealousy becomes the central theme of a relationship, no matter how hard the two people involved try to stop it.

Question: How would you describe Zelos?

Claire J Harris: Zelos is a coming-of-age for thirty-somethings that explores the aftermath of an infidelity and the way that jealousy can slowly destroy and relationship. The word zelos is Greek for both "zeal" and "jealousy" so it looks at the boundaries between those two emotions. The story centres around Bernard as he finds out that his girlfriend Sarah has had an affair while overseas. She tells him that he can also sleep with someone else, and he has to decide whether to take her up on the offer. But it's not as bleak as it sounds! There's definitely some lighter comic moments as well to balance out the drama.

Question: Where did the idea for Zelos come from?

Claire J Harris: My answer to that depends whether or not my mother is in the room :) The story didn't happen to me in the same way as it does in the film, but at the time I wrote it I was in a long-term relationship and so it drew on my own experiences and those of people I knew. Once I came up with the basic idea, I talked to a lot of people about it and I was surprised by how many had similar stories that were some sort of variation on theme, so that helped me flesh out the narrative.

Question: Are the characters based on anyone you know?

Claire J Harris: Characters are probably always based on yourself and people you know, but they mix different characteristics of different people together. Each character needs to talk and act in a distinct way so I listened to the speech patterns and tics of various friends and family. Actually, we held a public script reading way back before we went into production, a number of people came up to me afterwards and were utterly convinced that I'd based a character on them. I stole different things from different people so they recognised some aspect of themselves.

Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?

Claire J Harris: I think every idea, every story, every character starts with something real and then I fictionalise it from there. For example, some of the lines of dialogue in Zelos were said to me or by me in real life but the rest of the scene they appear in is made up. When people say something that I think is memorable, or when they describe something they've seen that is funny or interesting, I sort of mentally file it away to use at some point in a script.

Question: There are several issues raised in this film. Was this deliberate or did the story evolve this way?

Claire J Harris: The main issue, of course, is that of infidelity and jealousy and this informs the plot of the film. But more broadly, I wanted to write a story that was about what it's like being in your thirties and realising your life hasn't quite turned out the way you dreamed for yourself in your twenties. We see a few of the characters have had to make compromises in some way - and Bernard, being the most idealistic of his group of friends, has to decide how far he is willing to do that with his own values.

Question: What do you hope viewers take from Zelos?

Claire J Harris: I've been asked whether the film promotes infidelity, which I don't think it does at all but I didn't want to be judgmental about Sarah's actions either. One of the themes of Zelos is the complexities of modern dating and relationships and I think everyone has to navigate these in their own way. Ultimately, I didn't want to preach my message to the audie

nce, I hope that it raises questions and opens up a discussion. Question: How did you go about casting for Zelos?

Claire J Harris: We held a public script reading early on - some of our supporting cast were part of that and we thought they were a great fit for the roles they played. For the others, the director and I spent weeks looking at showreels to narrow it down to a few, and asked them to send us a self-tape. Shannon Ashlyn's showreel included part of a short film with Ben Mortley in it, and we liked him and we tracked him down. We were really lucky because he's based in Perth and we were only looking at Sydney actors so we would never have found him otherwise.

Question: Did you have any actors in mind whilst writing?

Claire J Harris: Not really while I was writing but afterwards, I had some thoughts about high profile actors for certain roles. None of them were Aussie or a real possibility for an small film like ours, and I don't think it would be very fair to our cast to say who they were. I think our actors did an amazing job of taking on those roles and making them their own. It's a collaborative process so the characters don't necessarily end up exactly how I imagined them when I was writing anyway.

Question: How do you hope to showcase the women of the Australian film industry with Zelos?

Claire J Harris: Zelos had a mostly-female crew and women in the key roles of producer, writer, director and cinematographer. Even though it has a male protagonist, the story is told through a female lens. It was the first feature film for a lot of the women involved so it was a way for us to express our creative vision and show what we're capable of. We didn't want to wait for opportunities or permission to be given to us.

Question: What's next, for you?

Claire J Harris: Producing a film has been a hell of a ride and even though I've learned a lot, I'm really looking forward to having time and energy to focus on writing again. I've started on my next script and have a few more ideas swirling around in my head.

Interview by Brooke Hunter