Emilia Zoryan delivers a radiant, well-nuanced performance in Falling Overnight as Chloe Webb, a young photographer who meets and develops a platonic relationship with Elliot Carson (Park Croft) on the day before he has surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor. Without knowing the whether or not that night will be his last, he and Chloe bond emotionally and spiritually as they gradually get to know one another. Rarely has a romantic drama been made with such genuine, pure, unadulterated emotion without relying on sex, violence, drugs or profanity as a means of entertainment. The plot sounds simple on the surface, but there's so much going on beneath the surface that the film becomes a profound, magical and surprisingly uplifting experience that rewards patient, mature audiences who appreciate subtlety, a quality that's more often found in European cinema than American cinema.
Director/co-writer Conrad Jackson together with co-writers Aaron Golden and Parker Croft deftly blend drama, romance and comic relief without any pretension, preachiness or contrivance. At times, though, Falling Overnight, becomes so sweet that it almost gives you a cavity. It could have shown a little bit more teeth in the romance between Chloe and Elliot because their interactions are, like the film itself, very low-key and lightweight. If you want a more sad, dark, visceral experience that leaves you with a bittersweet aftertaste, go watch the French film Nuit #1.
Perhaps the first-time feature filmmakers will take greater risks in their future endeavors because they play it rather safe with this one as if it were a film from the 1930's and 40's. However, they should be commended for writing a character-driven romance that provides an actress with a meaty role that does not objectify women like most films do these days. Chloe isn't a sex object nor is she one-dimensional; she's a flawed and free-spirited human being, and there's much more to her than meets the eye.
I had the privilege of interviewing Emilia Zoryan. She deserves recognition as an immensely talented actress who's very honest, warm, witty, articulate and, above all, a beautiful and intelligent human being.
DPO Productions releases Falling Overnight at the Cinema Village on July 27th, 2012.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you find the right balance between ballet, acting and spending time with family/friends?
Emilia Zoryan: It's really difficult, especially when I was filming Falling Overnight because thatís when everything was happening. At that point, I had been at UCLA for a major in Economics and a minor in Russian, learning how to read and write. Basically, at night I was shooting and then I would drive to school and sleep for maybe an hour or two. In the mornings, I would take exams because I was in the middle of midterms. Work-wise, I would have to pay for school somehow, so then that came in. I was a little bit more flexible with work than most people. Iím very lucky because I started my own business selling electronics on Amazon. Itís difficult because you have to keep your customers happy and email them back. In terms of ballet, dancing has always been a passion of mine, but I havenít been professionally dancing, as/in 5 times a week, for about 2 years already. Iím still a dancer---that doesnít go away because itís in my bones by that point. I do yoga now just to keep in shape, but dancing is very, very, very time-consuming. Itís really dangerous to take dance classes if you donít take them every day because you might hurt yourself that way.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What enhanced your natural, well-nuanced performance?
EZ: I have never taken any acting classes beforehand, so perhaps that is what helped. I was on my own in this. I had to fight for the role. I definitely was familiar with auditioning because of my experience as a dancer. Iíd been auditioning for commercials and music videos all of my life. I knew the process, but I didnít exactly know the execution, so I was sort-of winging it. It was all really new to me. [Director] Conrad Jackson had a big talk with me even before I walked in for my chemistry read with Parker [Croft]. He explained to me what the film meant for him, and that helped a lot because when youíre working with people who are so passionate about, you have a lot of respect for that.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What helped you to bond with your co-stars/filmmakers and to feel comfortable while on set?
EZ: I think rehearsal definitely helped. While we rehearsed, we got to know each other because they had all been friends before, and I was the only one who was new to the circle. I definitely came from a different place because Iím sort of mainstream---I listen to mainstream music and watch mainstream kind of movies. It was so refreshing for me to find out what restaurants they go to, where they hang out and things like that. I became pretty comfortable with Parker, but it was never anything romantic, so how I was going to make that chemistry was always something that I had to figure out on my own.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Why do you think so many movies these days rely on violence, sexy, profanity and drugs unlike Falling Overnight?
EZ: Because life is filled with all of those things. The director and co-writers of Falling Overnight were trying to send a specific message which was mostly honesty. Sometimes itís difficult to send honesty and then muddle it in with all the difficult things in life that make a character jaded. There are plenty of films out there, some of them which are among my favorites, that have characters who go through lots of hardships like drugs and violence. In Falling Overnight the hardship was coping with death. It was already a heavy subject, so we had to keep it light. If you added anything else, I think it would have made it too heavy. In the end, I think that our message is about hope. Itís really difficult to show hope, though.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think that Chloe is truly in love with Elliot?
EZ: Chloe is a free spirit for sure. She, most likely, would never define love to you if you were to ask her. When Conrad explained to me who she was, he said she was a girl who had experienced loss at a very early age and she decided to live the rest of her life as if every moment was going to be her very last moment on Earth. She loved everything and everyone, so, for her, love wasnít just romantic; it was love of her friends, love of the environment, art, life, air, birds and everything. Of course, sheís a human being so she has frustrations as well.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think are the basic elements that turn a romance into a classic?
EZ: Relatability. As long as you touch someone in some way, thatís all I want when I go to see a movie. I want it to leave an aftertaste.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you relate to Chloe?
EZ: I have a lot of love in my heart, but Iím a different person than Chloe. Iíve had a lot of struggles in my life. My family immigrated to America from Russia when I was four-and-a-half. I was translating for them all of my life---I was pretty much the adult. I have a little sister who I raised as like her second mom. I have a great mother, but itís really difficult growing up in America, learning English, trying to acclimate, to become middle-class and try to rise. Itís especially difficult for me to try to get into Hollywood---itís almost impossible, but Iím going to do it.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you feel that the advancement of modern technology is affecting the quality of human relationships?
EZ: I think technology is one of the greatest gifts to mankind, but the way that it has changed us romantically is just disgusting. Itís all about getting something out of the other person and finding what status that person has before you even meet them or get to know them. Itís all about researching the person before you even have a feel for their soul the way we used to when we looked into their eyes and saw if there was a connection.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How challenging is it to find the right balance between focusing on your work/passions and getting to know other people?
EZ: Itís a sacrifice. I feel that thereís a certain amount of energy that everyone has, and whenever you want to put more energy into one thing, like the law of the universe says, you have to take it out of something else. So, you must make that sacrifice and that decision to take it out of something and to put it into your priority. I did that for love, once, and now itís time for me to take that away a little bit and put my energy into work. I really need to start getting my hands dirty---Iím in acting classes and Iím getting the technical side of it down. Itís been 2 years since we filmed it, so Iím a really different person now.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was your first audition like?
EZ: When I walked into the first audition, there was a big problem which was that I had only the first page, and there were 4 or 5 pages in total. I had to get to class, though, because I had a midterm. At the time, I didnít know what this movie was going to be. So, I made that choice. I just went with a gut feeling. To stare at those pages and find some truth in them, I luckily have a visual memory and memorize lines quickly, so I got the gist of it and went back in there 10 minutes in there, gave them my audition, and I eventually got a callback---thank God. It changed my life.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Would you make any changes to the status quo of how women are treated in Hollywood? Do you feel that they're treated unfairly?
EZ: Yes, yes and yes. There are dozens of roles out there for women where they have to undress, to be put in sexual situations, and then theyíre promised future roles with more depth or other future possibilities. Unless theyíre connected in some sort of way or get lucky like I did, women in Hollywood feel like thatís the only path that they can take. One of my favorite actresses is Kathleen Turner because she always said that she refuses to play a woman that did not change circumstance in a film. She refuses to play a role that objectifies women. Iím a big fan of that idea. Thatís why I donít like music videos or modeling or some of the other things that Iíve done.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How would you define a meaty role?
EZ: A meaty role would be one that makes a difference in another character. What people come to see in a movie is one human being affecting another because thatís what happens in everyday life and what weíre always going to be interested in. Thatís what films capture sometimes---not just events or special effects, which are all great, but weíre human beings, so we just want to watch other human beings interacting onscreen.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What kind of food would you compare Falling Overnight to?
EZ: Iím from Russia, so the kind of food that it would remind me of is very different from the kind of food it would remind the average American of. My grandma cooks one of the best borscht soups Iíve ever tried in my whole life. Iíve been to many Russian houses and theyíve all claimed that they have the best borscht, but until this day, my grandmother makes the best borscht. It makes you feel familiarity and safety and at the same time it makes you feel that youíre alive, and it remind me of her, so it gives me this feeling of love. Most Russians put meat in their borscht, but she doesnít because itís vegetable borscht, so itís very refreshing and not heavy, and you can run around and dance afterwards. When youíre finished, you can still taste it and remember it, but it doesnít weigh you down.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Which film do you feel is closest to your heart?
EZ: Darren Aronofskyís The Fountain is one of my favorite movies even though I know many critics have ripped it apart. I love its message because itís so powerful and resonating. When I left the theater, I couldnít get rid of the film in my head. To this day, I carry the filmís message with me. The message was, basically, that death is when the soul is free. Freedom for the soul comes with death. Iím very spiritual.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you maintain your spirituality?
EZ: You know what helps? Finding moments and activities throughout the day. I do it with yoga and taking walks or hikes.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How would you compare your feelings about New York vs. LA?
EZ: New York is one of my favorite cities in the world, but what I would miss about LA is that itís so busy, yet at the same time there are avenues to take to sort of get away from everything and to breathe for a second.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think that Falling Overnight will stand the test of time?
EZ: I feel that humor changes, but basic human nature and relatability stays the same. I hope that we captured that in Falling Overnight because I sure felt it.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you feel that American culture and society is dumbed-down these days?
EZ: I donít like to stereotype, but in general, yes. The media definitely dumbs a lot of things down for the general masses. I agree 100%. In total fairness, I feel American a little bit. Americans sometimes forget that they came from something and that this country didnít just come out of nowhere. It was formed, it was developed and it came with a history. Itís a big melting pot. So itís not fair to neglect that and to treat the rest of the world as the ďotherĒ world, forgetting that we came from that and are a part of that.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you try to achieve mental tranquility in world full of deception and lies? Have you ever experienced an epiphany?
EZ: There are times when you say things and if youíre not honest 100% to your core and if you donít believe in it in every morsel of your veins, then your mind will start to think and sprout and ideas will branch off from that. Sometimes, I say some really honest things and get completely blank in mind at that point. Itís like you feel that you have nothing more to say because you feel at peace at that moment. To be honest with you, Iíve never had an epiphany before. Or maybe I have, but I didnít realize that it was an epiphany. I really want to experience one, though.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Is there a particular film that you watched as child that you perceived differently as an adult?
EZ: I come from a very strict Armenian family, so I wasnít allowed to watch many adult movies as a child. I was mostly into The Disney Channel and things like that, but I did watch the movie Thirteen. When I watched it when I was younger, I saw some glamour in it, but when I grew up and watched it again, I realized how disgusted I was by the things in it because they didnít seem as cool anymore.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Why do you think there are so few original films these days?
EZ: It all comes from money. Money means that you need a guarantee, and the executives want a guarantee, so the only thing that can produce that is a repeat.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you see the main difference between the stars of modern-day Hollywood vs. the stars of the Studio Era?
EZ: I feel that, before, the world would throw themselves onto stars, but now the stars are throwing themselves onto the world, in way---not all of them, but many of them. When theyíre not throwing themselves onto the world, the media does it instead of the people inquiring. Thatís because of technology, commercialism, money and advertisement. Before, all you would do is pick up the local newspaper and see if you can find an interview with your favorite star, and when you would itíd be your luckiest day---and thatís as close as you would get to them.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do feel that you learn better through reason or through experience?
EZ: Experience helps me learn more, but I do like a little bit of reason---thatís because Iím a Libra! I need a good balance of everything to function properly.