Blog by: Eileen Shields
What inspired you come up with the idea for the film?
I had several major news magazine covers about big money, particularly in the tech world, being invested in all sorts of bizarre anti-aging therapies. At the same time, the daily refugee horror stories were overwhelming. It felt like the world had compassion fatigue. The juxtaposition of those two issues in the current political climate was the inspiration for The Amaranth.
Why did you want to tell this story?
The desire to (gently) provoke conversation about global income inequality and what a potential manifestation of that inequality might look like moving forward.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
Like our main character, Lily, I didn’t come from money, and when confronted with youth-obsessed, wealthy older folks, I could get pretty judgy about their priorities. But now I’m older myself, I’ve had to face down a critical illness, and I know both the love and the fear that can lead to monstrous choices.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
I was inspired by the almost supernatural health of the senior population of Sun Valley, Idaho, and wanted to shoot the film in that location. That meant tailoring the film to the environment and cutting other costs wherever we could to make budget. We ended up eliminating several characters.
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during production?
Probably the commitment to shoot on location. We had side-by-side battling budgets, one for LA, one for Idaho. But it had to look isolated, and it had to look beautiful and special.
Were there any risks that you faced during production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
Shooting in Idaho meant hiring local actors for smaller roles. It was a big leap of faith to believe you would be able to find folks from the community theater who can stand toe-to-toe with actors like Melora Walters and Jeffrey DeMunn. But we found some gems, like Tewatenniatha Evans, a 78-year-old Native American with no previous acting experience. She was a delight.
What influenced the visual style of the film?
We wanted the Amaranth to look just this side of magical, and the residents— unhampered by social norms—slightly eccentric. We looked at films like Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Rosemary’s Baby.
What risks did you take to tell your story?
The Amaranth is about old people, and women, and powerless minorities. Nobody is lining up to throw money at that.
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screenwriting or film producing?
It’s not enough to have plot, you need to honestly believe you are imparting something true and valuable. That core truth will guide you through the 100 daily script changes made as each emergency arises. (Unless you have zombies. In which case, go for it).
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