Austin Film Festival 2017 – Short Film THE LOVE TRIALS Interview

"The Love Trials takes us on exploration of trust, honesty, monogamy, and the fact that love really is a leap of faith. A charming and humorous tale of falling in love and all the uncertainties that comes with it."

Writer/Director Theodore James and Writer/Star Ashley Donigan chatted with me about their short film and all the fun behind making it.

Interview with THE LOVE TRIALS – Writer/Director Theodore James and Writer/Star Ashley Donigan:

1. Theo and Ashley I loved your kickstarter video (GO SPURS by the way Ashley).  Since y'all asked folks about being cheated on.  Have either of you been cheated on or more importantly did either of you go "searching" like seen in the short?  And which of your Skype sessions was the creepiest?


Theodore: Luckily, I have not been cheated on. Well as far as I know that is. I haven’t tried testing any of my previous boyfriends, but now that I’ve done this movie I definitely have some ideas. I recently just got engaged, so who knows. 


Ashley: Well there was one time I found out my boyfriend at the time had a second girlfriend throughout our entire relationship…so yes, I've been cheated on. I didn't go searching or test him in any way, clearly I should have.


2.  Where did you shoot?  How long was the shoot and is there any behind the scenes stories you can share?  


Theodore: We shot the film on location in Los Feliz, CA in only four days. I'm a big fan of UCB (Upright Citizen Brigade) Improv Theatre and really wanted to cast as many actors from UCB as possible. So I started going to shows and stalking their website. I was looking for an actor to play our male lead and I kept coming across Josh Covitt. The way he preformed, there was something about him. I really thought was perfect for the part. Now all I had to do was convince the producer. When I showed her a picture of him she said “Wait a fucking minute- that’s the guy I’ve been talking to on Bumble for the past three weeks!” It was definitely one of those serendipitous moments where the Universe is trying to tell you something. Needless to say we ended up casting him. 


3.  The cast seems like a really fun group.  What was the atmosphere like on set? 


Ashley: We got very lucky with our entire cast. They each brought such an excited, positive, contagious energy to set, even on our early mornings. I remember showing up at 6am and crawling straight to the coffee, barely able to open my eyes, meanwhile two of our cast members were having a "sing-off" in the corner….totally coffee-less.


Theodore: The set was so much fun. Everyone clicked immediately. I really wanted to create a fun and loose environment, although we were always battling against time restraints. We would get the script pages in the can right away and then we would do a few “fun” improv’ed takes before we moved on. We captured some really funny moments by doing this, a few of them made it in the final cut. 


4.  The outfit change was brilliant!  Who came up with the eye test?  


Theodore: We read about a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine where scientists found the difference between love and lust in the brain. Apparently they were able to map out the regions in the brain that are implicated in our feelings of love and lust. We thought that would be an interesting way to see if your boyfriend or girlfriend really loved  and respected you or was only interested in sex. Unfortunately we didn’t have access to the scientific equipment they used so we came up with our own variation of the test. It’s probably not as accurate as their’s but it’s just as fun. 


Ashley: After reading the study that sparked the idea, writing the eye test was a fun process for us both. Executing the eye test, however, was way more fun for TJ than myself. Thank God for contouring. 


5.  What does it mean to make it to a writer's festival?  Can you talk about your Texas ties or fondest memories of being in Texas?


Ashley: I was born in south Texas and moved to Austin for college. Texas is home. It always has been and always will be. The people, the food and the Texas pride are unmatched by anywhere else I've ever been. I've yet to find another place where you can walk into a bar solo and walk out an hour later with twelve new friends…genuine friends too. I have also always loved the arts scene in Austin which makes world premiering here an even bigger accomplishment for me. 


Theodore: It was a huge confidence booster for us to be accepted into a writer’s festival. We spent a long time writing the short. We had many table reads with actors to workshop the film in front of our peers. We were constantly sending it out for feedback. That really helped us hone in on the story and sharpen the dialogue. It feels freaking ah-maz-ing to be apart of this festival!


6.  What projects are y'all working on next together as a team and individually? 


Ashley: Right now we're both focused on writing the feature length version of The Love Trials. 



SCREENING SCHEDULE (Shorts Program 2: Goal Oriented) 


Thursday, October 26th 


Rollins Theatre
710 W. Riverside Drive Austin, TX 78704


Monday, October 30th


Galaxy Highland (Screen 9)

6700 Middle Fiskville Rd, Austin, TX 78752