The harrowing new Canadian drama Zooey and Adam comes advertised as an example of “Solo Cinema,” meaning that it was conceived, filmed, and edited by a single individual. But filmmaker Sean Garrity rejects the idea that he was operating as some sort of one-man-band.
“The film belongs to my actors as much as it belongs to me,” says the Winnipeg-based director who developed the project in close collaboration with a pair of local performers — Tom Keenan and Daria Puttatert — in an attempt to get back to the exploratory style he had utilized on his acclaimed debut feature Inertia (2001).
“I wanted to repeat that process with some variations,” he explains. “On Inertia, we did a lot of rehearsals in my basement, so the actors had the advantage: they could pretend that they were anyone, or that they were going anywhere. I thought it would be interesting to put them out into the real world and force them to improvise with whatever is happening to them.”
Garrity devised a three-page outline for a story about a newlywed couple dealing with the fallout of a shared trauma and then led his actors through a series of exercises to flesh out the backstory.
“We had them meet for the first time, go on a first date, and I actually threw a little wedding for them,” says Garrity.
This carefully cultivated sense of intimacy — plus the fact that the actors weren’t informed of the story’s overall arc — accounts for much of the film’s power.
During its initial run on the festival circuit, Zooey and Adam became a flashpoint for controversy, with a lot of the debate focused around a fateful decision made by its female protagonist.
“I have been surprised by the way some people have responded to the film,” says Garrity, who insists that he wasn’t aiming for shock value.