Going Away Party offers a glimpse into the relationship between a couple (played by Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll and Allie Dunbar) who must confront their future apart when one of them is selected to help colonize Mars due to a special biological gift.
The film blends moments of humor and intimacy to explore the lengths we sometimes go to in order to fill our need to matter in the world – and the toll it can have on those around us.
Director Beth Evans says she was compelled to tell the story after making an immediate connection with the script (written by Hamish Alan Headley).
“It goes pretty deep pretty fast, and I felt for this man and how he has such a void in his heart that he goes to this extreme to fill,” she says. “But the choice he makes [to leave] is also the very opposite of the one I would make, so I wanted to see if I could really get inside of him, make his reasoning believable and get the audience to empathize with him.”
Evans adds that she was also attracted to the project by the challenge of turning what was “just a conversation” between two characters into a compelling on-screen experience. Importantly, she says, this made casting actors who could bring comedy and vulnerability to the roles a big priority.
“This was the second time I’d worked with Allie [Dunbar]. I knew how talented she was and we were already really close. We have a very good relationship and we communicate very beautifully, so I sort of felt like, ‘Okay, she’s got this,’” Evans says. “She’s also very reactive to what she’s given on set, and she listens very well. If another actor does something different, she will really pick up on it and take it in that direction.”
In need of a strong male lead to play opposite Dunbar, Evans says they were fortunate to land veteran actor and comedian Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll.
“When you’re watching the monitor and you’re like, ‘Oh my God,’ it’s a really great feeling. I love working with really good actors.”
“Rodrigo was new to me. I’d never met him offline before, but there was a real exchange of energy in person. When you say, ‘Action!’ he’s just there, so it was amazing,” she says. “He also makes a lot of unique and unexpected choices, so as a director it’s interesting to watch and it keeps you on your toes, but he offers a lot and he’s such a pro.”
The cast and crew came together for the shoot in Toronto in December 2021. Despite just one prior read-through over Zoom and only a 12-hour window with the location, Evans says she was thrilled to see her vision unfold through the actors’ performances.
“When I could see the connection between Rodrigo and Allie on set and how vulnerable they were with each other and how committed to the material they were, it was exciting,” she says. “When you’re watching the monitor and you’re like, ‘Oh my God,’ it’s a really great feeling. I love working with really good actors.”
In addition to directing, Evans served as co-producer on Going Away Party. While noting she enjoys both roles, she says doing two jobs at once also led to some challenges she is hoping to avoid on her next project.
“When issues start to happen on set, it means you have to handle that stuff, too. Wearing two hats is not great. It takes you out of the creative place to troubleshoot, but because of how fast you have to move, it’s hard to be pulled out and then go back in,” she says. “In the future, I’d love to have a dedicated producer who’s there to manage those things so that I can just focus on the creative.”
Evans also opted to edit the film herself, working alongside her husband Colin Evans (who did color and mixing and was also the film’s cinematographer) in the process.
“If you see something on set that isn’t right, like a boom shadow, you have to have the presence of mind to call it in the moment. Don’t pretend you didn’t see it.”
“Once I got the project home, I became slightly obsessed with it and I couldn’t really stop until it was done. I think the edit was like two or three weeks, then it went back and forth between Allie and me until we got it into the place that we wanted it. Beginning to end, the whole project was probably three months,” she says.
Evans adds that post-production also drew her attention to another common mistake she says she is intent on not repeating the next time she takes a seat in the director’s chair.
“‘We’ll fix it in post’ is the wrong thing to say to yourself. If you see something on set that isn’t right, like a boom shadow, you have to have the presence of mind to call it in the moment. Don’t pretend you didn’t see it,” she says. “Later, you’ll be sitting in the editing suite and be like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember when I saw that,’ but you won’t be able to fix it.”
Going Away Party is already winding down its festival run and was recently acquired by CBC Gem as part of the streaming platform’s Canadian Reflections series – something Evans says was both pleasantly unexpected and never really part of her plan.
“I’d never really thought about selling it, I just wanted it to get into some festivals and for it to do well, but then a fellow filmmaker told me that the CBC purchased shorts,” she says. “So I had a couple of meetings with them to figure out what they were buying. I just sent them the film and went away and later I got an email saying, ‘We’d love to acquire it.’ It was just a huge bonus.”
Whether on the big screen or online, Evans says she hopes the film can serve as a conversation starter for audiences and encourage others to think about what is really important to them in life.
“The truth is we all need to matter. But how? And why? And to whom? And how much? The answers to these questions are so personal and reveal so much about us as individuals – our insecurities, our motivations, our self-expectations,” she says. “What would you give up to live a life bigger than one you ever dreamed was possible? Your job? Your community? Your partner? Your kids? Those are interesting questions.”
Going Away Party has a date with the Vaughan International Film Festival later this month. Follow the film on Instagram here (@goingawaypartyfilm) or connect with Beth Evan’s Windrun Media here (@windrunmedia).