The End Again, the prequel to the pending feature film, OPENENDED, tells the painstaking story of a six-year relationship coming to an end. The dramatic short film, directed by award-winning filmmaker Crystal C. Roberson, stars husband-and-wife Columbus Short and Tanee McCall-Short.
The End Again features minimal dialogue and long scenes that vividly capture the moments leading up to accepting an amicable split. Short (Joe Maxwell) and McCall-Short (Jane Salmon) are distant on-screen in a lofty apartment but manage to relive the heyday of their union over photographs. The End Again’s dreary and obscure cinematography is accompanied by a somber, melancholy musical score courtesy of The Foreign Exchange.
As McCall-Short’s character prepares to relocate to Chicago, Short, a co-star on the hit ABC political series, Scandal, brings captivating dramatic license to the screen. Producer Latisha Fortune, under her production company, Great Fortune Films, reiterates how passionate and hard working the cast and crew were during the making of The End Again. Fortune, the former executive assistant to producer/director Roger Bobb, paid close attention to Roberson’s detail-oriented directorial discretion. “[Crystle] wanted to visually show boundaries and open spaces to show how far away they’ve either grown apart or how far away their worlds are. It doesn’t feel like home anymore,” says Fortune.
The End Again kicked off its nationwide screening tour in Atlanta. By coincidence, the film was shot over two stormy days in Atlanta’s Edgewood community. The End Again's writer, Felicia Pride, thought it was important to create a realistic story around unspoken tension between both men and women. It took five years to fully develop the story. “Love ends, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be mean. It could still be painful. Two people could still have respect for each other and still be caught in the relationship,” says Pride.
Both Fortune and Pride were excited by Atlanta’s initial reactions to The End Again. Fortune couldn’t recall a single moment when both Short and McCall-Short, who married in 2005 but split in 2013, had tension on-set. She knows capturing a similar relationship can be challenging. “Shooting a movie about breaking up is tiring for any actor. The emotion you have to exhibit on-screen can be draining. Love isn’t always beautiful. It’s a rollercoaster we’ve all experienced in its different phases. Love is something that brings us all together. Sometimes it hurts. It’s a multi-faceted diamond,” says Fortune.
The couple, along with the production crew, kept everything in stride during production. “They were champs. We had a lot of laughs. We had to keep it light hearted in order for them to let go. Their relationship helped them to have a natural chemistry together,” adds Fortune. Pride concurs with Fortune regarding life on-set. She considered the production of The End Again “a labor of love on many levels because of tenacity and perseverance.”
Pride adds, “Taking them through those emotions over and over was grueling to them. [Columbus] is a fool. In the middle of a take, he would do a dance from Stomp The Yard or crack a joke,” she says.
The final product, OPENENDED, involves the couple reuniting for one day following the death of a friend. In leading up to the film’s production and release, crowdfunding and audience engagement are critical to ensuring the film’s success and reach. Pride, a media fellow at American University's Center for Media and Social Impact, knows social media and advanced screenings of The End Again are essential to raise awareness.
The strategy allows The End Again’s audience to feel like shareholders in the film. “We’re trying to build audience and community before the film comes out. We want to hold this as an experience. We want people to feel welcome and a part of this. They’re a part of this journey,” says Pride.
As production and fundraising continues, OPENENDED’s team is optimistic about the film’s impact. Both Fortune and Pride both comment on how they want audiences to understand the complexities of expressing love. “Life and love are both complicated. We want things to be black and white. I hope this film allows us to be more comfortable with living in the gray area,” says Pride.
Fortune, on the other hand, hope aspiring filmmakers and those in relationships can become inspired by the efforts it took to bring The End Again and OPENENDED into fruition. “It should be encouraging to other filmmakers and anyone. You put action behind it, the momentum can concede the good. Be encouraged by our struggle and our journey. When you put your mind to something, the possibilities are limitless,” says Fortune.
Photos: Curtis Baker/Dana Ebron