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Love Etc.: A Slice-of-Borough Story of Love

In her charming new doc, first-time director Jill Andresevic explores the many stages of love and relationships, set against the backdrop of NYC.

Love Etc.: Jill AndresevicWhen first time feature director Jill Andresevic set out to make a love story, she knew she was not making a typical generic romantic comedy. To start with, she wanted to use real people, in various real-life stages of love. And what better setting than the city that is, in her eyes, a "snapshot of the globe"? (And, honestly, what city has better characters than New York City?)


The result, Love Etc., is a charming slice-of-life documentary that introduces us to a delightful group of characters with one thing in common: they all want, need, appreciate, and/or cherish relationships in their lives that fill them with love. In some cases, it's a fluid, ongoing search for a new kind of relationship; in others, it's a matter of working hard to sustain the relationship they are already in. The film does not shy away from the difficulties that lie therein: for example, Al and Marion have been married for almost 50 years, and though Marion is slowly sliding into dementia, Al is more devoted to her every day.


We talked with Andresevic last week about her film, and about what she hopes it will bring to audiences not only in NYC, but across the country.


Tribeca: What inspired you to tell this story?


Jill Andresevic: This was [executive producer] Jonathan Tisch’s idea. He was at City Hall in New York with his [now] wife Lizzie, getting their marriage certificate, and they looked around the room and saw all these people of different ages and ethnicities. The two of them were in love, and they loved New York, and they found what they saw completely inspiring. New York is such a snapshot of the globe… Then Jonathan and his producing partner Jeffrey Stewart told me about this idea for a film, and they asked me to write a treatment. They were creative partners, not just producers.


Had they not gone to City Hall to get their marriage certificate, this film would not exist.


Jeffrey and Jonathan were amazing to work with—they were so easy. They were tough in the sense of the expectation levels—they wanted everything to go well—but extra supportive. They are a filmmaker’s dream, the perfect partners one could wish for. In addition to being successful, and proven in their worlds, and so smart, they are also just really good people. And you can’t say that about everyone


Love Etc.: Jill Andresevic


Tribeca: How do you describe your film?


Jill Andresevic:It’s everyday love with a sense of humor. And it’s real. By design, we wanted to wrap it in a way that would make it familiar: in terms of structure, editorial, music and graphics. We wanted to create a movie that was accessible to audiences of all ages and that would resonate with everyone.


Love takes up at least a third of our lives. There are three things that occupy people’s lives: career, friends and family, and love—either the person you are with or the absence of love in your life. Love crosses time and culture and language and age—whether in the 18th Century or now, adults were/are in one of these stages: looking for love, finding love, keeping love, starting over, or losing love.


Love Etc.: Jill Andresevic


When we started making this film, we didn’t know what we would find, which was intriguing. At the end of the day, we found it surprising that a lot of the leads were male—that’s not what we set out to do, but we wanted to make the strongest film possible, and that’s how it turned out. We have someone in almost every stage [of love], and at the end of the day, I’m happy because it is balanced, and we weren’t controlling the storylines. That’s the beauty of documentary film: you make certain predictions about what you think might happen, but then things happen you wouldn’t expect. We run the range from ages 18 to 89, and that’s a 71-year spread. We were lucky, and we found it really fascinating.


Love Etc.: Jill Andresevic


Tribeca: When I was watching the movie, I didn’t think about how many of the leads were male. There isn’t the clichéd single woman in NYC looking for love.


Jill Andresevic: And that’s not because I didn’t try to get it, but those stories didn’t surface as the ones we wanted to use. We wanted parts that would add up to a whole that was greater. And we wanted the film to come across as one story, and to be a reflection on everyday love and life as seen through these real people’s points of view.


Tribeca: How did you find your subjects? Did you know anyone beforehand?


Jill Andresevic:I did research first—we decided we wanted to find an interesting, diverse cross-section of people, experiences, stages of love, from across the five boroughs. We wanted to find a single man or woman—a salt-of-the-earth type who was a real New Yorker; we didn’t necessarily think he would be divorced with two kids! Ideally, s/he would meet someone and we could follow that story.


Love Etc.: Jill AndresevicLove Etc.: Jill Andresevic


We thought a couple who were going to get married would provide a natural story arc, before and after the marriage. I was curious about Indian weddings—visually, they are stunning—and I knew there was a large South Asian community in Queens. When I learned the bride traditionally gets henna’d before the wedding, we contacted mehndi artists in Queens—that’s how we found our couple.


Love Etc.: Jill Andresevic


We also wanted a couple who had been married for 50 years—that’s the golden ring, the idea of what many people are aiming for when they start their love journey. We had no idea what the arc would be—it could just be having cereal in the winter, having cereal in the summer; that could be what happens when people are together that long. But we found Al and Marion Mazur when a song they wrote was named the official song of Brooklyn [see below]. And Marion’s dementia was already intense—we weren’t sure how that would play out over the course of a year.



Tribeca: As a theatre fan, I knew who the director Scott Ellis is, but I of course had no idea about his personal life. How did he get involved?


Jill Andresevic: We wanted to find a story that represented the gay point of view in New York, and we had been looking at different people, but nothing was working out. We decided to find a couple—two men or two women—who were about to have a baby (again, a natural story arc). We approached some high-end agencies that connected egg donors and surrogates with those who need them. We cold-called them, and told them we were making a documentary about love in NYC and wanted to include this type of journey. They liked the idea, and a nurse told Scott about us, and he called.


Love Etc.: Jill Andresevic


I never thought we would find a single gay man about to have a kid! [And there’s even a surprise plot twist we won’t go into here.] Scott is just so lovable, and so easygoing. He’s so honest about who he is—which made him so easy to film—and so transparent about his sentiments about life. It was massive that he was willing to share his story with us.


Tribeca: This is your first feature documentary. Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers?


Jill Andresevic: Get a camera and start shooting. Don’t take no for an answer. When people tell you no—think about another way to do it. Be resourceful. Don’t be afraid of the camera, and shoot yourself. You could even just pick up a Flip camera and do some test shoots, and pull it into iMovie—if you don’t have FinalCut Pro—look at what you’ve shot, and try to make sense of it. One of the most important ingredients is to be fearless. If you get afraid, walk through it; the only way out is through.


When I see few retrospectives of artists’ work—I am thinking in particular of early drawings I’ve seen of Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali—I always think, “Wow, that’s so rudimentary.” It’s amazing to see where they started and where they ended up. Being great at anything takes persistence—if you have talent, you will ultimately achieve what you have in your mind. Anyone with an artistic nature has gone through this process.


Love Etc.: Jill Andresevic


Also, I had two amazing editors working with me [Mary Manhardt and Alex Israel], who taught me so much—Mary was fierce about story: every scene had to drive the movie forward, and we couldn’t have too many thoughts in one scene. It also meant I had to get rid of stories I loved. We shot seven stories to completion, and had to cut two of them.


Tribeca: How heartbreaking! Will you include them in the DVD?


Jill Andresevic: It was awful, terrible. My heart was in my stomach making those phone calls.


[About the DVD,] I really don’t know. It’s up the producers. In the end, we made the movie we made, and that’s what’s out in the world. I’m really happy with the film that we made. It expresses everyday love in a way I’ve never seen, and I’m proud of that. I think it shows love in an authentic way—the highs, the lows, and with a sense of humor.


Love Etc.: Jill Andresevic


Tribeca: What do you want audiences to take away from the film?


Jill Andresevic: When you create something, you create it for an audience. We wanted the audience to absorb the film and, ideally, leave pondering thoughts about life or love that they might not otherwise. Winning the audience award at the Hamptons International Film Festival was a big deal—I was so floored, because that is the thing that’s most important to me as a filmmaker—that meant people were responding to the film. That’s what you dream of.


And now we are going to be in cities around the country. We open July 1 in NYC. It’s still slightly surreal, and such a great feeling. That was always the goal—to be in theaters—and now I feel like I’ve gotten on the plane, and I’m not sure where we’re going to land, but I have a feeling it’s somewhere warm and sunny.



Love Etc. opens Friday, July 1, at Landmark Sunshine and City Cinemas, and in other cities throughout July.


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