October 19, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Sundance 2021: Comedy ‘How It Ends’ was made during pandemic

In “How It Ends,” Zoe Lister-Jones’ Liza spends her last day on Earth trekking across Los Angeles accompanied by her younger self, trying to tie up loose ends and maybe make it to one last party.

The film, which premieres at Sundance Film Festival on Friday, takes place on the day the Earth is set to be destroyed by an approaching asteroid. Written, directed and produced by Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein, “How It Ends” was conceived of and completed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The film stars Lister-Jones as the adult Liza opposite Cailee Spaeny, who plays the metaphysical younger Liza. The cast also includes Helen Hunt and Lamorne Morris as characters Liza seeks out during the day.

Describing their experiences during the early months of the pandemic as “pretty dreary,” Wein explained during the virtual L.A. Times Talks @ Sundance panel, sponsored by Chase Sapphire, how the project was born out of the couples’ feelings of uncertainty at the time.

“We thought it would be fun to channel that into this metaphysical comedy, which is kind of pandemic adjacent,” said Wein. “We didn’t want it to be about the pandemic but I think a lot of people have been feeling isolated and like the world was going to end, so why not put that into a metaphysical comedy of sorts.”

“We tend to channel whatever existential questions we’re facing in our personal lives into our work,” added Lister-Jones. “In the pandemic, that became so much more essential, I think for both of us, to find some hope in a pretty bleak landscape. I think we were both really uncertain about what the future of filmmaking was going to look like and when we would be able to be creative again. This served as a lifeline for both of us and we wanted to extend that to our friends and our community to offer a sense of play in an otherwise pretty dark time.”

Despite the unforeseen challenges of the pandemic, it did provide Lister-Jones and Wein specific parameters during the writing process.

“When you know the parameters within which you have to work, it sort of lends a specificity to the process of writing and that comes with any sort of independent filmmaking writing process because you’re always thinking about how you’re going to actually get it done from a production standpoint,” said Lister-Jones. “This was just that sort of times 100.”

These parameters helped them come up with a narrative comprised of vignettes that all take place outdoors and six feet apart. As Spaeny noted during the panel discussion, this set-up allowed for some beautiful shots of Los Angeles.

“It was pretty magical to capture L.A. so still,” said Spaeny. “It really is sort of a love letter to L.A. in some ways.”

Chase Sapphire has no influence over editorial decisions or content.