Every filmmakers’ journey is different. Elena Beuca studied law and ran a real estate business in Bucharest, and oddly, her desire to make movies came a little late in life. “I came to America almost 10 years ago and I was 27 at the time and I have never acted or had anything to do with the films but I decided to change my life and quit my real estate business in Romania and study acting at the American Academy of dramatic arts.” Nothing about Elena is typical and that’s part of her charm.
“After acting for a couple of years I realized that I was falling in love with directing. I was fascinated with the idea of creating a film from scratch of being able to bring my vision to life and making those characters on paper became real and that started to interest me much more than anything that I’ve ever done.”
Her first feature is D-Love just opened and she’s basking in the glow that indie filmmakers get when their film is finished and in front of audiences. Elena responded to some questions by email and offered some insights on her directorial debut.
“…be ready to work harder than everyone else in your team because you are the driving force…”
How should success be measured for an independent filmmaker?
I don’t really know what success is for a independent filmmaker. For me what success represents is creating a film that connects with an audience, creating something that people can relate, that they can enjoy and be touched by. That to me is a success and I think that is more important than anything, more than any awards or the money. To be able to touch people’s hearts with a piece of art that you created.
Can you offer advice to other filmmakers about how to cope with reactions from the media and rejection from film festivals?
I would say the best advice that I can give to a filmmaker who is ready to submit to festivals is to believe in yourself more than anything. The rejection will come, it’s inevitable and not everyone will have the same vision as you and it’s your job to convince them to see it. In our case we’ve had lots of rejections before we we heard The first YES. And if I would’ve allowed those countless NO to affect my faith in what I believe in and in the project that I created I think I would’ve given up long time ago. The key is to know in your heart that there is something more beyond the NO, it means that the YES is right around the corner… Not everyone is your people and you can’t connect with everyone and that’s the truth and that’s a part of life and probably that’s the beauty of life. But there will be people who will connect with , and who will be attracted To your project. You just have to keep going and knowing that your festival or your people are there they just are waiting to be found.
A close friend is about to make their first independent feature. What is the one piece of advice you give your friend?
Make sure that you have an awesome team on your side. Also be ready to work harder than everyone else in your team because you are the driving force that has to move this giant machine. The advice that I would also give is to breathe to enjoy the process because it goes by so fast that you almost blink and it’s gone. Another thing that I would suggest is that I think most independent first-time filmmakers done really take in consideration is the expenses for the post-production, the marketing, publicity and festivals, those are very important and they need to be considered in the budget.
“…breathe to enjoy the process because it goes by so fast that you almost blink and it’s gone.”
Which do you find most rewarding: acting or directing?
If I have to choose between directing and acting, I would choose the directing. I enjoy bringing the film to life probably even more than I enjoy the acting although I do love acting with all my heart- because it’s a part of me and that was my first love… it’s really hard to choose but if I really really have to choose I would choose the directing so I can bring a whole team on board and actually be able to create my vision and share it with the world that’s very rewarding to me.
How do you balance directing and performing in front of the camera?
Balancing the directing and acting can be a little bit of a challenge because you don’t have the luxury to breathe. But they say that directing is 90% casting, so in my case I had to make sure that I am surrounded by the right people, and I chose the right cast who can help me achieve and bring those characters to life and make them as believable as possible. I like to work with people that I know what they were capable of and each one of my actors I trusted and I knew that I can play with them and they felt safe with me and therefore I feel safe with them and we can all have fun.
Directing this is where trust comes into place because we were working on such short notice in and we didn’t really have a luxury to do a lot of takes I knew in the back of my head what worked and what didn’t work and they were very few scenes that we had to do more than two times but for most part we had to do one or two takes and move onto the next thing.
“I actually grew up hitchhiking and that’s how I went to high school every week…”
What inspired the idea for D-Love? It is based on a real person you met?
D-Love is based on our true encounter with a stranger at the airport.
My husband and I met Ditlev at the LAX airport, a couple years ago- and we both had one of those days when everything that could go wrong, went wrong and even more! We were in the middle of the LAX chaos, dealing with a stolen car, a stolen wallet, lost luggage and a plane delayed for more than 10 hours. Ditlev (who looked homeless to me) stops and asks me if I can give him a ride at the freeway because he wanted to hitchhike from the 10 freeway to Utah. My husband thought that it’s a very dangerous thing to do in America and he wasn’t comfortable letting him hitchhike (it’s not as dangerous for us in Europe because we are used to it.) I actually grew up hitchhiking and that’s how I went to high school every week because we didn’t have a car or there are very few buses.
It’s needless to say that that was not the right time to approach me, because I was not in the best of my moods and just adding another problem on top of ours didn’t seem like a good idea at all.
Yet this young man came into our life at the right time. Definitely not at the best time, but at the time that we needed him and he helped us switch our perspective, the way we look at things, the way we look at life and the way we looked at each other. Without even knowing it, Ditlev had helped us see something that we forgot to see in ourselves. Ditlev plays himself in the movie.
What do you think people from Denmark will think of the film? Have you received any reactions from people from Denmark?
I hope people in Denmark will be actually excited about the film and I hope some of them can relate to D-Love or some of them can relate to us as a couple or other characters in the film in the film. We have not shown the movie in Denmark yet, the only people that have actually saw seen it is Ditlev and his family and so far they loved it so I really hope that the rest of the people in Denmark love it just as much and they actually will find it charming.
“…he wanted to hitchhike from the 10 freeway to Utah.”
What do you hope audiences take away from D-Love?
I hope that the audiences will take from D from D-Love that life is too short and it is not worth settling for less when you can actually live the life that you were meant to be you. I always thought that a big opportunity would mean maybe winning the lottery or getting a dream job or a winning a big award that will change our lives. Yet I never thought that a big opportunity could be as simple as someone asking you a question or a favor, and it is up to us the way we respond- we have a choice every day whether to say YES or NO, our answer in one way or another will affect our lives.
We all live such busy lives, we are all going from one place to another trying to achieve the next thing or trying to impress the next person. Yet we rarely take the time to let opportunities or people affect us. I hope that the audience will learn to let go and enjoy each second of their lives and I hope that they will be touched and I hope this movie will raise some questions or open their hearts. I don’t expect that this movie will changes people, but if it can touch a person and it can it can make them look at life in a different way with a different lens, then I would be very satisfied and I think I would’ve achieve my purpose is a director.
“…we can live with anything as long as we know it’s temporary.”
How do you make a living as an indie filmmaker? What’s your secret?
I my husband and I we had to had different jobs to support our passion and our calling which I is filmmaking. I used to work as a maître d’ at Soho House and my husband bartended at a different restaurants. I’ve also done Uber in order to support making this film. You just have to do whatever it takes to pay the bills but I think the key is to keep your eyes on the passion and not to forget the purpose. My motto is “We can live with anything as long as we know it’s temporary.” So If sometimes I had to to wake up at 4AM to go and drive Uber for a couple of hours so I can support my vision and my goal – its okay, I can live with that because he’s not going to be forever and I knew that one day things will be different.
D-Love is currently available in limited release and more information can be found on the official Facebook page.