Ela Thier’s ‘Tomorrow Ever After’ Film Looks At Current-Day America From 600 Years In The Future

We’re knee-deep in turbulent political times here in the United States, an indeed around the world. As we wake up each day, scroll through our Twitter feeds and wonder what atrocity of a policy is going to be proposed, which freedoms stripped away through an executive order, or who the President is going to personally insult in an immature 3am tweet-fest, at times it feels like we will never escape our current situation.

But as we know from history, politics and society are constantly changing and evolving, and as the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once proclaimed, “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” While it may seem a long way off, an award-winning film by writer/director Ela Thier is giving us hope what we can potentially look forward to in the future. Like, 600 years in the future.

‘Tomorrow Ever After’ is exactly the kind of on-screen escapism we need right now, because it allows us to grapple with what is happening in current-day America, and foster enough motivation to make the future better. In the film, Ela plays the lead character Shaina, a historian who lives 600 years in the future. War, poverty, pollution, greed, exploitation, depression, loneliness: these are things that she’s read about in history books. And while she studied this dark period of history (in which we are currently living) when money is viewed as more important than people, she has never, in the flesh, seen humans hurting other humans—until now.

While visiting a group of physicists who experiment with time travel, Shaina is accidentally transported back to present day New York City in a period of time called “The Great Despair.” Here she involves herself with a group of friends who are as lovable as they are flawed. As the harsh realities of their lives unfold, she learns what no history book could have taught her. Old habits, however, are hard to break, and Shaina can’t help but assume that everyone around her is honest, generous and caring, as she works to recruit the help that she needs to get back home to the future.

While most futuristic films depict a dystopia that is even colder and more mechanical than our own, ‘Tomorrow Ever After’ takes a bold departure from the sci-fi genre by exploring the possibility of a future in which caring and compassion govern our societies. What if the future of humanity and the planet turns out exactly as we would want it to be?

We spoke with the Israeli-American filmmaker, who cast diverse actors from the Independent Film School which she founded in 2006 – all immigrants in front of the camera and behind – to find out more about ‘Tomorrow Ever After’, the message she wants to send to audiences, and how we truly can have hope for the future.

First up, let’s talk about the idea of ‘Tomorrow Ever After’. How did it come about and what was the inspiration?

I was getting stuck working on this super serious script and struggling with it, so I got nutty and started writing some ridiculous thing about meeting people from the future and all sorts of things that I would never write, much less produce.

Before I knew it, I found myself writing a time-travel story and the script pretty quickly and easily wrote itself. I could tell as I was writing it that this was turning into a “must make” script. I vaguely remember thinking at some point: what if the future turned out opposite to what we usually see in films? What if it wasn’t grim, but was actually what we would want it to be?

While there are some dark themes explored in terms of war, poverty and greed, there are also comedic moments where you can’t help but laugh at Shaina’s experience with the past. Why did you choose to include a comedic perspective in this film?

Most of my writing is comedic, and when it’s dramatic, there’s always humor in it. I think that the best comedies are about profoundly painful subject matters. Comedies that aren’t addressing real pain aren’t that funny. Conversely, the best dramas rely on humor.

How have current political events played a role in your filmmaking and writing?

I wrote this film in 2014, before the current administration was around to make the horrors of our society this transparent. But I don’t think things have changed since then. Our current White House is not an aberration, it’s more of an x-ray image of what’s been going on for decades: government has been bought and run by giant corporations for ages. I don’t want to diminish the profound damage that the administration is causing that will keep us bleeding for decades, but ultimately, band-aid solutions aren’t going to work.

For the human race to survive and keep our planet habitable we will need to completely transform the society we live in from one that is organized around greed and short-term material gains, to one that is organized around the needs of humanity and the planet. Maybe hitting rock bottom faster will move us towards a real and lasting transformation that much faster.

Behind the scenes of this film, most of the actors are first generation immigrants. How did this diverse cast add to the overall message of your film?

Making a point of creating diversity leads to richer stories, richer performances, and richer films all around. When a group is homogeneous, there are ways that the group will be small-minded and lack creativity that they can’t be aware of because there’s no one and nothing outside of the group’s limited perspective.

The diversity of the cast as well as the crew in “Tomorrow Ever After” made the film richer same way that diversity makes everything richer. As I was building The Independent Film School, by decision and from the get-go, I made it a point to create diverse classrooms. The film was simply an expression of what I was doing in my life in general. In fact, no auditions were held for this film. All the roles were written specifically for the actors who played them; these were actors I had worked with and am personally invested in.

Diversity doesn’t happen by accident. You have to make it a stated goal, at least in your mind. Our society is hell bent on keeping us separated and boxed into feeling that some people are smarter, better, more important than other people. We don’t want to feel this way, but we do. You can’t grow up in this society and not absorb these irrationalities.

As a female, I’m constantly doubting my mind and worrying that I “talk too much” or that I’m way too visible. The greatest feminist in the world can’t escape internalizing sexism. As a white person, I can tell that I absorbed arrogance that I’m not even aware of. This arrogance keeps us white people lonely and small-minded. Oppression is a lose-lose situation no matter which end of the equation you were born into.

The only way to battle the institutional oppressions that shape our lives is to take decisive actions. In my case, it meant making my workshops affordable and giving lots of breaks. It meant calling on the person who never raises their hand. It meant putting attention and bringing to the center those people who may be staying quiet and feel “comfortable” staying invisible, while lovingly training people who dominate conversations to step back. There are specifics actions you need to take in order to create diversity. It doesn’t happen through happy accidents.

The films we create will inevitably be an expression of our lives overall. The diversity in my film was an expression of what I was doing in every other area of my life.

What do you hope audiences will take away from watching ‘Tomorrow Ever After’ this holiday season?

Leaving the world in better shape than how I found it is the ultimately the goal behind all of my films. I think that art is a form of taking leadership; it’s an act of service. I encourage all artists to adopt this goal because it gives our work meaning and pulls us away from becoming self-absorbed.

We’ve seen a number of artists and filmmakers using their platform to be part of the #resistance this year. Do you feel this is important for you also?

All of my films are intended to leave people feeling more hopeful, more powerful, and most importantly: seeking connection and trust with other people. It’s our caring and connection with each other that leads us to hope and to empowerment. I make films that remind us that real caring and connection is what we all really long for and ultimately need.

The #resistance movement is inspiring. As a Jewish woman whose family survived the holocaust, I cried when I saw thousands of people flood airports all over the country last fall in response to a racist travel ban. The movement around Standing Rock and the endless acts of courage to protect the environment, most of which we don’t hear about; the movement by fast food workers for a $15 minimum wage; the women’s march after the elections and the courage that women are finding now to speak out against sexual harassment; seeing gay marriage become legal – all of these and so, so much more, serve as a constant reminder that most of us (I would argue all of us), want a society in which humans don’t hurt humans.

But – and this is important – as we “resist”, in whatever form, I recommend that we stay focused on what we’d like to build, rather than on what we’d like to tear down. Building something positive is the most powerful way of tearing something down that is irrational. This is why my films are less about what’s wrong with the world, and more about inspiring us to think about what else is possible.

Tell us about the Independent Film School you founded and what people learn from enrolling there?

I’ve been training screenwriters, directors, actors and filmmakers since 2006. My workshops have the same design that my movies do: to empower and to bring people together. This year I’m filming my workshops so I can make them available online. Lots of work, but am excited about this project.

My courses won’t be available for a few more months, but for the time being, I have a free “mini-course” available that I call “Small Budget Big Movie.” In this course I use clips from “Tomorrow Ever After” to share some of my favorite tricks to making shoestring budget movies that look like a million bucks. The size of a budget need not impact the size of the film in any real sense. A budget doesn’t impact how entertaining, meaningful, creative or impactful a film can be. You can request my free course here:
https://thier-productions.lpages.co/free-online-filmmaking-course

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‘Tomorrow Ever After’ is available now on Amazon and iTunes.

 

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