Steven Loring’s (MFA 2012 Social Documentary Film) The Age of Love (watch a trailer below) recently had its New York City premiere at the SVA Theatre as part of DOC NYC, the largest and most prestigious documentary film festival in the U.S. Loring’s film follows 30 recently widowed, long-divorced or never-married 70- to 90-year-olds as they prepare for a speed dating event for seniors. SVA Close Up caught up with the alumnus via email recently to find out more.
How did you find your film’s subject?
This project actually evolved from my own life. Just before I began the SocDoc program at SVA, my dad died, and my mom, who was nearing 70, was without emotional intimacy for the first time in her life. That same year, my 78-year-old uncle met an 80-year-old woman and they fell madly in love. They basically locked the bedroom door—like they were in high school again. Trying to understand the hearts of people so close to me, I was surprised to find almost nothing in popular media that looked honestly into the emotional lives of that generation. TV and movies were filled with dated stereotypes and jokes about older adults’ desires. So when I heard about speed dating for people over 70—and especially when I heard everyone’s instant laughter at the idea—I thought, wow, what a perfect hook for a film into the hearts of that generation! Who knows what I might find?
What was the biggest hurdle in making it?
The part I struggled with most was finding a structure that would accommodate so many characters, none of which offered a complete story arc. When I began, not knowing who would be interesting or who would end up with a date, I followed everyone. So for four weeks before the event, I shot over eight hours a day, by myself, running from one speed dater’s house to another. I ended up with over 120 hours of conversation and vérité. But in many cases, the most interesting footage turned out to be with characters I followed who ended up without dates. So consulting with Michelle Ferrari, I devised a sort of “relay structure,” where some characters would establish themes, then hand the “story baton” off to others as the speed dating arc progressed. Eventually, I was able to create a “group protagonist” that audiences could follow, and which reflected all different aspects of the larger theme.
Have you been surprised by the film’s reception?
In school, it’s usually assumed a Sundance premiere and big distribution contract is our greatest goal. What I found is that my film, which has none of the typical “torn-from-the-headlines” elements of war, abuse, crime, prejudice, celebrity and so on, was not an easy sell to major festivals. But over the months, as general audiences discovered it, buzz really started to grow. Including DOC NYC, my last five screenings in four cities have all sold out, AARP screened it at their National Expo, and we’re now aiming to screen at 400 venues nationwide for our Valentine’s Day launch. What’s best is that mainstream media, such as Good Morning America, have begun reaching out to me—and more than at insular festivals, that’s exactly where this social doc’s message needs to be heard.
Where can people see the film?
Keep an eye on our website (theAgeofLoveMovie.com) in early 2015 for developments on fests, broadcasts, and theatrical and community screenings. Also, if you want to bring The Age of Love to your community around Valentine’s Day, just contact us through the website and our outreach team will work with you to make that happen.
What role did the program play in your making this film?
The SocDoc program piled on challenges, forcing me to work on brand new, essential skills. I’d never held a movie camera or recorded sound or edited before coming to SVA, and suddenly I was required to use all of these skills every day. So the program gave me the space and equipment and tasks and guidance that forced me both to find my voice and to express it by crafting compelling stories.
What do you miss about being a student in the program?
No question—my classmates. Having come to this program after other, more solitary careers, being plunged into a community of smart, creative student filmmakers was a revelation. Learning and working together with a committed group all seeking answers to questions of technique and outreach and how to live the filmmaker’s life is worth the price of tuition. And having so many classmates still working here in the NYC area to grow with is the gift that keeps on giving.
Any advice for high school students considering documentary filmmaking?
You’ll have the unique opportunity to spend your life on an exploratory journey, addressing issues of both personal and worldwide importance, telling stories that can change social attitudes as well as touch individual hearts. The trade-off is that you’ll be constantly faced with fundraising chores, and that years of toil (unless you seek a career as an editor or other high-priced specialist), will not necessarily lead to public success or financial reward. But if you’re determined to carve your own path as a visual storyteller and want to spend your life learning about yourself and your world, it’s an awesome career choice.