I was 24 years old and struggling to feel fulfilled when I began work on the story that would become West of Her. I was fortunate by nearly any measure, yet I still felt a huge piece missing—a sense that I was part of something bigger than myself.
As I started to write about the travels, and the mysterious work, embarked upon by Dan and Jane, I found myself unconsciously channeling my fear of detachment into the characters, exploring my own feelings while powering their inner lives and narrative. Before too long, I came to realize how well this story would work onscreen, and how impactful these universal themes could be for audiences.
I had little formal training as a filmmaker, but I felt powerfully that West of Her needed to be made. So I reached out to Cameron Bryson, an old friend from a filmmaking workshop now active as a Director of Photography, and as we discussed my script, we quickly saw the rare opportunity this project offered: a story of big images and bigger emotions that could be achieved with total independence—just our vision, a minuscule budget and a skeleton crew.
Over the course of pre-production, Cameron, myself, and my friend David Brustlin—who came on as a producer early in the process—discovered the challenges and joys of producing an ambitious microbudget film, as we organized casting, hiring, and equipment rentals, all while scheduling a shoot that would double as a truly epic cross-country road trip. And even on the most challenging days, I was bolstered by knowing I’d found the satisfaction and excitement that had always eluded me.
In West of Her, Dan tells Jane that he feels “like a jigsaw piece from the wrong puzzle.” When I first wrote that line, I was giving voice to my own confusion, but my years of work on this project have seen me finally leave those feelings behind. I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with incredibly talented artists, technicians, and cinephiles, and form relationships I know will last for years to come. Not only do I no longer dream of feeling part of something bigger, I now feel part of something far bigger than I ever imagined, and the result is a film that I could not be prouder of, nor more excited to share with audiences.
- Ethan Warren, January 2018