In the summer of 2010, I was 24 years old, and struggling to feel fulfilled. 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.
Around that time, I started to work on the story that would become West of Her. As I wrote about Dan and Jane’s travels and their mysterious work, I found myself unconsciously channeling my fear of detachment into the characters, exploring my own feelings while also powering their inner lives and narrative.
In 2011, I began to consider shooting West of Her. My only formal training as a filmmaker had been in 2006, when I attended a four-week course at the Maine Media Workshops. I had never seriously considered a career as a director, but I felt powerfully that West of Her needed to be made, and so I reached out to Cameron Bryson, a friend from that workshop who was now a Director of Photography. As Cameron and I discussed my script, we quickly realized that the story offered us a rare opportunity to make a film of big images and bigger emotions while working fully independently, with a minuscule budget and a skeleton crew.
It would be another two years of development before cameras rolled on West of Her, years that required Cameron, myself, and my friend David Brustlin—who came on as a producer in early 2013—to organize casting, hiring, and equipment rentals, all while scheduling a shoot that would double as a truly epic cross-country road trip. These tasks were often challenging, but more than ever before, I was finding satisfaction and excitement in my work.
After production wrapped in July 2013, it would take over two more years to complete post-production, meaning I have now spent five and a half years living within the world of Dan, Jane, and the Tromsø tiles. Those years of work have left the confusion that fueled West of Her’s development—confusion that led to Dan telling Jane he feels, “like a jigsaw piece from the wrong puzzle”—finally in the rearview. I’ve been lucky enough to partner with and receive help from a network of unbelievably talented artists and technicians, forming relationships I know will last long into my career. Not only do I no longer dream of feeling part of something bigger, I now feel a part of something far bigger than I ever imagined, and the result is a film that I could not be more proud of, nor more excited to share with audiences.
- Ethan Warren, December 2015