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Director's Statement

I had no idea I wanted to do a film like A Family Affair. I only knew that I was getting older and I wanted to write about it. I started taking notes on aging. Mid-life crisis thoughts. The life once imagined vs. the one I was leading. The cliché of attracting to women twenty years younger than myself. The heartbreak of watching my mom slip into dementia.

And then at a gathering, I met a woman considerably older than me. And we had a delightful conversation. I felt so comfortable with her… so at home. I found myself romantically drawn towards this woman who was old enough to be my mother.

Musing on this later, I got a feeling of excitement. I felt somewhere in all this was a truly interesting story about love and aging. And the inescapable nature of both.

A series of surprising symmetries emerged from the final concept. Wounds and atonements between adult children and their mothers. The unexpected love between Robert and Olivia -- he as he’s losing his mom, she while missing her daughter -- and the brief solace they find in each other. A strange surrogate for at least part of the parent-child connection they’ve lost.

In the end, A Family Affair is not a true story. But there’s a lot of truth in it. Just like Maddie, my real-life girlfriend did lose her father and then threw herself and her grief into remodeling his home. Olivia is drawn from a composite of women I’ve known, including one depressed mother who left her young daughters and husband in an attempt to save herself. And almost everything that happens between Robert and Vi in the script is based on real life events with my own mother.

I could go into technical details to describe how I went to direct the film. Certain lenses we could use, creating poetic montages as part of our exterior transitions, etc. But ultimately, A Family Affair will not be a high-tech wonder. It will instead be an elegant, humanistic tale. With actors inhabiting and fleshing out very real and flawed characters. And a director who knows when to guide, and when to step back and let the spontaneity of the performances create their own magic. The sexual situations in the film will be dealt with tastefully. With grace, humor and no nudity. And there will be lots of classical music in the movie.

I’ll close with the end of the script. Some find it a mostly happy ending, while others think it’s quite bittersweet. They ask me, “So which is it?” To which I reply, “That’s really for you to decide.”

Tim Bartell

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