In the film “Seven Short Films About (Our) Marriage,” the life of the main character mirrors that of the filmmaker … sorta.
Noah, played by Drez Ryan, is fresh out of film school and hoping to make movies that change the world. His wife, Madison, played by Chynna Walker, is a dancer who teaches dance classes to pay the newlywed couple’s bills while Noah works on his feature film. Things happen, the film gets derailed and money becomes an issue.
“The film is, up until probably Part 4, really based on things that actually happened to me,” said Chris Hansen, who wrote, directed and co-produced the film. “I was picturing myself and my wife in our apartment in Virginia, when I was in film school and money was tight. And we would have arguments about money and about me going to school and her working a secretarial job, which was not her goal. She was a business major and wanted to go into business.”
There’s also a scene late in the film where Madison and Noah attend their 10-year college reunion and, separately, tell the story of how they met. They were best friends through part of their college experience, some romantic feelings came into play and weren’t immediately returned, and they drifted apart, but obviously, got back together.
“Parts 1 through 4 involve kinds of things that were reminiscent of our marriage,” Hansen said, “because I viewed it as, if not universal, at least the kinds of things that a lot of marriages had to deal with. But then I didn’t want it to be about my marriage. I really wanted to distance the main character from myself in some ways, and so I hit upon the idea of making him African American.” Madison is white.
The film touches on racism in a few areas, but not as much as Hansen had initially anticipated when he began writing the movie. The first scene in “Seven Short Films” is on the wedding day of Madison and Noah, and what they’re both going through in preparing for the ceremony. Noah has a painful discussion with Madison’s father, Don, played by Sean Weil.
“We’ve got to talk about how difficult it is for someone like her to be married to someone of another color. You know I’m not a racist,” Don says to his future son-in-law. “I’m willing to throw away all the money I’ve spent on this wedding because I want what’s best for her. I want you to think about, really think about, what’s best for Madison. If you really love her, you’ll do the right thing.”
“Seven Short Films About (Our) Marriage” will be one of the featured films at the Deep in the Heart Film Festival, which is set for August 6-9 in Waco. It’ll be the first chance for a broad Waco audience to see the film, which played at the online Dallas VideoFest in April. Hansen’s film was scheduled to open the Alternative Fiction section of the in-person festival but was moved online as part of COVID-19 prevention measures. The film played at Cinequest in San Jose, California; the Durango Independent Film Festival in Colorado; and was accepted into the Hill Country Film Festival in Fredericksburg.
There are plenty of folks from Waco who are extras throughout the film, with several on screen during the reunion scene, which was shot in the courtyard of Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor, where Hansen is chair of the Film & Digital Media Department.
Finding locations to shoot scenes is often the toughest part of filmmaking, he said. Various scenes in “Seven Short Films” were shot at the former Tesla’s Café and Coffee Pub on Washington Avenue, the Bellmead Funeral Home, Cultivate 7Twelve, Spice Village and University Place Apartments.