‘The House Next Door’: Sarah Friedman says she can’t put it into words

J & e, Sarah Friedman

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On the eve of my film release, The House Next Door, I wanted to share with you the most profound lesson I learned from my experience making it. It’s a constant reminder of why true relationships mean so much to me and why I’ll continue to encourage others to be brave and take chances with the person they love.

In the film, Lauren and Eric have a heated argument about Lauren leaving for Canada. They both reveal that they often forget to care for each other or be there for each other. I realized that every relationship is unique and that Lauren and Eric’s is no different. Lauren’s subconscious is clear that she will never be able to connect with Eric and to date him, she needs to keep moving on. Eric, on the other hand, feels so badly that Lauren will leave him on top of everything that he gives up and makes excuses to avoid talking to her. I spent a lot of time filming in these two completely different worlds and it was not until the final day of filming that I was able to slowly leave my comfort zone and step into Lauren’s on-screen shoes and experience what I was trying to capture.

For the majority of the film, I was showing each character as they look at or are looking at each other. The only moments I let her to glimpse through me was during a scene in which she disobeys me to say hello to Eric. In a separate scene later in the film, I reveal why Lauren feels like such a cold fish. While I was writing it, I knew I didn’t want Eric and Lauren to see each other at the dinner table for the film’s ending scene. When I showed the film to Eric, I asked if we could end with us in separate conversations like the rest of the crew, and he said yes. I wanted to end the film knowing there was no bridge connecting them. I wanted to push them apart. Because of that, I found it so difficult to film Lauren and I both on camera. I didn’t want to rely on her almost physical relationship with Eric as a reason to shoot her; I wanted to get them away from each other, just like in real life.

The end of the film was an opportunity for me to remove myself from the outside world and let Lauren and Eric see each other for the first time in their eyes. In the beginning of the scene, I wanted them to start the experience with a complete heart-to-heart. I wanted them to have a full understanding of each other and I wanted it to be so real. That’s when they began to grow closer together.

After that, we started to adjust and I wanted to show them exchanging glances, laughing, and touching each other like we were in college. Lauren and Eric finally took the first steps in their relationship. Lauren asked Eric for a second date. Eric agreed. What I really loved was that we did it right before the ending of the film to create the illusion of growth. I can’t put into words what it felt like to see them not taking each other for granted, but missing one another. At this point in the film, I have started to feel less connected to Lauren. Eric then grabbed her and shared something that had been weighing on his mind for over a year.

The intimacy between them comes from their relationship as strangers, and he explains how he can no longer justify thinking he will never really understand Lauren. The kind of relationship they are in is the kind I want for my own girlfriend and me. Lauren asks Eric for a third date. I continue to try to focus on the other storylines, but Eric’s statement to me continues to hurt me. Here is the thing: People have to be able to say what they mean and mean what they say. It is okay to say, “It is better to be alone than with someone who doesn’t care enough.” The empathy between them is now clear, and I’m very thankful they finally gave up on me for the sake of their relationship. The only ones who came out of this script changed were the audience. Thanks for standing by my side and being willing to be taken and a shoulder to cry on.

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