“Pitch Perfect” star Brittany Snow has spoken openly about dealing with an eating disorder from a very young age, but she revealed at SXSW Saturday that her directorial debut “Parachute,” which grapples with themes of mental health in a woman suffering from her own disorder, is “very personal” for other, more romantic reasons.
“Parachute” is about Riley (Courtney Eaton), a young woman just out of rehab and now attending therapy to contend with her own body issues and self-loathing behavior. But it’s more significantly a love story about her relationship and friendship with Ethan (Thomas Mann), and how this co-dependent bond between the two of them helps her on the road to recovery. It turns out though that there’s a “real Ethan” with whom Snow remains best friends, and Snow’s purpose for telling this story was not to dwell on her own past but to come at a love story from a new point of view.
“I find it very interesting that love is not necessarily told in a linear fashion, but it’s also not necessarily told in a way that’s always romantic,” Snow said during the film’s Q&A at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin Saturday night. “It’s told because you’re going through struggle and you’re trying to love in spite of it, not that your struggle is the focal point of your life. You’re trying love first and then you’re going through your mental health or your disease or whatever you’re going through, so I really wanted to showcase that.”
Snow demonstrates a deft hand as a filmmaker through her quick edits of women’s bodies that show Riley’s mind racing as she compares herself to others. As quickly as it descends into outbursts of grief, Snow balances it with surprising levity and charm. She credited her two lead actors, both of whom appeared with her at Saturday’s premiere, for bringing their own personalities and humor to the roles.
“I think humor and levity is such a huge part of recovery and getting better,” Snow said. “You’re not always sitting in a dark corner talking about and thinking about your struggles. You’re trying to live through it. You’re trying to live through the pain you’re going through; it’s not necessarily sitting in the struggle.”
Snow and Eaton were asked about some punishing scenes in which Riley scratches at belly fat or scribbles all over her body’s “problem areas” while looking at herself in the mirror. Snow said she spent time storyboarding the shots to minimize the amount of time she’d ask her young lead to go to those dark places.
“I knew what it took to get there, and I wasn’t going to make anyone go there for very long,” she said. “I knew what I wanted very specifically in those scenes, I knew what angles I wanted to use, so I didn’t have to have her cry hysterically all day.“
“Parachute” also stars Francesca Reale, Gina Rodriguez, Joel McHale, Scott Mescudi, and Dave Bautista. The film is playing in the Narrative Feature Competition at SXSW and is currently seeking distribution.