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Zoe Lister-Jones on How Pandemic Film ‘How It Ends’ Served as Therapy (Video)

Sundance 2021: ”We didn’t know how else to find faith in such a bleak moment, especially as artists,“ filmmaker and actress says

Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones’ Sundance film “How It Ends” was shot during the pandemic and shows the grim realities of what life has been like for Angelenos living through lockdown. Making the film during such a trying time was not only a creative release but, Lister-Jones says, was also an effective form of therapy.

“Like everyone, we were facing so many fears and uncertainty at the beginning of quarantine and I think for both of us, we kind of don’t know how to channel our emotions through anything other than our work,” Lister-Jones told Steve Pond during TheWrap’s Sundance Studio presented by NFP and National Geographic. “Our work serves as therapy, and this was no exception. So I think we started to do a lot of inner child work and were trying to have these dialogues with our most vulnerable selves.”

She added: “We didn’t know how else to find faith in such a bleak moment, especially as artists.”

Lister-Jones, who wrote, directed and produced the film alongside Wein, plays Liza, a morose young woman who has a plan for what she says will be her last day on Earth: “I just want to get really f–ing high until I puke and then die,” she says to a younger woman who, it turns out, is her inner child that isn’t so inner anymore (and played by Cailee Spaeny of “On the Basis of Sex” and “The Craft: Legacy.”

“We were trying to figure out how to process our emotions, and we knew we wanted to put it into something, and we knew what the parameters were and our limitations because of the COVID restrictions,” Wein said. “We knew we had to shoot outside, we knew we had to adhere to city and state health protocols, and I think because everything was so dark and miserable feeling, we wanted to inject some levity into the story.”

They enlisted some of their “funny friends,” including Helen Hunt, Bradley Whitford, Olivia Wilde, Lamorne Morris and Paul Scheer (among many others), and wrote (the ever-so fleeting) roles specifically for them.

“So many of them were so excited to flex their creative muscles after so long,” Wein added. “Some weren’t ready, some were scared and hesitant, and we welcomed whatever energy they had and incorporated that into the work.”

Spaeny, who has only done studio films so far, said the film changed her career.

“We were figuring it out as we went because everything was so up in the air and we had no idea how it was going to turn out,” she explained. “There was so much freedom and so much play that I think it’ll change everything I do in the future.”

TheWrap’s Sundance Virtual Studio is sponsored by NFP and National Geographic. 

Watch the full interview above.