Most couples who break up find it hard to be around each other afterward. There are usually residual feelings of love (or hate) that make interacting awkward and not fun.
However, that was not the case for Los Angeles couple Eugene Kotlyarenko and Kate Lyn Sheil. In fact, they were so cool with their breakup that they decided to make a movie about it.
They called it A Wonderful Cloud, and its story is mostly autobiographical. The ex-couple have the same names in the movie, and a good portion of it is shot in their real apartments, but for the most part, all their friends in the film are fictitious. Aside from starring in the film alongside his ex-girlfriend, Kotlyarenko also acted as director. While they had a basic outline for the script, all the dialogue was improvised.
The idea for the movie actually came out of Kotlyarenko’s frustration over a script he was trying to write. After he and Sheil had been broken up for a while, they met up one night when she was visiting L.A., and he told her about the trouble he was having with it. She suggested he make it an improv movie instead, and the two began spitballing ideas back and forth.
Sheil’s an up-and-comer in the acting world, having already appeared in the Netflix hit House of Cards as well as several movies, including The Heart Machine. And while Kotlyarenko cast her alongside other accomplished actors, he also chose to bring in some total unknowns, aka his non-actor friends.
“I love tone mixing,” Kotlyarenko told i-D Vice. “That’s really important to me, and I think films should do a lot more of that. Kate is really serious and her acting style is about realism, and she brings a lot of emotion; and then you have these over the top, scene-stealing, hammy caricatures of types, and they give it life and joie de vivre with their silliness.”
The whole thing was shot in a week at some of the ex-couple’s old local haunts. It takes place over a Fourth of July weekend, after the couple had already split, but the film also utilizes real film clips from when Kotlyarenko and Sheil were still together. This merging of real life with fiction creates a sort of hyperrealism that’s not often seen on the big screen.
Several supercool L.A. artists, like Rachel Lord, Niko Karamyan, Tierney Finster and Lauren Avery, make little cameos, because they happen to be close friends with Kotlyarenko. Such faces provide that almost surreal social tapestry for which L.A. is so famous.
For the most part, the ex-couple’s former relationship didn’t have a negative impact on the filming experience. Kotlyarenko said he can’t speak for Sheil, but that for him, tapping back into all those old emotions was definitely tough at times. However, if nothing else, it helped ground their relationship on film even more. He recalled one scene in particular, where they were fighting while Fourth of July fireworks were going off, and a nearby couple checked in with them, certain they were really going at it. Kotlyarenko took that as a sign that their former relationship was theatrically paying off.