Zelos: An Interview

A movie of what’ifs and modern romance from an all female writer and director and producer comes Zelos.


Zelos (from the Greek – meaning ‘zeal’ and ‘passion’ but also ‘jealousy’ and ‘suspicion’). Bernard is the 35-year-old he always planned to be. He has a successful career, a meticulously neat beachside apartment and a girlfriend, Sarah, whom he adores. But his pristine existence is turned upside down when Sarah confesses an affair. 

movie still - Zelos characters Sarah and Bernard ( Shannon Ashlyn  and  Ben Mortley )

movie still - Zelos characters Sarah and Bernard (Shannon Ashlyn and Ben Mortley)

To salvage the relationship, Sarah insists they equal the playing field: Bernard should sleep with another woman. A man who would never cheat is asked by the woman he loves to have sex with someone else to save their relationship — a compromise which may ultimately destroy them, as love becomes corroded by jealousy.

Check them out on social media HERE!

Also you can now purchase the film 4th October on iTunes Store, Amazon Prime and Google Play!

Who are you and what do you do? 

I'm a Melbourne-based writer... I wrote the screenplay for 'Zelos', an independent feature film which I produced and released last year. I also write prose and travel articles, and I work part-time as a copywriter.

I love the way you build conflict in the rising action. How did the idea of using a game that looks like "Trouble" become a way to talk about conflicts in both of the main character's couples lives? 

I think you mean Trivial Pursuit? There is a scene where the two couples are playing and it quickly becomes quite tense because of their respective relationship issues. I come from a family that takes game-playing very seriously and occasionally they become a flashpoint for arguments about other things! In a way, the whole central conflict between Bernard and Sarah is a game between them and I wanted to have some fun with that idea. 

movie still - Zelos - character Bernard ( Ben Mortley )

movie still - Zelos - character Bernard (Ben Mortley)

What was it like being the producer and writer, but not the director? How closely did you collaborate with the director? 

I've heard that it's quite an unusual combination. I had input behind-the-scenes throughout the shoot and post-production, and we had a lot of discussions about the script, story and characters in the lead up to filming. But ultimately it's the director's creative vision and as the writer you have to be okay with handing control over to someone else. I found it helped me emotionally distance myself from the script to sort of put on my producer's hat during the shoot and stay focused on the logistical side of things.

What was the cutting room like? Did alot of scenes get lost on the cutting room floor? Or most of it kept? 

I didn't spend much time in the edit so it was really up to the director to make those decisions. Some scenes and even characters ended up on the cutting room floor in order to tighten the story and keep it very sharp and focused. I think the steepest learning curve as a writer is letting go of your attachment to your work, as your favourite bits may not make it to the final film for one reason or another.

What kind of research did you do to write this film

I spoke with a lot of friends in this age demographic (30s) to try and understand the issues they were grappling with in their lives and relationships and make sure the story resonated with them and felt authentic. Writing a male protagonist, I especially talked to men - Tinder was actually a great resource for this! No kidding, you meet plenty of guys who want to tell you about their messy break ups and divorces after a couple of beers...

movie still - Zelos characters Sarah and Bernard ( Shannon Ashlyn  and  Ben Mortley )

movie still - Zelos characters Sarah and Bernard (Shannon Ashlyn and Ben Mortley)

When did you start writing screenplays? Did you always want to be a screenwriter? Or do you write in other genres? 

I did a film degree after school so I have always loved film. But then I went travelling for ten years and didn't really know what kind of writer I wanted to be. I wrote mostly travel (and still do), short stories, a couple of unfinished novels. I'd love to be one of those people who can successfully write across a whole range of formats and genres. But I wrote my first screenplay in my late teens, it was an epic fantasy that would need about $200 million to make so I was clearly quite ambitious. I still have it, so maybe some day?

I really love that you built in moments of silence and introspection for your main character Bernard. Was that intentional? Or is that something the director gave some ideas too in the directing process?

That was probably less apparent in my script, which was a bit more dialogue-driven. It was something the director and lead actor worked on together in developing Bernard. But I think it definitely works for the character I had in my mind who is quite introspective.

Do you think modern romance works? 

Such a big question! How long have you got? Clearly sometimes it can... But I think we're inundated with so much choice (especially with online dating) that it breeds discontent, this constant feeling that something better might be out there rather than sticking with what we've got. At the same time our expectations have changed so much, we're looking for this "perfect match" who complements you in everything - and that's a lot to ask of one person. Plus we're still marrying in our twenties but now living til our eighties which is a long time to be with someone. Is that even healthy? I really struggle with the idea of committing to someone for sixty years so I'm probably the wrong person to ask.

movie still - Zelos characters Sarah and Bernard ( Shannon Ashlyn  and  Ben Mortley )

movie still - Zelos characters Sarah and Bernard (Shannon Ashlyn and Ben Mortley)

What did you discover during the writing process about masculinity and defining what it meant for the character Bernard

I was very clear on wanting the gender roles to be the reverse of traditional stereotypes - to write a story where the woman is the one who questions the relationship and the man just wants to settle down. Anecdotally I've met couples with this dynamic and I know men like Bernard, but this is rarely represented on screen. I talked with relationship therapists who told me it's pretty much 50/50 when it comes to cheating, in terms of men and women. But I think the way infidelity plays out for men can be different to women, as posing a threat to their masculinity or being tied to their ability to satisfy a woman.

Is the plant that Sarah brings home a symbol of her love life with Bernard?

It represents a sort of last-ditch attempt to save the relationship. They've killed the cactus and this could be the beginning of a new start for them. No spoilers here about whether that works or not :)

Fun Questions

If you were stuck on an abandoned island what five items would you have with you?

A lifetime's supply of coffee, my Mum, Scrabble, a computer, and the internet (is that an item?)

If you could meet anyone in time or place or history who would you have coffee with? 

Freddy Mercury... because childhood dreams.

What part of the writing process do you wish would go faster? 

Can I say all of it? I get very frustrated with how long the process takes, and the amount of time you need to just sit mulling over ideas without any measurable output. The mulling part is the most enjoyable though so probably the editing.

Are you a tea or coffee person? 

Both! Coffee in the day and tea at night.

What do you love about the writing process? 

Inhabiting other people's lives for a while. I always felt like it was such a shame we only get one life and I wanted to do everything... So writing is a way for me to pretend I'm doing that, if only in my own head/on the page.