KEEPER is a short film about two adult brothers who are forced to renegotiate their tumultuous relationship after a traumatic accident leaves one of them disabled and the other must care for him.
The screenplay for KEEPER was a Semifinalist in the 2020 ScreenCraft Film Fund Competition.
Keeper was an incredible challenge for me as a director. As I put together my team for the shoot, it became increasingly clear how many people are intimately connected to disability in ways one wouldn’t have assumed (for myself, my mom was involved in a traumatic accident when I was eight-years-old, forcing her to teach herself how to walk again). And so, capturing the characters' daily reality in as honest a way as possible, however uncomfortable, became a top priority of mine.
I also knew early on that the scenes in the past and the scenes in the present needed to be shot separately, with a significant amount of time in between shoots. Although it would inevitably add to our already strained budget, this would allow the actors to change their appearance, provide time to explore the unique and specific physical relationship between Marc and Caleb, and more importantly it would give us the ability to create entirely different worlds, both in front of and behind the camera, on each day. On set for the past scenes, the atmosphere was jovial and adventurous, much like it was for the brothers on their fateful hike that day. On set for the present scenes, there was a much more quiet and somber atmosphere, leaving space for the difficult reality we were setting out to portray. These efforts, combined with the hard work and focus of an entirely non-male crew, helped create the environment needed to tell such a sensitive story.
Keeper asks us to consider “What responsibility do we owe to our family members who most desperately need our assistance?” and “How can trauma be used as a catalyst for positive change in our lives?”
-Maren Lavelle (Director, Co-Writer, Producer)
CAST & CREATIVE TEAM
MAREN LAVELLE (DIRECTOR, WRITER, PRODUCER) is a Brooklyn-based director, writer, and producer, and the co-founder of NYC-based production company, One-Eyed Rabbit. A graduate of Pace University's BFA Acting Program, and an original member of the José Rivera Writer's Group, Maren’s plays have premiered in various venues in NYC: Composition of a Woman (Westside Theatre, 440 Layfayette Studios), The Holding Room (The Sheen Center). Maren's screenwriting and directing are featured in the short films The Yard (2019) and Beyond Bone (2018). In 2020, Maren co-wrote and directed the short films Maya and Keeper. Website: marenlavelle.com
MATT STEINER (WRITER, PRODUCER, “MARC”) is an NYC-based actor, writer, and producer. As an actor, Matt has toured the country, performed Off-Broadway, and in film & television. From 2012-2017, Matt served as the Co-Artistic Director of The Representatives, a site-specific theater company, producing and starring in over 15+ original productions. Matt’s writing credits include the horror comedy short The Thing I Never Told You as well at the pilot script for the detective dramedy Little Dick, which was a Second Rounder at the 2019 Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition. Website: matt-steiner.com
JODI SAVITZ (DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY) is a director and cinematographer based in New York City. A graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Communications, Jodi began her career as an actress before pivoting into filmmaking. Recent work includes One Man's Quest to Ban Conversion Therapy in California (NBC Left Field/Focus Features), Is Makeup Sexist? (NBC/Today Show), Like a Prayer: Can You Be Queer and Religious? (Teen Vogue/Them). Her work has screened at The St. Louis International Film Festival, NewFest, HBO’s Women in Comedy Film Festival, and more. Website: jodisavitz.com
CHRISTOPHER HARRAL (“CALEB”) is an NYC-based artist with a BFA in Acting from Pace University and additional training with the Barrow Group. Credits include: Out of the Blue: OSN (International tour), Veritas (The Representatives, NYC), Charlotte’s Web (TWUSA). Film/TV: Grave Mysteries, Speed Run (NYSFF Winner). Apart from acting, Christopher also works as a DP and Editor for small projects around the city. All credit to Jesus Christ. Instagram: @chrisjharral
JACOB HAENDEL (STORY CONSULTANT) is a survivor, advocate, motivator, and writer living in the Boston Massachusetts area. He is the only documented case of recovery from Stage 4 Toxic Acute Progressive Leukoencephalopathy as well as Locked-In Syndrome. Jacob is dedicated to educating people on the devastating effects of debilitating illness such as LIS and opiate addiction, and has been documenting his own recovery with his YouTube channel and personal blog.
BEHIND THE SCENES
FROM THE WRITER
My brother is the toughest person I know. In addition to having trained with some of the world's best Mixed Martial Arts fighters, he has also been living with Schizoaffective Disorder for most of his life.
I witnessed firsthand how my brother's mental illness took a toll both on him as well as our father, who became his de facto caretaker. And as my father's health declined, I also saw how my brother went from being the one receiving care to the one actually giving it.
Although the writing of Keeper began as a way for me to explore my fear about how my relationship with my brother might change in my father's absence, it quickly became a tribute to the complex, layered, and ultimately loving relationship that he and I have always had, and an acknowledgement of how much closer we had become now that our father was gone.
My hope for this film is to shine a light on the experience of the often invisible care workers that give aide to the most vulnerable among us, as well as to honor the familial bonds that keep us together especially during our darkest days.
-Matt Steiner (Co-Writer, Producer)