Like most people, the thought of turning off our phones can send an anxiety ripple through out core followed by a nervous laugh at the thought of, “what’s the worst that can happen?”. Well, in the horror comedy SAVE YOURSELVES!, co-writers/directors Alex H. Fischer and Eleanor Wilson bring this scenario to life in a relatable film that is just as much a study on relationships as it is on our dependence towards technology. For the release of SAVE YOURSELVES!, I had the chance to speak with Fischer and Wilson who discussed everything from the hidden metaphors to the adorable design of the ferocious pouffes.
In SAVE YOURSELVES! Jack (John Reynolds) and Su (Sunita Mani) are a hip Brooklyn couple who, like many of their friends, find themselves dependent on technology and unable to put down their phones. Fearing their mindless scrolling may impact their connection with each other, they seize the chance to head to an isolated cabin in the woods, vowing to unplug from the outside world for a week. Sheltered from texts and push notifications, they are blissfully unaware that the planet is under attack. As strange events unfold, the couple must figure out a way back to civilization – or what’s left of it.
Thank you both so much for taking the time to speak with me today about SAVE YOURSELVES!. I absolutely loved this film and wanted to know if you could talk a little bit about the genesis of the story? It found it very appropriate with how it parallels to certain aspects of what is going on in the world right now.
Alex H. Fischer: Big time.
Eleanor Wilson: Yes, we wrote it three years ago, pre-pandemic, obviously (laughs). There’s been problems with the world for awhile so we had been thinking about that. The original idea was just this funny logline of what if a couple went upstate to try and disconnect from the internet, just at the exact wrong time.
Alex H. Fischer: Based on a fear of Eleanor’s that if she turns her phone off, something really bad is going to happen and she won’t know about it (laughs).
Eleanor Wilson: Yeah, that was kind of the premise. Then once we got into it was when we really developed it more as a satire and a metaphor for how everybody’s living their lives oblivious to the world ending.
Alex H. Fischer: Eleanor was like, “I have this idea for a movie” and I was like, “Oh, this couple in Brooklyn is oblivious to the world ending? That sounds really funny”.
One of my favorite parts of SAVE YOURSELVES! was when Su is talking about an ant hill she encounters. I found the metaphor to be intriguing as it indicates that there is always something bigger out there that can squash you. Can you elaborate on that?
Eleanor Wilson: Yeah! Thanks for noticing that! There were a couple moments in the movie where we sort of allowed ourselves to, I guess, have the characters state the themes in a funny way. We like that scene because Su’s kind of just like making fun of these ants [indiscernible] not knowing that there’s this bigger thing around them.
Alex H. Fischer: That was one of our main symbolic things…
Eleanor Wilson: I think every time we did it we tried to make it funny so it wasn’t like too on the nose like, “Look at this theme!”
Alex H. Fischer: There is also a Carl Sagan quote, in the cabin it’s written on a piece of paper…
Eleanor Wilson: …in the process of writing the movie we listened to… we were on a long road trip once and listened to the whole book on tape.. what’s it called?
Alex H. Fischer: “Cosmos”.
Eleanor Wilson: Yeah! There was this quote, it’s like “We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.” You can barely see it but it’s in the cabin in the closet.
Can you talk a little bit about bringing on John Reynolds and Sunita Mani? Alex, you worked with Sunita before, correct?
Alex H Fischer: Yup! Sunita Mani and I met like, I don’t know, 15 years ago at Emerson College, freshman year Speech Class, and I had just been a huge fan of her – there were a couple comedy troupes at Emerson and they were kind of the popular people at school and they’re all incredibly talented. I really wanted to work with these people the whole time through college and it took 15 years (laughs); Sunita and I made a movie called Snowy Bing Bongs Across the North Star Combat Zone together, with other people as well. We wrote [SAVE YOURSELVES!] with Sunita in mind because we just think she’s incredibly talented and funny. [For] John Reynolds we were trying to think of who could play Jack and it was surprisingly difficult and I don’t know why.
Eleanor Wilson: We just couldn’t come up with the exact right combination that we were looking for. And then [I] watched Search Party and I was like, “Alex, you got to see this guy! He’s perfect!”
Alex H. Fischer: And then she showed me like two clips and I was like, “Done deal.” (laughs)
Eleanor Wilson: As soon as we saw him we just knew that there was like no one else who could play the role and we became obsessed and eventually got to have a meeting with him. The kismet of it all was that, we didn’t know this, but he and Suni are actually friends. By the time we sort of like mustered up the courage to reach out to him, he was like, “Oh yeah, I love Suni, she’s great, and I would love to work with her.” It was this perfect thing of like they wanted to work with each other and we wanted to work with them.
This is a very serious question. How did you come up with the adorable creatures, how can I get one to snuggle, and why use ethanol as a way for them to gain their strength?
Eleanor Wilson: (laughs) I think Legion M are making little pouffe that you can have and snuggle! We had a creature design/special effects specialist named Calder Greenwood who is really amazing. We sort of came up with it together with him, like how it would move and how to practically do all of that.
Alex H. Fischer: I wish we could tell you that we dreamed up the pouffe for something and then put it into fruition; but it came from like, okay, we want this couple to go upstate and then be living in a cabin and not realize that the alien is in the room with them this whole time. So what could like a piece of bespoke furniture look like and be an alien?
Eleanor Wilson: As for the ethanol, that was another thing where it was like if there was one thing it was after that would really wreak havoc on Earth, what would that be, and ethanol is in a lot of things. Like, oh, it’s in the car, it’s not gonna work. Like no one’s going to be able to fly anywhere.
Besides this film just being incredibly entertaining and funny, there are a lot of important themes discussed. That said, what else are you hoping people will take away from this film after they finish it?
Eleanor Wilson: The most you can hope for with a comedy is like, if people have a good time watching it, like that makes us so happy. Especially right now, it just feels like all those types of movies that we’ve been wanting to watch in the pandemic has been…you want to watch the comedies that are just going to bring you some joy, really. That’s the main thing, but on top of that, [hopefully] people will think about how they live theirs lives a little bit. That would be great too, but we certainly wouldn’t be so arrogant to think that a silly comedy movie could change anything. It takes a lot to make a movie and when you’re trying to put something out into the world it feels good for it to have some kind of message to it.
SAVE YOURSELVES! is in theaters nationwide as well as on Digital. For more on the film, check out our review here.