D-Love, has received a lot of love lately with two Audience Awards from U.S. Film Festivals. This news is no surprise as Elena Beuca’s directorial debut left me speechless after seeing it at Dances With Films. D-Love is a wonderfully heartfelt story, reminding us that people come into our lives for a reason. Beuca, while traveling between festivals, had a moment to catch up with me to discuss the film based on her own life experiences, casting the unusual leads, and how this Romanian lawyer became a filmmaker.
Growing up in a small farm town in Transylvania, Romania, Beuca took an interest in the entertainment industry and moved to Hollywood to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. A friend challenged her to a short film competition, the 168 Film Festival, which ignited that spark for filmmaking. While she loved working under pressure, she quickly learned that “less is more” and to not allow your fears to prevent you from trusting in yourself. She also found a passion for character-driven pieces which can most certainly be said about her newest and first feature film “D-Love.”
Beuca and her husband Dave did meet the young wanderer Ditlev, upon whom the film is based, at LAX in 2012. Looking for that “big opportunity,” Beuca never dreamed that that opportunity could be as simple as meeting this “beautiful soul [with] a childlike quality and innocence...” She admits that while there are many aspects of the film that are factual including experiencing family losses, she also said, “...of course to create a compelling story, we built on those real events and used dramatic license to make it compelling and add conflict to it.”
Initially, D-Love was a short film as she wanted “...to capture the feeling and impression that Ditlev left on both my husband and me.” A few years later, Beuca came across that short film and created this unique full-length character-driven feature. “I like to tell stories about broken and flawed people who are overcoming their challenges. After all, we all have struggles in life, but it’s what we do with them that will make a difference in the way we live.”
She couldn’t imagine any other actor capturing Ditlev’s innocence and wisdom so she set out to reconnect with this free spirit to take onthe role in the film. Her film team was not in favor of casting him, but Beuca trusted her instincts. And thanks to Facebook, she found him and scheduled a short window in which to film. With no time to cast the lead roles, Beuca shared, “That’s when my husband and I decided to step in and act in it...We were pressed by time and not having enough money to cast real-name actors.” In addition, she thought having she and Dave on set with Ditlev, a first-time actor, more comfortable.
Beuca created “Stefania,” the lead character through which the film is seen, but portraying this layered and complex character proved to be daunting. Directing and acting in the film was truly a balancing act requiring objectivity. Having written the character, she knew she had to create a woman that viewers could relate to; appearing neither cold nor closed-off. “I really wanted to make sure that I worked extra hard to show her human side and understand where she’s coming from. She’s not a bad person, she’s just been scarred and hardened by life.”
The final product has had a profound impact on this first-time feature director as she feels she can now trust her instincts and have a stronger faith in God. Wearing all these hats, including the producer’s hat, put her under more pressure than she had ever experienced before. “Directing the movie, acting, and producing is pretty intense. You’ve got to make decisions about numerous things at once. Just breathing seemed like a luxury that we did not really have time for!”
Beuca was reminded that the people that surround you during a project are every bit as important as the project itself. Working with her husband Dave, who she says is her best friend and always has her back, she feels she may have given up without him it was such a daunting process. Her Director of Photography, Italian-born Gigi Malavasi, brought exquisite cinematic beauty to the film and Beuca’s husband’s life-long friend, musician Billy Howerdel, created the intoxicating musical composition. Beuca surrounded herself, as she said, “...with the people who are more knowledgeable than you [to] make the film better.”
Ditlev truly changed Beuca and her husband’s lives and she hopes that D-Love will help viewers “learn to let go.” She added, “I think we are always guided toward change, toward making life better. It’s just a matter of listening and paying attention.”
© Pamela Powell (6/15/17) FF2 Media
Featured Photo: Elena Beuca and Dave Rogers
Top Photo: Elena Beuca
Middle Photo: Ditlev Darmakaya
Bottom Photo: Elena Beuca and Michael Monks
Photo Credits: Amy Graves (Used with permission) Stefania Rosini, Cranky Pants Productions