"This film is not about finally finding the love of your life. It's about those other ones, the ones that taught you, all the relationships that were messy, messier and messiest."
Hearts of darkness
Being a part-time baseball player, local-born filmmaker Eric Byler loves his sports analogies. "It was like hitting the winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning," he said, referring to the thumbs-up that critic Roger Ebert gave his previous film, "Charlotte Sometimes," back in 2002.
Screens as part of the Hawaii International Film Festival, at 8 p.m. today and 7:45 p.m. Friday at Dole Cannery
Byler showed his digitally shot psychodrama at the Hawaii International Film Festival that year, and the enthusiastic reaction of fest guest and movie critic Ebert gave the film a publicity boost and helped draw additional festival screenings.
Now, he and fellow Honolulu "player" Kimberly-Rose Wolter are warming up for publicity rounds for Byler's latest provocative film, "Tre," which receives its world premiere tomorrow.
Byler hopes both "Tre" and his other feature, "American Knees," will get all-important screenings at the Sundance and Slamdance film festivals in January.
Byler and Wolter co-scripted "Tre," which started off as a light and witty look into the relationships of two couples in their late 20s and early 30s. But given Byler's tendency to examine the darker side of love and lust, the project took on a much more serious tone.
"This definitely has a darker mood than 'Charlotte,'" Byler said. "Where the audience could ally themselves with characters that still have some hope in them in the earlier film, with 'Tre' it forces them to identify with people that are darker in nature and not as sympathetic."
Wolter already had an idea about the character of Tre -- a smart, physically imposing man, if a bit of a slacker -- and started developing a draft of the script in 2002.
After Byler collaborated on the script and agreed to direct it, they found funding from the independent Cinema Libre Studio. The film's financiers even opened their own mansion-on-the-hill as a shooting location, and Wolter also used her Los Angeles home in the film.
In the film, the lives of Gabe, left, (Erik McDowell) Tre (Daniel Cariaga) and Kakela (Kimberly-Rose Wolter) darkly entwine. Wolter also co-wrote the script.
"TRE" EXPLORES how four people interact in close quarters. The newly single Tre (Daniel Cariaga) moves back into his friend Gabe's (Erik McDowell) house, which he shares with his fiancée Kakela (Wolter), as well as Kakela's friend Nina (Alix Koromzay). Nina lives in the guesthouse where Tre used to live, and it's only a matter of time before the two are sharing the same bed.
But while Gabe and Nina are away at work, Tre and Kakela stay home. Their relationship is strained at first, as they bicker with each other. But as Tre becomes attracted to his best friend's fiancée, he and Kakela choose not to acknowledge the presence of this potential bomb.
The lack of true emotional language between them threatens, by film's end, to burst into a potentially violent confrontation.
"It was important for these characters to be isolated," Byler said, "the two of them left alone, living in the country mountains. It's essential to them facing their problems as people with no distractions around them."
Byler and Wolter have created what they think is an apt dilemma for men and women of their generation, "where social and political chaos is added into the mix. Our parents believed in the American recipes for success and happiness, and it generally didn't work. We're the first generation where a lot of divorces isn't as big a thing as before. So we're wondering, where does marriage fit into our own lives?"
Wolter said "Tre" expresses their angst and sinking sense of doubt about the validity of the long-term relationship: "This film is not about finally finding the love of your life. It's about those other ones, the ones that taught you, all the relationships that were messy, messier and messiest. Even though we now know how bad they were, they're part of our growth. Love is not being glorified here.
"Eric and I are really proud of this film. It's a different film from what I first envisioned -- the characters have changed, they're more rich and more flawed -- and there are more transitions that they go through."