Ethan Eng recently sat down with Palo Alto director Gia Coppola to talk about making his first movie, Therapy Dogs, while still attending high school — and he told her about the moment that made him cringe the most while watching back footage in the edit.
Eng actually shot Therapy Dogs while attending high school with his friend, co-writer, and co-star Justin Morrice during their junior and senior years. They would carry a camera around their school hallways, pretending to be shooting footage for a yearbook video. Now, that footage has been turned into a movie that’s screening and festivals and capturing the attention of the Russo brothers.
But that doesn’t stop Eng from cringing when he watches back some of his most adolescent moments — especially prom night.
Ethan Eng on That Cringey Moment
“It’s so cringey. Me and Justin did some really stupid things,” Eng told Coppola, granddaughter of Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, niece of The Virgin Suicides director Sofia Coppola, and cousin of Nicolas Cage. In addition to 2013’s Palo Alto, Gia Coppola has also directed Main Stream and The Seven Faces of Jane.
The two directors’ conversation was organized by Utopia and obtained exclusively by MovieMaker.
“Just to look back at your adolescence as an awkward teen?” Coppola asked.
“Yeah. I recorded so much of prom too. That was the hardest one to look at, because, well, everyone’s having seemingly the best night of their life. And they all have the privilege of forgetting it,” Eng explained. “You have it, and then it’s a memory, and there’s a blissful ignorance to that. And then to look at a couple of hours worth of prom footage and to just see it in its scientific, accurate moment as it was feels very perverted, depressing — like everyone has a smile on their face because it’s just time passing. And for me, it’s like a frozen, dead fish. But yeah, that was not easy to edit, but I did it.”
As a person who went to both of my high school proms, I can only imagine how uncomfortable it would be to be confronted with just how awkward everyone actually was, instead of just remembering prom through the rose-colored glasses of a 17-year-old.
Coppola appreciated the moral of the story here — sometimes, it’s better to just live in the moment instead of capturing it all on camera. Unless, of course, you’re an incredibly gifted young filmmaker with an important story to tell.
“That’s actually a beautiful way of thinking,” Coppola said. “There’s beauty in letting something just be a memory as opposed to having to document it and then be stuck with it in that way.”
You can watch Eng and Coppola’s full conversation above.
Main Image: Ethan Eng in a still from Therapy Dogs.