• Interviews

Eliza Schroeder on “Love Sarah” and How it Sends a Positive Message

Hamburg-born director Eliza Schroeder makes her feature directorial debut with Love Sarah, (now available on VOD) an uplifting drama set in London about a young woman (Shannon Tarbet) who enlists the help of her mother’s best friend (Shelley Conn) and her eccentric grandmother (Celia Imrie) to fulfill her late mother’s dream of opening a bakery in Notting Hill. The film has garnered positive reviews and has been likened to the Golden Globe award-winning television series Fleabag.

Schroeder has previously directed and produced several short films including Matilda, First, Love?, Arm Candy, Ghetto Punk and Chronophobe, which have been screened at various film festivals including the New York Short Film Festival, the Short Film Festival of LA, and the Beijing International Film Festival.

Schroeder lives in London with her husband and three children.

How did the movie Love Sarah come about?

I started working on the idea when I did my Masters at Goldsmiths (University of London) many, many years ago, and that’s where the initial idea for these three very different headstrong women came. I put it aside for a couple of years to gain experience as a director of short films and commercials.  And at some point, a couple of years ago I came back to it.

Why the baking theme? Are you an avid baker?

I love everything that’s sweet, and I love any kind of bake that I can get my hands on.  So baking was always at the core of my mind and heart. And it didn’t take much convincing to get the writer, Jake (Brunger) and Rajita (Shah), the producer, to find bakes all around the world to make this something a little bit different.

The movie came out last year in several territories including Australia and New Zealand, where it went to #1 at the box office. Why do you think it struck a chord with audiences?

It’s come out, I think, in 53 territories. I think it struck a chord for several reasons; I hope. First of all, I think making a film about women at the moment – or at least with women at the forefront of things – is something that people are probably lacking. And then the other thing, of course, is that given the current world situation, I think everyone’s looking for a pick-me-up and the film sends a positive message – that’s what I’ve been trying to convey.  


It’s obviously a very personal subject for you to have spent so much time on it.  Can you elaborate on why that is?

Yes. When I was developing the film with the writer and the producer, I lost my own mother. So, the whole experience of loss became extremely important to me to bring onto the screen, and to really try to convey what it means to lose a dear one, and how life is different from that moment onward. I wanted to try and give a message of hope, but also make the audience feel that it really takes time to go through the process of healing. 

You come from a big family. How has that influenced you creatively, both in general and specifically on this project?

Specifically, on this project, I definitely think I’ve been surrounded by very strong and very different women in my life, whether that’s my grandmother or my mother or my sisters, who are all very different from me. But also, looking at my aunt, or even friends that I’ve admired over the years, I’ve been trying to combine all the characteristics of women that have inspired me, in my family or in friends or in people I look up to, and to see whether we can bring these characteristics into the female leads. And creatively speaking, I was always around my five siblings. I was always very busy and always had lots of stories and lots of people coming in and out of the house. So, I guess having a film that is busy with five lead characters, my big family has probably somehow influenced that.

Can you talk a bit about your background? How did you get into the business? Is directing what you always wanted to do, or did you fall into it?

So, when I was a little child, around seven or eight, I was always writing short stories and drawing fit books. So, there was always the storytelling element within me. But then I went on to study Literature in Berlin, and when I was there, I was working as a freelance photographer on the side. So, I guess at some point it just came to me that I needed to combine my wish to tell stories in the written word with creating images. So, photography and literature have ultimately brought me to becoming a director. I came to that quite late. The realization of wanting to do that was extremely wonderful because it turned out that this is what I had started to do.

Was it difficult to convince people you can direct? I know there are more women directors nowadays, but those numbers have only come about relatively recently.

Yes, it was very difficult – it was quite a journey. I remember having this constant dialogue with my Dad where he kept on telling me, “Come on, you can work with me, why would you want to do filmmaking?” And I said, “Because this is where my heart and soul is.” And at some point, he really came to embrace that. So, I created a production company with a friend of mine and we just started making films. Looking back, at least for me, I’ve learned from my own mistakes. We had amazing times where we were just sitting in the living room together trying to get these short films off the ground. And looking back, it was an incredible experience.

What’s next for you?

I have plenty of projects at the moment. I’m working on a thriller, because I always wanted to direct a thriller, and then I’m working on a children’s movie, inspired by a very sweet little story that I experienced with my own daughter. After that, I’m working on a documentary about mothers in ballet. So that’s something that I’m very excited about because it’s just fascinating, these ballet dancers who bring motherhood into it while being at the top of their game in the dance world, which is a struggle – and it’s a challenge. 

Where did that interest come from? Did you learn ballet as a kid?

Well, I was always excited about ballet, and I actually went to school with a girl who from the age of seven had to do ballet lessons every day because she worked with the biggest company in Hamburg, to then be told after a few years of training that she wasn’t good enough. So that really had an influence in terms of how hard it can be.  And the leading dancer in this documentary is from the English National Ballet, whom I met on a train from Paris to London. I was sitting with my daughter and she said, “Oh, I have a daughter that’s a similar age.” We started talking and we became friends.  When I approached her to say I’d like to film her, she was pregnant with her second, and that’s where the idea of motherhood and ballet was born. I am just really fascinated with women, especially if their bodies are their tools, how they manage to find the right moments to pause their careers, and also have the guts to say, “I am pausing this now, and I am confident that I might be able to come back.” There’re so many questions for women who use their body as a tool. 

How old are your kids?

My kids are three, five and seven.

I can’t imagine how you get any work done.

(laughs) Well I’ve got a supportive husband and some help through the nanny. And I guess it’s just about trying to be organized. Sometimes when you have less time, you’re more productive within the little time you get.