The Cast of “Snapshots” Share the Backstory Behind the Love Story

In January, AfterEllen had the privilege of screening “Snapshots” as it debuted on the 2018 film festival circuit. In the short time it’s been out, the movie has done well critically, racking up a Best Picture win for the February 2018 Los Angeles Film Awards, an Audience Award at the Desperado LGBT Film Festival, and multiple Accolade Film Awards. Fascinated by the love story in “Snapshots” between Rose and Louise, we tracked down Shannon Collis (Rose) and Emily Goss (Louise) to answer our most pressing questions about the beautiful yet tragic love story. Tell me about the real backstory for this movie. Did Rose and Louise really exist?

Shannon Collis: Yes, the mother of one of our producers, Jan (Miller Corran), told her on her deathbed when she was 94 that the love of her life was a woman named Louise…

AE: What was the casting process like for “Snapshots?” Did you screentest together for chemistry? What was your impression of the story and the script?

Emily Goss: My good friend, the phenomenal and super fun actress/writer/producer Lisa Cordileone recommended me to “Snapshots” producer Jan Miller Corran. I met with Jan and co-producer LeeAnne Matusek for coffee one afternoon, actually regarding the role of Allison. A few weeks went by and then I went in to read for our director Melanie Mayron, but now for Louise. I read with Shannon that day, whom Jan had already found. Mel creates the most comfortable, playful environment, and Shannon is the best scene partner you can ask for. It wasn’t just a nice audition, it was a nice acting experience, the kind that would have been enough had nothing else come of it.

SC: I did come in to read with (Em). The producers and director felt we were terrific together. I loved showing the status of women with relation to the world in the early sixties. Their relation to the banks and business and how women were still looked at as not being able to have control over their own lives, with regard to women in the world, and with their love lives as well.

AE: Tell me about the relationship between Rose and Louise.

SC: They were soulmates who had found each other.

AE: Louise is the pursuer in the relationship between Rose and Louise. What draws Louise to Rose and from where does she derive her confidence in that pursuit?

EG: Rose is honest and artless but she’s not weak – she can catch and scale fish, she hikes around the lake by herself. Louise, on the other hand, is a performer, so Rose’s purity strikes her. Louise has traveled and lived among artists, she’s broken rules, she’s been expelled, but… nevertheless, she’s persisted. The 1960s were so rigid that I feel women had essentially two lives to choose from: the life of the conformist and life of the rebel. Rose and Louise, as conformist and rebel, are fascinated by each other, thinking, “This could have been me…” But then I think, like Shannon and I, Rose and Louise have fun together. After that initial interest in each other, they become great friends, and from that friendship, the romantic relationship grows.

AE: We absolutely get the sense that this isn’t Louise’s first same-sex experience or relationship. If you had to give a backstory for Louise, what would that backstory be?

EG: I made a backstory for Louise – I create lives for all the characters I play. It’s really important to me, to know what I’m talking about, to be referencing memories instead of delivering lines. I made Louise’s life as full and detailed as I could but focused on the moments and milestones that come up in the script. I definitely created Louise’s first feelings and questionings, her first experiences with women, meeting Zee, her childhood home which she mentions to Rose. Her time at Smith College and the Art Institute also affected her greatly, so I had to know what those years were like. It’s the job, upon being given a completed puzzle, to break it up and figure out the shapes of the pieces. It’s also a big part of the fun for me.

AE: The parameters of Louise’s relationship with Zee are hinted at but never explicitly stated. At one point, Louise says, “Zee knows not to come looking for me,” and at another, she says she’s certain that Zee knows that she and Rose have been having an affair. What does Zee know, and what does that mean for his marriage to Louise?

EG: I like that Zee and Louise’s relationship is ambiguous and complicated. I love that their lives, like the lives of all the characters in this movie, constitute much more than the 90 minutes of material we get to see. Too often characters in film or theatre pop into existence when the piece starts and out of it again when it’s over. I think Zee and Louise love each other very much. They’re great friends, in many ways they’re great partners. Zee knows that Louise does what she wants when she wants, and I think there have been times for both of them when they didn’t come home after a gig or party. Not necessarily because of an affair but because of their lifestyle. But Louise’s relationship with Rose becomes something more than Louise even ever imagined. Whatever suspicions Zee may have had, he and Louise never discuss it in so many words. Louise’s love for Zee is part of what starts to tear her apart.

AE: Does Louise teach Rose to be “bold”?

EG: Ha! What a great thing to talk about! There can be arguments on both sides… But I won’t give anything away. I think that’s for each viewer to decide 🙂

AE: Em, you did an interesting mixed media poetry project for Some Assembly Required’s DARE LA. Tell me more about that. From where do you derive your passion for social issues?

EG: Thank you so much for watching that! I really appreciate it. I guess being brought up in the San Francisco Bay Area and having two lawyers for parents may have contributed. My family traveled a lot when I was younger and I’m very thankful for that – my brother and I got to see how big the world is, how many people there are, how many different ways of living there are – each offering beautiful and wonderful things. Traveling outside the US (and outside the San Francisco Bay Area) also makes you realize that quality of life is not the same everywhere and that circumstances are the only things that really distinguish people. So hopefully that realization makes you want to help people who don’t have what you have. That film, which per SAR rules was inspired by a dare pulled out of a hat (my dare was “‘Finding Nemo’ meets ‘Chicago'”), was born more out of pain I was feeling as an actress at that time than an interest in social issues though. I did choose the cast purposefully (all very generous friends of mine) to represent as broad a spectrum of the artists I know as I could. This film is my attempt to communicate what it feels like to be an artist. What I feel like every other day… I think I got some of it.

AE: What’s up next for you?

EG: Who knows?! I will be doing the world premiere of a play called “Forever Bound” by Steve Apostolina in Los Angeles. We open in May. I love alternating between film and theatre, keeping as many different characters and stories around me as I can. Theatre in Los Angeles is fantastic and hugely fulfilling. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I’ll also be shooting a horror feature called “irl” – another film with a female director and female producers. I’m excited to dive in!

SC: I am going to try and go to as many film festivals as I can with this movie! I am at Cinequest in San Jose right now for our world premiere!!!

The following questions and answers are “spoilers” in that they reveal the outcome of the movie. Readers are advised not to read if they don’t want to be spoiled!

AE: Does Louise ultimately fail in her efforts to teach Rose to be “bold”?

SC: I think Louise had a profound affect on Rose’s life. True, she wasn’t bold enough to leave Joe, as her desire for a child won out with respect to that, but I feel Rose went for “bold” in other areas of her life…. even the fact that she was bold enough to stay with Joe and see her dream come true with respect to being a mother, and give up the love of her life…. there she was bold. Just by doing that and making that life choice.

AE: Ultimately, Rose gives up the love of her life and has to live with that for the rest of her life. But had Louise come out of her coma and miraculously survived her cancer, would Rose have found the courage to leave Joe and be with her?

SC: I am not sure… based on their last scene together when Rose sees Louise in the coma and tells her she is not leaving her…. perhaps that would have made her gather up the courage to face Joe and leave him. Sometimes when we face death, and the hard fact that we are going to lose someone, that makes us change.

AE: If Rose and Louise had run away together, what would they be doing in 1974 (10 years from when they actually split up)?

SC: Maybe living in New York or Paris. Rose would have gone to college, gotten a degree in a field she loved, and be working, or perhaps teaching… They would be city women, having found their place with other women friends, and found the support they yearned for so they could live the life they deserved.

The full film festival schedule for “Snapshots” can be found here. The cast and crew are super friendly on Twitter, so give them a shout @SNAPSHOTSmovie!