Kyle Henry's "The Year That Changed Us"

A Face in the Crowd: Diversity is the Spice of Life in Kyle Henry’s “The Year That Changed Us”

As with most movies, the latest from Kyle Henry and Carlos Treviño started when the partners in life and filmmaking began to think about something they hadn’t seen on screen before. But as it turned out, they needed to look no further than the mirror.

“We’re going through midlife issues, and seeing the films that were out there really wasn’t reflecting our experience,” says Henry. “Everything gets turned upside down and you really have to figure out a new way of living.”

And also perhaps a new way of making a film. Though the two just recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for “The Year That Changed Us,” Henry and Treviño have been hard at work ever since their epiphany last spring on the new project, which tracks the challenges facing two interracial couples living in the city’s most diverse neighborhood of Rogers Park as they try to keep their spark alive amidst a sea change in their personal fortunes.

Henry and Treviño are no strangers to shaking things up. After Henry rose to acclaim as the director of the Spirit Award-nominated 2005 psychological thriller “Room,” he and Treviño first collaborated on the saucy sex anthology “Fourplay,” which traveled from city to city for a quartet of vignettes all centered around the difficulty of satisfying a personal desire. In “The Year That Changed Us,” the duo are sticking to one city, but they have inhabited it fully, working with actors from the Chicago area to create something unusually authentic for their latest film.

“The actors have been so engaged and so willing to share their experiences and have [gone] out on the streets wired, with wireless mics, [to develop] the whole history of these characters leading up to where the script begins,” says Henry, likening the approach to how British auteurs Mike Leigh and Ken Loach workshop their movies before ever shooting a frame of film. “So these two couples improvised hour-long improvisations of their first date, their first serious talk about going steady and what that meant, their first big fight, the first time they thought about breaking up or staying together — it has allowed the actors almost a year to live with these people in a way that I think is really unique and special.”

Now, the filmmakers just need to find a way to properly compensate the SAG actors — hence the Kickstarter campaign, which features of their rather electrifying rehearsals as part of the pitch video. If the campaign is successful, production on the film will commence at the end of this month with plans to work for a festival launch in the fall of 2016. Taking the time to capture each of the four seasons, Henry hopes that seeing a year in the life of the characters that he, Treviño and their actors have so carefully crafted will allow audiences to see a little bit of themselves.

“A lot of American filmmakers are afraid of that material,” says Henry. “We either get a film about inappropriate adults, way past the age of growing up, [suddenly] dealing with real adult problems, or we get the film that seems to be the product of some director’s midlife crisis [where] it’s like, ‘I’m 60 years old and I have to save my 18-year-old daughter from a terrorist.’ So I want to tell stories [about] people who are — and who have earned the right to be — as old as they are and dealing with the problems that they’re dealing with, in a way [others can] say, ‘They’re not alone, I get it. This is exactly what I’m going through.’”

To back this project and watch the filmmakers’ personal pitch video, click here. And follow the film’s progress on Twitter and Facebook.

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