Today's guest post is from Louie Cowan, whom I had the privilege of working with briefly in a guest role on the upcoming web series, Two Doors Down. The series is based on actual events in Louie's life.
It took a long time to reflect calmly and peacefully on the events that lead up to my divorce, and the consequences of deciding to let go of what was, essentially, the hope that I'd found my soul mate and life partner, in the person I had married.
No matter how we pull ourselves together and move on, there are few things in everyday people’s lives that put them through the wringer quite as much as the drama of divorce. It's a modern-day tragedy and at the end of the dirty process, it's rare to come out of it feeling eager to go above and beyond to do things that benefit your ex's happiness.
I felt justified at being angry, because I'd been betrayed, and had been pushed into living as a disenfranchised dad because of it. Despite the circumstances, I also felt that I had failed to make it work, because as a capable man you should be able to fix anything, right? It was humbling to join the statistics of too many ordinary couples who split up shortly after having their first child, when we'd strived to be anything but ordinary. More than anything else, I felt so disappointed to see my son go through something that I had experienced as a child, and from which I could still spot the scars in my own life.
So, as any optimist may do, I used my creativity to look for ways to turn the situation into something positive. I threw myself into my passion for filmmaking and made some good progress creating a few award winning short films. I used filmmaking to examine my feelings on revenge against the previous boyfriend whom my ex-wife had gone back to, and concluded that there is no happy ending by continuing the cycle of revenge or hatred. As a result of that, I approached my ex and her partner and told them I was no longer going to hold onto the hurt of the past and wanted a situation where we all worked respectfully together at being good parents. I admit, I'd hoped to hear an apology back from them, and I never did, but I also realised that this was not about what THEY did, this was about what I would choose to do going forward.
Some time after that as my son approached 6 years, I realized that there was a looming battle about which school district my young son would join. I was living up in Delaware and my son's mother lived down in Clintonville, and it became clear we'd have to make a choice about which school district he'd be attending -- and one of us was going to get stuck with a lot more driving! I was already getting whacked with too many speeding fines for trying to meet the 6pm pickup deadline at daycare while simultaneously having to work until 6pm at my job.
I started to consider the unthinkable: moving to the same neighborhood where my ex-wife had settled with her new husband. I believe it's through our discomfort that we can often find our greatest opportunities for growth, and so I started writing down my thoughts to help me decide on the best path forward. At the same time I'd been acting in a terrifically funny short film called Ass and the Elephant about two next-door neighbors with diametrically opposed political views who were forced into a situation where they had to work together.
Suddenly the pieces of inspiration started to come together as my writing partner, scOtt summitt, and I saw the potential for humor in the ways that former spouses often draw protective lines around themselves and their children, which they find difficult, if not impossible, to negotiate. We transposed the similar story concept to fit it into the situation of a competitive ex-couple who end up living too close for comfort. In TWO DOORS DOWN, small differences between the characters, such as Jennifer and Kevin’s argument over whether their son should drink soy or regular milk, escalate to the level of ridiculousness. In these moments, we hope that viewers will see the humor in their own situations, because if we can learn to laugh at ourselves, then it makes living through it a whole lot easier.
The story was so much fun to write and quite cathartic too. Then we auditioned a bunch of skilled improvization actors and they brought so much more to the dialog by infusing their own humor and lives into the script and we ended up with a unique show that tackled serious issues in a very real way -- by harnessing the funny stories born from life experiences and genuine interaction between our actors.
At a big picture level, TWO DOORS DOWN is about two imperfect people learning to compromise and having to work together for a laudable common goal: raising a healthy and happy child.
Observers of the show have often asked me: "Is this based on all of your own experiences?" and I have a chuckle about it. It seems there are many people who relate to the predicament that the characters in the story find themselves in. Though they are divorced, they are forever tethered to their ex-spouse because of the love they share for their child and the parenting they will share for years to come.
Sometimes, over time the parenting 'rules' in each home change and become out of sync with one another, because of differences in approach and the unhindered opportunity for each parent to guide their child's development in their own unique way. That is the nugget of truth from my own life experience, on which the heightened comedic frictions between characters Kevin and Jennifer have been built and enlarged. What I wanted to show is that, rather than just one or the other, it really takes both of these parents' influence to raise a good, healthy child.
The characters in our sitcom web series, TWO DOORS DOWN, need each other because they are uniquely able to balance out each other's polar extremes together; and their son, Daniel, is better off because of it. Since they are so different in their approach, and competitive in their parenting, the sparks start to fly when Kevin and his young girlfriend move into the same neighborhood as Jennifer and her new, professorial husband -- and end up living only two houses apart from each other!
And at this point I hasten to add: I do not live two doors down from my ex-wife.
Just two streets. But who's counting? And it has turned out to be one of the best moves I've ever made.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Louie Cowan is an award-winning actor & director who has dedicated his directing career to projects that examine motivations, behaviors, and the human condition.
“I grew up during a time of tremendous social change in Cape Town, South Africa and that sparked my interest in trying to understand the common humanity that all of us share,” says Cowan, who received his US citizenship in April 2011. “I strive to make films that open a door of understanding into our lives, and encourage contemplation of our condition. Most importantly though, I love life and celebrate that in my movies, so there is always humor, passion and a little bit of craziness."
Since settling in Columbus, he has produced, directed, and acted in a number of locally-made films, including, Horrors of War, The Courier, Turkey Day, A Cold Blood, and recently the first Columbus-based web series, TWO DOORS DOWN, his most personal project to date. Louie is also a published author of the book "Should I Stay or Should I Go - to live in or leave South Africa" and as an actor has been nominated twice for the equivalent of the Tony Award in S.A., called the Vita Award.
TWO DOORS DOWN, filmed on location in the Columbus, OH neighborhoods of Clintonville and German Village with local talent, tells the story of Kevin Stone and Jennifer Pierce, ex-spouses who share custody of their young son, Daniel. Kevin and Jennifer’s new relationships, parenting styles, and neighborhood agendas turn competitive as they find themselves living on the same street, just two doors down from each other.
The web series officially launches on Sunday, August 21 at Studio 35 Cinema and Drafthouse, 3055 Indianola Avenue in Clintonville with a red-carpet premiere where the public can mingle with the cast and crew of the show. The premiere runs from 2:00pm-5:00pm and will feature upcoming webisodes which are scheduled to be released on the show’s official website, www.TwoDoorsDownTV.com over the course of several months.
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For more show information, pictures, and exclusive behind-the-scenes videos about the series...
Official website: www.TwoDoorsDownTV.com
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Watch on YouTube: www.youtube.com/TwoDoorsDownTV