Courtesy of Bill Connington

Can the world last when love breaks? 

Bill Connington’s second feature film, “Poughkeepsie is for Lovers,” poses this provocative question. Connington is a lecturer in acting at the David Geffen School of Drama.

Connington plays the main male lead, Charles, and co-directed the film with Kelley Van Dilla. A private screening was held on Sunday, Oct. 9 in Sterling Memorial Library.

“Poughkeepsie is for Lovers” follows Charles and Eve, the latter of which is played by Natia Dune, as the couple leaves New York City to practice their escape route upstate in the event of a nuclear attack. Their journey for survival mirrors the turmoil within their relationship throughout the film.  

“I was playing with that idea of what would happen just to two people as they’re having difficulty in their relationship,” Connington told the News. “There is also this very difficult world situation happening where they have no control over it, and how one kind of reflects the other.” 

Connington spoke to the thematic connections between the end of a romantic relationship and the end of the world. During a breakup, “it can feel like the world is over, possibly, at least temporarily,” he noted.

Connington said the film was initially sparked by the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The film’s premise mimics the real-life experiences of New York City residents who were asked to practice their escape plans in the attacks’ aftermath.

Connington also commented that the ambitious plotline itself was a challenge, adding that his narrative was accomplished with a budget comparatively lower than other apocalypse-genre films.  

“How do you tell the story of the end of the world?” Connington said. “There have been many spectacular films made about the end of the world and all kinds of exploding buildings and exploding planets. I knew that I wouldn’t be telling that story. The story that I was interested in telling was more about what would happen to real people.”

The smaller budget, along with intentional use of lights and camera work, allowed the team to create a more realistic depiction of an apocalypse. In acknowledging the need for pragmatism, Connington did not view this financial restriction as a major challenge; at times, he even considered it an advantage. 

Using only natural light helped enhance the realistic aspects of the film while allowing the crew to work quickly, Connington said. The experimental nature of the film also allowed for more creative agency and freedom. 

Connington and Van Dilla split directing responsibilities into on-set directing and post-production directing. Although on set Connington focused solely on his acting, his off-set directing involved working with aspects of editing, color grading and film score. 

The film’s musical landscape was produced by Deirdre Broderick, who Connington has partnered with previously and said he shares “a common language” with.

“To me, the music is incredibly important because it represents often the emotional life of the characters but also maybe the emotional life of the audience, especially in a film like this where there were long sequences without dialogue,” said Connington. 

When asked about Connington’s strengths as a co-worker, Broderick highlighted Connington’s openness to collaboration. She specifically noted how Connington created a work environment conducive to risk-taking and flexibility.

“[Connington] is very open, very collaborative,” Broderick said. “He has a lot of ideas. And he respects his collaborators’ ideas as well. In working with him, I’ve never felt hemmed in. I’ve felt encouraged to bring more and more to the table. And that’s a wonderful environment to work in. He trusts me, which is key, and he trusts the people that he collaborates with to do their jobs and do their jobs well.”

Fellow David Geffen School of Drama lecturer Daniela Varon stated that Connington’s transformation into the role of Charles was surprising both to his colleagues and his students. Varon also stated that Connington’s film served as an important learning opportunity for Yale students outside of the classroom. 

“It’s exciting to see a colleague do this,” Varon said. “I know [Connington] as a colleague, as a teacher, as a person. He’s very modest, quiet, unassuming, and then in these films, he’s definitely transformed. It’s fun, and I know he just had a screening at Yale. It’s fantastic for students to see their acting faculty in action, and doing something that’s quite different from what they do [in the classroom].”

When asked about his teaching philosophies, Connington stressed the value of creating questions for his students rather than tasking students with answering them.

“A cliche is that the teacher is taught by their students,” Connington said. “That is very true. It’s very inspiring to work with these young artists. I’m there as a support on the journey that they’re going through. … It’s a privilege to get to see them blossom in their three years here.”

This stance on teaching is also reflected in his goals for the film, Connington. While he stated that there is a general moral to the film, he hopes to leave audiences with questions rather than any clear-cut takeaways.

“Poughkeepsie is for Lovers” was released on Sept. 6, 2022.