Filmmaker Gets Foot in the Door With ‘Step Back, Doors Closing’  

By Hailey Wharram


“Step Back, Doors Closing,” the first project from Arden Pictures, the production company founded by Carter Ward in 2021, follows Julisa (Carmen Berkeley) and Ryan (Reilly Walters) as they navigate their early 20s and their unexpected budding romance.

“I think most people in D.C. will recognize ‘step back, doors closing’ as the announcement on the D.C. Metro,” said Ward, the film’s screenwriter and director, as well as its producer. “The two characters meet on the Metro, so that’s where their journey begins together, but, more than that, these characters are at the point in their lives where they are unnecessarily stressed out. They need to step back and get some perspective on things, because their opportunities are closing for this part of their lives.”

A love letter to the District of Columbia, the film features scenes shot in a myriad of quintessential Georgetown locations, such as Martin’s Tavern, Waterfront Park and Georgetown University.

Born in Georgetown and raised in Montgomery County, Maryland, Ward first became interested in filmmaking while studying English at Fordham University in New York.

“Up until the summer before my senior year I had no idea what I wanted to do,” he said. “People had suggested teaching, but I wasn’t really interested in that. I also toyed with the idea of journalism for a minute, but that wasn’t necessarily for me either. But then I got this random internship on an indie film and I just fell in love with it.”

Three years after graduating from Fordham in 2012, having been an intern and a production assistant on a handful of projects, Ward moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. Around this time, he began tinkering with an idea for a screenplay which would later become “Step Back, Doors Closing.”

“I actually thought of this specific story because I couldn’t think of a good idea for a film,” Ward explained. “I couldn’t think of any unique plot, so I actually went in the opposite direction and said, ‘What’s a movie that has already been done before successfully, with a plot so simple that no one writer or director can actually lay claim to it?’ That was essentially people walking, talking and falling in love. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I decided to make my version of a wheel that already exists.”

As for the general feel of the film, his debut feature, Ward cites Richard Linklater — director and co-screenwriter of “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight,” among other films — as his primary inspiration.

“If you take ‘Before Sunrise,’ ‘Lost in Translation,’ ‘The Brothers McMullen’ and ‘Medicine for Melancholy’ and kind of just smashed them together, you would get ‘Step Back, Doors Closing,’” Ward said, naming films by Linklater, Sofia Coppola, Edward Burns and Barry Jenkins.

Ward also followed Linklater’s example as a writer-director. He said the overlapping roles (not to mention producer) actually aided his creative process.

“The writing and directing aspects definitely bleed into one another. In terms of the writing, you think the script is done, but then you have to change things on the fly all the time, so the writing never really stops. That’s why I think most of my favorite films are by writer-directors — there’s no disconnect there.”

Asked about a favorite on-set memory, he recalled a moment involving the first assistant cameraman that solidified his faith in the project.

“The climactic scene of the film takes place in this greenhouse, and the two characters are putting their cards on the table and being very emotionally vulnerable,” Ward said. “At the end of the first take with Carmen and Reilly, our first AC, Seth, was literally crying. We said, ‘Seth, are you okay?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I just didn’t expect that!’ It was a nice confidence boost that we were going in the right direction.”

After filming wrapped, Ward and editor Gordon Antell began the post-production process.

“I found post-production to be a very satisfying experience, because it is kind of like putting together a puzzle,” Ward said. “During production, you are making the puzzle pieces, which can be extremely stressful, but then in post-production all of the pieces exist, but you just have to figure out which of the thousands of pieces you need and the order in which they should fit together.”

Now that the film is finished, Ward and his team are submitting “Step Back, Doors Closing” to local, national and international festivals.

“This film could premiere as soon as next month, or it could be several months from now. We are just kind of at the mercy of these programmers,” he said. “But just because you didn’t get in somewhere doesn’t mean it’s not a good film — their tastes might just align in a certain way.”

For Ward, the success of “Step Back, Doors Closing” will not be defined by its selection for a prestigious film festival or by whatever critical acclaim it may receive. Rather, he craves a simpler, audience-centric sense of satisfaction.

“If the end credits start to roll and one audience member turns to their friend and says, ‘That was nice. I enjoyed that. Wanna get something to eat?’ — that would make the film a success for me. I hope it is just a nice break from reality, especially during an election year.”

“Step Back, Doors Closing” does not have an official release date. To keep up with the project, visit





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