Step Back, Doors Closing

When two open-hearted young adults spend an accidental weekend together in DC, they discover more about their beliefs, each other, and themselves than they bargained for.


Step Back, Doors Closing is a charming love story between two young adults who long for authentic and emotionally intelligent relationships. Ryan (Reilly Walters) is witty, down-to-earth, and newly single for the first time in four years. He’s excited for a night on the town, but when his old friend bails on him at the last minute, he gets on the DC metro with the intention of going home. Julisa (Carmen Berkeley) is open-minded with lots of self-imposed pressure and is considering dropping out of grad school. After flying from Los Angeles to DC, she manages to break both her phone and tablet. Unable to contact her friend, she gets on the DC metro, unsure where to go next. Over the following twenty-four hours, Ryan and Julisa bond by discussing their hopes, dreams, and fears. Their courtship is universal, in that they present their best, most curated selves first, but as they spend more time together, they encounter obstacles that chip away at their armor. Slowly but surely, they reveal more and more about themselves, and fall in love.

Director's Statement

“This is a story about being 24, learning to smell the roses,

and falling in love.”

When I first began outlining Step Back, Doors Closing, I would write the above sentence on every page. I wanted to remember why I was writing this story, and why it was important. In our increasingly complicated world, I believe that it’s both necessary and therapeutic to slow down and reflect on the positive aspects of the human condition through art. In much the same way that Ryan and Julisa learn to step back and smell the roses, it’s my hope that audiences can find respite from their problems for 90 minutes by watching this film. Of course, I knew this would only be possible if we cast two leads with genuine chemistry. Thankfully, we found Carmen Berkeley and Reilly Walters, two up-and-coming actors who captured the magic and spontaneity of falling in love in your early twenties. They’re not only great actors, but genuinely great people, and I look forward to watching their careers blossom in the years to come. This film is also my love letter to Washington, DC. Having grown up outside the city, I wanted to create art that was respectful to its geography, culture, and people, in order to counter its near constant portrayal as the home of politics, corruption, and scandal. I think we were successful, and I can’t wait for you to see it.

Carmen Berkeley, "Julisa"

Carmen Berkeley recurred on Law & Order: SVU opposite Ian McShane. On stage, she starred in a production of The Night of the Iguana with Phylicia Rashad and Dylan McDermott. She also starred in Second Stage’s world premiere production of Whitney White’s Our Dear Dead Drug Lord, which was named a New York Times Critic’s Pick. The Times went on to hail her performance, defined with “intensity and individuality that are equal parts funny and scary.” She is a graduate of Mason Gross School of the Arts.

Reilly Walters, "Ryan"

Reilly Walters is a New York-based actor who recently completed Pace University’s FTVC Program (Acting for Film, Television, Voice-Overs, and Commercials). Since graduating, he has been seen on Fox’s Fantasy Island in a guest star role, on Law & Order: SVU in a guest star role, and on the Starz series Three Women in a recurring role. He also played a supporting role in the independent film Which Brings Me To You opposite Lucy Hale.

Carter Ward, Writer/Director

Carter Ward was born in Washington, DC and raised in Montgomery County, Maryland. In 2012, he graduated from Fordham University with a degree in English Language and Literature. It was in New York City that he first discovered his love for film and storytelling, working as an assistant on several short and feature films. In 2015, Ward moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in filmmaking. During that time, he has done everything from background acting, to assisting at a top-tier talent agency, to working at a prestigious film festival. In 2021, he founded the production company Arden Pictures, which aims to produce character-driven films that explore all aspects of American life. The company’s first film is Step Back, Doors Closing. Ward served as writer, director, and producer.

Jane Hollon, Producer

Jane Hollon holds a BA from the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts and an MFA from the prestigious American Film Institute Conservatory, where she earned the esteemed Jeffrey Katzenberg Fellowship. She has a strong foundation in physical production from her early career in Baltimore, MD, working on notable television shows and movies, including Veep, House of Cards, and Game Change. As a versatile freelance producer, she has successfully brought to life a wide range of projects, including short films, digital series, music videos, and branded content. In addition, Hollon served as the Director of Development at Priority Pictures, an award-winning independent production and financing company, for three years, where she honed her storytelling skills further. In 2021, she founded Pinehurst Productions, a company dedicated to delivering high-quality content to audiences. Step Back, Doors Closing is her feature film producorial debut.

JWJ Ferguson, Director of Photography

JWJ Ferguson is a multicultural, award-winning cinematographer and filmmaker. Named “Louisiana Filmmaker of the Year” in 2008 by the New Orleans Film Festival, Ferguson, now based in Colombia, has lensed over fifty films. The films he has photographed have premiered at prestigious festivals (Mill Valley, Salento International, Newport Beach, Cannes) and cultural institutions (The Whitney, MOMA, Viennale, Smithsonian). They have won numerous awards and grants (Tiffany, Jerome, IFP, TFI). Ferguson photographed Pearl Jam’s music video “Gone” commissioned by RCA and J Records. His commercial work includes the following clients: Canon, Samsung, L’Oréal, Maybelline, Redken, Rolling Stone, and Google. He was recently interviewed by Canon for a video featuring noted cinematographers and their choice of Canon lenses. He most recently completed the filming of Viral, a feature film starring Blair Underwood and Sarah Silverman. Ferguson is a multilingual communicator who excels at international productions and promotes cross-cultural awareness in his everyday practice. He studied philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh.


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Saeli Eshelman



Arden Pictures