I recently had the pleasure to sit down with Evan Weinstein, an independent film director whose film “Leaving Circadia” has garnered a lot of success at various film festivals such as the Manhattan Film Fest, Soho Film Festival, among many others. The film will also be available on Video On-Demand in the coming weeks.
Christian Roberts: How long have you had a career in Filmmaking?
Evan Weinstein: “Leaving Circadia” is my first feature. Prior to this I’ve written many screenplays, and wrote and acted in many shorts and comedy skits, many which are on the web. But I’ve been an actor my whole life, starting professionally at thirteen. I received my BFA in theater at Rutgers University, and also studied at the Globe Theater in London. Acting was always what I wanted to do, and I’ve always had a deep love for the arts. Movies, television, theater– whatever made me feel emotionally connnected. I could remember actors in this and that, random movie quotes, so and so’s first film- but never anything on school tests! When I was younger I went through many incarnations of who and what I wanted to be like– actors, old time actors, action heros, stand-up comedians, directors, writers….the list goes on and on. I suppose settling and focusing my energy on being a writer/director/actor, was a natural progression.
Roberts: What was the production process like for your film “Leaving Circadia”?
Weinstein: Eye opening! I wrote these parts for my friends and I to act in, with the hopes that everyone would come together and help make a movie– and that’s exactly what happened! It was a very free, fun and collaborative set, and many people wore different hats. But it was very disciplined, too. Everything was meticulously planned out– from plan A to as far down the alphabet I could go. In terms of being in front of the camera for much of the film, having my friends help give me acting notes while I was in a scene was extremely important. Everyone involved is an incredible actor (we all went to acting school together) so it made that part of the process smooth and enjoyable. As far everything else that being a director entails, from pre-production to post production– I didn’t go to school for filmaking, so it was the ol’ trial by fire. I had the confidence I could direct, and thankfully the people around me did too– because I wrote it and had the vision for the tone and how to tell the story correctly. Also- an indie film especially- needs a director who cares enough about the material to be the last man standing and is available through thick and thin. I knew I’d be around from the first frame to the final credit. And it’s a good thing I was, because there were alot of curve balls thrown at this that most directors-for-hire and wouldn’t have time for. Filming itself actually went very smoothly! Post production- for various reasons- was not as fun. But it was all a learning experience. And now I know the lay of the land with this stuff– all the kinds of people, places, and things to avoid the next time around.
Roberts: How has it been received at festivals?
Weinstein: We have had such a phenomenal run, we’re extremely greatful. We’ve won numerous awards at festivals all around the country! It sounds campy, but given how much heart was put into this film by the whole cast and crew, we knew we had something from the earliest cuts . But if there were any lingering doubts, the festival circuit completely vanquished that. Every audience– demographics across the spectrum– has responded so enthusiastic and positive! And it’s been a true personal joy to travel and meet so many other friendly, talented, and beautiful people. We are truly blessed that it is all culminating with a nationwide cable VOD release in August! No joke, this film is a true indie underdog, built by hand on indie grassroots, with indie brick and mortar, and it just goes to show what a great team came together that it has made such waves.
Roberts: What does it take for a film to get on VOD?
Weinstein: There are many crap-buckets that get distributed, and you never know what factors went into getting “Dinglemonster 4” out there. Usually a huge star playing Dinglemonster. Obviously every situation is different- and who knows, maybe I’ll have a film starring Johnny Hollywood next time– or a pre-sale! But with an indie like this, and a slice-of-life romantic dramedy, it takes a solid product– down to a good trailer and poster. All that stuff. People really do want to see things that move them, not just horror schlock- but they won’t invest their time if they don’t understand or like what they see. So coming to the table with a complete vision, while also being open to other peoples ideas is very important. No matter how good a film is, it still takes perseverance, good decision making, and a little luck. You can’t wait for anything to come to you. And even if it does, it’s best to wait until you feel it’s a good fit and to do your research. If you’re not in the ballpark of your goals, your knuckles should be raw from knocking on doors.
Roberts: What are your plans with the film down the road and filmmaking in general?
Weinstein: As far as the film, the goal is obviously to get the word out and have as many people see it as possible, and hope they like it and tell their friends! I have faith (and it is vitally important) that our culture can keep films of all types alive, not just blockbusters. And as of now, I’m still an indie filmaker. I am working on a few scripts of my own, and I’m also open to outside directing, writing, and acting opportunities. My goal as a writer and a director remains the same as my goals as an actor– which is to do different things and never be placed in a box. At the moment I don’t have some big Hollywood army behind me supplying me with ammunition. I’m not someone who just goes out shooting random experimental stuff– not that there’s anything wrong with that, and maybe I will someday– but I just don’t have the luxury of resources or time. I’m gonna make sure that the next film is a solid spun web again and not a waste of someone’s time just to make a film.
Roberts: What are some words of advice you can give to anyone trying to get started in filmmaking?
Weinstein: It is important to have a network, learn your trade, see other people’s art, and to make connections. I’m in this business because I like people, I like to be inspired and to return the gesture through art. It helps to learn how to communicate, how to be on top of things, and to try to solve problems with a level head. We’re in the business of communicating, and so being a good communicator is the one of the most important assets you can have– whether in front of the camera, behind the camera, or in any job. Sincerity goes a long way too, and actions speak louder than words. It’s amazing how many people act like they’ll never see you again, or are flakey. I always remember someone, especially the sincere ones. If I’m personally invited to something, it means a hell of a lot more than a mass email! And if you can’t make a personal invite, a note back is proper etiquette- even if not right away. With sincerity comes good communication and dependability, and everyone seeks out dependable people. Even if it’s not the next project, perhaps down the line. That being said, it’s also important to get out of the mindset of “What can someone do for me?” And instead, ask “What can I bring to the table?” “Leaving Circadia” was something I knew I couldn’t do alone. I wanted to work on a project with people I like, and I knew that if I wrote a good part for those people everyone would pull their weight. In the end of the day you want to cultivate good people you work well with. It sounds like a simple rule, but it is important to remember– negative attracts negative, and positive attracts positive. The people in this business who are the most professional and rockstars at what they do, are generally links through other people who are likeminded. Be honest with yourself and don’t make any short cuts with with partnerships, hires, etc…In the end of the day you need to be prepared for just about anything, because anything can and will happen, and you’ll need a smart team around you- from the beginning- if it does. The people who will set you back, can always be found through referrals by people who would set you back! Many times the ones who are on the negative side have absolutely no idea they are and it is important to use your insitincts- especially if you see red flags. An amateur in the long run is way more expensive than a professional. This is not a business where you want to waste anyone’s money or time.