Two movies out in 2021, with more to come
Meghan Weinstein is an L.A.-based writer, director and producer with a great passion and zest for her craft. With her company Daisy Eagle Films, Weinstein has already started stockpiling her IMDB credits and doesn’t appear to be stopping soon. She sat down with us to talk about her inspiration, vision and most recent work.
2021 was an ambitious year for you with the release of two films: The Djinn and The Influencer. What is it like to see your work come to fruition?
It’s definitely exciting; it takes a while for films to go from the shoot to distribution. I produced The Djinn back in 2018 and then I directed The Influencer almost exactly a year later in late 2019. So with the films both coming out within a few months of each other, through big distributors like IFC Films and Breaking Glass Pictures, was definitely exciting. It’s felt like years of my life and experience in the industry has been building to the release of these two projects.
But at the same time, 2020 was obviously pretty tough on everyone and we couldn’t have screenings or parties, so there was never an opportunity to celebrate and push the films with public screenings. In September when The Influencer came out I was actually in Napa shooting my next feature, so I was really busy and didn’t really focus on the release that much. But that really helped me see how everything was paying off; the fact that these two films led to the opportunity to direct this next feature. It feels really good to see that all the hard work is leading me in the direction I want to go as a director.
Obviously both films are very different in nature. Describe how you go about with character development, casting and overall process on each film.
The Djinn should have been much more difficult to cast than it was, given the whole movie is about one boy trapped in an apartment with an evil spirit. We needed a 12-year old boy who could pull off emotional scenes, dealing with horror-movie subjects. But Ezra Dewey, who is really talented, carried the whole film with very little dialogue. Since his character can’t speak, he had to be able to tell the story mostly with his physicality, energy, expressions and emotions. Ezra was a complete professional.
Productionwise, the biggest obstacle was that he was a minor, so it limited the hours we could work with him each day–and he’s in the entire movie from beginning to end. So the shoot had to go a few more days than it would have had it been an adult. We also watched how much sugar we had on set in the food and snacks, so he wouldn’t crash halfway through the day; things like that just come with working with children.
The Influencer was the opposite; I needed to find 8 adults, mostly women and all diverse. I really wanted to feature Asian talent as much as possible and I also needed to find actors who could pull off the blend of satirical comedy and drama-thriller, so I was looking for something very specific. But I also like to be surprised by actors and allow them to show me something I might not have imagined. Everyone I cast did that in some kind of way. Chemistry between the cast was so important for this crew of hackers, who hate each other but are stuck working together to pull off this dangerous heist; and there’s a lot of comedic dialogue going on between them. They would also come to set with suggestions for lines, to make them funnier or more specific to how they saw the character.
For me, casting is extremely important. I am very involved in the casting process because when you work on an indie movie set, there isn’t any time to waste; so I have to know going into a shoot that the actors are already so fit for the role I don’t have to do too much to get them into character. I try to work with the actors to shape the character as much as we can before getting to set, then we can focus more on translating it to camera in a way that looks good and trying different things.
Influencer obviously speaks a great deal to the current landscape of social media and the pros and cons of each. What is your own take on this idea of influencers and what kind of message were you looking to make through this body of work?
The film touches on all the negative points of social media: emotional isolation, commercialism, pollution, animal testing, the push of these absurd beauty standards. But at the same time, the other point I tried to make was that these influencers are also just part of a system. Everybody is forced to play the game in order to survive. The first half of the movie is all about establishing Abbie Rose as a determined career woman, who has worked really hard for years to create her social media empire.
To some people it sounds shallow and stupid, but its also how she’s paying her bills, buying a house, paying off college debt. She didn’t create the system she lives in but was able to find a way to make a living through social media. The hacker-activists who break into Abbie’s house, are just as obnoxious and obsessed with their goal to make it rich. In the end it’s not about rooting for either side, it’s about having an understanding on how people end up living a life they didn’t necessarily want for themselves but at the end of the day it’s all about survival in the tech and money-driven world we live in.
What are you currently working on now? and what are your goals for work in the future? Dream project? Cast and crew to work with?
Right now I’m working on new comedy feature film scripts. I really enjoyed directing this psychological-thriller up in Napa in September but as a writer, I know I want to focus on female-driven comedy. My latest script (which I wrote during the pandemic) Bad, Mango! is a dog-buddy comedy and I’m hoping to attach a comedian like Sarah Silverman or Ali Wong to the film. I really want to work with more women comedians. And John C. Reilly. I just love him.
What filmmakers inspire you?
I’m definitely inspired by filmmakers who started their careers by just going out and making their movie, without the permission of a big studio or anything like that. People like Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Catherine Hardwicke. They’re great examples of filmmakers who have a very distinct voice and style and started out making indie films on smaller budgets–not only to prove they could do it to industry people but because they had that drive in them.
I also admire directors like Danny Boyle or Steven Soderbergh, because even though they make big-budget movies, they experiment within their craft. They’re driven by the story and characters more than a specific visual style.