WMM has no shortage of multi-hyphenate filmmakers, but Ethan Kogan is an exceptional study in accomplishment. With roots as an actor, he brings raw passion, an impeccable work ethic, and sheer talent to whatever he sets out to do. [Editor’s note: I happen to know that he built his own computer from scratch, so as to use it as an editing bay!] In conjunction with sharing his feature, “Problem of Evil” on our site, we bring you Ethan Kogan.
WMM: Where are you from, what is your background, and how do you think that informs what you do as a filmmaker?
EK: I’m a Los Angeles native. I’m Jewish with Scotish and Lithuanian ancestry. For me, my Jewish upbringing has installed in me a certain morality and spirituality that comes out in my work and drives the stories I want to tell.
WMM: When did you know you wanted to pursue your craft as a career? Were you supported in your dreams?
EK: I will never get tired of acting. It was my passion when I was younger and what has been pushing me to continue to create. After feeling I needed to make a film just to create for myself a desirable acting role, I discovered my passion for writing & directing. The ability to create not just one character, but an entire world, has been very fulfilling and has been my focus for the past several years.
WMM: Did you study anywhere in your field? Where? Any notable stories / experiences / peers / teachers?
EK: I went to school for theater acting (University of Michigan, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, British American Drama Academy). I never went to film school. I’m self-taught with tons of reading, watching videos and making a trillion mistakes just by doing it.
WMM: What else do you do besides your craft? Day job?
EK: Daytime work as a television and freelance editor.
WMM: What is the lowest budget you have worked with? Highest?
EK: Lowest would be $10 for a short webisode spoof on “Game of Thrones”. It was epic. Highest… Our feature film cost us upwards of $30K.
WMM: What was your first foray into professional film making/acting? First screening? First show?
EK: Our feature film, “Problem of Evil” was really our first foray into filmmaking from behind the camera. It was exhausting. Most of the time it was just Jessica [editor’s note: Jessica Silvetti will be profiled next week] and myself having to learn and do most everything we needed to get done. But it was one of the most rewarding and best learned experiences I’ve had as a creative artist.
As an actor, my first professional gig was a co-starring role on the FX show Nip/Tuck. I played a porn star… let’s leave it at that.
WMM: What is the most stressful situation you have found yourself in as an artist? Most rewarding? Most memorable?
EK: Most stressful: Making a feature film on credit cards. Most rewarding: Making a feature film on credit cards. Most momorable: Again… making a feature film on credit cards.
WMM: What are your current project(s)?
EK: Two short films just entering the festival circuit. “Happy for Nothing,” a short dramedy depicting a woman’s desire to get herself out of depression via a self-help guru, which will be premeiring at the 2014 Carmel International Film Festival… And “Poor Man’s Mermaid,” a short drama about a man’s prayers being answered as he recounts the stories his father told him of the mythical woman of the ocean. It’s just been finished and is being submitted to festivals. We’re also in pre-production on out first feature-length documentary… hopefully we’ll be able to give more information in the coming months.
WMM: How has WMM influenced / shaped / supported you with this process/project?
EK: By going to Wednesday night workshops and hearing others’ works, I get inspired and motivated to move forward with my own projects. Sometimes observing one writer work through an issue they are having with their script helps me break through one of my own barriers and move forward.
WMM: Who are your biggest influences? (actors … whomever)
EK: MY family, first and foremost. After that, I would say the writing of Jack Kerouac is a big influence, along with the films of Andrei Tarkovsky.
WMM: Who are your top 5 actors? What are your top 5 films? Top 5 directors? Books?
EK: -FILMS: STALKER (DIR. Anresi Tarkovsky), THE MASTER (DIR. Paul Thomas Anderson), ON THE WATERFRONT (DIR. Elia Kazan), WARRIOR (DIR. Gavin O’Connor), BLADE RUNNER (DIR. Ridley Scott)
ACTORS: Joaquin Pheeonix, TOm hardy, Mads Mikkelsen, Bill Murray, Jessica Chastain, Bryan Cranston (had to do 6 sorry!)
DIRECTORS: Andrei Tarkovsky, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, Stanley Kubrick
LITERATURE: ON THE ROAD (BY Jack Kerouac), THE GOLEM (BY Gustav Merink), THE GUNSLINGER (BY Stephen King), LIFE IS A DREAM (Pedro Calderon De La Barca), THE NIBELUNGENLIED (German Epic Poem By Anonymous)
WMM: What is your favorite project you have worked on and why?
EK: “PROBLEM OF EVIL“ It sparked my passion for filmmaking.
WMM: What would you change if you could, about your career trajectory?
WMM: Any advice for filmmakers?
EK: An audition is not a job interview. It’s a closing night performance each and every time. Leave it all in the room and carry out nothing with you.
WMM: What is your favorite thing about WMM?
EK: The community has been very supportive of our work and our DIY style of filmmaking. The relationships we’ve established, both personal and professional, will be long-standing in my opinion.
WMM: If you were stranded on an island for 6 months, what 5 items would you wish you had on your person?
EK: Machete, copy of Jack Kerouac’s “Mexico City Blues,” my eyeglasses, one large ream of paper and one package of pens.
WMM: If you were not doing what you do now, what would you want to be doing?
EK: I would be a veterinarian.
WMM: What’s next for you now?
EK: I just finished my first feature screenplay and will be going out to agents and production companies in the coming months.
WMM: Describe yourself with 3 adjectives.
EK: Meticulous, comical, ambitious.
WMM: What, other than your craft, brings you joy?
EK: Family, food, my dog (Barkley).