This week we bring you WMMer David Aslan
, writer/director of LAYOVER
(just released on our site last week). Alongside his short, David can also boast one of the most illustrious scripts (and pitches) to come through our Equal Writes competition in 2013. As cheeky as he is intellectual, David’s humility shines through as he discusses his pursuit of the film and television industry. Look out world.
WMM: Where are you from, what is your background, and how do you think that informs what you do as a filmmaker?
DA: I’m from New Jersey, my parents are Israeli. Growing up in North Jersey, right outside of New York, my background was common enough that it didn’t deeply inform me as an artist, at least not in any way I could identify. I’m certain I pull details from my specific background every now and then in my creative process, but not much more than any other life experiences I’ve had.
WMM: When did you know you wanted to pursue your craft as a career? Were you supported in your dreams to become a filmmaker?
DA: I always had a strong interest in the arts, particularly theater, since I was a very young child. Growing up, I’m pretty sure my parents signed me up for every club and class in a twenty-mile radius of my house (and then some) because they believed early on in pushing their children towards discovering their passions. More than anything, I gravitated to acting. However, as I grew older, that love of theater branched into video and film during high school, and by the time I got to college, I drifted from acting and began to pursue telling my own stories from behind the camera more aggressively. I also turned into a bit of a tech geek, and enjoyed the technical aspects of filmmaking that involved cameras and computers. By the time I graduated college, I found work as an assistant editor, and I’ve been involved in some form of filmmaking ever since.
WMM: Did you study anywhere in your field? Where? Any notable stories/experiences/peers/teachers?
DA: I never formally studied film, but I was a video geek in high school and took every video and animation class I could get into. Then, in college, I had the opportunity to work for my school’s television department. It wasn’t an academic department, but rather a branch of their public relations wing. They were in the habit of employing students, and since there was no film or television program available at the time, it was in this TV department where many of us film and video types got to cut our teeth on editing software like Final Cut and professional video equipment.
WMM: What else do you do besides your craft? Day job?
DA: No day job to speak since I typically work freelance. I have a bit of an entrepreneur’s spirit. Lately, my sister and I are working together in a real estate business we started.
WMM: What is the lowest budget you have worked with? Highest?
DA: I guess zero is the lowest budget I’ve ever worked with. Highest – I’m not sure… All my work has been effectively “low-budget” but on work-for-hire jobs, the producers just handle budget, and I usually just stick to making wild demands and finding out which ones I can get away with.
WMM: Describe your first foray into professional film making? First screening? First show?
DA: Using my sister’s VHS camcorder when I was ten years old, and making her and her friends pretend to be Teddy Roosevelt and his hunting buddy for a fifth grade research project that dramatized the origin story of the very first “Teddy” bear. I screened it in Mrs. Mudrick’s “talented and gifted” classroom. I don’t want to brag, but it was kind of a hit. All five of the kids who watched it managed to sit through the whole thing. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but Warner Brothers bought the distribution rights and we made 3.2 gazillion dollars in ticket sales. The Blu-ray is finally coming out in December.
WMM: What is the most stressful situation you have found yourself in as an artist? Most rewarding? Most memorable?
DA: The most stressful would probably be the time my entire shoot depended on a location that I didn’t have permission to shoot in, and I prayed the whole time I wouldn’t get shut down before I had gotten all the necessary footage. In the end, we got all the footage, and then discovered we had somehow lost all the audio from that shoot. I nearly had a heart attack. Thankfully, most of the footage was easy to dub over, and we ended up having seamless ADR. But it felt like a touch-and-go situation for a moment there.The most rewarding situation might have been when I showed my father a script I had written and he told me he brought tears to his eyes.
WMM: What are your current project(s)?
DA: I’m working on a very long-delayed second season for my web series “Lesbian Cops”. I’m constantly making sketches and shorts, as well as promos and branded web content. I’m also constantly writing, trying to break in to the world of big budget TV and feature writing.
WMM: How has WMM influenced / shaped / supported you with this process/project?
DA: This original short was a twenty page monster of unnecessary dialogue that I wrote in an insomniac frenzy about six or seven years ago. Inspired by the deadline of WMM short script competition, I retooled the concept to fit a nice, lean seven pages. While I didn’t win that competition, the powers that be at WMM took notice of the script regardless, more specifically, I need to say Chad Kukahiko, who is one of the kindest, warm-hearted, hardest-working, and talented people I’ve ever met in my life, read my script and loved it. Initially, he wanted to direct it himself, but when I respectfully told him I couldn’t give up my baby, he didn’t even bat an eye, and immediately offered to jump on as my executive producer. In the next few months, he became it’s greatest advocate when WMM was trying to decide what films to select for its second slate of short films. Thankfully, the board members of WMM shared his excitement, patted me along with a generous grant, and encouraged me to make my vision a reality. Without Chad and WMM, I’m not sure I would have had the opportunity to so readily make this film.
What are your top 5 films? Who are your favorite 5 actors? Top 5 directors? Top 5 pieces of lit?
DA: Also a somewhat impossible question, but since I’m a team player, I’ll give this one a go. (These are all current and subject to change as soon as I hit the “send” button on this email.) Top 5 films: Shawshank Redemption, Meet Joe Black, Inception, Wet Hot American Summer, Running on Empty. Top 5 directors: Lasse Hallstrom, Sidney Lumet, David Wain, Quentin Tarantino, Joss Whedon (honorable mentions to Christopher Nolan and James Cameron – I don’t always love their films, but I will see anything they makes just because I know it will be epic). Top 5 actors: N/A – I like too many actors! Top 5 books: How to Become a Famous Novelist, Game of Thrones, The Stranger, Creativity, Inc., The Book of Lost Things.
WMM: What is your favorite project you have worked on and why?
DA: Right now, “Layover”, the short I just made. It was special and unique to me, and it allowed me to capture a feeling I felt. It was also super fun to work on, and I was able to involve my whole family in the process.
WMM: What would you change if you could, about your career trajectory?
DA: I am not rich and famous. I think we should fix that. The world needs more of me.
WMM: Any advice for filmmakers?
DA: I would love some. Do you have any?
WMM: What is your favorite thing about WMM? Why do you come, or did you come?
Their spirit, their tenacity, and their sheer ability to continue to grow and create something special while connecting people.
WMM: If you were stranded on an island for 6 months, what 5 items would you wish you had on your person?
I know this one only on a subconscious level, and the answer could only be found through proper experimentation. You would have to convince me first, that I’m going to be stuck on a deserted island for six months, then wait to see what I grab. I have a feeling I would definitely grab a hat.
WMM: If you were not doing what you do now, what would you want to be doing?
DA: I often ask myself this, and my best answer is teaching. However to be completely honest, I have no idea.
WMM: What’s next for you now?
WMM: Describe yourself with 3 adjectives.
DA: Brooding. Silly. Loquacious. (None of these are necessarily accurate.)
WMM: What, other than your craft, brings you joy?
DA: Interview questions! Yay!SG