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In the Backseat: An Interview with Harry Waldman

Tell us about yourself.How did you become an artist? I have loved films since I was really young. Some of my earliest memories involve me watching movies when I was just a couple years old. While I have loved watching films forever, I was always someone who was a bit too "practical" when it came to my career, despite the fact that my Dad had been a successful artist since I was young. I assumed that you were supposed to graduate college and then work at a job that you weren't passionate about in order to pay the bills. The thought really depressed me, so I tried not to think about it too often and focused on my hobbies, which included watching movies, playing videogames, sports, listening to music and hanging out with friends.

I studied business in college, which did ultimately teach me how to be a good leader as a film director/producer, but the actual content didn't interest me much. I assumed that I would get some businessmarketing job out of collegethat I wouldn't really be passionate about. I startedto have these fantasies about finding myself working a marketing gig on a film production during my junioryear of college,and while the fantasy excitedme, it also depressed me because it didn't seem realistic considering my situation.

During the second semester of my senior year of college, shortly after watching "The Social Network", which is one of my favorite films of all time, and which I believe had an influence on what I have written below, I had a dream that I was going to a prestigious film school, taking various filmmaking courses, collaborating with other students to work on film projects, etc. Near the end of the dream, I met a psychic who told me that one of my closest friends (Inspired by Mark Zuckerberg stabbing Eduardo Saverin in the back) would steal my film idea, but despite this awful fact, I would become a successful filmmaker.

While I believe that I get along pretty well with most people, I can be a vengeful person if I feel that I was wronged. What truly shocked me about this dream was that I was so excitedabout the prospectof being a successful filmmaker, that it completely overshadowed my distressover having my film idea stolen by my best friend.

Suddenly, I woke up, jumped out of my bed, grabbed my backpack and jacket and ran to the front door of my apartment, getting ready to go to one of my "film classes". Then, I realized that it was 12:10 p.m. on a Saturday; that I had just been at a bar the previous night with friends; and that I wasn't a film student at a prestigious film school, but a marketing student at a business school; and I would graduate college and find some job that I hated; and that would be the rest of my life...this was the single most depressing moment of my entirelife. I stared at my bedroom wall in horror for about 20 minutes and then a lightbulb suddenly popped on inside my head. I told myself, "So you finally figured out your passion as you're graduating college. That's unfortunate, but you're still only 21 years old. You have plenty of time". So, I immediately came up with a plan for my filmmaking career.I would

graduate college with my business marketing degree and find a decent paying job in business after college during the day while pursuing my filmmaking career during the evenings and weekends. This plan launched the beginning of my exciting filmmaking journey, from watching youtube videos on filmmaking and working as a production assistant on film sets while working in Insurance to pay the bills to being able to direct and produce my own films as my main passion, while working for a post-production company, handling video editing and video ingest.

What was your first job in the art field? I landed my first job in the industrythrough a networking event that I attended in Chicago when I was just getting started in the film industry. I met this director named Eugene Sun Park, who was working on a film called “Self-Deportation: The Untold Tale of a Marginal Woman”. He brought me onto his set as a production assistant and it was a wonderful experience overall. I helped with location scouting, picking up supplies, set props andfood, standing in as an extra, etc. While I met some great people and had a blast beingon set, the best part about theexperience was a guy I met namedLance Eliot Adams, who was the producer of the film. We spent a lot of time together picking up various items for the cast/crew, so we really hit it off and he ended up bringing me onto his films for various positions, including assistant camera, assistant lighting and production assistant. Meeting him was key because I had no film directing experience at the time, and he was the one who took a chance on me and decided to produce and shoot my first short film, “Enter the Room” after reading the script. Because of this, I will always look back at workingon “Self-Deportation: The Untold Tale of aMarginal Woman” and meetingLance as one of the biggest steppingstones in my Filmmaking career. What makesyou want to tell stories?In other words,what are the themes/issues you want to incorporate into your work? -For me, it begins in coming from a place of anger and sadness for me, which I have heard is generally the case with many storytellers. “In the Backseat” is actually based on this crazy incident that happened in my high school which involved a few students who I didn’t know well, but some of the ridiculous situations that they get themselves stuck in are heavily influenced by my personalexperiences from when I was growing up. and I felt that I needed to get it off my chest by telling this story. While some of these memories are uncomfortable and even painful, telling this story was an absolute blast. The level of excitement, joy and satisfaction that I experienced by creating “In the Backseat” from start to finish was just as powerful as the emotional rush I gained frommaking my first short film, “Enter the Room”, and I have continued to thoroughly enjoy telling storiesbased on my own personalexperiences ever since.

The main issues and themes that I want to incorporate into my work involve conflict, sadness, loss, tension, revenge, redemption and catharsis. Generally speaking, I love to tell stories that convey complex character arcs and display a wide range of emotions tothe audience while also stayingrooted in themesthat most can identify with.

Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project? Initially, I come up with an idea in my head and obsess over it for a long period of time. While many of the projects inside my head never become complete enough for me to put into production, the ideas that resonate with me from start to finish are the ones that I decide to go through with. After the idea really works inside my head from start to finish, I begin to write the script. While I rarely run into writers’ block since I already have the idea pretty well cemented in my head at this point, I often overindulge and repeat myself too often while writing. Once the first rough draft of the script is complete, I review it over and over, cutting it down and fine tuning it until I feel very confident that it is ready to go into production. Once the script is ready, I create mass postings through various websites on the Internet. First, I hire my assistant directors, production managers andproduction assistants. Then comes casting, sending countless emails, reviewing tons of actor/actress submissions and holdingmany auditions, callingback the top actors/actresses, casting the best ones for their respective roles, holding rehearsals (I usually hold 2-4), hiring the best cinematographer, gaffer and location/sound experts, scheduling shoot dates, capturing all of our footage for the shoot and locking down the picture in Post-Production. I edit for a living, so I take care of post-production for my films, which is my favorite part of the filmmaking process. Once the film is complete, I begin sendingit out to film festivals as I am now doing with “In the Backseat”. Who are your filmmakinginfluencers? What are the films that were influential for you? -Christopher Nolan is the first film director who I specifically followed. I initially watched one of his older films, “Memento” at a friend's house in 7th grade. It was actually his parents' recommendation, and I was a rebellious kid, so I was skeptical. Though, I was quickly proven wrong, and while I was confused by the twist ending, I was also veryintrigued and immediately wanted to watch it again. I forgot about the film for some time, and about 2 years later, I stumbled into it at a Blockbuster.I became so obsessed with the movie that I watched it 5 nights in a row, learning something new every time as Christopher Nolan dropped so many Easter eggs throughoutthe film. In general, I really

prefer to watch new films and I often get tired of repetition, but "Memento" is one of the few films that I can revisit over and over without ever becoming even slightly bored with it. Due to the ingenious plot structuring, smart script, incredibly complex characters and insane twist ending, "Memento" is the first film that I became obsessed with and is still my favorite film to this day. When I saw “Batman Begins” in theaters a few years later, I was blown away by the darker, more serious tone that the film went with and saw Christopher’s name in the credits as the director shortly after the film ended. That was the moment that I learned of the influence that a director can have on a film and have followed Nolan closelyever since. There are so many other directors who I follow, but I would say that some of the others who have definitely had an influence on my work include Danny Boyle, David Fincher, Gaspar Noe, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Akira Kurosawa, John Carpenter, Satoshi Kon, Michael Mann, Brian De Palma, Alex Garland, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. How do you think the industryis changing? How has COVID affected independent filmmaking/creation? -I believe that the most recent change in the industry appears to be the transition from watching movies in theaters to streaming them online or through various apps, which has partially been a result of COVID in my opinion. I truly still believe that there will always be a handful of people (myself included) who want to see certain blockbusters and other “big spectacle” films on the big screen, but streaming movies is becoming more and more popular these days, and I think that this will have a huge impact on how filmmakers approach their craft moving forward. I personally love going to the theater and hope that they can survivein the long run. What advice would you give to aspiringartists? What are some of the things they must follow/avoid? First of all, I would not recommend becoming a filmmaker unless you absolutely love doing this and breathe it day in and day out as I (and a handful of filmmakers I have met) do. It is a long, expensive and stressful journey that often doesn’t come close to giving you back what you put in from a financial/recognition perspective. But if you truly love doing it and receive the level of satisfaction that I do from working on and completing your films, I think you should continueto push forwardand hopefully thingswill work

out. Even if they don’t, you will always have something to be proud of and no one can take away the satisfaction that you receivefrom completing your passion project. Second, you need to understand how competitive this industry is, never expect anything and never act like you are owed something. Unless they had some incredible connection, even the best and most successful filmmakers on the planet had to start at the bottom and grind it out in order to rise to the top. Be professional, kind and courteous to others, and always do what you say you are going to do. The film industry is very oversaturated and you absolutely need to do everything in your power to present yourselfin the best light. Third, JUST DO IT, and go from there. I slowed my career down at times by stressing over trying something for the first time and not taking initiative, giving myself various excuses to temporarily put my dreams on hold. Of course, you should plan ahead and strategize as much as you can, but studying is never the same as actually getting out there and doing it. Accept the ultimate fact that you will make mistakes, be flexible and move forwardand you will learn from your mistakesand improve as you go. And last of all, just remember to enjoy the process and don’t focus too much on the endgame. I am currently editing my first feature film “The Corridor Crossing”, and post-production is taking me a lot longer than I initially anticipated it would. I couldobsess over this fact and make myself go insane,but I have instead decidedto understand that this is my first feature film, so it is okay that I couldn’t properly estimate how long it would take to edit the film and simply enjoy the journey, which has been an absolute blast so far, despiteall of the unexpected hurdlesthat I have faced to this point. Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world? 100%! Movies are easily one of the most popular forms of entertainment and some of them do end up reaching a large percentage of the planet.With that being said, I don’t necessarily expect my films to have this significant of an impact on others, but of course, I would love it if some of them end up becoming widely recognized. The self satisfaction from the journey and completed project is enough for me. I do ultimately hope that my films can bring a wide range of emotions out of the audience, challengethem intellectually and entertain them. What do you think people like to watch these days? Has the pandemic changed people's taste?

While it is possible that the negative impacts of COVID have made people a little more sensitive to darker and heavier films, I do still believe that people’s tastes have remained relatively similarover the years.

As for what people like to watch, I really think it depends on the person to be honest. Mainstream viewers often focus on what’s popular, whether it’s the the new Marvel film, a hit blockbuster like “Top Gun: Maverick”, or a film that received plenty of Oscar buzz like “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, whereas a film buff may dive into films that are more arthouse, more “under the radar”, older classics, foreignfilms, etc. For me personally, I definitely have my specific tastes (I am a huge fan of science fiction, horror, multi-genre films, and films that tend to be loud, provocative, emotional, intense, complex, etc.), but I will watch anything that I hear or read is halfwaydecent, is made by a director I really like or covers a topic that reallyinterests me.

Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

I made my first feature film, "The Corridor Crossing" relatively recently, and am currently color correcting it. I have another short film, "Bay for Blood" that is in the later stages of post-production. I hope to have that one completed by next fall/winter and plan to submit it to festivals around then. And I am hoping to begin production for my next feature film idea, "Incautious" as soon as I finish my festival runs for "Enter the Room", “In the Backseat” and "Bay for Blood", which should hopefully be in the fall/winter of 2024. I would be happy to submit some of my future films to this festival once they are completed.


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