Meghan Weinstein is a Los Angeles-based writer, director and producer with great passion and enthusiasm for her craft. With his company Daisy Eagle Movies, Weinstein has already started storing his IMDB credits and doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. She sat down with us to talk about her inspiration, her vision and her most recent work.
2021 has been 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 really exciting; it takes time for films to move from shooting to distribution. I produced The Djinn in 2018, then I made The Influencer almost exactly a year later, at the end of 2019. So with the two films released a few months apart, through big distributors like IFC Films and Breaking Glass Pictures, it was definitely exciting. I feel like years of my life and experience in the industry have accumulated until the release of these two projects.
But at the same time, 2020 was obviously pretty difficult for everyone and we couldn’t have any screenings or parties, so there had never been a chance 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 not really focused on the release. But it really helped me see how it all paid off; the fact that these two films led to the opportunity to direct this next feature film. It really feels good to see that all of the hard work is leading me in the direction that I want to take as a director.
Obviously, the two films are very different in nature. Describe how you go about character development, casting, and the overall process for each movie.
The Djinn should have been a lot harder to cast than it was, given that the entire movie is about a boy trapped in an apartment with an evil spirit. We needed a 12 year old boy who could do emotional scenes, dealing with horror movie subjects. But Ezra Dewey, who is really good, carried the whole movie with very little dialogue. Since his character cannot speak, he had to be able to tell the story primarily with his physique, energy, expressions and emotions. Ezra was a complete professional.
From a production standpoint, the biggest hurdle was that he was a minor, so that limited the number of hours we could work with him each day – and he’s in the whole movie from start to finish. So the shoot must have lasted a few days longer than it would have been if he had been an adult. We also monitored how much sugar we had on the platter in food and snacks, so it didn’t crash in the middle of the day; things like that just come from working with kids.
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 combine satirical comedy and dramatic thriller, so I was looking for something very specific. But I also like to be surprised by the actors and allow them to show me something that I might not have imagined. Everyone I chose did it in one way or another. The chemistry between the actors was so important to this team of hackers, who hate each other but are forced to work together to succeed in this dangerous heist; and there’s a lot of comedic dialogue between them. They also came in with suggestions for lines, to make them funnier or more specific to how they saw the character.
For me, the cast is extremely important. I am very involved in the casting process because when you are working on an independent film set there is no time to waste; so I have to know before a shoot that the actors are already so suited to the role that I don’t have to do too much for them to play the character. I try to work with the actors to shape the character as much as possible before we start, and then we can focus more on translating it on camera in a way that looks good and trying different things.
The influencer speaks volumes about the current social media landscape and the pros and cons of each. What is your personal take on this idea of influencers and what type of message were you trying to get through this body of work?
The film tackles all the negatives of social media: emotional isolation, commercialism, pollution, animal testing, the push for these absurd beauty standards. But at the same time, the other point I tried to make was that these influencers are also part of a system. Everyone is forced to play the game in order to survive. The first half of the film is about making Abbie Rose a determined career woman, who has worked really hard for years to build her social media empire.
To some people, that sounds superficial and silly, but it’s also the way she pays her bills, buys a house, pays off her college debts. She didn’t create the system she lives in, but managed to find a way to make a living through social media. Equally obnoxious and obsessed with their goal of making Abbie rich are the hacker activists who break into Abbie’s house. Ultimately, it’s not about rooting for one side or the other, it’s about understanding how people end up living a life they didn’t necessarily want for themselves. , but ultimately it’s about surviving in the tech and money-driven world we live in.
What are you currently working on? and what are your goals for work in the future? Dream project? Cast and team to work with?
Right now I’m working on new scripts for comedy feature films. I really enjoyed directing this psychological thriller in Napa in September, but as a writer I know I want to focus on female comedy. My last script (which I wrote during the pandemic) Bad, Mango! is a comedy between friends and I hope to associate a comedian like Sarah Silverman or Ali Wong in the film. I really want to work with more actresses. And John C. Reilly. I just love him.
Which filmmakers inspire you?
I’m definitely inspired by the filmmakers who started their careers by going out and making their movie, without permission from a big studio or something like that. People like Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Catherine Hardwicke. These are great examples of filmmakers with a very distinct voice and style who started making independent films on smaller budgets, not only to prove they could do it to people in the industry, but because they had that motivation in them.
I also admire directors like Danny Boyle or Steven Soderbergh, because even if they make big budget films, they experiment in their profession. They are motivated more by the story and the characters than by a specific visual style.