As a senior at Harvard University last year, director Andrew Wesman created a short film for his senior thesis that explored the dark side of a family dynamic. Shot in Cape Cod, the 21 minute long Shelley went on to a screening at the Cannes International Film Festival. Now, recently graduated and about to attend film school in LA this fall, Wesman takes some time out of his busy schedule to talk to HEC about his experiences and hopes for the future.
HEC: You grew up in San Francisco, but attended Harvard University here in MA, and are now back on the west coast to attend school. Do you think you’ll find yourself back in the Northeast for any future projects?
Cape Cod is where I shot Shelley and it’s a favorite location for me. I’ll definitely be shooting films there in the future I think, its been the source for a lot of creative exploration for me.
HEC: What was the most useful lesson you learned throughout the process of making Shelley?
Preparation is very important. With Shelley, it took so much work and so much dedication to put together the film, when the actors and crew showed up, every second was completely planned out. Before we even shot, we did video story boards. We’d shoot during the day, then I would edit at night. The next day, they would watch it, we would figure out their exact block and movements, change script, send things to the production designer, producer, discuss things in depth, and then we would have a production schedule that was 100% accurate.
HEC: In terms of your writing, what is it about the parent/child relationship exploration that intrigues you?
I’ve always been interested in the major questions, ‘who are we’, ‘where do we come from’, familial questions always seem to overlap, the stakes are high when it comes to involvement with family. There’s a lot to explore, I tend to make films about dysfunctional families, which is in no way a reflection of my own family; I have loving parents. There’s lots to explore in the parent/child relationship, purpose, destiny, a parent’s devotion to their children is somewhat profound. We all have families and that same love and hatred that goes along with those relationships.
HEC: What was Cannes like?
There was a lot of glamour, a lot of people there who wanted to be part of the film industry and uphold this image that the film industry is glamorous. For every movie that is screened, there is this huge ceremony for people to walk down the red carpet. Everyone who attended the screening walked down the carpet, which made you feel like a movie star. It was really bizarre for me, I’m just a guy who likes making movies and watching movies. The film industry is based on people like me, who want to see movies. I’ve been making movies since I was 9. I really like telling stories, but I’ve never thought about being in the limelight. It was definitely lots of fun, but it’s not where my heart is.
Overall, the people there were extremely generous to me, and it was a really great experience. They were very kind to me, I met some really awesome people there. They put me up in a hotel room, wined and dined me; it was a very unexpected side effect to making a little film in Cape Cod.
HEC: You’re attending film school at UCLA this fall–any other plans for the future?
“Boot camp” starts September 12. I think its going to be a really great experience, film school is this opportunity to continue making movies, I don’t have to work at McDonalds, I can establish myself, and meet people in LA. I feel really confident that this is an opportunity to really focus on what I want to do.