Indie filmmaker offers humorous take on recession

Zachary Weil JD ’09 was still a law student when he began writing the script for his movie “Taste It: A Comedy About the Recession.” Scheduled for an online release this April, the Miami-based film has already garnered a buzz, earning an “Award of Merit” in July 2012 at The Indie Fest, an international awards competition for independent filmmakers worldwide. Weil himself was recently interviewed by GQ Magazine Australia for an article about comedy during the recession.

1. How does someone trained in law end up making an indie movie? What’s that all about?

I’d loved making movies since I was a little kid. I used to shoot them on my dad’s camcorder using my sisters and friends as actors.  After making some films in college, I worked briefly for a production company in New York. It wasn’t a great experience so I decided to go to law school to make sure I could pay the bills if a career in filmmaking didn’t work out. I ended up not being able to shake the film bug even during law school, and ended up writing what became “Taste It” while I was still a student.


Weil, bottom left, and crew during the filming of a scene from “Taste It.”

2. Do you think your law degree has any influence on how you run your production company, “2 Of Us Productions?” For instance, are you constantly thinking about “the legal ramifications?”

I couldn’t have made “Taste It” without my law degree, and I mean that in two distinct ways: First, because the film was a micro-budget feature, we had absolutely no money to hire an entertainment lawyer.  So, in addition to directing the film, I ended up drafting and negotiating all the contracts we needed.  Second, and more importantly, I met the love of my life, Mary Olszewska, in law school, and simply could not have even come close to making “Taste It” a reality without her.  She was incredible: producer, caterer, craft services, attorney, moral support when nearing multiple emotional breakdowns. [So] yes, having a law degree gives me a very different take, I think, on the logistics of running a production company.  In fact, I’ve had to train myself to think a little less like a lawyer sometimes.

3. Hate to say I have not seen your movie yet, but the trailer is hilarious. How did the idea for “Taste It” come about?

Well, you’d be lying if you said you had.  “Taste It” hasn’t officially been released yet, although we’re gearing up to release the film online in April.  The original idea for the film came about when I was living at home briefly after college, and I thought there was some great humor in feeling like I was a teenager again trapped in a twenty-something year olds body. We take so many steps forward in college especially with regard to our independence, and if we end up moving back home afterwards, we’re no longer capable of maintaining that. All of this became especially apparent when one of my sisters brought a group of college friends down for spring break when I was living at home.  I felt strange and creepy being her “older” brother, yet being in a younger “place,” so to speak.

The story was reshaped and became more poignant after the recession hit in 2008, when my writing partner, Adam Chefitz, and I realized that there was a story to be told about the emerging “boomeranger” generation – kids who go off to school, have a brief stint in the workplace and then are forced back home because of layoffs.  We thought more twenty-something year olds would connect with that tale, and so the current storyline of a young guy in finance who’s fired in the recession was born.

4. How has the movie been received by South Florida? Did any of your former FIU classmates or professors give you two thumbs up—or down?

So far, the reception has been incredible, from those who’ve seen it.  Last April we premiered “Taste It” at Books & Books in Coral Gables and the house was just packed. Later that summer, we hosted a couple more screenings around town, one at Wine Vault in the Design District and another at the Carlton Hotel on Miami Beach.  Reviews at the screenings were extremely encouraging and I can’t wait to get the film out to a broader audience.

Actually, even before “Taste It” was finished, the Theta Chi Fraternity at FIU participated in a test screening of the film.  They were all very enthusiastic, and their participation ended up being vital to the final cut of the film.

I hope as “Taste It’s” audience grows that more and more people in South Florida become aware of the film and want to see it shown at more venues around the City.

5. You started a Kickstarter to fund the post-production of “Taste It.” Were your supporters mostly family and friends, or did people you didn’t know express and interest and decide to throw money your way? Why do you think strangers would have given you money for the movie?

Kickstarter is a game-changer for independent filmmakers. We came along in 2010-2011 just as Kickstarter and other crowd-funding sites were starting to become mainstream.  While many of our supporters were family and friends, we did have a strong plurality that ended up being total strangers that just liked what they saw. A random guy from Switzerland ended up giving us $1,000!  That’s what’s incredible about Kickstarter. If you have a good idea, you realize there are so many people who are capable of and want to support the arts, and with good social networking you can make contact with them and get them to be a part of your vision directly.

It’s all about the aggregate; $5 from a friend is great, but from 100 friends and fans it starts to make a difference.  You always need your family and friends to start, but the idea is that as your grow your brand, more and more strangers will flock to your cause because they demand more content from you.  I’m not there yet, but look at Veronica Mars; 2 million dollars on its first day on Kickstarter! Almost 8,000 people gave $10 or under.  That’s almost three “Taste Its” worth!

[As of March 25, the “Taste It” Kickstarter had $6,176 pledged, surpassing their $4,500 goal.]

6. Do you have any plans to produce another movie soon? Do you want to keep making movies?

Yes and Yes.  I’ve been outlining a new feature for a few months now, and I’m hoping to get started on the writing later in the spring.  I’ve also got a web series called “Writer’s Block” that I’m very excited about, which is gearing up for its Kickstarter campaign early next month.

7. What advice do you have for young people looking to break into the movie industry?

Don’t listen to the noise and work your ass off!  The noise is everyone in your life (including your inner demon) telling you it won’t happen, or it’s been a nice run but it’s time to move on.  There is no such thing as an overnight success story in this business.  The Lena Dunhams, Ben Afflecks, Matt Damons, [they all] have been at it for years honing their craft and developing really thick skins along the way.  They come out of nowhere when they finally get their lucky break, not because they’re new to filmmaking.

Don’t think about money, success, riches, fame, or 100,000 followers on Twitter. That’s also noise and if it’s the reason you want to make films, find a new profession.

Love the craft. Be passionate about telling great stories and you’ll find your way.

Be patient and stay focused.  Filmmaking today is like any other small business.  It takes a vision, determination, countless hours of work, and just a little bit of luck to get you going.

Most importantly, enjoy the ride! We’re making movies.  It’s supposed to be fun.

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