Content warning: mentions of anxiety, depression and suicide.
Article by Riley Farrell
All that it takes is a bit of reinvention for Dear Evan Hansen to move from the theatre to theaters, hitting eardrums on Sept. 24 this year.
With Ben Platt reprising his Tony-winning role as the show’s titular character, a whole new Hollywood cast takes on Broadway. Platt, Julianne Moore, Amandla Stenberg, Amy Adams, Danny Pino, Kaitlyn Dever, Stephen Chbosky and Steven Levenson explained the movie’s newfound reach and relevance in an interview with BLENDtw, among other publications.
The Plot Thickens
Begrudgingly in therapy for anxiety, high schooler Evan Hansen is tasked with writing daily letters to himself, hence the movie title. After Evan’s peer Connor Murphy kills himself with Evan’s letter in his backpack, Evan’s page is mistakenly thought to be a suicide note from Connor.
Evan tells a well-meaning white lie that soon darkens with self-interest to get closer to the Murphy family, which includes Connor’s sister Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever), and Connor’s mom and dad (Amy Adams and Danny Pino, respectively). Via fake emails and a fundraiser, what once began as a misunderstanding spirals into an operatic betrayal about teens and their screens.
Oh, How Times Have Changed (Or Not)
To address the obvious, it has been a long time since DEH initially premiered in 2015 – but the cast said the musical remains relevant. Things have changed: a pandemic rocked our worldviews and Ben Platt, shockingly, aged.
Platt, 27, played Evan in the original musical version. After the movie trailer dropped in 2021, Platt faced online backlash over playing a character a decade younger, even though he lost 15 pounds and changed his styling routine to appear youthful.
“As a parent, I saw a teenager in Ben’s demeanor,” Julianne Moore, who plays Evan’s mom, said in Platt’s defense.
Speaking of something that’s aged us all, COVID-19, the ideas explored about mental health in DEH six years ago seem timely today, said Dever.
“This film is about feeling isolated, after the pandemic, we’re looking to feel heard,” said the Booksmart actress.
A 2021 study from the National Institute of Health found that anxiety symptoms increased during the COVID shutdowns, making ordering delivery and asking peers to sign your cast daunting. This film was a refreshing counter-narrative on what anxiety looks like, demographically and behaviorally, said Stenberg, who shared an on-set story about the stakes of DEH.
Chbosky, the author of Perks of Being Wallflower, showed a letter to Stenberg that a teenager had written to him after reading the novel. The reader expressed how his suicidal ideation disappeared after reading Chbosky’s book. That book saved him, said Stenberg. After that experience, Stenberg said she felt the movie served as an opportunity for mental health representation, not tokenism.
“I was excited to be playing a Black girl who is on medication,” Stenberg said of her high-achieving teen character, Alana Beck.
There’s no one face or behavior associated with anxiety, Stenberg said. Stenberg said she’s been prescribed medication as a teenager but has only recently come to terms with the shame she felt about mental health.
The year isn’t the only context that’s changed. The medium by which this sensitive story is delivered has transformed from the live stage to the screen. Freedoms of editing and re-filming takes helped storytelling, said Chbosky, who felt ‘obsessed’ with the spotlighting of each character.
Via camerawork, Chbosky and Levenson said they more innovatively explored symbolism and imagery. The film’s juxtaposition between social media and nature – contrasting screens with sunlight as motifs – is about duplicity in the dark and authenticity in the light, said Chbosky.
“You can’t have truth without the lie,” said Chbosky.
The filmmaking medium aided in communicating the perils of presenting a fake self online, said Levenson.
“We wanted to play with the idea of how fast lies can spread online,” said Levenson. “How untrue things make you feel great and the complicated nature of that.”
Expanded audiences can enjoy the story now that it has transcended the Broadway medium. Though fans of the original musical will encounter changes to the original stage material, Platt said he thinks Evan’s move from the stage to the screen is a step towards accessibility. The message of DEH is magnified when more audience members are added to the conversation, said the Pitch Perfect actor.
“No matter what, it’s important for me to communicate that there’s nothing that makes you unlovable,” said Platt.
THAT’S A WRAP! SHARE THE LOVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
Meet Scott Hughes: The Entrepreneur Who Built One of the Largest Online Book Communities
Are you a book junkie? Find out how Scott Hughes built OnlineBookClub, a free online community for book lovers with over 2 million members.
Are you a book lover?
If you are, then you need to check out OnlineBookClub.org, a free online site for book lovers around the world.
The online site features book reviews, book & reading forums, and useful tools that enable you to store, track and list books you have read or want to read.
Scott was only 19 when he launched OnlineBookClub.
The idea of creating OnlineBookClub originated after Scott, a book fanatic, realized that there were too many restrictions for in-person book clubs such as tight deadlines on book reading, a limited selection of books, and little freedom to pick books to read.
Scott wanted to leverage the power of online discussions and create a flexible space where people all over the world could easily find people to chat about any book at any time. That is how OnlineBookClub came to life.
Building the online platform was a rewarding experience for Scott, but it was far from easy.
For 7 years, Scott ran the business and paid himself nothing from it. During those years, he worked odd jobs to pay his living expenses and put food on the table for his two kids.
“I remember one month I had to go to the coinstar machine at the bank with my spare change on the 10th of month just so I could cover the rent, but I did it.”
The hardest part of creating the platform for Scott was finding time to run the business while juggling his day job and raising two kids. It was difficult for him to find a work-life balance but he made it work despite the hardships.
At the end of 2014, Scott finally took a leap of faith, gave up his side jobs, and went full-time at OnlineBookClub. He knew that to make it work, he had to devote himself completely to the online site.
And his efforts paid off.
The platform is thriving with over 2.7 million registered users as of November of 2021.
The revenue of the platform primarily comes from paid online advertising and professional services to authors and publishers, such as editorial reviews and manuscript editing.
Scott is proud of the work he has accomplished so far, especially of the community he has built.
“OnlineBookClub has always been filled with kind people who have a strong sense of togetherness and community. It’s like a second family for us.”
Scott’s journey has been full of ups and downs, but through it all, he is grateful for all the experiences-good ones and bad ones.
When asked to advise young entrepreneurs just starting, he has the following to say:
“The journey never really ends. If you make a million dollars, then you might chase a billion. Even if you reach all your financial goals and lose interest in that side of things, your mind will create new different goals. So it’s never about reaching some destination. When you look back on it, in many ways the most challenging times are also seen most fondly.”
He also believes that entrepreneurs need to be driven by something other than money.
“I’ve found in my anecdotal experience and just from watching the world around me that those who desperately chase money are the least likely to find it. In contrast, when you work hard on yourself and your real dreams, money chases you. Money–and even health and physical fitness–are only really ever a means, not an end in themselves. Without some kind of vision or passion to be the real end, the real goal, the real dream, it’s like driving a car with no gas.”
Scott’s story is a great reminder that anything can be achieved with perseverance, passion, and hard work.
So, if you are just starting, make sure to stay tuned for his upcoming book, “In It Together: The Beautiful Struggle Uniting Us All,” which will be released soon.
‘Halloween Kills’ Cast & Crew Explain the Slasher
Article by Riley Farrell
The cast and crew of Halloween Kills told Blendtw why the latest slasher’s gore is anything but gratuitous in a year like 2021.
Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Anthony Michael Hall, Kyle Richards, Malek Akkad, David Gordon Green and Jason Blum tell horror fans to expect carnage. After all, Halloween Kills must live up to its title.
Chainsaws buzzing and bats swinging, Halloween Kills is a current-day cathartic catastrophe – and no character is safe – according to producer Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions.
Halloween Kills is the 12th movie in Michael Myers’ macrocosm, with the 13th, and allegedly final, movie coming out in 2022. When seriously injured Laurie Strode thought she killed Michael Myers after 42 years of trailing him, his annual bloodbath recommences. Sick of living at the mercy of “pure evil,” the town’s vigilantes revolt against the boogieman.
“Subtlety is not this film,” said director David Gordon Green, on fitting in as much bloodshed as possible in 105 minutes.
The cast filmed Halloween Kills two years ago and shelved it due to the pandemic, until now.
Picking up where Halloween (2018) left off, the film explores the aftermath of collective trauma, said Green. Given everything that’s ensued in the last two years, viewers do not have to live in Haddonfield to understand suffering, and inversely, resilience.
“We’ve taken a slasher movie and it’s landed in a time of cultural relevance because of our public consciousness,” said Green. “Though [the movie is] grotesque, there are moments when we feel the humanity underneath the surface of this movie monster.”
Halloween Kills brought back two characters from the 1978 Halloween in Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) and Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), the two children who Laurie babysat during Michael’s initial attack. Hall and Richards did not require much persuasion to hop on the franchise, said Green.
The callbacks of all-grown-up characters, of course, evokes nostalgia. But the twist on the trope is that, instead of running from Michael, the kids now face him head-on, said Richards. Hall, who described Halloween Kills as a “thrill ride” and “freight train,” said the slasher hinges on human resilience.
“We summoned something deep in themselves and decided to fight back, we’re not just survivors but fighters,” said Hall.
Resilience as a motif snugly fits within the cultural zeitgeist, even earning a title as Forbes’ 2021 word of the year. Though coincidental, the visceral and violent images in Halloween Kills harken to audiences’ nihilistic experiences of the past 18-months. Producer Malek Akkad said the slasher film can paradoxically be pertinent yet escapist for viewers who’ve experienced the horror genre by simply reading the news.
“It’s tough for everybody right now and this movie’s just a fun release,” said Akkad. “There’s nothing more cathartic for people watching than to see a final girl like Laurie.”
For reference, the final girl trope, pioneered by the character of Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween, represents the heroine left standing at the end of a horror movie who is charged with defeating the antagonist. Film theorist Carol J. Clover coined the term in her 1992 book, ‘Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film.’ The final girl has been observed in many films, including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Alien, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream.
Scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis said she was unaware of the meaning and dialogue surrounding the final girl until recently. She argued, even though the trope has immense cultural significance, the original idea of the final girl is uncomplicated.
“The term is just about the tenacity of women to survive because, the truth is, women have survived through a lot,” said Curtis.
No characters know survival better than the Strode women. Andi Matichak, who plays Laurie’s granddaughter, and Curtis agreed that their favorite behind-the-scenes moment centered on feminine resilience in spite of harsh conditions.
It was a frigid 4 a.m. shoot, and the three generations of Strode ladies were alone in a truck, coated in fake blood, with only each other and a camera rig for warmth, Matichak described. This moment was the last time Laurie, Karen and Allyson were on screen together.
“It was a powerful moment to lean on each other and feel the weight of the project,” Matichak said.
Cutting through the sweet moments is the slasher at the heart of the story, said Curtis on the “high octave, frenzied” plot of Halloween Kills. For audiences who’ve lived through the chaos of the past two years, Halloween Kills should match their fast pace of existence.
“The past is irrelevant, you’re so in the present moment,” said Curtis.
THAT’S A WRAP! SHARE THE LOVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
Meet Thais Drassinower: A Latinx Woman Film Creator in Hollywood Pushing for Diversity
This past year, the prestigious British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) selected Thais Drassinower into the Newcomers program. Thais is based in L.A. as a female filmmaker. The year 2020 had the biggest turnout of women in the program and Thais was one of those representing female filmmakers!
This program offers career support and helps to new filmmakers in the industry. Apart from being welcomed into the program, Thais has a lot of history with filmmaking and in the film industry. We interviewed her to learn more about her history with film and any new projects she might be working on.
1. Your hometown is Lima, Peru, what was it like coming to America and starting up in the film industry? What inspired you to pursue filmmaking as a career, and please tell me a bit about that journey.
I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. I started writing stories as soon as I learned how to put two words together.
My grandma still keeps those early ones in her bedroom chest. I’ve also always loved film and would spend my free time as a teenager watching foreign film cycles at the local cultural center.
But as a young woman from a traditional family growing up in Lima – Peru, I never thought being a filmmaker was an option for me.
My diverse interests in story, psychology, and anthropology led me to advertising as a first step and it was then, working as a copywriter in Chicago, that I realized the power that audiovisual communication has on society and understood that there are archetypes in the collective consciousness that stories can portray in infinite ways.
That’s when I decided to become a filmmaker and assume the responsibility of sharing narratives that can shift our world into a more comprehensive, empathetic, and healthy place.
I started taking night classes at a local school after work and then decided to make the jump and apply for an MFA in Film which got me to NYC where I got my degree at Columbia University. That’s how it all started.
2. Before transitioning to the film industry, you were a copywriter. Can you tell me what it was like making that transition to filmmaking? Did you encounter any major differences or have any difficulty with the transition to films?
I was a copywriter for an advertising agency in Chicago which meant that, together with my partner, I came up with an idea for a commercial, wrote the script for it and then supervised the whole production and post-production process to make sure the idea was coming to life in the way we envisioned it.
The whole supervision part of the process was similar to being a film producer on a project. Being on set and watching the director work with the actors made me fall in love with the directing process. I think it has been a very organic transition and my years as a copywriter helped me build very important skills that I now use as a writer/director.
3. The entertainment industry can be cutthroat at times. Have you endured any hardships along the way? What did you do to overcome them?
I’m still at the beginning of my career and it is definitely a challenging field. As a Latinx woman trying to break in, you have to work extremely hard and convince people that you deserve a seat at the table.
It’s an exciting time for minorities in Hollywood, the conversation is open and more studios are looking to champion diverse and underrepresented voices, but there is still a long way to go to achieve proper representation and I’m proud to be a part of this new generation pushing for change.
4. You’ve directed three projects, “The Catch,” “Baby,” and “Memories of the Sea.” All of which are special in their own ways. Please tell me a bit about how you drew inspiration for these projects and how they are connected to you?
Memories of The Sea was my first film which explores the sense of loss for a child. My dear friend and fellow filmmaker Sudarshan Suresh had written a beautiful script which we then worked on together to adapt for me to direct it.
I decided to set it in Brazil because that’s where I spent my first years of childhood and where I experienced a sense of loss myself.
I wanted to revisit the space and dive deep into the experience of seeing the world through a child’s eyes. This is a film about finding your own answers when adults don’t explain things to you. I think we often forget how intuitive and perceptive children are and this film attempts to remind us.
Baby, my second film, explores what it means to grow up by messing up. It’s a film about a young woman who goes home for a weekend and has an unnerving encounter with her estranged father at a nightclub which reminds her that there are unhealed wounds.
Through a series of disturbing events that night, she will be forced to understand that the only person who can take care of her now is herself. I drew inspiration for this film from the memories of being that age and feeling lost at many points. Feeling like a grown up, but also like a child.
Feeling like I had all the answers, but then suddenly like I knew nothing. It’s a fascinating period in a person’s life and with this story and through this character I explore subjects such as sexuality and consent.
Finally, The Catch, my latest film, tells the story of two trapeze artists whose trust is threatened right before the biggest performance of their careers. The script was written by another Peruvian making waves in the US, my dear friend Camila Zavala who also produced the film.
What attracted me to direct this movie was the opportunity to explore the concept of trust between a couple with such high stakes and the idea of dancing between public and private spaces in the magical world of a circus.
The film invites us to reflect on the power of a bond and what it takes to break it.
5. Many young people are looking into the arts as careers, but of course, they may face obstacles along the way. What would you say to someone who would want to pursue a career such as filmmaking? What advice would you offer?
I say GO FOR IT. This is a challenging career, but all good things in life require you to work hard for them. The enjoyment comes from the hours you put in day to day. I find that the most important things are consistency and your community.
Do the work, go out and shoot, sit down and write, even if you don’t end up showing that “thing” to anyone, practice makes a master. And surround yourself with a group of peers who will champion you and who you will champion. Help each other out.
Film is a collective art and you can’t do it alone, having a group of colleagues that you trust is crucial for your career. Find them. Either at school, at writing groups, at online forums. Find them and nurture those relationships. They are the most wonderful gift that a film career can give you.
I started writing a blog for young female filmmakers who are working or hope to work on their first feature film. There you can find advice on how to embark in the journey both from my personal experience, and also from interviews that I make to first time female directors.
Check it out and hope you find it helpful, I’m always available through there for any questions you might have.
Best of luck to you all!
6. What are your plans for the future in filmmaking? Do you have genres or films you are particularly interested in?
I’m currently working on my first feature film which I hope we can start pre-production for once we achieve a new normal after COVID-19. I am interested in telling stories through a female perspective in the genres of psychological thriller, psychological horror, and drama.
As I mentioned before, it is also very important for me to portray diversity on the screen through my narratives and I look forward to keep sharing stories that build empathy and hopefully invite the audience to reflect and discuss.
From growing up in Peru and moving to L.A, to transitioning from copywriting to filmmaking. Thais has achieved many great things that other young filmmakers aspire to achieve.
We hope that by reading this article, many young filmmakers or others wanting to join the industry can get some inspiration from Thais and perhaps one day join the Newcomers program like her.
Thank you Thais for your time and we wish you luck with your first feature film and your BAFTA Newcomers program!