When Blayne Weaver came out to LA at 19, he was just like you and me. Ready to rock and eager to work. He got lucky pretty quick and booked parts in shows like JAG, ER and Chicago Hope but eventually he realized that he wanted to do something more substantial.
So, with the help of a friend, he picked up his pen (ok, he sat at his computer) and started writing.
That burst of inspiration turned out to be a film called Manic that starred Don Cheadle, Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Pretty good for a first time screenwriter!
He had a small part in the film and as he was on set, he started to watch the director and began to think, “I can do this.”
And he did.
And now, 6 Month Rule.The film, about a womanizer who, while teaching his recently dumped friend the rules of emotional detachment, accidentally finds someone who could permanently kill those rules. The film stars Blayne, Martin Starr, Natalie Morales, Dave Foley, Jaime Pressly and John Michael Higgins and will be released in New York and Los Angeles in June.
Blayne and I talked recently about the film, what’s it like to direct himself and if it’s easier to act in something he’s written.
For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes
Let’s start off with the question you’ve probably answered a million times, what is the film about?
Blayne Weaver: Okay, well, the movie is Six Month Rule, and it’s about this womanizer named Tyler Watts who has this set of rules that he follows to avoid emotional attachment. The Six Month Rule is this theory that you can get over anybody in six months, and once you know that, you never really fall into the spell of love I guess to begin with. His best friend is recently dumped so he takes his best friend under his wing to kind of teach him these callous ways. But then he meets a girl, which kind of changes everything he thinks he knows.
When you originally wrote this, did you always plan to play the lead?
Blayne Weaver: I did, actually. I mean my entire writing and directing career has stemmed from my being an actor, like that is where I started. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 19 and had some good luck, some good jobs back to back to back, and at a certain point I decided I wanted to write something to act in. So, a buddy of mine and I, we wrote this film called Manic, which ended up getting made with Don Cheadle and Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt ended up playing the part that I had written for myself, and he did a pretty good job. [laughter]. But I bounced to a smaller part in the movie, and that’s how I got started writing.
I saw what the director did in that movie and I’m like, I can do this. So, then I directed and wrote my first short, which I starred in, where I played a depressed Superman who’s been dumped by Lois Lane, and that got a lot of attention online, so I did another movie that I wrote and directed and I played like, kind of the bad guy in, a movie called Outside Sales, which, very micro budget but then got it’s DVD release and got everything we ever wanted for it.
I write for other people, obviously, that is part of my job, is that I write. But when I write a project, often times I’m thinking about me and the experience of making the movie from inside it. I respond to that kind of Woody Allen, Ed Burns kind of idea, of the having a voice that I am a part of.
How is it directing yourself? Because, I know if it were me, I would just sort of concentrate on my work and barely notice the other people in the scene, you know?
Blayne Weaver: With me, I don’t feel like that’s something I tend to do because I just have a lot of experience with it. But I feel like the biggest threat is them thinking that that’s what’s happening, you know? Because one thing you don’t want to do is make your actors think that you’re not focusing on them at all. You know what I mean? So, yeah, you get in there sometimes, you mix it up, you focus on what you need to do at the moment, and then you go back to the monitor and you look at the whole thing as one big piece. And I change what I’m doing just as much as I will come back and give an alteration to one of my actors.
But I find the biggest challenge is perception, you know? Because you have to give the benefit of the doubt, a lot, to the lead / director, you know what I mean? Okay, here’s the thing, sometimes as the director, you don’t really have anything to say. You like what’s happening, you want to keep going, let’s keep going, but you also need to tell the actor that, to make them feel like you’re paying attention. So, sometimes that little bit of politicking gets lost, because you’re so in it. But the key is just to have a team around you that believes in what you’re doing and doesn’t think that you’re out to do some kind of crazy vanity project.
Is it easier to act in something you’ve written? Or do you think you’re harder on yourself?
Blayne Weaver: Interesting, I think—I think that, that’s a good question, because I don’t think you’re necessarily harder on yourself. I think you have less adoration for the words, because you wrote them, you know? And I’m not Hemingway. I am a good writer, but it’s not that this writing cannot get better, you know? So, I feel like there’s a real freedom to being able to choose the people that are surrounding you and then put great talented people behind the camera and put great, talented people across from you as an actor and then just play and try to make the script better. Because there is very little pressure on me during the day, like, “Oh I hope I don’t get fired.” The pressure is to make the best movie humanly possible.
How did you cast this? Because, you have some very cool people in the film, like Martin Starr, Jamie Presley, Dave Foley, John Michael Higgins—who I think is completely brilliant.
Blayne Weaver: I could not agree with you more. He is amazing and, you know we had a casting director who went through the traditional model of making offers and blah blah blah, but really, it all came down to, this movie is a small budget movie, relatively, and we had to shoot in Shreveport, Louisiana, which is a full day’s travel from Los Angeles, and that’s a tough sell. And also, we’re not paying anything but scale, so, how do you get these great actors to come out there? And when you’re making an indie movie, I think the most important thing is your actors attitudes. They have to know what they’re getting into. You can’t fool them into thinking it’s a big movie because they’re going to be upset at the conditions. And, it takes a certain kind of actor to really roll with the independent model and so you have to find great talent, but you also have to find people that are cool, that you want to work with.
So, we ended up casting almost the entire cast through people that had worked with somebody before, or I had worked with Natalie Morales, on her old television show, The Middleman. I did a guest star on that and I saw how she worked and I thought she was really cool, you know? I didn’t have her phone number or anything, but when the agent made the phone call, there was a connection there. I did a movie, the movie Manic, I did with an actor named Elden Henson, who is a good friend of Martin Starr’s, so when Martin got this call, you know, he asked Eldon what he thought of me. There has to be this personal touch and once you pull somebody like Dave Foley, and Martin Star in, then it gets a lot more comfortable for a guy like John Michael Higgins, who we didn’t know, to say, sure I’ll do that, because of this great cast of characters, you know. Jamie Presley signed onto the movie because she wanted to work with Martin Star. That’s the kind of catch you want to build, where one thing leads to another and everybody is really happy to be a part of it.
Are you a stickler to staying to your script, to staying with the words?
Blayne Weaver: No, I’m not. I feel like some of the best lines that I get credit for are a great actor improvising. We don’t do the Apatow model, where we just keep rolling and rolling and see what comes out of it. But I do encourage people to try to make it real. I think the funniest moments come from when someone says something that is very sincere and what they would say exactly at that moment.
It amazes me that any writer/director who sees their movie get better because somebody improvs a line or something like that, who then says, “No,no, that’s not in the script, stick to it.” I mean, you have someone like John Michael Higgins and Dave Foley and Martin Starr, you have to let them be who they are. I mean, they are hilarious. Why not let that serve the script? Obviously sticking with the scene and the truth in the movie. These guys aren’t just comedians, they’re really good actors. So, if Dave Foley feels like the character he’s playing might say this, I’m going to film that. I may not use it, but I’m going to at least film it, you know?
Which do you like better, acting, writing, directing? You also do voiceovers. Is there anything that you would prefer to do one over the other?
Blayne Weaver: No, not really. I mean there’s nothing I like better than doing something like this, like Six Month Rule, where we get to—you know it feels to me like crafting a piece of art from all sides–and making something that hopefully people respond to. But, with this movie specifically I don’t really delineate between where does the writer stop and where does the director stop and what about the actor and what does the producer do? It’s all part of this project, this art project. And it’s so fulfilling. It stresses me the hell out, but it’s so great, because the amount of weight on it is so big. Do you know what I mean? That is the greatest thing in the world to me.
Now, if I get hired for an acting job or I get hired for a writing job, which of these do I want to do? I don’t know. I think they’re different things and there’s not one that I covet more than the other, but as far as making the movie, I really like doing all of them. Maybe I’m a power nut or something. [laughter]
Are you still like actively pursuing acting work? Or do you just want to concentrate on what you develop?
Blayne Weaver: No, I think I am actively pursuing it. I feel like right now, the way the business is going, it’s possible to be one of these renaissance people more than ever before, I really think. There is no stigma to being an actor on television and an actor in movies. There are a lot of actor/director types on the film festival circuit right now. It’s really exciting. I have a movie that I shot about three months ago, a movie called Favor, that I am the lead in. I had nothing to do with it. I’m not the producer. I’m not the director. I’m just an actor. And it’s like, man it was really fulfilling to be like, alright, I had nothing to do with this except for show up and do my part. It was really exciting.
Was it kind of a vacation for you?
Blayne Weaver: It was kind of. I had to kill a certain side of my brain, you know, or at least have to it go to sleep. But, it is great, because you can channel all that into the acting too and just be like, “I’m going home at the end of the day.” Instead of, “I’m going to go back and look at dailies or whatever.” And I’m really excited to get to push the director, a guy named Paul Osborne, I’m really excited to get to push his movie next year, the way I’m pushing mine right now.
What is your writing process like? Do you come up with an outline first, or do you just hit the ground running?
Blayne Weaver: I’m definitely a hit the ground running kind of guy. It is frustrating because I write for myself, but I also write for hire. So, when I’m writing for hire, most people want an outline. So, that’s a frustrating process to me because it’s not my natural instinct. So, I struggle with an outline for weeks, but I can get a lot of pages down in a row. But yeah, I just like to write.
Do you always know the beginning, middle and end? Or do you just have a beginning in mind and go from there?
Blayne Weaver: Well, when I’m writing for myself, it’s usually a bunch of little notes right next to my computer, like Six Month Rule started with this idea of a true story about single people. Because that’s what I wanted and I feel like that’s the kind of thing that I would enjoy watching. And that was written on a little post it next to my computer. Reality, what’s it really like? And that kind of created this character that is kind of an anti-hero who is callous to the romance ways. Which I think is a unique, romantic comedy. Here’s this guy who doesn’t believe in any of the things to make a romantic comedy work. Sometimes, he’s not the most likeable person, but I feel like the journey that you go on with him is at the end satisfying and you see people and aspects that you relate to from the dating world. But I had no idea how it was going to end, for the record. [laughter]
What is your advice to actors or to people who want to come out here and get into the industry?
Blayne Weaver: You know I was just talking about this last night with a friend of mine. I was at an acting class and we were talking about, she was very excited about this movie coming out and the best thing about right now is doing everything. Do as much as you possibly can. If you’re not a writer, that’s fine, make shorts with your friends. Do things for Funny or Die. Get yourself out there and practice all the time. I feel like if you’re doing a silly short for Funny or Die, or you are doing a play or you’re taking an acting class or you’re in a movie, you’re practicing your skills and getting out there so people can see you, so it’s both artistically fulfilling and business savvy.