The Weekend

Dennis Cahlo

What drew you to the subject of addiction?

Addiction as well as the story behind The Weekend are subjects that are very close to me. While I can't go into too many details, The Weekend is based on a something that happened to me personally. I took someone in who was dealing with battling demons at the time and I myself was dealing with crippling loneliness. I felt the parallel stories were important to tell and show the viewers that addiction comes in many forms and that sometimes a random person can show up in your life to help you realize what you needed from within yourself to overcome them. 

You make a big impact with a short amount of screen time to work with. What is the biggest advantage to the short film format?

Thank you so much. I knew that The Weekend, being my first film ever, needed to be a short. I promised myself to tell the story in no less or no more than 20 minutes. The advantage to that was the challenge it presented in bringing to life the raw emotion of the two characters stories and also give them both a proper arc. I learned very quickly that just because it's a short film doesn't mean it's an easy film to make. There's a lot of pressure in editing to get the pacing right, know what to cut, and learn how to build emotion in a short time frame. Having no professional training in the art of filmmaking I felt this little vignette was the best way to find my voice as a director.

Did the actors know each other before shooting? 

Danielle and Taso did know each other before filming. I was struggling to find a leading man for the role of Christian and Danielle had recommended Taso. At first I wasn't convinced he was right for the role but Danielle was insistent that he would nail the part. We set up a cold read and I was blown away. The two of them on camera together is simply magical. It was like directing brushstrokes. It's rare to get that kind of chemistry between actors for a first film. I'm grateful to both of them for the love they put into the characters. 

How do you facilitate a connection like that between two lead actors?

One thing that was key was that Danielle, Taso, and myself all lived in the apartment for three days together while filming. It was a really beautiful time we had and I'll not soon forget it. Another choice I made to make the dialogue feel real was the use of technical improvisation. I had a full treatment written with cues and subject matter but as for the dialogue I wanted to it to feel uncomfortably real. That, in turn, gave the actors so much freedom to play with their performances and really make the characters their own. Something I learned from the process of making a film that way was trusting your actors choices. There were times when I would redirect them a bit but the two of them really knocked it out of the park. Especially Danielle's monologue. When she was finished, the entire set froze for a full five minute after I quietly called cut. The scene still brings me to tears whenever we screen it. 

Do you think the setting of the film, New York particularly, can be another character in the story?

Being a native New Yorker I always saw this city as it's own living being. It's like an old, insomniac Aunt of yours who is kind of mean but once you get on her good side she will reward you forever. I've honestly never had a desire to film anywhere else, besides Italy. I would say that right now I am in my Brooklyn phase because it is where I live and it still feels like New York, particularly in the neighborhood I reside in. Alas, everything I love about New York is changing. I just hope I can capture some of that beautiful magic before it disappears.

How did New York play a role in the story and the making of this film?

Something that may go over people's heads the first time they watch the film is that every time the two protagonists appear on camera together there is virtually no one else in the frame with them. They are the two loneliest souls in a giant city where seemingly hundreds of people are on top of each other at all times. When you are dealing with any kind of addiction, New York City can feel like the loneliest place in the world. The upside? You never know when a beautiful stranger will sit next to you on a bench and completely turn your world around. That's the role New York City played in The Weekend. The Matchmaker.