Interview with Filmmaker Lily Micheline Kaplan (NEIN FRIENDS)

NEIN FRIENDS, 14min., USA, Drama
Directed by Lily Micheline Kaplan
A college junior’s patience, courage, and perception are challenged at a surprise birthday dinner, attended by an assortment of nine odd guests, but nein friends.

Get to know the filmmaker:

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Nein Friends is loosely inspired by my own birthday in the fall of my freshman year, which I realized in hindsight was quite funny. For myself and many others, moving away from home is scary and anxiety-inducing but making friends like co-writer Annie Wallach showed me the humor within embarrassment and reminded me to not take myself too seriously. The story came from our desire to bring comedy to chaos and critique our often distorted self-perception.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

I wrote the first draft of Nein Friends in November in my screenwriting class at Northwestern and hoped to submit it to a Northwestern Film grant but was hesitant. A few days before the grant application was due I got covid and called my hilarious friend Annie who ended up working morning to night helping rewrite all the dialogue and transforming the characters with me. After submitting with minutes to spare we went on to a round of interviews, pitches, and roundtables. Once selected we teamed up with our amazing producers Arwen-Vira Marsh and Joel Braunstein who helped assemble a dedicated crew of 30 and a talented cast of 10. We filmed for one weekend in the Spring and premiered at the Studio22 premiere at Northwestern on June 4th, 2022.

3. How would you describe your film in two words?!

Comedic Chaos

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Covid quarantine may have inspired the writing process but it was a huge obstacle in filming in the Spring. Firstly, the generous upperclassmen who let us film in their apartment got covid the week before we were meant to start filming so we had to postpone the shoot. Also, many of our crew members got covid a few days before filming so we had to quickly find replacements, with many crew members taking on multiple roles. Despite the challenges, we were very lucky to have a super hard-working, flexible crew who made every day on set fun.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was so honored to hear other film lovers talk about our project. I loved all the comments on our goofy characters and appreciated the constructive criticism about the lack of clarity at certain points. I was also so delighted that someone mentioned that it reminded them of That 70s Show because that was a large aesthetic influence for our DP Steven Yao, prod designer Maira Walker and myself.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I was obsessed with movies and theater growing up and wanted to do something where I could tell stories. I’ve always loved painting, making music, and performing, and found that film was a way for me to combine many of the art forms I love. I knew I wanted to make films after going to a high school summer program at Northwestern where I wrote my first short and fell in love with the collaborative process of filmmaking.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

As a kid in the early 2000s, my family had one of those cars with a flip-out TV. For whatever reason, our car always had only three CDs, which we would watch in cycles, and my sisters and I would fight over who got to choose the movie on each drive. Blades of Glory was one of those CDs and I’ve probably watched it almost 50 times.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Chicago FEEDBACK Film Festival’s commitment to uplifting filmmakers through exposure and connections but also with valuable constructive criticism and clear communication is rare and something I wish more festivals did. I also always love when festivals introduce filmmakers to one another and have workshop events.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How have your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

My experience with FilmFreeway has been very positive. Instructions related to applications have always been transparent and straightforward since I started using the platform in 2019. I also recently got a gold membership which has expedited the application process and discounted submission prices.

10. What is your favorite meal?

My favorite meal is probably steak with bearnaise sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, and spinach.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

I am working on a few other short films at Northwestern this fall as a production designer and costume designer but my main focus is the feature film I’m co-producing with Matthew Moseley called Mixed Signals. We are making the feature with Applause for A Cause, a student philanthropic organization at Northwestern that donates the proceeds of our film to a selected beneficiary. This year we’re supporting 826CHI, an organization committed to encouraging youth in their creative expression, personal growth, and academic success through mentorship and literary arts education. If you are interested in learning more about our project or getting involved please go to our Instagram page: @applause_nu or our linktree:<sid=d07682dd-162f-4d 99-9c88-ad1bc567799b=""


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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