Interview with Filmmaker Harry Waldman (ENTER THE ROOM)

Directed by Harry Waldman
A young adult (Brian) is visited by his brother, Jeremy, who needs a place to stay as he settles into his new city. The two polar opposite personalities begin to clash as Jeremy’s presence poses a threat to Brian’s way of life. Brian’s uptight personality and unreasonable living standards rub off on Jeremy, creating an incredible amount of tension. Bad blood, stemming from a traumatic past event reveals the shocking truth of the brothers’ current situations, as Brian struggles to differentiate between reality and his worst nightmares.

Get to know the filmmaker:

1. What motivated you to make this film?
-My relationship with my roommate during the first semester of my freshman year of college is what gave me the idea for “Enter the Room”. Almost all of the various things that Brian was getting on Jeremy’s case about during the narrative were actual things that my roommate accused me of. (And there were other things he said/did to me that I wasn’t able to fit into the film)

Living with him was a very unpleasant experience for me, and I felt that I needed to get it off my chest by telling this story. In addition to Brian being based on my college roommate, I added a disturbing and tragic backstory about him and decided that he and Jeremy being brothers would make for a more interesting narrative. While I am not nearly as uptight as my college roommate was, I can be a bit neurotic, so I took “pieces of myself” which I injected into Brian in order to make him more layered. In general, I believe that creating complex characters often requires giving them flaws that can make them unlikeable at times, and I always do my best to try to walk in the shoes of the anti-hero or villain in order to portray them in a more genuine manner.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
-It ended up taking a number of years to complete this film for a couple reasons. I had written the script over the span of a couple months, but I had never directed or produced a film at the time, aside from one amateur film that I shot by myself, called “515”, so the completed script sat on the shelf for a handful of months, as I didn’t have the film school or filmmaking experience to know how to put the script for “Enter the Room” into production.

Fortunately, I met a filmmaker named Lance Eliot Adams, on the first project that I ever worked on as a Production Assistant, a film called “Self-Deportation: The Untold Tale of a Marginal Woman”, directed by Eugene Sun Park. Lance was the Producer on that film at the time, so we spent a lot of time on set picking up meals and other supplies. The two of us really hit it off and he took me under his wing after that film was finished shooting, helping him work on his short films as Assistant Camera, Production Assistant, etc.

During one of his film shoots, when we were on lunch break, he asked me what I was working on. I told Lance about my script for “Enter the Room” and he replied to send it over. I didn’t expect to ever hear back regarding the script as I thought he was just being polite when asking to take a look, but to my surprise, he emailed me back shortly after I sent it, stating that he really liked the narrative and the voices of the two brothers, so he offered to help produce and shoot the film.

I was truly shocked at this incredible opportunity, as I had dreamed of something like this happening to me for years, but never expected it to occur, so I immediately jumped onboard. This became the pivotal point of my filmmaking career as I was able to witness Lance navigate through the entire hiring process during film production, from bringing on an Assistant Director and Production Assistants, to posting casting notices, to hiring the right actors for their respective roles, to scheduling auditions, to directing the actors to give the performances that I envisioned for the characters, to hiring other crew, including Gaffer, Location/Sound, etc., to creating the shot list, to scheduling shoot days and all the way up to wrapping once we captured all of our footage.

Once we completed shooting, the film was in post-production for a long time. I was able to put together an edit that I was really happy with after a number of months, but there was a lot of video noise bouncing off of the apartment walls, particularly during the night scene. Because of this, I was hesitant to lock the picture, even though the rest of the team felt pretty good about it.

It required a lot of research and reaching out to other filmmakers and video professionals, but I finally found a solution to the issue. A fellow filmmaker introduced me to an editing plug-in called “Neat Video”, which I think is fantastic and is a piece of software that I believe should be owned if you are serious about video editing. With just a few simple clicks on each clip, I was able to delete around 90-98% of the background noise plaguing some of my shots. Once this issue was resolved, I watched the film a couple dozen more times just to be sure that I was 100% happy with it and then locked the picture and began submitting the film to festivals this fall.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
-Massive tension. From others’ comments on my film, “intense” seems to be the word that is most often used to describe my films. In general, I love to build tension and make others uncomfortable while watching my narratives, a feeling that I have come to really appreciate from watching others’ films as an adult.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
-As this was my first professional film, while there were a lot of obstacles that I faced, the toughest one had to be scheduling the shot list. While I think I had a decent knowledge of cinematography at the time, I didn’t fully grasp the importance of saving time by tactically picking and choosing the order of shots that would be captured throughout each day. This mistake led to more lighting and camera setups throughout the shoot than was necessary. Fortunately, my Assistant Director, Mo Nazar, was on point during the entire shoot and really helped to keep things moving quickly. Because of this, we were able to finish the film in about 2 2/3 shoot days even though we had initially scheduled 4 days for the shoot.

In general, properly scheduling a shot list is something that I have struggled with and stressed over consistently, and if I am ever able to direct films with a larger budget, I will prioritize using some of that budget to hire someone who can specifically help out with this in order to keep the film shoots flowing efficiently and smoothly.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
-I tend to get very nervous when receiving feedback for my films, but my reaction to the feedback video was very positive overall. I appreciated the fact that everyone picked up on the tension and anger portrayed between the two brothers throughout the film. I felt that everyone was able to connect with the strained relationship between Brian and Jeremy. And I am happy that the audience really liked the twist ending. As someone who loves successful twist endings, I am fully aware that a misguided twist can derail a potentially great film, so I am relieved that the audience responded positively to the finale. One of the audience members pointed out Brian “talking to his mom on his cellphone while being at work” and the email from his Aunt Laura. These seeds aren’t always picked up by people watching the film, so I am glad that he noticed. I also agree with a couple points of critique.

One of my main criticisms for this film before it was complete, was that the music was potentially fighting with the dialogue during a few of the most important scenes of the story. While I believe that I have a solid understanding of what type of music to use in order to convey a certain emotion, I need to be careful to not let the music overwhelm the dialogue to the point in which the audience can’t hear what the characters are saying. While I am a huge fan of hyper stylized, visceral films, I do believe that the script is arguably the most important aspect of most films.

As for the color correction, I am glad that most liked the bright, flashy colors, but I have received some critique on the film not being properly color corrected in the past. While I do agree with that critique, I didn’t utilize conventional color correction techniques for this film since I was going for a certain type of aesthetic that I thought would match the tense and chaotic atmosphere of the film. Overall, I had a blast watching this video and found it to be very informative.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
-While I have loved movies since I was just a few years old, I was always someone who was a bit too “practical” when it came to my career, despite the fact that my Dad has been a successful artist since I was young. I assumed that you were supposed to graduate college and then work at a job that you weren’t passionate about in order to pay the bills. The thought really depressed me, so I tried not to think about it too often and focused on my hobbies, which included watching movies, playing video games, sports, listening to music and hanging out with friends.

I studied business in college, which did teach me how to be a good leader as a film director/producer, but the content didn’t interest me much. I assumed that I would get some business marketing job out of college that I wouldn’t really be passionate about. I started to have these fantasies about finding myself working a marketing gig on a film production during my junior year of college, and while the fantasy excited me, it also depressed me because it didn’t seem realistic considering my situation.

During the second semester of my senior year of college, a few weeks after watching “The Social Network”, which is one of my favorite films of all time, and which I believe had an influence on what I am writing below, I had a dream that I was going to a prestigious film school, taking various filmmaking courses, collaborating with other students to work on film projects, etc. Near the end of the dream, I met a psychic who told me that one of my closest friends (Inspired by Mark Zuckerberg stabbing Eduardo Saverin in the back) would steal my film idea, but despite this awful fact, I would become a successful filmmaker.

While I believe that I get along well with most people, I can be a vengeful person if I feel that I was wronged. What truly shocked me about this dream was that I was so excited about the prospect of me being a successful filmmaker, that it completely overshadowed my distress over having my film idea stolen by my best friend.

Suddenly, I woke up, jumped out of my bed, grabbed my backpack and jacket and ran to the front door of my apartment, getting ready to go to one of my “film classes”. Then, I realized that it was 12:10 p.m. on a Saturday; that I had just been at a bar the previous night with friends; and that I wasn’t a film student at a prestigious film school, but a marketing student at a business school; and I would graduate college and find some job that I hated; and that would be the rest of my life…this was the single most depressing moment of my entire life.

I stared at my bedroom wall for about 20 minutes and then a lightbulb popped on inside my head. I told myself, “So you finally figured out your passion as you’re graduating college. That’s unfortunate, but you’re still only 21 years old. You have plenty of time”. I immediately came up with a plan for my filmmaking career. I would graduate college with my business marketing degree, and find a decent paying job in business after college during the day while pursuing my filmmaking career during the evenings and weekends. This plan launched the beginning of my exciting filmmaking career, from watching youtube videos on filmmaking and working as a Production Assistant on film sets while working in Insurance to pay the bills to being able to direct and produce my own films as my main passion, while working for a Post-Production company, handling video editing and video ingest.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
-“Memento” is the film that I have seen the most times in my life (I have lost count how many times I have watched it), a film that had some influence on “Enter the Room”. I first watched it at a friend’s house in 7th grade. It was actually his parents’ recommendation, and I was kind of a rebellious kid, so I was skeptical. I was quickly proven wrong, and while I was confused with the twist ending, I was also very intrigued and immediately wanted to watch it again. I forgot about the film for some time, and about 2 years later, I stumbled into it at a Blockbuster. I became so obsessed with the movie that I watched it 5 nights in a row, learning something new every time as Christopher Nolan dropped so many Easter eggs throughout the film. In general, I really prefer to watch new films and I often get tired of repetition, but “Memento” is one of the few films that I can revisit over and over without ever becoming even slightly bored with it. Due to the ingenious plot structuring, smart script, incredibly complex characters and insane twist ending, “Memento” is the first film that I became obsessed with and is still my favorite film to this day.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
-I think that you have done a great job staying in communication with me so far, and I am very satisfied with my experience with your festival as of now. It would be great for us to stay in touch and I would love to be able to show you some of my future films when they are ready to be viewed. And anything that you can do to help promote “Enter the Room” and potentially any of my other films will be greatly appreciated!

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
-It has been great so far! I just began using Film Freeway this fall, and I was surprised at how quick and easy it has been to apply to film festivals. There are so many different festivals to choose from and the website does a nice job of creating a formula that allows filmmakers to figure out which types of festivals are right for them. I have been fortunate enough to have had “Enter the Room” selected into a handful of festivals so far, (16 as of now) and I have had 0 negative experiences with the website up to this point.

10. What is your favorite meal?
-While I am a huge fan of Italian and Japanese food, my favorite meal has to be a giant (14-16 oz) ribeye steak, mashed potatoes with a lot of butter and salt, chicken noodle soup, chocolate mousse cake with vanilla ice cream on the side and a large glass of Coca Cola. Of course, in order to eat all of this, I would likely need to skip lunch and go on a long run beforehand. There are few things (filmmaking being one of the few) that I enjoy more than eating a great meal at a nice restaurant for dinner.

11. What is next for you? A new film?
-I actually just shot my first feature film, “The Corridor Crossing” last spring/summer. The film is currently in the early stages of post-production. I have another short film, “Bay for Blood” that is in the later stages of post-production. I hope to have that one completed by next fall and plan to submit it to festivals around then. And I am hoping to begin production for my next feature film idea, “Incautious” as soon as I finish my festival runs for “Enter the Room” and “Bay for Blood”, which should hopefully be in the fall/winter of 2024. I would be happy to submit a couple of my future films to this festival once they are completed.


By matthewtoffolo

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

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