Skip to main content

NewFilmmakersLA Spotlight: Interview with Director Michael Morgenstern

This week's Filmmaker Spotlight focuses on Director Michael Morgenstern whose film is showcased at Sunset Gower Studios as part of NewFilmmakers Los Angeles. Learn about his film, Michael Morgenstern as he discusses goals and reminisces about making the film, lessons he's learned and where you can catch him next.  

Name/Position: Michael Morgenstern, director
Film: Shabbat Dinner

Tell us a little bit about your project and how long you’ve been working on it.

Shabbat Dinner is a labor of love that I began over a year ago with my friend Aidan Levy. I was developing a television pilot about growing up gay in Los Angeles in the 90s. Back then, fewer teens had the role models or family support that they do now, so options were much more limited.

I started the project because I wanted a strong narrative sample for film school applications. I decided to quickly throw something together with whatever actors I could find and film it. After talking a bit more with Aidan the project got bigger, until I was writing a script. With six weeks until filming, we began searching for cast, crew, and locations—and setting up a Kickstarter. Our goal was $2500 and we raised over $3700, which was absolutely mind-blowing and incredible. A few days after we raised the money, we started filming.

I did post-production myself and it was arduous. Around February the film was ready, and I traveled to Hong Kong to attend the premiere. Since then it’s been over 35 film festivals, where I’ve made so many incredible friends.

And I ended up getting into every film school I applied and not deciding to go!

Is there anyone you'd like to thank for helping out with this film?

Oh, wow. You might as well ask me, “please list all the people in your life.” If you’ve spoken to me more than twice, then thank you for listening to me talk on and on about this short. Thank you to my friends who gave money, which is harder to fake than words of support. Thank you to those who watched the film and gave notes and gave me smiles when things were going poorly. Thank you especially to my interns Alejandro, Daniel, and Patrick, my roommates Dan and Tim, and the incredible cast and crew who gave their all for the weekend for not very much money.

How does it feel to have your film part of the NewFilmmakers Screening at Sunset Gower Studios?

So awesome! 35 film festivals in, we haven’t actually screened publicly in Los Angeles. I’m from LA, so I’ve really wanted for my friends there to see the film on the big screen. Of the many festivals in LA, NewFilmmakers is a prestigious and well put-together one, so I couldn’t think of a better place to screen right now.

What inspires you?

I want to create positive change in this world. I have no idea how to do that, but I think movies are a start.

I did sales for a summer and my boss kept saying “ABC: always be closing.” I think “ABC: always be creating,” and sometimes I’ll just say “ABC” to myself as a reminder. If I keep creating, I will keep getting more creative.

Who are your influences and who do you admire?

I tend to enjoy stylized films that push the borders of reality. Darren Aronofsky, Baz Luhrmann, Edgar Wright. Ang Lee is a favorite director of mine; I’ve had the privilege of working with him and he is an inspiring person as well. I’ve worked with, really admire, and have learned a lot from Ted Hope.

Aung San Suu Kyi is my desktop background right now. To me she exemplifies the ultimate victory of a beautiful purity and conviction over less savory attempts to build power.

What lessons have you learned from the industry so far?

Go out and do it. In 2009 I built Ted Hope’s blog, and within months I was employed all the time building websites. “But I want to make films,” I moaned to myself. And then it clicked, and three months later I was directing a music video.

If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?

I have a friend crush on the team that made Martha Marcy May Marlene.

What is the toughest experience you've ever had to overcome?

Next question. :-)

What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?

I was interning for some very difficult people, and one night I stayed at the office until 3am working. I was furious and upset about being treated poorly and staying so late, and complained to a friend. He asked if they had demanded I stay, and I realized that they hadn’t. Then he told me that I was the only one who made me stay, and nobody was forcing me to but myself. I think we often blame others for our inability to stand up for ourselves, and it was very helpful to see that.

What advice would you give to new filmmakers starting out in the industry?

One of the greatest moments of the past year was at the premiere screening in New York City. All the Kickstarter backers who could make it were there, as well as many other friends. For some it was the first time seeing it, and they loved it. Others had seen it more times than they could count, and they politely sat through it. And what made me happiest was that I was not grasping onto their reactions and compliments for my high mood that night, that I was happy because of what we had accomplished and because of the amazing friends I had who supported me in it. And that’s my advice: to the extent that it is possible, because it’s really difficult, find the satisfaction in yourself and make a film that will make you happy. That’s how to really connect with an audience, I think. I hope.

Where can we expect to see you next?

I’m looking for new projects to direct, so if you’ve got something, maybe I’ll see you in your office!
I’m spending the next month or two in Tucson, hiding away to write a second feature and several other scripts. I expect I’ll be shooting some music videos and short projects as well.
And then online! I’ve been collaborating with Blue Kid singer Lydia Benecke to create three music videos, and the second one might be up on Vevo by the time you read this.

Let our readers know where they can find more information about you and your projects. 
Blog on Huffington Post:
Twitter: @mikemorgenstern

For more information, visit:

About the Author

Formerly an editor at Demand Media, writer at Citysearch, The Examiner and proofreader at The Los Angeles Daily News, Christy Buena decided to start Disarray Magazine because she missed writing what she wanted. From hiring writers, to contacting publicists and making assignments, Christy is responsible for the editorial strategy of Disarray Magazine. Get to know the team of talented contributors.
Questions, comments or suggestions?

Popular posts from this blog

2017 EXXXOTICA Expo Dates and Locations Announced

Riding high off its most successful event to date in Edison, New Jersey, the EXXXOTICA Expo presented by MyFreeCams is already looking forward to 2017 with a trio of events planned around the country. In addition to its longstanding shows in Chicago and New Jersey, the show’s producers are pinning a new city on its map — Denver, Colorado for EXXXOTICA Mile High.

EXXXOTICA’s debut in the Rocky Mountains has been in the works for years, and event organizers couldn’t be more excited to bring the show to Denver. The 2017 show schedule kicks off in grand style with EXXXOTICA Mile High, March 31 through April 2, 2017. The show will be taking place as a full hotel takeover at the Crowne Plaza Denver Airport Convention Center.
With nearly 100,000 square feet of exhibition and breakout space, EXXXOTICA Mile High will not only feature hundreds of exhibitors and the top stars in adult, as well as seminars and performers, but the hotel will be transformed into the hottest hotel in the country wi…

CAM4 To Sponsor The Ms. EXXXOTICA 2017 Competition

EXXXOTICA, the nation’s largest event dedicated to love and sex, just announced that webcam portal CAM4 has signed on as a show sponsor for 2017. CAM4 will be sponsoring and presenting one of the expo’s most popular events, as well as one of its newest initiatives for EXXXOTICA Chicago in June and EXXXOTICA New Jersey in November.
Developed as a community with a focus on social networking, CAM4 is much more than a traditional webcam site, and they are now the presenting sponsor of SW!TCH, EXXXOTICA’s LGBT showcase. SW!TCH made its debut at EXXXOTICA New Jersey in 2016 as the show continued its efforts to be completely inclusive. SW!TCH was created as a means for LGBT vendors, talent, and performers to become part of the EXXXOTICA family. SW!TCH will continue to grow in 2017, and with CAM4 as the presenting sponsor, their booth will be the anchor of the showcase that will feature seminars, events, vendors, talent, and broadcasters catering to LGBT attendees.
“CAM4 is extremely excited…

EXXXOTICA 2-17 Hits Chicago June 23rd

EXXXOTICA Chicago, the largest event in the USA dedicated to love and sex, opens its doors for the seventh straight year at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont this weekend and thousands of attendees will be treated to a virtual playground for adults, with over 150 adult stars, a convention floor packed with over 100 exhibitors, and over 20 hours of entertainment on the main stage and in the seminar rooms scheduled.

EXXXOTICA, presented by MyFreeCams, will feature the biggest names in the adult world. Legends, stars on the rise and the hottest cam girls will be appearing. Superstars such as Ron Jeremy, Lisa Ann, Tori Black, Katie Morgan, Alexis Texas, Lexi Belle, Allie Haze, Tanya Tate, Evan Stone, Adriana Chechik, Phoenix Marie, Joanna Angel, Rubberdoll, Briana Banks, Teagan Presley, Alexis Monroe, Adria Rae, Mr. Marcus, Misty Stone, Stoya, Kendra Sunderland, Vicki Chase, Mia Malkova, Jillian Janson, Darcie Dolce, Eva Lovia, Harley Dean, Dani Jensen, Natalia Starr, …

Summer Survival: Pick the Most Breathable Fabrics

Summer is inching closer, and while we're all psyched for the perpetually warm weather ahead after a tough winter, pretty soon it's inevitable that the heat, humidity and summer sun will leave us feeling, well, less than fresh.

Chrissy Volk, wardrobe consultant for Adahlia Volk has put together a cheat-sheet for navigating through the best, most breatheable fabrics for the season. Who ever looks at clothing "ingredient" listings on the tag - well, this season think of it as your guide to "cool."


COTTON + STRETCH = CUTE BUTT: Cotton jeans are the lightest for summer because they are airy and breathable, however, jeans with a small content of stretch are the most flattering. They will move with your body and it’s movements.BEST DENIM BLENDS: Chrissy suggests denim with a high cotton content, and small synthetic content. A jean with either a 98% cotton/2% lycra or 96 % cotton/4% Lycra fabric, is a good combination. J…

Exxxotica Los Angeles 2011 - Day 2 Gallery


Exxxotica, "the largest event in the U.S.A. dedicated to love and sex," took place at the Los Angeles Convention Center on August 26th-28th drawing hundreds of fans of all various ages. From middle aged men to college kids, fans got to meet their favorite adult stars, attend seminars, watch go go dancers on stripper poles and ask their favorite stars questions during the on stage panel. Even, Youtube sensation, the "Sexy Sax Man" made a cameo. If you missed out on the event, don’t fret. We’ve got you covered with our photo gallery.

If you're wondering how Exxxotica measures up to Adultcon, let's just say that this event was like the E3 of adult expos, with an emphasis on females, relationships and love. Let's not forget that bigger celebrities were in attendance here including the legendary Ron Jeremy, Rockstar Phil Varone and Wicked Pictures stars Stormy Daniels, Kirsten Price, Jessica Drake, Alekt…