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Filmmaker Spotlight: Interview with Writer Aaron Himelstein of The Napkin

Our filmmaker spotlight is on Writer Aaron Himelstein of The Napkin. Himelstein's film was selected to be part of the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles screenings at the AT&T center in downtown Los Angeles this month. Learn about the film, his inspirations, goals and current projects.

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

The Napkin is a dark comedy about a bereft guy who finds himself hosting his friend’s bachelor party at the house he recently inherited from his father. The film takes place over one night and tracks this guy as he spirals into a bit of a nervous breakdown in front of his friends. Thematically, I guess it deals with the fear of death and the pressure to have fun that I know I feel all the time as a youngish person. The project came together quickly. From conception to production was about 2 and half months. I had just begun working with Mirror Cube Films, a company my collaborator Jess Manafort heads, when she offered me a budget without even seeing a script. I showed her a few shorts that I’d written over the years and this one which I’d written over a weekend. She responded to it and pushed me to get it done asap.

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

Jess Manafort. John Robinson for writing the story with me and for providing us with our location. Dov Tiefenbach, who I lived with at the time, for allowing himself to be truly vulnerable on camera. And my mom and dad. And everyone who worked on the film.

How does it feel to have your film part of the NewFilmmakers Screening at the AT&T Center?

It’s an honor. A few friends of mine have had the opportunity to screen with New Filmmakers and they all found it a unique platform to gain exposure and an audience to view their work which is never an easy task. Obviously if you are looking for eyeballs, Youtube has plenty of them, but I mean seeing your own film in a theater with people who you can turn and stare at while they look up at your images on the screen. Not reading reactions on a message board. And New Filmmakers also does more than any other organization I’ve heard of to get exposure for directors and writers through publications such as this one.

What inspires you?

My childhood, music, stand up comedy, books, photographs, plays, anything I guess.

Who are your influences and who do you admire?

A filmmaker and best friend of mine Luke Eberl (Choose Conner) has served as a creative catalyst for me since I was 14 years old. He’s been a part of almost all of my projects an is one the people I know who has screened at New Filmmakers. Just a few filmmaking influences: Hal Ashby, Emir Kusturica, Martin McDonagh, Todd Solondz, Billy Wilder, Roman Polanski, Rob Reiner, Paul Thomas Anderson and Woody Allen.

What lessons have you learned from the industry so far?

This is not an industry that rewards hard work and persistence. This industry is trend based but if you want to make non disposable content with lasting power, it’s a pretty destructive thought process to invest too much of yourself in. A majority of my favorite films were made twenty, thirty, forty years ago so I always like to hold on to that thought when approaching a project, not what’s on the front page of the Hollywood Reporter. I’m not very good with navigating the business side of things so I don’t think I’m a good
person to answer questions on “the biz.”

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

Edward Albee. Or maybe Stephen King.

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

I was working with Richard Linklater as an actor and I asked him for some advice on writing. He said “Once you begin the writing process, don’t look back until you have a draft.” I think he was saying that it’s not really your job to judge your work while you are writing it. Like this eastern quote that now I can’t really remember who said it but it goes something like “You can’t plant a seed in the ground and keep digging it up to see if it’s growing.”

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

Find a way to meet actors and study acting. The process of performing scenes and breaking down emotional beats will only enhance your understanding of scene structure, pacing and the thought process of an actor.
Again, the business/industry element is not something I can say that I grasp so I’m not really comfortable speaking about agents or anything like that.

Where can we expect to see you next?

As an actor, a film called “All the boys love Mandy Lane” is coming out this summer as well as a TV series. I did a few episodes called “Doll & Em” written by and starring Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer.

Let our readers know where they can find more information about you and your Projects. 

I have Facebook. That’s about it. It’s just my name.

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.
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