Tisch graduate and life-long New Yorker Daryl Wein is a jack-of-all-trades. Drawn to acting at an early age, the affably appealing Wein began exploring filmmaking when his dad bought him his first camcorder in high school. Since then he's been shifting back and forth between the two, with success that belies his young age.
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As a resourceful teen, Wein would think up concepts for films while commuting weekly from Brooklyn to Manhattan for auditions. On his days off from class he would find time to shoot short films. His passion for being both in front of the camera and behind it came to a cross-roads when deciding what to study for undergrad. "It was a toss up between going to New York University for drama or film," he said during a conversation this week in Manhattan. "I ended up deciding I would try acting." But following four years of honing his craft, Wein decided to focus on filmmaking, which resulted in his short film "Unlocked," starring Olivia Thirlby ("Juno"), which screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2007. Wein followed shortly thereafter with the AIDS documentary "Sex Positive," winner of the grand jury prize at the L.A.'s Outfest. "I'm not really interested in the whole acting thing," Wein said. "I don't like to be as much a piece of the puzzle as I do like putting the puzzle together."
For his first narrative directorial effort "Breaking Upwards," being released at the IFC Film Center and on VOD this week, 26-year old Wein reached back to his first passion to serve as the lead actor (while also performing the duties of co-writer, editor and producer) - a decision that was not originally in the cards.
Based loosely on a tumultuous period in his relationship with co-star (and fellow Tisch graduate) Zoe Lister-Jones, Wein initially envisioned hiring an actor to play what is essentially a fictionalized version of himself. In the end, Wein and Jones (who co-wrote the script with Wein and Peter Duchlan) decided to play themselves. "Zoe and I were thinking of it purely from a creative standpoint," he explained. "The script's already based on our relationship and we thought it would be interesting to blur the line between fact and fiction."
The whole experience has been a bit "meta" for him, he said. Despite his initial reservations about being in front of the camera and rehashing his relationship's scars, their approach has brought wider attention to their movie. Last year, the film won the grand jury prize at the Brooklyn International Film Festival and best narrative feature film award at the Little Rock Film Festival and just this week was featured in a page spread in the New York Times.
"I love to direct and I love to write but I don't want to act in my next project," Wein said. For now, Wein has his eye set on New York based comedies and thrillers, with Jones as his lead and collaborator. "We want to keep shooting in New York," he said, "But we don't want to keep doing the same thing. We would like to be versatile. Now we just need the money to do it."
For more info, please visit the film's website.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Nigel M. Smith is currently working with indieWIRE in New York while pursuing a Master's degree in Arts Journalism at Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communication. In June, he will be covering the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC for the The Post and Courier.