Notes from the Set of a Werewolf Film

When news editor Will Carruthers offhandedly suggested I write a dispatch from the set, he had no idea I had been keeping a production diary.

Films are what I do when I’m not newspapering, and this particular film, presently titled Wolf Story, is a bit of Gen X angst spun as a rom-com but with fangs and fur.

It’s a werewolf movie that takes pot shots at Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf (not a werewolf book, mind you), horror genre idioms, but mostly my generation’s commitment to not aging gracefully, the (de)evolution of traditional relationships and how second chances are seldom on our own terms.

Some might say this is a vanity project (I write, direct and star), but I’d like to think I’m taking one for our Team X, saying what a lot of us have been thinking. Trust me, this is not a flattering piece of material. But I am stoked to join the ranks of such quasi-contemporaries as B.J. Novak (congrats on Vengeance!), as well as ancient writer-director-actor antecedents—from schlocky Ed Wood to artiste Orson Welles.

As culture writer Andrew Bloom wrote when mulling the spectrum between Wood and Welles, “all art contains a piece of the author’s soul, from cinema’s highest highs to its lowest lows, and that fact connects everyone with the foolhardy impulse to try to make good on the impulse to create.”

I agree with Bloom wholeheartedly and I applaud all artists, however they heed the call—filmmakers in particular. And by “filmmakers” I mean all those hearty souls participating in every aspect of production. These are precisely the kind of people with whom you would want to venture into deep space. You have no idea where you’re going and if you’ll ever get home, but the hope is to eventually share something amazing everyone can someday see for themselves.

Films are impossible but not implausible, which is why they still happen. 

And so far as one’s aesthetic ambitions will lead where they may, the drive to make these cinematic monsters necessarily derives from a collective spirit. And that, ultimately, belongs to the audience. Over flickering fires to cinematic streams, movies and their progeny are how our culture best reflects itself.

But culture ain’t what it used to be. We exist in atomized algorithmic-driven niches now. The blockbusters and water-cooler attractants of yore have given way to an amazing glut of “content,” nearly as many shows as subscribers. 

So, why make independent films in this climate? Let alone a werewolf film? As Quentin Tarantino reminds his casts and crews when goading them into a final take: “We love making movies.” 

That’s why.

A version of this was originally published in the Bohemian.