He is the filmmaker of If You Tell Your Dreams They Won’t Come True Dollar Baby film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Yonatan Weinstein: I am an Israeli editor, writer and director based between New York and Tel Aviv. Currently, I devote most of my time to editing narrative feature film & television content, as well as developing original narrative content with my writing partner.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?
Yonatan Weinstein: When I was 13, I decided to make a little film for my Bar Mitzvah celebration and soon fell in love with the craft of editing. Through this process, I met my first mentor in the field and with her guidance decided to embark on my next challenging journey to document my grandmother Masha’s story of holocaust survival. A couple months of filming and nearly two years of editing later – I completed the feature doc “My Grandma – Frau Masha” and started taking it to festival audiences around the world. The surprising and satisfying success of this first project motivated me to learn more about filmmaking and explore other aspects of it. Above all — the first-hand experience of listening to my grandma telling her story and the process of molding it made me appreciate the power of storytelling in ways that I couldn’t imagine.
SKSM: When did you make If you tell your dreams they won’t come true? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Yonatan Weinstein: We filmed and completed “If you tell your dreams…” towards the end of 2011 (nearly a decade ago!), with the intent of submitting it as part of my application to NYU Tisch’s film program (spoiler: it worked J). I structured the script as practically a single scene (barring the exteriors) set in one location (my aunt’s home) and we only had two short days to shoot it. The skeleton crew and actors all volunteered, and the self-financed production budget came out to just a couple thousand dollars, mostly used to cover the equipment rental, meals and art.
SKSM: How come you picked Harvey’s dream to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Yonatan Weinstein: When I first read it, the story struck me immediately for several of its distinct qualities.
First there was this unique tone and tension to it – a sense of mystery and foreboding conveyed without any cheap scares or hardly any action at all for that matter. I was also drawn to the challenge of taking a story comprised almost entirely of internal monolog and finding creative and effective ways of conveying all that subtext while relying on the performances and visual elements alone (rather than voice-over). Then there was the relationship itself, that of an estranged middle-aged couple left in their empty nest who – despite decades of history, affection and shared experiences – find themselves questioning what it is that drew them together in the first place; though I was at an entirely different point of my life (as a 21-year-old in his first adult relationship), I found myself really curious to explore that dynamic. Finally, there was this all-powerful thematic question of where the dream world ends and the real world begins; I found this extremely appealing to explore as, in a way, I’ve always considered that gray area to be the epitome of what film as a medium is all about.
SKSM: How did you find out that King sold the movie rights to some of his stories for just $1? Was it just a wild guess or did you know it before you sent him the check?
Yonatan Weinstein: I decided to adapt the story and went ahead with production without even knowing about King’s Dollar Baby Program. Only after having completed the film, when I wanted to submit it to festivals, did I look up sorting the rights and found out to my great fortune that ‘Harvey’s Dream’ was one of the stories covered by the program.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Yonatan Weinstein: This is the absolute opposite of funny, but a story worth telling… We had just nailed the first shot of the first day (which so happened to be the opening shot of the film), and despite already being couple hours behind schedule, were feeling pretty good about what’s next to come. And then, my DP Roi Vissel gets a phone call – his grandfather had just passed away and the funeral is about to take place (incidentally, the irony of receiving such a fateful call on the set of this particular film is not lost on me…). Naturally, Roi took off, but not before going over the rest of the day with our AC and Gaffer and devising a plan. The camera team all switched positions to cover for his absence and somehow, we managed to more or less make the day. The next morning, Roi was back on set assuming his role with utmost professionalism, despite the tragic circumstances. I’ll never forget his devotion to this film. Having collaborated on several projects since, he remains one of my closest friends, extremely talented and my go-to DP to this day.
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
Yonatan Weinstein: To my knowledge the film has never been formally reviewed, but all the reactions I’ve ever received were very positive (though perhaps those who didn’t like it never bothered to tell me haha.) Despite this being my first independent narrative short and the fact that a lot of the decisions taken in its making were very intuitive, ten years later people still seem to find the film surprisingly effective, seemingly much thanks to its contained nature and specific point of view.
SKSM: Do you plan to screen the movie at a particular festival?
Yonatan Weinstein: Nothing planned ahead (as I mentioned, the film is already a decade old), but it has participated at the Cannes Festival’s Short Film Corner in 2013, as well as the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, and is featured by ‘Film Shortage’ online.
SKSM: Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favorite works and adaptations?
Yonatan Weinstein: I do not feel I know King’s oeuvre quite well enough to call myself a fan… That being said, I was really drawn to his writing in the pieces I have read and am a great admirer of some of the brilliant cinematic adaptations of his work, including De Palma’s Carrie and above all – Kubrick’s masterful The Shining.
SKSM: Did you have any personal contact with King during the making of the movie? Has he seen it (and if so, what did he think about it)?
Yonatan Weinstein: I have not been in contact with Mr. King unfortunately and am unaware of him having seen it. Naturally, I would love for him to see the film and to find out what he thinks of it. I have seen a couple other adaptations of ‘Harvey’s Dream’ though, and while I know I am biased – I do believe my version somehow better manages to capture the essence of the original story, despite having the language and culture completely transposed.
SKSM: Do you have any plans for making more movies based on Stephen King’s stories? If you could pick -at least- one story to shoot, which one would it be and why?
Yonatan Weinstein: I do not have such plans at the moment… But if allowed, I would love to try and do it again someday.
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Yonatan Weinstein: I am currently developing original drama series for Israeli Television with my writing partner, Barak Barkan. Otherwise, I’ve been working mainly as an Editor in recent years, having recently cut a production of Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ starring Ethan Hawke, John Leguizamo and Wallace Shawn, as well as the HBO Max show ‘Valley of Tears’ and the Israeli Best Picture Winner ‘Incitement’.
SKSM: What one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Yonatan Weinstein: I’ve been nominated for two Israeli Academy Awards for Best Editing! (Third time is the charm… ;).
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Yonatan Weinstein: Thanks for reading! Please check out the film as well as some of my other work on my website and feel free to reach out and share your thoughts.