Teen is already seasoned filmmaker


There are musical prodigies as young as 9. At age 15, Tiger Woods was the youngest person to win golf’s U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. In many careers, you have to start young if you want to get ahead. Who knew filmmaking could be one of them?

St. Louis writer/director/producer Joe Weil recently debuted his first feature length film, Frame By Frame, at the Tivoli Theater. Weil has written, directed and edited a number of short films, has successful competed in the “48 Hour Film Project” challenge and has formed his own movie production company, Psycho Films. The seasoned filmmaker, who is Jewish, is 17 years old and a senior at Ladue High School.

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“I started filmmaking in middle school, when I formed my production company,” said Weil, in a recent interview.

Weil’s production company is called Psycho Films to reflect his quirky view of the world.

“It is a team of high school and college age filmmakers,” he said. “We added the college students to the production company, particularly the actors, when we met them during the “48 Hour Film Project” challenge.”

The “48 Hour Film Project” is an international filmmaking competition, which gives filmmaking teams just 48 hours to make a short film from start to finish, including writing the script, shooting the scenes, scoring it and editing the footage into a finished film, all before the Sunday night deadline. To insure no one tries to get an early head start, the filmmaking teams are randomly assigned a genre when the competition starts on Friday night. Each film must also include a particular character name, prop and line of dialogue, which are also announced on Friday night.

The St. Louis competition is one of the largest “48 Hour Film Project” challenges in the country. Just finishing the competition is a challenge, and many teams do not. In 2007, Weil’s Psycho Films team made a short fantasy film, The Realm Of Fangoon, which they successfully completed by the deadline.

Weil and his team are registered for this year’s St. Louis “48 Hour Film Project” too, which takes place over the weekend of June 6.

Joe Weil’s feature film Frame By Frame played May 4 at the Tivoli to an enthusiastic crowd of cast, crew, family and friends. The young filmmaker is pleased with his feature film debut. “It turned out just as we planned, it fulfilled all of our expectations,” he said.

His film Frame By Frame is a dark comedy about four filmmakers trying to create a cult film, a mockumentary in the style of This Is Spinal Tap or Best In Show.

Joe Weil wrote, directed and edited the film and even shot film footage, along with photographer Lee Mirowitz.

Weil’s website at http://psychofilms.110mb.com includes movie trailers for Frame By Frame and the film’s script.

Joe Weil’s filmmaking team also includes assistant director Elan Krojanker, producers Rebecca Schonbrun, Jeffery Kwiatek, Aaron Manewith, and Scott Schonbrun. Joe Weil co-edits the films with Elan Krojanker, Alex Loebner, Lee Mirowitz and Tyler Freeman. Many of the filmmakers met in middle school. In 2003, the middle school students made their first film, Tucker’s Ten. In 2005, they made a film called The Election, which met with some success among their friends and classmates.

Although he is pleased with his first feature, he thinks they can do even better next time. “Frame by Frame is a good film but we are not planning to take it on the film festival circuit,” he said.

“We are planning to use Frame By Frame as a kind of calling card, to raise funds for our next feature-length film,” said Weil. Weil’s plan is a technique often used by independent, budding filmmakers, using a shorter or early project as an indication of filmmaking ability to find backers for the next, bigger project. However, Weil is considering entering Frame By Frame in the St. Louis Filmmaker’s Showcase, a festival of short and feature-length films by St. Louis filmmakers, which takes place at the Tivoli Theater on July 19-24. If all goes well, Weil is hoping to enter that next film in the annual fall St. Louis International Film Festival, which has become a major competition and springboard for new filmmakers.