Demystified Studiofest Jess Jacklin Charles Beale Lowam Eyasu Ryan Oksenberg

“Is it possible to put a writer and a director that have no working history – and potentially very different tastes — together, and make something that’s going to be successful, that everyone’s going to be happy with?”

That’s the question posed by Jess Jacklin, describing the main idea of the film festival she and Charles Irvine Beale created two years ago. StudioFest matches a promising writer and director to collaborate together on a $50,000 film.

Things went well in the first year: writer Matthew Sorvillo and director Anna Mikami created the award-winning mystery thriller Souvenirs, which scored a distributed run and strong festival recognition.

But in the second year, the idea of pairing two strangers hit some bumps, as the latest episode of StudioFest’s Demystified series lays bare. The series sets out to pull back the curtain on every aspect of making a movie — and this episode truly does.

MovieMaker was present at last year’s StudioFest event in Ojai, California when writer Lowam Eyasu and director Ryan Oksenberg won in their respective categories. Both are extremely talented — funny, smart, driven, and not overly fussy or precious. They seemed like they could make a great movie together.

But when Demystified checks in on them, they are clearly not seeing eye-to-eye. Though Beale pushes for more collaboration, it’s obvious their sensibilities and communication styles aren’t meshing on Frida, a planned film about a woman who makes a break from her nursing home.

“We love them both. They’re both really great individually. But I’ve been playing moderator between them. That’s no way to really make a movie — when the producers have to be the one to translate between the writer and the director,” Beale explains in the video.

StudioFest Jess Jacklin Charles Beale Ryan Oksenberg Lowam Eyasu

Ryan Oksenberg and Lowam Eyasu at StudioFest Ojai, in fall of 2019.

“I’m a little worried that they’re not going to be able to continue working together in a way that’s gonna give us something good at the end,” adds Jacklin. “We had to start having some really difficult conversations about not only just Frida — the film that we’re making — but we had to talk about: Is StudioFest working? Does this model even work?”

Beale nails the problem in a scenario that imagines pairing Aaron Sorkin — one of the greatest screenwriters — with Quentin Tarantino — one of the greatest directors. Both are undeniably great, but could they ever work together? Or would their bold approaches clash?

I don’t know, but I’d see their movie for sure. The latest episode of Demystified may not be pretty — you hate to see people you respect disagree with each other — but it is riveting. Can Frida be saved? Can StudioFest? Jacklin and Beale are breathtakingly blunt about what’s working, and what isn’t, and truly live up to the name Demystified.

In past episodes they’ve talked about lots of things no one in the film industry likes to talk about — including their budgets, and how much they were paid when they sold Souvenirs. But this episode is perhaps even more revealing, in its breakdown of how well-meaning, talented people don’t always get along — and what to do about it.

If you enjoy this episode, be sure to subscribe to StudioFest here.