Interview: Westfalia the Movie
Instagram is a place to share your favorite memories — a beautiful respite from reality — until it becomes your actual reality. Haley Finnegan, an actress from Los Angeles, was fed up from the persistent focus on Instagram in her industry, and decided to create a film satirizing the life of the influencer. One year later, Westfalia was born. Having recently earned its laurels at the Mammoth Film Festival, the concept behind Westfalia is a relevant story that desperately needs to be told: how much social media is too much? Our resident social media maven Laura Lawson Visconti, who appears in Westfalia portraying herself, sits down with Haley to talk about the journey behind creating a film from scratch.
What initially inspired you to create Westfalia? What is the eventual goal of the film?
I was feeling defeated when I wrote the film. I am an actress and I kept almost booking my dream roles. The role always goes to a girl who is already famous, who did not need to audition for the role. Or to a girl who has a strong social media presence. I was frustrated. I am neither of those things. I was having a drink with my friend and making fun of myself and of Instagram. I couldn’t figure out what Instagram could possibly have to do with my ability to act. I still can’t answer that question! But the conversation quickly took a spin and I started to make fun of the behind-the-scenes of Instagram. Is that yogi really centered and meditating if she knows there is a camera in front of her? I went home and wrote the “script” that night. There are two goals I have with this film. Firstly, I would like to turn it into a feature length film. Secondly, I hope to be clear with the message I want to leave my audience with: Instagram is an amazing tool to express yourself but don’t forget to live for yourself — don’t forget to look up.
While you did write the story and characters for the film, the majority of the lines were improvised. Is this pretty common in short films?
I don’t think Improv is common in most films short or long, but especially not in short films where the budget is lower. It’s very difficult to edit an improvised scene. We have to piece together two angles and write a dialogue between characters in the editing room. This can be very expensive and also may not pan out as “planned.” I am lucky to be working with Brian Flynn, an actor from my Improv team. We have been improving together for years. We can really trust each other to pick up where the other has left off. And working with you and Nick was also a gift. Both of you guys think on your feet with confidence.
Thank you! We had a lot of fun. You recently premiered Westfalia at the Mammoth Film Festival. What was this experience like?
Mammoth Film Festival was one of the best creative weekends of my life. Tanner & Tomik offered a unique experience to filmmakers on the Saturday of the festival. They had a panel of movie executives assembled to hear 15 pitches from us filmmakers. I signed up and I cannot express enough gratitude for the opportunity and the experience. It’s definitely the scariest thing I have ever done. The festival was most definitely a filmmaker’s festival. Very quickly, I felt like I was a part of something very special.
As a female filmmaker, do you feel like you have to work harder to prove yourself in a male-dominated industry? How does this compare to your acting career?
I have never put much focus on being a female anything. I am fortunate to have grown up with parents who encouraged me to do anything I wanted (I would have loved it if they had encouraged me to become a doctor — the path seems easier at this point!). And I have never felt held back as a woman. However, once a month I am reminded that I most definitely am female!
How has the messaging behind Westfalia caused you to examine your own relationship with social media?
It’s weird to make a film that pokes fun at the influencer lifestyle, and then be promoting it on Instagram. I felt hypocritical. But I tried to make fun of my posts in the captions… which might have been my own voice already. I love to self deprecate.
What was the biggest learning lesson from creating your first short film? What would you do differently next time?
Next time I would like to write a film that takes place in one location, one actor, and is less than five minutes in running time… I would save a lot of money!
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