Based on the published book, FRUIT OF THE VINE (Weisberg and Yoffe, Waldorf Publishing, 2018). In JUSTIN AND THE WERLOOBEE, we meet Justin, a sensitive, introspective boy whose physical features and personality make him a convenient target for many of his cruel peers. One night, he wakes to find himself on a mysterious island, which is inhabited by a horde of bizarre creatures. Despite his desperation to find out where he is and, more importantly, how to get home, he becomes involved in the plight of Irvino, a beast who is ostracized on this island much in the way that Justin is in his own world. The story ends with a twist as Justin, in helping Irvino, ends up helping himself by making a lifelong friend out of Irvino. JUSTIN AND THE WERLOOBEE is unique from other stories in the fantasy genre in that it is meant not only for the grade school-aged fantasy enthusiast, but also for anyone interested in the topic of bullies, and how altruistic qualities can develop in children.
Ellen Weisberg is a cancer researcher at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Principal Associate in Medicine at Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA), with a doctorate in pharmacology. Ken Yoffe is a pediatrician (Billerica, MA). He also holds a doctorate in genetics.
Ken and Ellen are part-time children's book authors. Publications include short stories and poetry published in PKA's Advocate (bimonthly literary publication), The Writing Disorder (quarterly online literary journal and print anthology book), and Natural Solutions (holistic health magazine). They have also published several children's geography and anti-bullying books and readers (Galde Press, Waldorf Publishing), and two novels (Waldorf Publishing, Chipmunkapublishing).
John Vo, founder of Lonely Lane Productions, is an executive specializing in finance and operations for content and creative startups. He has over eleven years of experience running a creative agency as CEO, COO and Head of Finance, as well as commercializing content properties. He has had a hand in producing content totaling over one billion views. It is our pleasure to interview Ellen Weisberg.
How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?
This is our first film project. We hired John Vo of Lonely Lane Productions to make the film in collaboration with us.
What was the inspiration behind the making of your film?
Ellen had a dream one night, and based on the dream she wrote the children's anti-bullying fantasy, FRUIT OF THE VINE.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker in the film industry? There is a great deal of competition and it is difficult for an independent filmmaker's film to stand out among the rest.
How difficult is it to fund indie short films?
We imagine quite difficult considering the expense of a production like ours, which is 3D animation. We funded our own film using royalty monies awarded to us for development of an anti-leukemia therapy that was FDA approved.
Please name three of your most favorite directors. How have they been influential in your work? John Lasseter, Robert Zemeckis and Henry Selick. John Lasseter and Henry Selick. We love their animation!
How did your film go into production and how did you finalize the cast and the crew?
The cast and crew were generally selected by John Vo, although we hired Corey Thornton for the voice of the snake in the film. We discussed with John Vo and his wife Abby the kind of images we had in mind for the main characters. The images were basically what were featured in our published book. We immediately loved the character, Justin, and we provided feedback for the Werloobee character and gradually tweaked its image with John and Abby.
How was the film received by your audience and film festivals and what is your plan for further distribution of the film?
Justin and the Werloobee has thus far been selected to be screened at 40 film festivals, and it has received awards from the following:
Rome International Movie Award (Best animation, Best VFX) Hollywood Gold Awards (Silver Award: Best Animation) Milan Gold Awards (Gold Award: Best Animation) Fantastic Indie Festival of Los Angeles Imagine Rain Independent Film Awards (Best Animation, Best Inspirational Animation, Best Director, Honorable Mention for Best Original Story) European Cinematography AWARDS (Best Animation) Dreamer’s Short Film Festival (Best animation) World Distribution Award (Best animation) Golden Harvest Film Festival (honorable mention) Indian Indie Awards (Best animation) Beyond the Curve International Film Festival FEEDBACK Animation Festival (Best Sound and Music)