Whistler Film Festival Filmmaker Interview: Ashley Eakin on SINGLE

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Single confronts the complexities of being disabled and dating. Kim, who was born with one arm, gets set-up to go on a blind date. When she finally meets Jake, to her horror – he only has one hand. Unable to get over the apparent ignorance of the matchmaker, as well as her own insecurities about being different, Kim tries to bail on the date.

Jennifer Merin: What your film is about — both in story and theme?

Ashley Eakin: The plot is about a girl born with one arm gets set-up on a blind date with a guy who has one hand…and she is pissed!

I’d like to think Single is a relatable, anti-romantic comedy that delivers an entertaining and insightful examination of human connection that also challenges preconceived notions of life with a disability.

The theme is really about how society treats people with disabilities, but also inspecting how a disabled person might struggle with their identity, and sometimes when we reject others, it’s because we are actually rejecting ourselves.

Merin: How is your film stylistically distinctive?

Eakin: I really wanted to go BOLD with the look of Single. If you google disability – a lot of the graphics, colors and imagery you will see is very bland and always leans on the side of being inspiration-porn. I asked myself why is this the standard when it comes to disability? That inspired me to create a film that has a certain raw edginess and look that aligns with the content I like to watch. So my DP Sam Chatterjee and myself decided to make it very colorful and incorporate a lot of neon lights. Insecure and Euphoria were a big inspiration for the look.

Merin: How and why did you encounter and commit to the subject/theme of your film and to the main characters in it?

Eakin: This was pretty easy for me because Kim was basically my alter-ego. She acted in ways that I would never do – but in an alternate universe, maybe I would throw eggs at a woman who gives me a condescending compliment. Kidding aside, I think really just embracing my own personal truths as a woman born with a disability, while also talking to the cast and hearing their perspective kept us very committed to theme and what we were trying to say with the film.

Merin: What did you learn about the subject/theme from making the film?

Eakin: I learned that people adjust and live with a disability in a variety of ways. My experience is not always conducive with everyone else’s experience – which isn’t a bad thing. Just good to understand and realize that.

Merin: What did you learn about filmmaking from making the film?

Eakin: Sometimes the improv dialogue ends up being some of the best parts of your film. I will always encourage the cast to create a strong bond and rapport prior to shooting, so we allow and make room for that magical dialogue to happen on set!

Merin: What were your biggest challenges in making the film?

Eakin: TIME! But truly, I have worked on big budget projects and time is always the enemy.

Merin: What are your plans for the future?

Eakin: I am currently a staff writer on a Netflix show, and have a few tv and film projects in the works. Despite corona, it’s been a very exciting year.

Merin: Who are the filmmakers whose work has inspired/influenced your own?

Eakin: I really love Kelly Fremon Carig. Her dialogue in Edge of Seventeen is so honest, hilarious and compelling. I will always strive to create something where people laugh yet hang on every word. She is currently writing the adaptation of Judy Blume’s Dear God It’s Me Margaret, and I can’t wait!

Merin: What advice do you have for other female Filmmakers who are trying to make their way through a still male-dominated industry?

Eakin: Just keep going and creating. Fear is the killer of creativity, so anytime you doubt yourself just know its taking away from your art – push past it and just keep making! Do it scared!

ABOUT ASHLEY EAKIN:

Born in California and raised in Nebraska, Ashley Eakin is a writer-director with a physical disability. Last year she was 1 of 8 women selected for the AFI Directing Workshop for Women and her project SINGLE was selected for the SXSW 2020 Film Festival and received the Special Jury Recognition Award. The film has played at over 30 festivals, winning two additional awards for Best Narrative Short. Eakin was also the recipient of the New York Women in Film Loreen Arbus Disability Awareness Grant. In 2020 Eakin was hired as a Staff Writer on a Netflix animated series featuring a character with a disability. Before working on her own projects, Eakin shadowed director Mark Pellington on the Quibi series SURVIVE filmed in the Italian Alps starring Sophie Turner. Prior to this, Eakin was the assistant to film director Jon M. Chu. In 2017 she spent 5 months in Malaysia and Singapore working on his critically-acclaimed box-office hit CRAZY RICH ASIANS. Eakin’s short documentary THE DETAILS, featuring Henry Golding and Awkwafina was selected for the 2018 Hamilton Film Festival and her short film BLUE premiered at the 2019 LA Shorts Fest. Eakin is represented by United Talent Agency and Artists First Management.

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