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“It’s a very standard D.C. story,” says writer-director Jason Eric Stephens of the travails of Charlie, the disillusioned 20-something Washington temp who is the protagonist of his debut film, Meat.
Stephens, an Indiana native, dropped out of George Washington University Law School last year to focus on his acting career—but quickly became interested in behind-the-scenes work. “I always observed on the set and tried to learn, and I wanted to become involved in production,” says Stephens, 26, who has appeared in several local independent films and who also portrays Charlie. “I was just waiting for the right script to come along.”
But Stephens got tired of waiting and decided to write one himself. The end product is Meat, a 25-minute workplace satire that explores the level of control people have over their own lives. “It’s loosely based on my own work experiences,” says Stephens, who was a temp for several months after arriving in Washington three years ago. “I started getting ideas and just typed it up. It was ready in two days.”
Stephens showed the script to friend Andy Wackerfuss, a Georgetown graduate student and photographer he met in 2001. “I had discussed my interest in making a film with him,” Stephens says, “and he always told me to let him know whenever I was ready.” The two formed Split Pillow Productions and began production on Meat in January; Wackerfuss acted as director of photography and also helped polish the script.
“It was definitely a challenge, because it’s my first time taking on a production role,” says Stephens, who is shopping Meat to various festivals, including the Chicago Underground Film Festival. “I had to have the confidence to direct others and still recognize what I was doing. I would look at some takes and say, ‘What was I thinking there?’” —Sarah Godfrey
For more information, visit www.meat-the-movie.com.