We had the good fortune of connecting with Ethan Wellin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ethan, what matters most to you?
Empathy! Maybe this is reductive, but I think learning to think about a problem from another person’s point of view, and particularly learning to imagine that problem from inside not just their logical, but their *emotional* reality, is the beginning and the end of what is required to be a good person. It is hard work to develop and employ empathy, because empathy requires laying aside preconceptions and often admitting that we are wrong– or at least that we don’t know the full picture from our own narrow experience. I suspect humans are not hard-wired for that, at least not on a scale grand enough to meet the moment of a globally interconnected, multicultural present. We have to actively strive for it. And that’s where storytellers, and frankly all artists, have an important role to play. For me, empathy is the engine beneath everything I want to create. Why tell stories– why listen to them– except to try to express and understand the multitude of emotional realities of our fellow homo sapiens?
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a filmmaker, writer, and producer with storytelling interests that span several mediums. My last major project, “Destination: Unknown,” is an award-winning animated science fiction film. My next, “Two Dead Girls in Jubeliene,” is a serialized audio drama set in my home state of Indiana. “Jubeliene” is the story of Myra Abernathy, who returns to her small town home after a long absence to take up the threads of her estranged father’s hunt for her little sister’s murderer. On the surface, the two could not be more different. But underneath, D:U and “Jubeliene” are both stories about grief, loss, and the transformative power of forgiveness. Before “Destination: Unknown,” I felt I was falling into an artistic rut. I was working a relatively strenuous “day job” in TV (I still do) and I was writing and developing screenplays for feature films and TV pilots at night. In short, all of my creative energy was poured into material that required “permission” from a conventional studio power structure, or at least a significant independent financial backer, in order to ever reach an audience. The pages were piling up, but I was losing confidence in my voice and running out of will to keep going. The thing that broke the cycle was challenging myself to write towards things that I could make without waiting for permission. The explosion of new forms of digital storytelling and the increasing accessibility of many of those forms means writers can (and should!) be producing their own work. And I have so much more fun creating, knowing for sure that the things I am imagining will eventually reach the eyes and ears of an audience.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love low key, food-motivated adventures– and while one could clearly build an entire LA tour around tacos, or hamburgers, or vegan food, I think the best way to see LA… is through the middle of a donut. If my friend flies into LAX, then the obvious first stop is Randy’s. We’re hoping for plain glazed yeast donuts, but if you’re coming on the donut tour then repeat after me: “Is anything hot? We’ll take two of those.” We have to keep the calorie count reasonable at our first stop, because Sidecar is also (kinda) on the way home, and it’s the prefect zig to the Randy’s zag. Next we’re going to take a wide westward arc to hit Blinkie’s Donut Emporium on the way to the Getty Museum. We’re going to see a show at the Pantages, and probably fall asleep during intermission because we ate too many Blueberry Toast Crunches at California Donut– for my money the goofiest ring-shaped snack in LA. We’re going hiking and stargazing somewhere up the Angeles Crest freeway, and we’re stopping at The Donut Man in Glendora to get donuts stuffed with Fresh Strawberries and at least one Tiger Tail. I think we earned it. If my friend is an out-of-towner we’re going to pay the most they’ve ever paid for a movie ticket in their entire life just to see what it’s like to sit in an Arclight theater and be surrounded by people that genuinely LOVE movies… … and then we’re going to go in the middle of the night– and I mean after 1am– to see what a guy named Arnold is frying at the Donut Hut on sleepy Magnolia in Burbank. If we time it right we’re getting cinnamon rolls and apple fritters so hot you can’t hold onto them. What better way to see a city AND get a stomach ache? Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I owe any modest success to my wife Cat, who carves out an extraordinary amount of literal and figurative space in our shared life to allow me to create, and to the dear friends who read (and challenge) my work when it is still half-baked: Ron, Tyler, Evan(s), Monisha, Jack, and David.
Other: To Watch “Destination: Unknown” (free!): https://vimeo.com/305870044 To Learn more about “Two Dead Girls in Jubeliene”: https://www.ethanwellin.com/jubeliene https://www.imdb.com/name/nm4993897/