French Exit

Original Filmmaker

Origins: Sean Wainsteim

Toronto-based filmmaker Sean Wainsteim has made his mark on both sides of the Atlantic with clever works that have the sheen and shine of much larger budgets but the spirit, care and voice of more intimate productions. On-location shots in India, stopmotion music videos, absurdist collage-pieces that baffle and delight, – his work is characterized by variety, and an expansiveness and inventiveness that’s a rarity. As it turns out, he doesn’t shy from message projects – in this case, on the hot-button issue of party etiquette.

“I am beyond popular, in that the paparazzi are everywhere, as well. So trying to dodge all of that helped me refine my technique.”

“I think the best way is to be as invisible as possible, and drift away mid-conversation into the background.”

Sean Wainsteim, filmmaker
Sean Wainsteim, filmmaker
How did you get started?

Oh goodness, um… Uh, I went to art school to make robots to chase people around galleries and I guess after four years, I looked up and I'm like “Oh, I'm making films,” and it was always about storytelling, even the electronic robotic sculptural installation stuff I was working on always had a narrative aspect to it. So it sorted of naturally drifted into stories and narrative and a lot of the traced back – if you want to go way back – to fairytales in the library, and as a kid kind of going to see puppet shows and looking at books from Eastern European fairytales, and all of that traced back to growing up with Eastern European grandparents telling me stories from Europe, kind of before the war, during the war, really heavy stuff – but that storytelling was sort of really embedded in me.

How do you approach creative projects? Do you have any rituals you engage in? Anything that gets you started when you're facing a blank sheet?

Lots of chanting and chicken sacrifices. I guess it depends on the project. With a music video, I'll listen to the song over and over and over again till something gets pulled out. Usually I try and be analytical about it, really try and figure out what the project is, what it wants to be… If it's a music video then there's definitely someone else you're serving as well – there's a band, their brand and identity; if it's a project: same thing; and trying to figure out how, if there's a key story in there, it can fit within the narrative they've established. But if it's my own stuff, I guess that's the harder question. It's trying to work on the total blank slate, about how can I be honest and tell something honestly and entertainingly and kind of find the confluence of those two things.

On that note, where did you get the inspiration for this film? Are you a practitioner of the French Exit?

I think I've been to French Exit from time to time, and also I've been the recipient of it. "Where'd that guy go?" So I thought it would just be nice to do a little funny story. And it kind of, it evolved in my own creative process from like, ‘here's the French Exit over time,’ – it sort of solidified into ‘here's the one original guy who did it the first, first time.’

Do you have any party etiquette advice concerning the French Exit?

There's just the leave tactic, but there's also the distract and leave tactic. The “I'll be right back, let me get you a drink” and then you leave, but then you're way more of an asshole.

You've left sombody without a drink at the party?

Yeah, and they're expecting you to go back. I think the best way is to be as invisible as possible, and drift away mid-conversation into the background. Turn on your little cloaking mechanism.

And it's not entirely a selfish thing. Everyone's got to leave a party at some point.

Totally, and there's some times you know a lot of people, and there's a lot of people to say goodbye, and maybe you need to be somewhere else quickly. Sometimes it's an utter necessity in today's world.

So this stems from your being extremely popular and having a really well-packed social calendar?

I am beyond popular, in that the paparazzi are everywhere, as well – so trying to dodge all of that… It's helped me refine my technique. I've definitely seen some examples in front of me of other people that are far too exceptional at it and some people that should be more exceptional at it. “We've been saying goodbye for an hour now, it's time to go.”



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Article by Jay Watts for Stoli Canada



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