The flair Q&A





Dana Weidman







Tell me about your business or specialty.

My specialty is probably teaching screenwriting. I write and usually write with a partner to maintain my enthusiasm and belief in the project and to keep me motivated. But what motivates me even more is teaching screenwriting, media writing and filmmaking courses at Dutchess Community College.


How'd you get to where you are now?

I made a few good decisions and took a few chances. The biggest chance was leaving my job as a corporate producer in New York and coming Upstate to teach a video production class. It was a 98% reduction in salary and felt like a free fall from my 10th floor office on 5th Avenue. I was driving around Dutchess County in a rusty Suzuki Samurai and living in a cabin on Garfield Mountain in Phoenicia wondering if I made the biggest mistake of my life. But I liked the students and liked teaching. I started looking around for a graduate program that would enable me to become a professor. At that time there was a distinction between Film and Video. I started writing a screenplay the day after my 34th birthday. I kept writing through a long, snowy winter then applied to a screenwriting class the following summer in Paris. I moved out to L.A. the following year and got an MFA at The American Film Institute Conservatory.


It was a game-changer.


As much as I loved L.A., I knew I was coming back and was planning to teach. I was in California three years, then came back and started in a full-time position at DCC in 2003. Tenured in 2008, I was made a full professor in 2017. I created three Film Studies Courses in 2018, and am now a Professor of Communications, Media Arts and Film teaching World Film as well as Screenwriting and Digital Media Production courses.


How has the Covid crisis affected your work or business? Any new ideas or approaches…or lessons learned so far?

I'm teaching remotely and basically loving it. I needed a break from my life. Covid enabled me to move down to Pennsylvania last year to spend six months with my Mom while I was still teaching my classes. Then it enabled me to make a move up to Columbia County last winter. I teach synchronous classes using an interface called Blackboard, so I can teach from my bungalow in the snow and my students can take classes from Florida, Pennsylvania and right here in the Hudson Valley. And if they miss the class, it's recorded. I will never teach the same way again, I will always have a full online component of the course for homework, tests and ideally most lectures.


What surprises you in your work, now or in the past?

Creativity will always find a way out. Last winter I was doing a lot of renovations, feeling pretty creative, but one morning I woke up with a poem, just kept working with the haiku structure. Everything was a haiku for about three weeks. I even published a haiku poem in Chronogram Magazine. This month I'm painting in a class at Harvest Gallery in Red Hook.


What drives you crazy?

I am impatient. If there is something we should be doing, let's do it. I know there are sometimes reasons to wait, but most of the time I don't see the benefit. I'd rather jump in and try something. There are big changes in the works at Dutchess Community College, programs that we are hoping to launch and new classes, I'd like to do the paperwork and see how they fill.


Who inspires you? (it can be anybody you know, or don't know)

Right now, I am inspired by the Governor. More than any time in my life I appreciate leaders. Our country was in such a crisis of leadership, it made me grateful to those who stood up and led. For me Andrew Cuomo has been a rock through this crisis, he has been honest and caring.


You're a trailblazer - what are some highlights in your career to date?

My first screenplay was about cloning. It was ridiculous. Of course, it was never made into a movie, and never should have been, but it got me into film school. When I was writing, I got into the head of my scientist character so much that I ended up publishing a letter to the editor of Scientific American Magazine about mitochondria and cloning. I made a documentary five years ago about a genetic issue in my family. It was a tremendous learning experience. I love science, but I lack the discipline and patience to be a real scientist. My highlights have been the times when I've been able to fake it through creativity.


Words of wisdom or advice...final thoughts?

Everything you do in life leads you to where you are. Every book you read, every film, they are always inspiring and informing and enabling you to create yourself.


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Professor of Communications, Media Arts and Film at Dutchess Community College, Professor Dana Weidman is a documentary filmmaker and screenwriter with an MFA in Screenwriting from The American Film Institute in Los Angeles and BA in English from Grinnell College. She was Vice President and Senior Producer for Robert Chang Productions in New York City and worked with PepsiCo, Pizza Hut, The Platinum Guild and other clients on video news releases and corporate communications. Dana's documentary film, Nobody’s Perfect, about the discovery of the genetic mutation that causes Dilated Cardiomyopathy in her family, debuted at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck, NY in October 2016. It was presented in 11 states at colleges, biotech firms and film festivals. She is on the board of directors and treasurer of Upstate Women in Film & Television.

upwift.org


(published in 2021)

photo of Dana courtesy: Dean Goldberg