up there

How “Up There” Came to Be

A conversation with Zoe Kanters, Michael Blaustein & Daniel Weingarten

Michael: For as long as we can remember, we have always wanted to create. From making home movies about magic vampires in 7th grade to putting on kid plays in front of the family on Thanksgiving to performing scenes from Ace Ventura and recording it on a TalkBoy FX and playing it over the PA system at school during a fire drill that you caused. 

Everyone did that, right? 

Zoe: Uh-huh...

*Zoe slides away from Michael*

Daniel: Yeah, for sure... all that minus the fire drill and swap out Ace Ventura for I Love Lucy. 

Michael: Point being, we all ended up living in Los Angeles because of this life long dream of creating art.  We wanted to create art that inspired people, that moved people… and then life happened. 

Daniel: We had to get side jobs or focus on other creative aspirations to you know… pay for rent... and food... and overpriced cocktails that we don’t really need. 

Zoe: One day it all came to a head when I was opening up at the restaurant I had been working at. Naturally, that feeling of unfulfillment was weighing heavy. After my shift, I got on the phone with my mom, as I did, to vent out my frustrations. And that’s when she told me rather casually, “Why don’t you just quit your job, come home [to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan] and make a movie.” 

Daniel: She suggested we make a movie the same way she would suggest we go on a camping trip. 

Michael: Which in a way it kind of ended up being. All about survival and endurance.  

Zoe: And I thought about it, texted Daniel saying “Wanna quit our jobs, go back home and make a movie?” He texted me back a minute later, “Yup.”

Daniel: I had nothing better going on. 

Michael: That makes three of us. 

Zoe: And most importantly, I knew the story I wanted to tell. I knew that we could do it on a low budget back home. And I knew the people that I wanted to surround myself with in order to bring that story to light. 

Daniel: So, at that point, we started laying the foundation to make a film. After writing the script, we scraped together a small budget, assembled a tiny crew, and a few months later we were in the U.P. making a film. And did we know what we were doing?

Michael: Nope. 

Zoe: Not a damn clue. 

Daniel: But we had a story we were passionate to tell, a team filled with will and a community that opened their doors to us. 

Zoe: And that’s how the Up There journey started. A little push from mom and a confident three letter word response.
Michael: This film came about how most life changing experiences happen… in an instant. 

Zoe: We had made so many sacrifices in order to get to this point. To be in LA. To be a part of the struggle. And now it was time to make a ton more in order to make this life long dream a reality.

Daniel: And that’s exactly what we did. What followed was a journey we would never forget that ended with the movie we’re so excited to share with the world!

Your Story is Worth Telling by Zoe Kanters

“I’m not interesting enough.” 

“Who cares?” 

“What’s the point?” 

“I don’t know where to start.” 

These and a million other negative thoughts went through my head before I finally quieted my mind and admitted that I wanted to write. As a struggling artist, we usually have to wait around and wait for our next gig… which often can feel like a lifetime. I had been told over and over to write in the meantime. I made excuse after excuse as to why that wasn’t a good idea. But it really just came down to fear. Fear that I wouldn’t be good at it. Fear that I had nothing of importance to say. Fear that no one would listen. But most of all, fear of failure. 

My whole life I have feared the idea of falling flat on my face. As a result, I tended to only do things that I knew for sure I was good at. I stayed in my lane. The thing is, when you do that, there’s little room for growth.

Sure, you can get better at the things you’re already good at, but is that really helping you evolve as a person or an artist? No.

So I gave myself permission to do the thing I was scared of the most… fail. 

Even though I told myself, “It’s okay if it’s not perfect,” I struggled with it. I would obsess over a scene until I nailed it (which looking back now, I definitely hadn’t), and couldn’t move on until I did. I was getting in my own way again. I just needed to take a deep breath and get something on the page. 

We are all individuals. Each of us with our own set of experiences that have both differences and parallels. So why didn’t I feel like my version of a story is interesting enough? No one had ever said that to me. It was something that I had decided. I created that reality. When the truth is, I have experienced many things in my life that are both unique and universal.

So when presented with the opportunity to write a feature, I immediately knew what I wanted to write about.

It took me 25 years to admit that I was capable of writing and to allow myself to tell that story. It took more guts and vulnerability than I had even imagined. But let me tell you, it was worth it. I began to find validation and strength each time I wrote. It causes you to really examine who you are, how you think, why you make certain decisions, and dissect and understand those who do the opposite.

I think writing has helped me not only have a better understanding of myself, but has also given me a new sense of confidence. There was no hiding who I was or what I thought on the page. It was written in black and white. I might as well live my life with the same transparency and vulnerability.

So, if you’re thinking of writing, or telling your story… just go for it. Think about those moments in your life when your path shifted. Those moments that made you who you are. That subject or human interaction that you’ve obsessed over for the past year. Think about it and put it on paper. Take away your fear and doubt, and I guarantee you’ll find something there.

Now, it takes research, analyzing scripts, classes, and a stroke of luck for you to be good (something I don’t claim to be yet). But at least I’m on my way. 

You can follow Zoe Kanters on Instagram @zoebkanters.