Oscar-nominated filmmaker Aaron Weisblatt lives in Woodstock, and his latest film — a feature-length documentary about fly fishing culture in the Catskills — is set to premiere at the 2019 Woodstock Film Festival.
Throughout his 25-year career in film and television, he’s worked as an editor, sound editor, cameraman, producer, director, and writer. His 1986 documentary short film Sam, about an activist farmer from Walden, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
He’s worked with such names as Dustin Hoffman, Sam Rockwell, Joel Schumacher, and Errol Morris; his career has included work on everything from concert movies to commercials to critically-acclaimed documentary miniseries.
Originally from Orange County, Aaron did stints in New York City and Los Angeles before settling in Woodstock. His recent work has a distinctly Hudson Valley bent, both in production and subject. He works with other local filmmakers, and his latest project is about the fly fishing subculture centered around the Catskills.
Hello! Who are you? Tell us about yourself. What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing?
My name is Aaron Weisblatt and I am a filmmaker. I have worked in the industry since graduating film school at NYU in the mid eighties. I lived in NYC for 8 years and moved to Los Angeles where I lived for 19 years. I have worked on hundreds of features and television episodes as a sound editor and as a writer/director/producer on documentaries and short films.. I love being creative, writing and directing films and television series. I also love to fly my Cessna and became a private pilot 2 years ago. I am currently promoting my new film, Land of Little Rivers which is out to film festivals now. It will premiere this October at the Woodstock Film Festival.
What’s it like to be nominated for an Academy Award?
Being nominated was a complete surprise. My film Sam is a short documentary and although it was a Student Academy Merit award winner, I never expected it to be nominated. My friend Richard Phelps, whose father was the subject of the film quipped, “It’s a romantic film about a romantic by a romantic.” I alway liked his quote!
How did you discover the Hudson Valley?
I was born in Walden which at that time was sort of like Mayberry RFD. We rode our bikes everywhere. It was safe. Friends would drop by without calling beforehand and were always welcome at my home. In the 70’s I would often visit Minnewaska and fell in love with the Shawangunks. I always described Walden as a village surrounded by cornfields. Unfortunately many of those farms are now housing. Growing up here got deep into my bones and after living in Los Angeles for 19 years, I returned.
Walk us through a typical day.
My days are always different. Now that the film is finished, I make coffee in the mornings for myself and my wife Blair, discuss our day, take our dog for a walk, return to write, and do what I can to promote my film. I’m currently writing a 10-part television series. I frequently get hired to direct or shoot corporate films. Later in the day I work out, have dinner with Blair, and decide which television series we are going to watch! I am very content and grateful for the life I have.
Where are your favorite places to spend time in the Hudson Valley?
I love my home town of Woodstock, where I hang out the most. I love the local restaurants in town like Silvia, and The Pines, which is in Mt. Tremper. I love sitting outside there. It’s quiet, and the people are lovely who work there. I once lived in Uptown Kingston so I enjoy returning there for coffee or a meal.
Do you have a go-to coffee or beer order, and from where?
My wife and I are coffee snobs so we usually buy coffee at Village Coffee in Kingston which sells Partners coffee beans. They also sell Jon’s Bread which is the most incredible bread made locally by Jon, who we first met when he started baking bread in the Dutch Church kitchen in Kingston. His bread just blows your mind. I also like to go to The Beverly in Kingston, where I filmed a short film called Rooster and the Queen. Trippy the owner is a great guy.
Where do you do your best creative work?
I do my best creative work in the shower and on a train! But mostly sitting at my laptop wherever that may be, which is usually at home in my office or on the patio.
How has the Hudson Valley influenced or impacted your creative work?
There are so many opportunities here in the Hudson Valley. I’ve been the most creative in my life here. I think it’s partly where I live – in Woodstock where you can throw a stone and hit an artist – and because it’s peaceful, it allows you to think in the quiet natural settings. I’ve created reality shows, documentaries and short films since moving here. And for a 4 year period I had the opportunity to work at Omega as a video producer and later director of the department. Two years ago I wrote and directed a short film called Rooster and the Queen and created a wonderful team of film professionals, all of whom live in the Hudson Valley, and who I have used on subsequent productions.
What’s surprised you most about living and working in the Hudson Valley?
What has surprised me most is how many creative people live here. So many writers and filmmakers are making the Hudson Valley their home. And when I work in NYC, it’s easy to get there.
Anything you want to plug or promote?
I’d like to promote my new documentary called Land of Little Rivers, which is about the subculture and passion for fly fishing which will be screened at the Woodstock Film Festival on October 5th and 6th. There is a screening in Bearsville and one in Rosendale. The film is about fishing in the East Coast Mecca of fly fishing — the Catskills.This interview has been edited for length and clarity.