30 Under 30: Drew Tobia, Filmmaker

Photo by Nicolas Maloof
Photo by Nicolas Maloof

This week marks the release of our annual 30 Under 30 issue, and because each of these individuals is so interesting, we thought we’d further highlight them by running some brief interviews with them.

Name: Drew Tobia
Age: 29

Neighborhood: Bushwick
Occupation: Filmmaker

Who would be your choice for a 30 Under 30?
ME! I deserve this more than anyone I know, and I refuse to give my loser friends a hand up. Except for my producer Rachel Wolther, who has been producing critically acclaimed no-budget indies and shorts at a non-stop pace all while working her day job producing podcasts for public radio. She’s a beast and I love her.

Who are your role models in your industry?
I feel like I’m in a fairly lucky position because all of the people I look up to now are people I know. As a little kid, I was absolutely worshipping John Waters, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Craven (who died before he could get around to returning my childhood fan letters. WES!!!!! SENDING ALL MY LOVE TO THE BEYOND!!!). Now as I’m getting older and I see how the film world is changing, the people I most look up to are the people who are scrapping by to get smaller, out-there movies made,movies that aren’t safe, who are able to get those films shown around the world, and usually able to get a decent critical reception. I’m talking about people like Nathan Silver, Britni West (who I was so happy to hear is also in this issue! She made one of the best movies of the year and not enough people are talking about it!), zach clark, joel potrykus. I feel a great camaraderie and gentle competition with these people that gets me excited about the future.

What was a turning point for you, when you realized you could make a career out of something you loved to do?
I think like a lot of kids, I was always making stories, and I had very elaborate soap operas mapped out for all my stuffed animals that I would play with after sneaking the tiny little five inch black and white TV into my room to watch Melrose Place under the covers without my parents finding out. My brother and sister and I were always making videos, like when I played the goth kid that strangles the bubbly talk show host trying to give me a make-over, or the revenge fantasy we made about our orthodontist. That morphed into something I’d do with friends, and before long, we were thinking about where to put the camera, or getting editing software and figuring out how to use music and sound. Then I went to film school where the projects got more involved and then I had the opportunity to make my first feature. I’m not sure there was ever a turning point, it was always just doing things I liked to do and being lucky enough to be surrounded by creative and fun people my whole life.

What’s some advice you’d have for people looking to get a foothold in your industry?
I mean forget about finding a foothold in your industry, the second you’re looking for a way in or doing anything that seems contrived, the people that matter can smell it. Surround yourself with people you genuinely love that push you to do things you genuinely love.

Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for young people to build a career?
It’s definitely gotten more expensive and is very different from when I first moved here, but to live in a city where every day I can go to a movie theater and see prints of some of the best movies ever made, then afterwards go to one of the best restaurants in the world, all the while hanging out with some of the most exciting and interesting people I can imagine that are so passionate about what they do otherwise why would they live here? You find the things that keep you interested, and I’m still finding things that make me happy to be here, so why leave?

Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
No, never seriously, because I never realized I was on a path to a career, I guess.

What’s felt like your biggest professional accomplishment?
I got to make a feature. I traveled around the world with it. I danced down a red carpet and convinced a bunch of teenagers in Korea that I was very famous. My mom got to read a positive review in the New York times. Girls in Argentina like my Instagram posts and are affected by this thing that didn’t exist before my friends and I made it. Does this sound like I’m bragging?

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Probably a little fatter, definitely a little balder (unless I become unexpectedly rich and can afford good cosmetic surgery), but hopefully in between gaining all that weight and losing all that hair, I’ll have made at
least three good movies and one bad one.



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