Daniel Poliner ’97

I studied everything at Wesleyan but film. I triple majored in history, government and theater. I think what's amazing to me now about my experience at Wes is that every avenue was open. That really changed me in profound ways. As a frosh, when I wanted to take a seminar intended for seniors, Policymaking by Litigation, I spoke with Professor Barbara Craig about how exciting the class sounded and she invited me to join it. It was that simple. 

When I began to develop a passion for theater during my junior year, I was able to not only take classes in the theater department but add the major as well. I was thrown right into the fire. Very rough plays I'd written were workshopped and I could see right away what wasn't working. It was exhilarating. I slowly began to understand the basics of storytelling. I loved how student-driven the theater department was. Everyone took basic production and was expected to crew on several shows. Collaboration was constant. It was the best training I could have had for the world of independent film, where every project relies on the community the filmmakers create.

All this is to say that I started at Wesleyan as someone fairly certain of who I was and where I was headed. I think I was pretty certain that I understood how the world worked. And my time at Wes opened my eyes to so many different perspectives. I learned how to ask questions and begin to understand the choices other people were making. Everyone there was trying on several hats and so I felt no shame in doing the same. Having friends and a community that encourage you to change and grow is such a blessing! 

I tried to put all of those lessons into my first feature film, Jack, Jules, Esther & Me, which was just released by FilmBuff. It's a story about four high school friends in New York during their last weekend before starting college. Two are well-to-do and two are poor. It's a comedy and a romance, but it's also a story about the different futures they have ahead of them and the common bonds that join them. Most importantly, I tried to show the characters growing because of their friendships. I like to think of it as a Wesleyan-kind-of-movie, and by that I mean I hope that people will find it funny, engaging and full of heart.

[Daniel Poliner's film Jack, Jules, Esther & Me is available on iTunes, Amazon, cable on demand and many other platforms. You can visit his website to watch the trailer and for more information.]