By Gina Malone
Robin Liner may be a latecomer to filmmaking, but she has been honing her creative talents as a writer, songwriter, recording artist and director for decades. When she began writing screenplays for feature films about ten years ago, she hired a script doctor in New York, who then encouraged her to enter a competition. Out of thousands of entries, she made the semi-finals with her script, which convinced her that screenplay writing might be her strong suit. “Then to have my son, who had worked with some great filmmakers, want to create projects with me— well, I knew it was time to throw off self-doubt and throw myself headlong into this,” she says.
She and her son Stefan began East Stream Studios about five years ago while he was working as a producer for a local commercial production company. Their first project was the debut in 2016 of the dramedy When Fact Met Fiction (WFMF), a web series now in its second season. “WFMF isn’t only special because it celebrates southern life but also because it celebrates women,” Liner says. The story revolves around the office staff at Southern Sunset, a fictional southern lifestyle magazine. “One of my favorite episodes shows Poppy Stanhope, the magazine’s celebrity chef, grappling with growing older and being told that that changes her value in the entertainment industry. It is a catalyst for her to discover the blessing of true friends.”
Liner worked as head writer during the first season of the series. “This season, Stefan pushed me to step into directing,” she says. “So this is my debut as a film director. The goal in Season 1 was to simply finish something that maintained strong story lines over a span of several episodes. In Season 2, the goal was to improve our production quality in every aspect from concept to writing to production so as to prove to the industry that we can start well. I believe we did that and more.”
Plans now include expanding and growing into creating television series and feature films. “The movie industry has seen the value of shooting projects in this area for decades,” Liner says. “We just believe it’s time for a more permanent and sustainable solution for the talent that is already living here.”
There are as many women as men making WFMF happen, a fact that pleases her and Stefan, Liner says. “This wasn’t because we were intentionally seeking to balance the scales, but because there are some amazingly talented women and men in this area who work in film, and we were lucky enough to get to work with a good number of both.” Everyone who worked on the show also either lives now or has lived previously in WNC.
Although a California native, Liner married a Haywood County native and has lived in Weaverville for 17 years. “I love the Southern Appalachian area,” she says, especially “the emphasis southern culture places on family, heritage and community. Southern people are ‘all in everybody’s business,’ but they will also bring you a casserole when you’ve had a baby. They are people who care.”
Liner has lots of advice for women entering the field of filmmaking, including knowing every aspect of the business, letting other people challenge story ideas until they are ready and being relentless. “Don’t be afraid of making mistakes,” she says. “Making mistakes is better than making nothing. And if you are starting this journey a little later in the game, you really can teach an old dog new tricks. Finally, surround yourself with people who believe in you.”
To learn more and to subscribe to the Liner House YouTube channel, visit LinerHouse.com.