Local Filmmaker Makes Good, or Not

“The only thing more expensive than a film production is a funeral.”
Sometimes a quote just begs for a story. After reading the above line, I had to follow my nose to its author, Christian Nilsson, a filmmaker who lives in Riverhead.

Nilsson, a Westhampton Beach High School grad who has a degree in Film/Video Production, has spent quite a bit of time in his young career taking risks and scrambling for funding to make his films. This time, he’s trying a new way, an online funding platform for creative projects all over the world called Kickstarter. Every month, tens of thousands of people pledge millions of dollars to projects in music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields. “This is not about investment or lending. Project creators keep 100% ownership and control over their work,” according to Kickstarter’s website. [expand]

The one caveat: “All-or-nothing funding. On Kickstarter, a project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands. Why? It protects everyone involved. Creators aren’t expected to develop their project without necessary funds, and it allows anyone to test concepts without risk.”
So what about that funeral? It turns out Nilsson’s next film is called Wake. Nilsson has already cast Dan Lauria in the lead role. Fans will remember the actor from his turn as the father in “Wonder Years” and in the lead role on Broadway in Lombardi.

“It’s common knowledge that there is only one thing funnier than a wake. And that’s the wake of your girlfriend who killed herself after a night of you ignoring her phone calls,” Nilsson said. “Coincidentally, that is exactly what my dark comedy is all about.”

Nilsson is no stranger to dark comedies that explore death and suicide, “but none of them have really gone as far as Wake. It is one of the darkest comedies I’ve written,” he said. “Death and loss are a part of life. In the past few years I’ve had to experience the deaths of several very special family members and two good friends. The way I dealt with it was with humor. To be honest, I came up with the concept for this film at a wake. I was laughing so hard I had to pretend I was crying so that I could exit the room. Wakes force you to look at our own mortality and loss square in the face…and laugh.”

His film Looney in a Strait Jacket, a selection in the 2009 Cannes Short Film Corner in France and a finalist on Reel 13’s short film contest, is about a patient from an insane asylum who is being chased by a cop even crazier than the patient.

Winner of Best Film in the Five Towns Film Festival, Nilsson’s The Adventures of Demitri Jones is about a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome who has an obsession with heroes from literature. A quest through the Hamptons to save a local bookstore turns him into one of the very heroes he dreams about.
I asked the young director about filmmakers he has been inspired by. “I am most inspired by writer/directors. My favorites are Martin McDonaghNoah Baumbach and Wes Anderson. They all have a way of presenting everyday situations in a very original and comedic way. Darjeeling Limited, In Bruges and The Squid And The Whale are among my favorites. As far as classic films, I love Frank Capra and Billy Wilder. They both had this ability to let the scene play out and have the audience feel like they were in the room with them. I try to infuse those methods of framing with other more modern techniques to tell my stories.”

Rodgrigo Gudino, the president of Rue Morgue Magazine had this to say about Wake: “I never realized suicide could be so much fun!”

Sean Bridgers, who worked on the HBO series “Deadwood,” compared Nilsson to writers such as George Carlin and Mark Twain mixed in with a bit of Monty Python. He “understands that comedy comes from pain. Humans are ridiculous creatures and Christian’s work demonstrates a unique understanding of this fact. I’m looking forward to whatever his sardonic soul comes up with next.”
According to Nilsson, “Everything is starting to fall into place for this short. All we need is funding. The only thing more expensive than a film production is a funeral… and we’re attempting to merge the two. Every dollar helps.” The film will be shot on 35 millimeter “somewhere on Long Island in early July. We’re looking for some name talent right now. Andrew Van Den Houten, the producer of the controversial film The Woman at this past year’s Sundance, has come aboard as producer.”

To check out more information about Nilsson’s film or to donate to the cause, go to kickstarter.com/projects/2033417286/wake-a-short-dark-comedy. [/expand]

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