Five Questions With... Donal Lardner Ward, Writer/Director of WE ONLY KNOW SO MUCH

WE ONLY KNOW SO MUCH reveals the emotional life of four generations of the Copeland family. As Jean (Jeanne Tripplehorn) reckons with the consequences of an affair, her husband, Gordon (Damian Young), worries he’s falling prey to the same dementia that has afflicted his father, Theodore (Loudon Wainwright III). Their children, Otis (Noah Schnapp, Stranger Things) and Priscilla (Taylor Rose), navigate the pitfalls of first love and young adulthood, while the family’s 95-year-old matriarch, Vivian (Virginia Robinson), struggles to maintain control of the household in this comedic drama.

Read more with writer/director Donal Lardner Ward below, and join us for the WORLD PREMIERE of WE ONLY KNOW SO MUCH on Thurs, June 21 at 3:30pm and Sat, June 23 at 4:15pm!

DONAL LARDNER WARD

DONAL LARDNER WARD

NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for the film? 

DONAL: I was looking for something that could be shot on a micro budget, in a contained way, when I read my old friend, Betsy Crane’s, debut novel about a multigenerational family spinning out in different directions, in search of something they feared they’d lost or might never gain. I feel that sort of self-centered fear is endemic and destructive in contemporary life and I wanted to explore it. I also knew an increasing number of people who were dealing with taking care of elderly, sick parents and young children at the same time. What they call the “sandwich generation.” It’s a growing phenomenon, with people living longer and having kids later, and I hadn’t seen it addressed very much. By the time we finished the film I was living it. 

NFF:  The film depicts many different permutations and variations of love. What's your definition?

DONAL: Love is the particle that charges the atom of humanity, the connective tissue that gives our species dimension, shape, insulation against the chill of the great void. Without love, in all its forms, we drift apart, dissipate into nothingness.

NFF: How did Jeanne Tripplehorn become attached to the project? Had you worked together before?

DONAL: I met Jeanne through our mutual friend, Ben Stiller, many years ago. When I showed him the script for the film he thought she might be right for it. That was an understatement. 

NFF: Did you face any particular challenges or surprises while filming?

DONAL: We faced the age-old, dual challenge of independent filmmaking: lack of funds and time. There were a couple of things we missed in our lightning fast, 15-day schedule. However, by the time we organized reshoots at the beautiful old house that was our primary location, it had been sold and leveled, reduced to a pile of brown dirt. We had to recreate a section of the exterior on a shoestring. The enthusiastic commitment of our amazing cast and crew made the impossible possible. 

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

DONAL: I’m excited about screening at Nantucket because it’s a literary festival, a place where audiences appreciate thoughtful storytelling. The film is based on a novel, and books, and the concept of story, are central elements. I hope people come away from the film with a refreshed appreciation for the people and love they have in their lives. 

Five Questions With... Risa Mickenberg, Alysia Reiner, and David Alan Basche, Writer and Actor/Producers of EGG

In EGG, two former art school friends, Karen (Christina Hendricks, Mad Men) and Tina (Alysia Reiner, Orange Is the New Black) reunite in Marianna Palka’s satirical chamber piece exploring motherhood, personal freedom, and social expectations. Karen, eight months pregnant and married to a successful developer, took a different life path than Tina, a conceptual artist recently engaged to her partner. Emotions run high when Tina reveals her latest project—surrogate parenthood as performance art—and things get even more tense when her surrogate arrives.

We had a group conversation with some of the creatives on EGG - Risa Mickenberg (screenwriter), Alysia Reiner, and David Alan Basche (Actor/Producers) all came together to share their thoughts on the film. Read more with them below, and see it on Friday 6/22 at 8:45pm and/or Sun 6/24 at 5:45pm!

NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for the film, and for Alysia and David, why you wanted to get involved?

RISA: Writing this film was a way to air things that had not been said about some of our deepest thoughts and instincts. It was a way to take risks.

ALYSIA: David and I did a workshop of the script years ago, and we never stopped thinking about it. To quote a recent review in The Hollywood Reporter, the film “explodes cliches about motherhood, marriage and career...laced with unblinkered truths about the sometimes ruthless, sometimes warm-hearted ways that women see themselves and each other.” 

DAVID: We bumped into Risa again and realized it had never been made, and we felt compelled to be the ones to tell the story on film.

NFF: Alysia and David - you're married in real life, but although you share a lot of screentime, you play spouses of other people in this movie. Was that a decision you came to as a collective production team?

ALYSIA: We were cast that way in the original reading and loved these roles so much we had no desire to change it!

DAVID: Agreed, but strangely enough, now that we’ve made the film, there’s a part of me that would love to play “Wayne” because that’s such a great role, too!

NFF: Is it easier or harder to work with actors/partners you love and know well?

ALYSIA: Easier! We've worked together a lot before. In our early 20's when we did our first play together we fought like cats and dogs, but now we have good healthy boundaries - something neither of our characters in the film have learned!

DAVID: We were both producing and playing leads in the film, so with that amount of work and responsibility, we really needed that extra sense of safety and comfort that comes with a trusted creative partner.

NFF: Did working on the movie change your view of parenthood in any way?

ALYSIA: When I first read this script I was not yet a mother, and not 100% sure I was ready to be one.  Exploring the character at that time made me go deep about IF and WHY I truly wanted to be a parent, and what it means to be a parent and an artist at the same time. Now, making the film as a mother, as both producer and actress I was deeply devoted to exploring and advocating choice for women, and love and acceptance for all choices in parenthood - including choosing not to have children. I also feel the film is so much about friendship and loving and supporting your friends, even when their choices are different from yours.

DAVID: Similarly, I wasn’t a dad when I first read EGG, but it moved me nonetheless. Working on the film now that I am a father opened my eyes to the different things people go through and the ways families can be constructed. In the end, it's all about allowing other people the integrity of their own choices.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

RISA: This film is like Nantucket’s relationship to the rest of the world. Such beauty on the surface, with such dangerous shifting sands below, so daring to navigate. The film is powered by a leviathan of a theme with indelible characters who are not afraid to go way out into unexplored and dangerous waters. I hope people appreciate the daring of thought. I hope they feel something has been let loose in their conversation and that it leaves them feeling raw and fired up and powerful and alive.

ALYSIA: The first time I was at the Nantucket Film Festival, I felt like I was just dreaming of really being in this business. I saw so many films, loved them all, and met Paul Giamatti at the screening of AMERICAN SPLENDOR which I thought was outrageously brilliant. I made a wish to someday work with Paul and someday be at the festival with a film I was in. Well, a year later I got to act with Paul in SIDEWAYS, and here we are at the festival with EGG! Both dreams came true!!! So yes, I am beyond thrilled to share EGG with the NFF audiences.

As for take away, of course I want to entertain people, for them to laugh at themselves and the moments of recognition in the film. But more deeply, I hope it makes people explore their own complexities and contradictions. I love when people say they can’t stop thinking and talking about the film weeks later. Another review I loved said it all: “This film is wonderful for the way it takes you into yourself and exposes you to your own contradictions and emotions…” To me that's what great entertainment is about, it makes me laugh, think and feel.

DAVID: What she said!

Five Questions With... Charlene deGuzman, Actor/Writer of UNLOVABLE

After a night of alcohol-fueled sex with strangers, actress Joy (Charlene deGuzman) hits rock bottom and attends a 12-step meeting for sex and love addiction. There, she convinces Maddie (Melissa Leo) to be her sponsor. Maddie allows Joy to recover in her grandmother’s guesthouse, but sets strict rules, including forbidding her from interacting with Jim (John Hawkes), Maddie’s estranged brother and their grandmother’s caregiver. But Joy and Jim each end up being just what the other needs to heal in this fresh dramatic comedy.

We spoke with Charlene deGuzman, who both wrote and stars in UNLOVABLE. Read more with Charlene below, and catch the film on Wed, June 20 at 8:15pm and/or Thurs, June 21 at 8:45pm!

CHARLENE DEGUZMAN

CHARLENE DEGUZMAN

NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for the film?

Charlene: UNLOVABLE is inspired by my personal experiences with sex and love addiction and recovery. I wanted to bring awareness to sex and love addiction, help get rid of the stigma, show a female perspective, and help people feel understood and less alone. And I wanted to do it in a way that uses light, hope, comedy, and music.

NFF: Have you acted in pieces that you've written before? Do you prefer to be in your own work?

Charlene: This is my first feature film I've ever written or acted in, but I've acted in other pieces I've written before - I wrote a few shorts that went viral on YouTube, "I Forgot My Phone" was the one that got the most international attention! It changed my life. I love performing my own work, it's how I can be the most ME. There is no one better to express your own voice than yourself. Plus, I like to write things from my own personal experiences, and the only one who has lived my life - is me.

NFF: How did Mark and Jay Duplass become involved with the film? Had you worked with Mark before as a writer?

Charlene: In 2013, Mark Duplass started following me on Twitter. I sent him a DM telling him that he was my hero. He DM'd me back and told me that if there was anything I had written that I wanted to show him, to send it over. (Tweeting sad and funny thoughts and ramblings is what originally got me a following.) I didn't have anything at the time, but a year later, I started recovery for sex and love addiction. While in my first months of withdrawal, I was in physical and emotional pain, and the thing that kept me going was exploring my creativity. I ended up writing a TV pilot in five days inspired by my own experiences. I sent it to Mark, and the next day he wrote back - he wanted to meet, and he wanted to make a movie!

NFF: Did you face any particular challenges or surprises while filming?

Charlene: So many! I had major Imposter Syndrome - every day I couldn't believe that it was happening, and I kept thinking I had tricked everyone into being there. It was hard to act in scenes with John Hawkes or Melissa Leo and not think, "How am I in a movie with my favorite actor John Hawkes?" or "Oh my God this is Academy Award-winner Melissa Leo." As you could imagine, the pressure to not completely make a fool out of myself in front of these pros was high. I ended up learning so much from the both of them. It was also intense to act out scenes that would have happened in my past. I got triggered a few times. But every time I took a deep breath and remembered why I wanted to make this film, how I wanted to help people, it kept me going.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

Charlene:This is my first time in Nantucket so I'm excited to be there! I hope I inspire others to tell their story. We all have a story to tell, we may even feel ashamed of it at first, or embarrassed, or scared it won't be good enough. But the truth is, telling your story gets rid of the shame. Because you will find that your story is a huge gift you have, because it can help so many people. Humans crave the truth, and they don't even realize it, until they experience it. I hope my movie and story will inspire others to share their truths too!

#NFF18 Showtime's Tony Cox Feature Screenplay, Episodic Screenplay (60 Min), and Shorts Writer FINALISTS Announced!

Read more below about our finalists, their scripts, and the prizes up for grabs!

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Feature Screenplay Finalists:

CAMBRIDGE by Henry Hayes and Zolan Kanno-Youngs
The life of Boston Bomber, ‎Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, as seen by friends who knew him before the event, and who struggle to rationalize their friend with the killer he became.

THE NOVICE by Lauren Hadaway
An overachieving novice rower becomes obsessed with making the Varsity team, to the point that she starts to lose touch with reality.

QUEENS by Max Sokoloff
Sperm donor, Ben, meets his crossing-dressing middleschooler son for the first time and has to decide if he wants to be a dad. 

Finalists Receive:

  • VIP week-­long Pass to Nantucket Film Festival;
  • Attend Showtime ­sponsored reception during the Film Festival;
  • Participation in Mentors Brunch with prominent screenwriter during the Film Festival;
  • Name inclusion on Festival catalogue and website as Competition winner;
  • Print and media coverage.

And One Winner, to be announced during the Festival, will receive:

  • $5,000 cash prize from the Nantucket Film Festival;
  • All expenses paid, month­-long stay at exclusive Screenwriters Colony on Nantucket in October;
  • VIP week-­long Pass to Nantucket Film Festival;
  • Round­ trip from New York to Nantucket to attend Film Festival;
  • Accommodations in Nantucket during the Film Festival;
  • A Showtime­ sponsored reception during the Film Festival in the winner’s honor;
  • Participation in Mentors Brunch with prominent screenwriter during the Film Festival;
  • Name inclusion on Festival catalogue and website as Competition winner;
  • Print and media coverage.
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Episodic 60 Min Pilot Screenplay Finalists:

BETWEEN THE EYES by Gregory Levy
America's first female detective is hired by Abraham Lincoln to ensure his safety in traveling to Washington, DC for his inauguration.  

DETESTABLE by Brandon Morrissey
The closeted son of a pastor arrives to a Christian university where his understanding of the world is challenged by his peers.

LEGACY by Kellen Hertz
An elite Connecticut University finds a doll reenactment of a heinous crime (which was committed 20 years ago) at the original site, The Founders Tomb, and it seems an important legacy student is  somehow connected with the current crime.

One Winner Receives:

  • $1,000 cash prize from the Nantucket Film Festival;
  • Private one-on-one consultation with Showtime executive;
  • VIP week-­long Pass to Nantucket Film Festival;
  • Attend Showtime ­sponsored reception during the Film Festival;
  • Participation in Mentors Brunch with prominent screenwriter during the Film Festival;
  • Name inclusion on Festival catalogue and website as Competition winner;
  • Print and media coverage.
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Short Screenplay Finalists:

ASSISTS, GOALS, SAVES by Kelly Pike
Rising field hockey star Emmie starts to change after a visit to the team doctor.

CINDERELLA WAR by Margaret Kane-Rowe
A quaint family in Ireland receives a hostile visit from the Irish Republican Army. 

THE INVISIBLE MONSTER by Gordon LePage
A boy at the beach, playing pretend from his favorite TV show, finds a monster.
 

One Winner Receives:

  • $500 cash prize from the Nantucket Film Festival;
  • VIP week-­long Pass to Nantucket Film Festival;
  • Attend Showtime ­sponsored reception during the Film Festival;
  • Participation in Mentors Brunch with prominent screenwriter during the Film Festival;
  • Name inclusion on Festival catalogue and website as Competition winner;
  • Print and media coverage.

#NFF18 Showtime's Tony Cox Feature Screenplay, Episodic Screenplay (60 Min), and Shorts Writer Semifinalists Announced!

Congratulations to all - keep an eye out for finalists, to be announced soon!

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Feature Screenplay Semifinalists:

CAMBRIDGE by Henry Hayes and Zolan Kanno-Youngs
DEALING WITH DAD by Tom Huang
FELL SWOOP by Clay Prietsch
THE HEART OF A TIGER by SreyRam Kuy
THE NOVICE by Lauren Hadaway
OIL AND WATER by Alfred Thomas Catalfo and Morgan Webster Dudley
OSCAR AND ELLA by Lindsay McRae
QUEENS by Max Sokoloff
SAINTS AND POETS by Richard LaPorta
YOUTH DECAY by Brandon Hall

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Episodic 60 Min Pilot Screenplay Semifinalists:

BETWEEN THE EYES by Gregory Levy
DETESTABLE by Brandon Morrissey
KYLA'S WAR by Hank Isaac
LEGACY by Kellen Hertz
OH, MIGHTY RIVER by Dan Ritter
SUNDOWN by Melody Cooper

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Short Screenplay Semifinalists:

ASSISTS, GOALS, SAVES by Kelly Pike
CINDERELLA WAR by Margaret Kane-Rowe
EMPATHIC by John Burdeaux
THE INVISIBLE MONSTER by Gordon LePage
SAL by Zoe Mancuso

Finalists Announced for Showtime's Tony Cox Episodic Screenplay (30 Min) Competition

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Congratulations to our three finalists in Showtime's Tony Cox Episodic Screenplay (30 Minute) Competition:

ALL WE DO IS NGUYEN BY HUONG NGUYEN
An ambitious woman’s fast ride to the perfect life is interrupted when she moves back to her hometown and attempts to fix her hillbilly immigrant family.

FINALE BY GREG FUSCO
When the creator of the world’s most popular show tragically dies its clueless producers must juggle a disorderly cast, a rabid fan base, and an impending deadline to write the perfect three hour finale to a series they know nothing about.

GOING VIRAL BY JORDAN PICK
A half-hour, episodic comedy series about two knuckleheads failing to make their videos go viral.

The winner receives:

  • A $1,000 cash prize from the Nantucket Film Festival
  • An all-inclusive two-weeks-long writer's retreat on Nantucket in June with the Screenwriter's Colony and NFF
  • One-on-one consultation with a Showtime executive
  • A VIP week-long Festival Pass to all events
  • Participation in our Mentor Brunch during the Festival
  • A Showtime-sponsored reception during the Festival in the winners’ honor
  • A Custom leather bound copy of the script, courtesy of Showtime
  • Print and media coverage
  • Name inclusion on Festival program materials as a competition finalist and winner

Stay tuned for the announcement of our winner!

Semi-Finalists for Showtime's Tony Cox Episodic Screenplay (30 Min) Competition Announced

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It's that time again - congratulations to our ten Semi-Finalists of Showtime's Tony Cox Episodic Screenplay (30 Min) Competition! Stay tuned for the Finalists, to be announced soon!

ALL WE DO IS NGUYEN BY HUONG NGUYEN

ALL WE DO IS NGUYEN BY HUONG NGUYEN

COUPLED BY JANET SILVERMAN

COUPLED BY JANET SILVERMAN

DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK BY STEPHEN BROWN

DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK BY STEPHEN BROWN

FINALE BY GREG FUSCO 

FINALE BY GREG FUSCO 

THE FREEDOM NEWS NETWORK BY ERIC CYPHERS

THE FREEDOM NEWS NETWORK
BY ERIC CYPHERS

GOING VIRAL BY JORDAN PICK

GOING VIRAL BY JORDAN PICK

HYPE BY ADRIAN BRINKLEY

HYPE
BY ADRIAN BRINKLEY

THE LAB BY ALICIA LOMAS-GROSS

THE LAB BY ALICIA LOMAS-GROSS

PRODUCERS BY LES ZIG

PRODUCERS BY LES ZIG

THE YEARBOOK OF REVELATION BY PETER SHERER

THE YEARBOOK OF REVELATION
BY PETER SHERER

Five Questions With... Geremy Jasper, Writer/Director of PATTI CAKE$ and New Voices in Screenwriting Award Recipient

First-time writer/director Geremy Jasper—a musician and past music video director—showcases his music chops in this brash and bombastic story of unlikely MC Patti “Killa P” Dombrowski. In working-class “dirty Jersey,” Patti and her best friend and music partner, Hareesh, dream of escaping their dead-end jobs and pursuing their dreams of hip-hop superstardom. When they meet reclusive Goth newcomer Basterd, he provides the missing link to elevate their sound. Breakout talent Danielle Macdonald plays Patti with the magnetism and stage presence of a seasoned recording artist, matched by the prodigious talents of Bridget Everett as Patti’s disillusioned mother, who saw her own aspirations of stardom pass by long ago.

Geremy Jasper, who will also be recognized with the New Voices in Screenwriting Award at the Screenwriters Tribute on Friday, June 23, gave us a few minutes of his time to chat about PATTI CAKE$. Take a look below, and join us for the only screening on Saturday, June 24 at 2:45pm!

NFF: How did your background in music and music videos affect or influence your use of light and sound/music in the film?

Geremy: Hmmm. The film encompasses two worlds - an objective rough & raw Jersey reality and Patti’s subjective fantasy world. These two different worlds are lit differently and sound different. One is very natural, minimal lighting and “real” sounding while the other is bold, colorful and kaleidoscopic. My DP Fede Cesca and I were not shy in pushing more color and more smoke into a fantasy scenes. My music video background gave me a love for and vivid colors and surrealism but also a handle on how to capture musical performances that feel dynamic and visceral.  It’s magic catching a song on film. 

I wrote around 25 original songs for the film, so sound was a major focus in how things were shot, edited and mixed. There a many performances that needed to feel raw and authentic and at other times take over the film almost like score.

NFF: Can you talk a little about casting, and how you found the incredible Danielle Macdonald?

Geremy: The character of Patti Dombrowski is so specific physically, emotionally, and musically that it was going to take someone incredibly special and gifted to play her. Luckily my producer Noah remembered Dani from a small role she had in a film called The East. She looked IDENTICAL to the image of Patti I had in my brain so she joined me in Utah for the Sundance Director’s Lab even though she was Australian and had never rapped before in her life. She’s so brilliant and hard working it didn't faze me so we spent the next 2 years training her to rap while developing the character. Dani carries the film on her shoulders and I think she should win every award on the planet.  

NFF: Tell us a little about your inspiration for the film. Do you have a connection to New Jersey?

Geremy: I grew up a chubby blonde, hip hop loving kid from suburban Jersey who filled secret notebooks with endless rhymes. At 23 I was stuck living in my parent’s basement working crappy jobs while nursing an unbelievable hunger to move to NYC and be a musician. I was also raised around big, sarcastic Jersey women who were always called “The Boss” as in you wanted / needed something, “Go ask the Boss.” All this got mixed up into what would become the world of PATTI CAKE$. 

NFF: Are there directors (or musicians) whose style or body of work have influenced you as a filmmaker?

Geremy: Oh yes, they all seem to be named BOB: Bob Dylan, Bob Fosse, Bob Redford, and Bobby Digital (AKA The RZA from WuTang).

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and what do you hope Nantucket audiences take away?

Geremy: Growing up in Jersey my family used to spend summer vacation at a trailer park in the Poconos (no joke) and to me the idea of “Nantucket” seemed like a mythic East Coast paradise - as well as well as a wonderful word for limericks. This’ll be my first time on the island & I couldn't be more excited. My hope is that the audience will be transported into an exotic blue collar fantasia and will be dancing in the aisles. 

Five Questions With... Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein, Writers/Directors of THE STRANGE ONES

Young Sam (James Freedson-Jackson) and older, rugged Nick (Alex Pettyfer) are seemingly on an innocent, brotherly road trip into the woods. But the younger boy has disturbing nightmares that suggest all is not as it seems. Are they on the run, and from what? Is Nick the quiet boy’s protector, his captor, or something else entirely? For their feature debut, Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein have crafted an engrossing, atmospheric mystery.

We spoke with Christopher and Lauren about THE STRANGE ONES - read more below and catch a screening on Thursday, June 22 at 9:15 PM and/or Saturday, June 24 at 4:00 PM!

NFF: The film is deliberately vague. Do you prefer to let audiences draw their own conclusions, rather than provide explicit exposition?

Christopher & Lauren: Yes -  we tend to be more drawn to films that ask questions rather than give out answers; we think it's more fascinating to consider multiple dimensions and possibilities for what a film might be, and we hope our film has this sort of quality. Rather than being vague, we wanted the film to be quite precise in its mysteriousness, if that makes sense... everything the viewer sees and hears in the film is there for a reason and we hope that it adds up to a beguiling and satisfying experience for anyone who watches it, even if it takes different shapes for different people.

NFF: The atmosphere/setting is such a prevalent part of the film. Where did you shoot, and how did you decide on your location/s?

Christopher & Lauren: We shot in upstate New York, mostly in the Catskill region and Hudson Valley. The script was written with pretty specific locations in mind, and they all hold different meanings that relate the characters and their journey.  They are two people journeying away from civilization and into an unknown future, so the places they go naturally needed to mirror this in terms of being both beautiful and seductive in a way, but also treacherous and full of mystery.

NFF: How did you work together as co-directors? Were there pre-determined work or shots you divided up, or was it more in the moment decision-making?

Christopher & Lauren: When we co-direct we basically do everything together. We both direct solo as well, so we are both pretty opinionated and are always thinking of all aspects of job, so it never felt right to divide up tasks in any way. We prep and shotlist really extensively together, so we have a really unified vision for the whole thing going in and this in turn allows us to give each other the space on set to make decisions in the moment.

NFF: What surprised or challenged you the most while you were making the film?

Christopher & Lauren: The most challenging aspect of our film was probably making sure that each scene presented multiple dimensions, in addition to figuring out when to reveal pertinent information about the characters' past while still keeping the film in the present tense. We were surprised in the edit process that certain scenes we shot didn't fit into the natural progression and pace of the film we were making, and therefore these scenes ultimately had to be cut. Since our film is a mystery that is largely left for the audience to solve, we were very aware of how each scene would be interpreted in multiple ways when we were writing, shooting, and editing the film. Because of these challenges, it was a very ambitious first feature film for us.

NFF: Why are you excited to show the film in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences will take away?

Christopher & Lauren:Nantucket is a really special place and the festival is known to have excellent programming, so we're really excited to be included in that. We hope the audiences there take away a sense of intrigue and wonder with the film's story and our approach to it, and find it to be something they continue to think about even after the film ends.

Five Questions With... HOT SUMMER NIGHTS Writer/Director Elijah Bynum

Daniel (Timothée Chalamet, Miss Stevens, NFF 2016) has been sent to spend the summer of 1991 with his aunt on Cape Cod. He quickly falls in with the town rebel, Hunter (Alex Roe), and falls for the town beauty, McKayla (Maika Moore), who just happens to be Hunter’s sister and thus off-limits. As Daniel re-invents himself in surprising—and illegal—ways and a hurricane looms on the horizon, the stage is set for an unforgettable coming-of-age drama in writer/director Elijah Bynum’s assured feature directorial debut.

We spoke to Elijah about Imperative Entertainment’s  HOT SUMMER NIGHTS - read more below, and see the film on Thursday, June 22 at 6:30 PM and/or Friday, June 23 at 4:30 PM!

NFF: The film is based on a "mostly true story" - can you talk a little about your inspiration?

Elijah: It's based on two kids I knew in college. Daniel and Hunter are much different than the two kids I knew but the unlikely friendship or so called “odd couple” dynamic is the same. They started out selling weed around a dorm and then they were selling in two dorms, then 10 dorms, next the entire campus and the five other colleges in the area were getting weed from these two. As their success grew so did their paranoia and distrust for one another and you could see their friendship starting to come apart at the seams. Eventually it all came to an end in dramatic fashion and both kids dropped out of school and vanished. Nobody really knows where either of them are or what they're up to. Still gives me chills to think about.

NFF: This could be classified as a "coming of age" film - were you influenced or inspired by any coming of age films when you were working on it?

Elijah: Absolutely. The John Hughes movies of the 80s were certainly an influence. As were other classics such as The Sandlot and Stand By Me. The Last Picture Show was another film I found myself revisiting over and over again while making Hot Summer Nights. But the biggest influence was probably the book Virgin Suicides. It haunted me and has stayed with me in ways few other movies or books have. 

NFF: You have an impressive young cast. Tell us a little about casting and how you found them?

Elijah: First of all, I'd like to say I love all the actors. They are all incredibly talented and dreams to work with. I had seen Timothée Chalamet on “Homeland” and then again in “Interstellar” and thought he was great. One of our producers, Ryan Friedkin, was also a big fan and everyone was on board right away. As far as the role of Daniel goes Timothée was always the first (and only) choice. Alex Roe was brought to us by WME after a long search for Hunter. The role was really tricky to cast and a bunch of great actors came in and read for the part, but nobody felt quite right. Alex did an audition tape, and it was basically love at first sight. Then we skyped and he held up well under interrogation and the rest is history. I think he did a fantastic job and now I can't imagine Hunter being played by anyone else. Another producer of ours, Bradley Thomas, had seen Maika Monroe in “It Follows” and called me up and said "this is McKayla". I went out and watched “It Follows” and agreed. She did a great job with a role that could have very easily turned into a clichéd mess. Maia Mitchell had come in and read for the role of McKayla but at this point we were closing in on Maika for the part. But she was just so good I knew we had to have her in the movie. Again, she took a role that didn't give her much on the page and turned Amy into a fully formed human being. Maia is great. I first saw Emory Cohen in Place Beyond The Pines and thought he was fantastic. I remember thinking "if I ever get to make a movie I want to put him in it." Originally I had imagined Dex as being played by someone much older but Emory had gotten hold of the script and responded to the role. We met up and talked about it and he had really exciting ideas. He's such an incredibly inventive actor and it was a joy watching him work. He's also one of the funniest people I've ever met.

NFF: The soundtrack is so important for setting the tone of the movie - and you have a diverse, engaging collection of songs throughout. How did you decide on the music you wanted to use?

Elijah: A lot of the music in the movie were songs that I would listen to while writing the script. Their energy seemed to seep into the story. I would play them on set whenever I could to set the rhythm and mood. While the story is set in 1991 I wanted the story to feel timeless -- I wanted it to feel suspended in some bygone summer of America's yesteryear. I knew the wardrobe and production design would tell audiences the movie was set in 1991, not to mention the fact we slap "1991" on the screen, so I didn't think we had to also remind them through the music. The tone of the movie is slightly heightened, it's a dreamy memory,  more so than a fact based account. It's a story about teenagers with raging hormones who's emotions run the full gamut. We felt that this gave us the artistic license to choose music that complemented the story and characters on an emotional level rather than try to use music that felt grounded in a specific time and place.

NFF: Why are you excited to show the film in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences will take away?

Elijah: Not only is Nantucket a great film festival but it's only right that a movie set in Cape Cod, a movie in which Cape Cod plays an integral character, gets to be seen in Cape Cod. Hopefully the Nantucket crowd can relate in some way to that special feeling of being on the Cape during those summer months while also taking note of some of the more subtle social-class issues and the effects it can have on the kids who live there.