Nick Vandevender
Nick VanDevender

Today I sit with Nick VanDevender who is fresh off winning the Jury Award for Sposini at the Dam Short Film Festival.

Sposini Facebook page

Congratulations on your Jury Award win at the Dam Short Film Festival.

Thanks. This is the first year they have done a Jury Award so it’s nice to be the first to win it. It’s always just been an Audience Award which Adam Zielinski won with Action, Action this year.

Have you entered Sposini into any other festivals?

We entered Sposini into a bunch of festivals. They are going to start letting us know probably in the March or April area. We’ve heard back from a few but there’s no official announcements as of yet.

Production Still from Sposini

Where did you come up with the idea for Sposini?

Tompeck D. came up with the idea for Sposini in a weird way. He was at a production meeting at Coffee Bean with Kelly Schenk and some other people for her movie, a magician film. Craig Boydston and I were there and ran into them and were talking with Tom and just told him to pitch us a movie, just joking with him. He threw out this idea he’s always had about a music video about a guy burying his wife in the desert. We kept joking with him and it evolved from there, actually. We went back and added **Spoilers** what if she came back from the dead and the wedding dresses and tuxedos. I don’t even remember the original song he pitched the video for but the original genesis was Tom’s.**

How long did it take you to shoot the whole thing?

It was shot over two weekends. Saturday night, dusk and magic hour. And Sunday morning at dawn and magic hour in the desert. Two half-days there and the following weekend we shot a full day on Saturday at the house.

Was this your first time working with Craig Boydston in a director/DP relationship?

No, actually, Craig was the DP on Quiet. I didn’t actually know Craig until I got back to Las Vegas a year ago after being gone for three years. I’m good friends with Constanza Castro and he was dating her and we became really good friends in a really short period of time.

And you both have red beards.

And we both have red beards.

You mentioned Quiet which stars Charles Cantrell, Ryan Troe, and Nicole Unger. I got to see that at UNLV’s Spring Flicks last year. It’s also one of the only shorts that Ryan Troe has ever acted in. 

Ryan Troe acts in his own stuff a bit. But yes, Ryan Troe killed it in that movie. It was a last-minute thing. We went through a lot of people and Ryan was available and somebody  mentioned him or he volunteered. I said why not? And he was awesome.

Lets go to some basic stuff now. What do you consider yourself? A writer, director, or writer/director?

I like writing. I would like to direct something someone else has written. I like it when other people direct something that I have written. I like doing both. But yeah. Both.

Do you have an all time favorite movie?

That’s a tough question. I would say that the film I have seen more of than any other movie is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder. I wouldn’t say it is my all-time favorite movie but it has a special place and I’ve seen it a million times.

Favorite movie of 2012?

That’s another tough one. If you asked me six months ago I would have said Moonrise Kingdom. If you had asked me a few weeks before that I would have said Looper. Now it’s Beasts of the Southern Wild. I just love that movie. But again, that’s without me seeing Amour or Rust and Bone or The Imposter. I haven’t seen any of these, but at this moment Beasts of the Southern Wild is something that I really dug.

What are you looking forward to most coming out in 2013?

There’s a movie by David Gordon Green called Prince Avalanche that’s coming out. David Gordon Green is a big influence on me and someone I really, really look up to. I haven’t particularly liked his last couple of films but this one I think looks really great so I hope it’s a return to form for him.

Would you say David Gordon Green is your favorite director?

I think he is someone whose career model I like. How he started out. He’s one of the people I really look up to. But favorite director, I have tons of them. But that sort of class of person, like independent filmmakers like David Gordon Green or Ken Loach, Mike Leigh. There’s a few. I just really like independent film directors a lot. Christopher Nolan is great too though to be perfectly honest.

What would be your favorite genre to write or direct in? Big or small budget?

Small budget in the world of Hollywood but big budget compared to what I’ve been doing. The five to ten million range. Independent stuff where you have the ability to take chances and do things that a Hollywood or studio system wouldn’t allow you to do. As for genre I’ve always liked the blending of genres. Comedy and horror, or thrillers and sci-fis. I think those are the best type of movies.

I managed to find Down 950 online. That was something you directed early on.

Yeah. It was written by N.R. Miller. AJ Ovio was the cinematographer. It was the first film I ever directed. N.R. had this set built in his house. He was in the process of making the movie and something fell apart on him. He thought that it wasn’t going to get made and I asked him why he wouldn’t direct it himself. He said he didn’t want to do that and then asked me if I wanted to direct it. I said sure, I’ll try it. I hadn’t done anything except writing and editing at that point. I asked AJ to shoot it, he said yes, and it was a good time.

Do you have any plans for the future?

More short films. Trying out super-shorts, two to four minutes max. Trying to get Sposini into more festivals. Write some features, and see if anyone wants to make them. Basically keep going with what we’ve been doing and that break will hit soon. To get that chance.

Any chance of a move to LA in the near future?

No plans to move to LA but I’m not going to rule it out. No plans to go to London, or New York, or Australia, but I’m not going to rule it out. I can go at any moment and that’s how I like it. No plans but no reservations either.

Nick Vandevender spring flicks
Nick VanDevender and Danette Tull at UNLV Spring Flicks

What would your advice be to filmmakers who are just starting out right now?

I think it would be to put everything you can into it. Plan a lot. Don’t think you can show up on set  and wing it because you are that good, I’ve done it myself, and you realize real quick that nobody is that good. In addition to planning, don’t settle. If you are shooting in a house and the only house you have isn’t the one you want, don’t do it. Find a better one. If you have an actor or actress and they can’t do it that day, don’t recast. If you really believe in them, wait for them. Festivals and the internet are always going to be there. At a starting level there are no deadlines. If you rush it and settle, it isn’t going to be worth it in the end anyway.

What has been you biggest challenge being a writer and director?

For me personally, talking to people. Like crew. Getting people to help you out and putting yourself out there to get help, that may not be hard for everyone, but for me going up to people you don’t know is tough. Asking Craig Boydston, a guy I didn’t really know at the time, to ask him for help on this movie. The first movie, going up to and asking someone like AJ Ovio back then and asking as an acquaintance was hard. We’re roommates now. But going up to people. At the end of the day, everyone around you wants to make movies so it’s a bit silly because they are probably going to say yes.

It seems like everyone is working on features these days. Do you have a plan for one?

I’d like to think so. I think I have one in me. I’m waiting for someone to give me the chance but until then just preparing myself for when it does come. I don’t want to balls it up.

Would you ever consider writing for TV?

Oh yeah.

What are some of your favorite shows from recent memory?

Definitely more-so the paid programming shows that don’t have the same limitations as a network show. Like HBO. Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire. I was a big fan of United States of Tara. I tend to not watch much television because I get sucked into it. Once a show is over I start then so I don’t have to wait for another episode. I did that with The Wire and I think it’s the best show ever written for TV. 4 seasons in two or three days. I murdered it. It was like if Shakespeare wrote television.

What is the thing you like the least about filmmaking?

Just how expensive it is. It doesn’t have to be. But if you have ideas they do cost money. Film is a great art form because it requires collaboration. The only big downside is that it takes someone else’s money to do it sometimes. It’s a hindrance.

Thanks you for the interview Nick and I hope that Sposini does well in upcoming festivals!

Nick VanDevender’s Vimeo Page

Dam Short Film Festival