RETROSPECTIVE: CITIES AND PLAINS

This was the first narrative short I made out of film school. Basically what happened was I saw Joe Swanberg’s Nights And Weekends on Netflix (back when Netflix was low-key like that) and I thought: I can do that, but maybe about more down-to-earth (i.e. prairie) characters that aren’t completely insufferable in every way! So I called up Trina Lister, a young improviser I had met at the inaugural FAVA Fest gala a few months earlier and the only person I knew who I thought would be wild and spontaneous enough to spend all of August trying to make a movie with me. It was conceived as something that would be feature-length; Treen and I sketched out the story arc, outlined all the scenes, and then we improvised the dialogue when we shot. We shot about half of it ourselves with the camera on a tripod and wireless microphones, and the other half was shot by my dear friend Aerlan Barrett who jury-rigged a Frankensteinian shoulder rig out of an old photo tripod and followed us around with my 7D and the only two lenses I owned. I flew my friend Dayleigh Nelson out from Vancouver on points so he could come play with us for a few days…where he came up with that bit about Mary Elizabeth Winstead I will never know. I still vividly remember Dayleigh crashing on my couch and spending an entire day watching three movies back to back (one of them was definitely Visconti’s The Leopard, but I can’t remember the other two…).

Even though we shot more than enough to cut something feature-length, I ended up chopping it down to 22 minutes, basically the “greatest-hits” of everything we had. It just wouldn’t have worked as a feature…there wasn’t enough story happening and the dynamism of Aerlan’s handheld camerawork was so much more engaging than all the static stuff we had shot ourselves that essentially it rendered it obsolete. For these reasons, this learning process, and so much more, making this movie was formative. It won the Outstanding Short Film award at FAVA Fest the following year, the first time I had ever received any recognition from my peers. It remains an incredible time capsule, and the spirit in which it was made, the “just grab a camera and go” attitude of freedom and exuberance, is something I feel I’m perpetually longing for and trying to get back to.

Hope you’re having a great one wherever you are. And wherever you are: I encourage you to grab a camera, grab a few friends, and go make something. Go see what happens. I dare you.

-Nn

Published by nnettrhys

Filmmaker from the Canadian Prairies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: