Director Chris Nash Chats With INFLUX Magazine

by Bethany Rose

I recently talked with Chris Nash about his filmmaking experience, including his work in the upcoming film ABCs of Death 2 and his work as a filmmaker who runs the gamut, from writer, director and producer, to special effects artist, composer, and editor.

 

Bethany Rose: Brevity has never been a personal strength of mine, so I am always fascinated with the amount of story and emotion that is packed into short films. Yours certainly tell complete, fascinating stories in a brief time. Tell us a little about how you manage that.

Chris Nash: Thanks so much for the compliment.  I try my best to tell complete stories, no matter the running time.  One of the methods I utilize to keep things short is to steal from Kurt Vonnegut.  He’s written extensively on his appreciation for brevity, and he’s been a big influence not only in terms of tone, but structure as well.

Finding the right word is a tricky thing.  When you’re working towards a shorter end, economy of language is crucial – but it can also make you feel like you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing at times.  On my latest project, it took me three hours to decide on writing the words “don’t start.”

Vonnegut also wrote out a series of eight rules for writing short stories, which appear in his collection, Bagombo Snuff Box.  I call back to them whenever I sit down to write anything.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Eight Rules for a Short Story can be found by clicking here.

BR: What drew you to making short films?

CN: I don’t think you really get drawn to making short films.  As I stand now, with a little more age and experience under my belt, I can recognize the importance of the short format and the unique lessons you can learn from it – but I think every director wants to make features.  There is a prestige to features that will never exist in the world of short films.

That said, what drew me to short films is the fact I’ve never been able to make a feature, and I feel like every short film I make is just another step toward that goal.  But in my pursuit of that goal, I’ve actually grown to really love the short format and its place in the cinematic landscape.

BR: You deal a lot with body horror. What inspired this choice?

CN: I’ve got a lot of anxieties about my body image.  I had horrible acne through high school, and – although I was never teased too much about it – I grew disgusted with the way I looked.  Still am.


BR: You do a lot of special effects work, too. What are some of the craziest effects you’ve done?

CN: The craziest thing I’ve done so far was for my upcoming segment in ABCs of Death 2 – which, unfortunately, I can’t go into any detail on.  Other than that, I blew up a kid’s head in my friend Evan Morgan’s film A Pretty Funny Story – that was a lot of fun.  Any kind of pyro effect is fun.

BR: Influx recently reviewed your short film T is for Thread, which you are credited as Director, Writer, Producer, Editor, Composer and Special Effects artist. What is it like being so involved in so many facets of a film’s production?

CN: I grew up in the woods of Northern Ontario, which didn’t have any semblance of a film industry – so out of necessity I had to wear many hats.  This has been both draining and rewarding.  It’s rewarding in that I feel like taking on all of those creative rolls make my films more personal; however, because I’m doing so much, by the time I’m finished with a project I’m usually so exhausted I hate it.

I also think taking on so many jobs comes from not being able to trust anyone else with my “vision” (FYI – the word “vision” is in quotes because using that word to describe any of my shorts makes me feel like a complete shitheel).  I realize film is a collaborative art, and I’m gradually embracing that collaborative spirit, but the hesitation at the thought of placing my babies in other people’s hands is always going to be there.  Luckily I had a really great experience working on my ABCs of Death segment with a local editor (Mike Lane), and that’s definitely helped to ease my mind on the subject.

BR: I’ve been a fan of horror my entire life, and I loved T is for Thread. Even though I’ve seen lots of gore in the films I watch, I definitely grimaced and let out an expletive or two as I watched your film. Is it exciting to evoke that type of response from even a “hardened” audience?

CN: For sure it is.  I’m a big believer in spectacle.  I think if you’re going to go through the trouble and agony of creating something, you might as well try to create something you’ve never seen before.  Whether it’s a character, a setting, or a gore gag – everyone (you and your audience) is going to be more rewarded when you attempt something new.

BR: Care to admit any films that evoked a similar response from you?

CN: Absolutely (and both happen to be shorts as well): Douglas Buck’s Cutting Moments and Giuseppe Andrews’ Dribble.

If you haven’t seen Cutting Moments, the quick summary is it’s about a woman who – in the wake of a crippling domestic issue – takes drastic measures to make herself more desirable to her husband in the hopes of keeping her family together.  It’s incredibly gory and disturbing, but only works because Buck guides us with delicate, yet confident, hands.  It’s one of the most powerfully directed shorts I’ve ever seen (and I’m not being hyperbolic for the sake of impact).

On the other hand, Dribble (the story of a has-been basketball player who lives in a trailer park and refuses to come to terms with his new station in life) isn’t gory in the slightest, but it took my fucking breath away with the untethered lunacy of what I was watching.  When it was done all I could think was, “I’m nowhere near brave enough to make anything like that.”  But that can be said about any of Andrews’ films.  Anyone looking for a somewhat-gentle entry into his work should check out Adam Rifkin’s doc Giuseppe Makes A Movie, it’s pretty fantastic.

BR: While T is for Thread is definitely a horror film, there is quite a bit of dark humor involved, too. Have you combined horror and comedy before? And why did you make this choice for this film?

CN: I don’t really know how to answer that.  It’s just the way it came out.  I wish I could add more, but it’s not something I ever think about.

BR: Another one of your films, My Main Squeeze, is billed as a comedy, but one of the characters is coping with childhood trauma.

CN: I don’t know how to answer that one either… maybe I’m just insensitive?

BR: It seems like you take a lot of real fears and turn them into inspiration for your films or your characters. Are any of these fears echoes of your own?

CN: Absolutely.  Some days I don’t need food or sleep, because I’m powered 100% by anxiety.  My biggest fear is the knowledge that your body and mind can turn on you any second.  I find it terrifying that the chemicals that regulate our decisions and actions are in such a delicate balance.  Take the case of Vince Weiguang Li for instance (the man who decapitated Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus in 2008), there is no question of his guilt, but in his mind – because his chemicals weren’t balanced perfectly – he actually thought what he was doing was right.  He thought he was doing the right thing by cutting off a sleeping man’s head on a greyhound bus.  That scares the shit out of me.

BR: Can you tell us anything about upcoming projects?

CN: I’ve got a segment coming up in ABCs of Death 2.  I only just finished it, but I really challenged myself and I hope people enjoy it.

I’m also developing a feature with my friend Peter Kuplowsky that I’m pretty excited about.  I can’t say much about it right now, but we’re getting it ready to officially announce this July.

Interview originally published 1 May 2014