It’s been a bit since I’ve updated about Nuclear Family – but the project continues to be my number one priority. Since the March 25th screening there have been a couple exciting things to have happened. Heres a nice quick-fire way to catch up:
April 23rd – Twitchfilm.com features an interview with me discussing the film (READ IT HERE)
After a lengthy discussion in a coffee shop in SF with film writer Michael Guillen, the interview was published to popular film site Twitchfilm.com
April 27th – Nuclear Family submitted to first film festival
it has since been submitted to a few other SF Bay Area prominent film fests. I won’t name names as to not jinx it.
May 24th – Nuclear Family now on IMDb (Check it out HERE)
Due to the submission process, Nuclear Family lands a page on IMDb!
June 1st – Brand new full-length trailer for Nuclear Family (Watch HERE or above)
A full length official trailer which reveals much more than the first ‘teaser trailer‘.
June 17th – A second FREE sneak peek screening of the film in SF (RSVP on Facebook HERE)
This will be the final screening of the film until it begins it’s festival run late this year.
So it’s once again the eve before a screening of “Nuclear Family”. I feel drastically different then I did before showing it the first time. For one, I’m not currently biting my nails with nerves about what people will think. Through the last couple months I’ve found a great deal of confidence with the film and personally cannot wait to show it a second (or third, or fourth…) time. This screening feels like another opportunity to let people see the film I’ve worked the hardest on and the one I feel most comfortable with. As I stated above, this is indeed the FINAL time I will be showing “Nuclear Family” publicly until it potentially makes it into the festival circuit this fall. There will be NO DVD RELEASE until sometime in 2012. This is simply because a DVD release disqualifies me from submitting to festivals. What all this means: If you wanna see “Nuclear Family” – this is gonna be your only for sure chance to see it until 2012.
FOR THOSE ATTENDING: make sure to show up early! I would suggest getting there around 6:30pm. The Viz is not large (seats about 150) and will fill up quick. At the previous screening it was full by 7pm – and this one is sure to be no different as there are more films and more people invited! Here is all the info you’ll need:
WHERE: Viz Cinema – 1746 Post St, SF (between Laguna and Webster) CLICK HERE FOR DIRECTIONS
WHEN: Friday June 17th 7pm-11pm
“Nuclear Family” will show with 6 other great short films – one of which, “Catch The Clock” (written and directed by Jaena Sta. Ana), is a film that I’ve been editing the last couple months. The film shares many of the same tonal qualities and themes as “Nuclear Family” so make sure to stick and around and check it out!
See you tomorrow!
Here we are, the final CHARACTER PROFILE will focus on the main character of Nuclear Family – Marc Benheimer (to read the others here is Ezra, Henry, and Melany). Main characters are often the first piece of the puzzle when writing a film, and Marc was no exception. Marc is the center and heart of this story. He is 17 years old and born into the upper class world that the rest of his family embraces with open arms and credit accounts. Marc, however,feels a large emotional disconnect from his family. His interests and overall perspective of life have grown to be drastically different from theirs. Longing to live a more grounded, less materialistic and artistically focused life – Marc has simply found himself to be a fish out of water. It’s not surprising then that Marc has just shut down around his family and focused on living his life through the transportive qualities of music. When the story of “Nuclear Family” kicks off the family has just suffered a loss of a family member. While the rest of Marc’s family grieves by distracting themselves by buying material objects, it becomes clear that Marc is quite possibly the only one REALLY grieving.
The origins of this character stem out of my own feelings of the upper class lifestyle. Many times when creating the character I asked myself what I would do if I were born into the upper class. I am far from rich, but have known a few people who are extremely rich quite personally and it has always seemed to me there is more problems that stem from having too much then having too little. When you have everything at your fingertips, why would feel the need to work for anything? Marc serves as the bridge between this family and the audience who primarily will not be as rich as the characters in the film. For the part of the audience that IS as rich as these characters, I hope Marc, and the story of “Nuclear Family” as a whole, will help them to see another perspective of some of the negative side effects of having all the “things” you want but losing touch with life and even with your own family.
Often when I make characters It’s only after they’re finished that I begin to see where I placed pieces of my personality into them. Much was the case with Marc’s need to have time by himself and his deep interest in music – along with other traits. I am a musician along with being a filmmaker and have always found it to be a medicinal artistic expression – and only got into music by obsessively listening to it when I was younger and banging on my brothers drums along with my favorite songs. Whereas I had an opportunity to explore my connection with music – Marc has never been given the platform to do so.
Casting for this role was rather strange. The character only has 3 lines in the entire film. I knew this role would need someone willing to portray an introverted character almost solely through facial expressions and body language. It’s said that the majority of communication is made through body language – and this role really puts that to the test. Joe took this challenge and really ran with it. On set it was clear he didn’t see the lack of lines as a reason to slack off – but rather to read into whats really going on in Marc’s mind at any given moment in the story. Joe’s performance is something I’m very excited to get audience reactions to. Acting is too often perceived as delivery of lines, and I hope this role will show the other side of that coin. Joe plays a 17 year old in this film, but is actually 23 years old. This was actually a huge plus. It meant that we could talk about the role from a perspective of not actually still being a teenager but being able to understand the motivations from an outside lens. In between takes Joe felt like part of the crew. He shared a lot of common ground with all of us and it kept things really comfortable and open on set which helped us all be able to have fun while making the film.
I asked Joe Stricker some questions about portraying Marc Benheimer, along with his experience working on “Nuclear Family“:
Q. What drew you initially to the role? Is this different from most roles you’ve received?
JOE: When I saw this project posted I was interested in being a part of a very stiff, conservative family. My parents are very liberal/hippy San Franciscans that have always been very encouraging and chill with whatever I want to do so Mr. and Mrs Benheimer are completely different from my family in that regard. I was excited to find out what it would be like growing up in an ultra-suppressive environment. I’ve been playing a lot of angsty, suppressed teenagers lately in films… I think I found my type!
Q. What were your first impressions of the script / story?
JOE: My first impression of the story was that it was going to be difficult to pull off. It’s one thing to simply make a film about a screwed up family and a suppressed teenager, but to create that dysfunctional world and then resolve it, at least partially, in a different light is ambitious. This is what I am hoping we accomplished.
Q. How would you describe your character? Any similarities to yourself or someone you know that you found to draw on?
JOE: I think Marc is a late bloomer. He is still figuring out who he is and what he is passionate about. He finds an energy and potency in music that is completely lacking in his own life. Though he is not yet sure of himself, he is confident that he wants to incorporate the same vitality he hears in music into his world. I definitely can relate to Marc’s love for music as I am a musician and find great joy and relief in music. I believe that if everyone in the world at the same time experienced the same inspiration I experience in 2-3 minutes of a really (really) good song the world would be better off. I think Mark is also trying to share his musical experience with the world.
Q. Did you do any special preparation for the role?
JOE: I watched Little Miss Sunshine again before we started filming just to see how actor Paul Dano played a similar character to Mark. I then thought about ways Mark exists in silence. Even though Mark is quiet, he is not indifferent to the world. He actively thinks, listens, and forms his own opinions even if he isn’t voicing them.
Q. What was your favorite scene to act out? Did you expect it to be your favorite based on the script?
JOE: The dinner scene was my favorite scene to act out which I was not expecting. I thought everyone was really able to get into the “meat” of his or her character. This scene made me realize how much of the individual manifests itself in words, gestures, and style of eating around a dinner table. As a result, everyone’s colors came out and we were able to create an almost unbearable amount of tension.
Q. What was your favorite moment on set?
JOE: My favorite moment on set was also the dinner scene. I naturally like to joke around and laugh over awkward situations, and the dinner scene was no exception. Eating in quiet angst for so long I usually had to laugh off the tension during the breaks between shots. Sometimes James and I could not help breaking out of character if we looked at each other for too long during one of our arguments.
Q. How was your overall experience working on “Nuclear Family“?
JOE: I had a lot of fun working on “Nuclear Family.” I am the same age as the rest of the crew members and it felt good to be around a lot of people my age also doing their best to make it in film. All my friends back on the East Coast and at home all have corporate jobs and this project served as a great reminder that there are others out there like me with creative ambitions. I’m sure I will see and hear a lot more from many of the crew and cast in the coming years.
The third character in this CHARACTER PROFILE series (the others were Ezra and Henry) is Melany Benheimer played by Julia Prager. Melany is the 10 year old daughter of the family. Melany has been spoiled her whole life, and knows how to manipulate her parents to get what she wants. She follows their rules, and trusts their views on things – as long as it means she stays on their good side and continues to get praise and love from them. She has watched her alienated older brother Marc continually distance himself from the rest of the family, and as a result – he doesn’t get whatever he wants. Melany has made her decision – sacrifice exploration outside of the rules for comfort and love from her parents. Melany is really a product of her environment. She simply has made the environment start to work for her. She loves to mess with her brother Marc in whatever way she can. She knows how to push his buttons, and will go out of her way to find that reaction she’s looking for.
This character was based on a couple of people that I know well and was a character I was very excited to see come to life. Julia Prager was one of the first girls to audition for this role, and her natural delivery of the lines really impressed me. Julia is a young and extremely talented actor that pulls her performance from a very genuine place. She listened to feedback, asked questions to help herself understand the character, and was very determined throughout the whole film. I had never worked with a young child in a film, except for my previous film “Frank’s Mug” which had a very brief scene with a young girl in a non-speaking role. Working with Julia to help her understand her character was an really insightful process. Julia never seemed nervous, and her acting through the production just seemed to come naturally. Julia is only 8 years old, but wise beyond her years. I’m confident she will have a great career in acting as long as she remains interested in it, and I can’t wait to see her in future productions.
Julia answered a few questions about her character and her experience on “Nuclear Family“:
JULIA: The fact that I already have an older annoying brother who plays piano.
Q: How would you describe your character? Any similarities to yourself or someone you know that you found to draw on?
Q: What was your favorite moment on set?
JULIA: Hanging out with the other actors.
JULIA: I had so much fun! I hope for Nuclear Family 2!
Julia started acting at age 2 putting on puppet shows and dancing around the house. Since then she progressed and has become an actor at Julia Morgan’s Berkeley Playhouse theater. As well as a dancer at Genesis Dance school in San Francisco. She performs with Dancing with the Stars champions yearly at The Zellerbach Hall. Julia loves writing and reading. She appeared at various TV and commercial productions. She is an avid traveler. Russia, Thailand, Bali, Jamaica, Mexico, France and Italy are some of the places she has been!
The second character I would like to introduce to you (the first was EZRA) is Henry Benheimer played by James Allen Brewer. Henry is the father of the family, and a harsh one at that. If I were to have to say there was a villain in Nuclear Family – It would be Henry. This was a character that really evolved out of the script. I had an idea of who this person was, but mapping out the events of the story it became clear this story needed someone like Henry. The arch his character goes through in this story is probably the most fascinating to me. It’s easy to see Henry as a completely terrible person, but what I find more fascinating about working on this character is he really just doesn’t realize what is wrong with how he lives his life. All people have some good in them but many have a harder time accessing it. Henry truly wants the best for his son Marc, but has become so wrapped up in the success or failure outlook that I feel many people have in America that he fails to see how Marc is already succeeding – just not in the way Henry had hoped. I suppose I’m being rather vague, which is mainly due to me not wanting to reveal the story, but Henry is truly more than just an asshole of a dad.
Casting the part of Henry was going to be a crucial role. The movie feeling realistic I feel is dependent on the performance of the father due to him carrying a lot of the set-up dialogue scenes of the story and truly painting Marc’s world for the audience. Luckily I didn’t have to worry after finding James Brewer. James was extremely enthusiastic about the part from the audition and constantly asked me questions about the character so that he could fully understand him. His excitement about the role and his understanding of the character from the get-go was a major part of my reason for casting him. I later found out he had been involved in the music industry, and really could appreciate the music-minded message of the film. After the rehearsals and talks about his character – it was clear to me going into filming that James fully understood who Henry was. Inside and out.
James answered some questions about his experience working on Nuclear Family:
JAMES: I found the story very moving and the screenplay thoughtful and well written. Dominic has a very bright future ahead of him.
I based Henry on my late father, an overworked, overwhelmed rage-aholic, with whom I never had a close relationship. Henry’s son Marc is not unlike me at his age. Preparing the role of Henry allowed me to see my father from a different viewpoint; hence, I eventually remembered him in a more sympathetic and generous light. These realizations prompted me to soften the character of Henry just a bit, when we finally shot the pivotal scenes.
JAMES: This was a very positive experience, with a fun working environment and a minimum of tension and off-camera drama. Thanks, in great part to Dominic’s vision, the barre was raised quite a bit higher than most other short films on which I’ve worked.
James Allen Brewer Bio: Beginning his professional career as a singer and dancer at Disneyland and on TV, Brewer segued into songwriting. He had toured nationally and internationally, performed in Las Vegas, recorded for numerous major record labels, and appeared in regional theatre when he was tapped by Pulitzer Prize-winning “Doonesbury” cartoonist Garry Trudeau to be “Jimmy Thudpucker,” co-writing the music and lyrics and providing the character’s voice for an animated film based on the comic strip. The film led to a tie-in single for Warner Bros. and an album for RCA (“Jimmy Thudpucker’s Greatest Hits”), with the film receiving an Academy Award® nomination and winning the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival®. Segueing into film and television, Brewer received kudos for his send-up of Simon Cowell in the theatrically released film, “Ryan and Sean’s NOT SO Excellent Adventure”; will soon be seen in the sci-fi thriller, “Red Ice”; and has had the pleasure of hearing his voice dubbed into Japanese in 8 breathlessly exciting episodes of “The World’s Astonishing News,” one of Japan’s top-rated TV shows.
Welcome to the first introduction of the 4 main characters / members of the family in Nuclear Family. We’re starting off with the mother of the family Ezra Benheimer (pictured above) played by Keely Dervin. Writing the character of Ezra was a really fun experience. In many ways this character is at the root of the comedy in Nuclear Family. Before writing a script I work hard to develop the characters – but this one came rather naturally. I got to take aspects from multiple people I know (or briefly meet at my job at Starbucks) and mash them together to make a character that is fun, exciting, upbeat, and really enjoys her life.
Keely Dervin brought this character to life in a way that just felt perfect. When I was auditioning for this role, I saw her headshot online and immediately knew she had the exact look for the part. Her audition was something I was really looking forward to because I knew if she also was able to act the part well – the part was hers. When It finally came down to it, she embodied the character perfectly. There was simply no other choice. No other actor brought the energy to the character the way that Keely did. Keely was great to work with, receptive to feedback, and a true energy on set. She stayed focused with a great attitude even on some of the longer days of shooting.
Keely Dervin started acting professionally when she was 16. Her first role was on the TV show “Crazy Like a Fox”. Through the years she has produced TV shows, and special effects around the world and at Industrial, Light and Magic. She returned to her first love “Acting” in March of 2009 and never looked back. In the last couple of years she has been cast in 4 commercials and 7 films including Nuclear Family. She can’t wait for more.
Q: What drew you to this role?
Keely: Ezra is such a fun person. Traditionally, I have done drama after drama, so to be able to cut loose, jump up and down, and squeal – I could not resist.
Q: What were your first impressions of the script?
Keely: It could have gone in so many different directions. Sitcom to dark comedy. I just jumped and saw the comedy, and loved it.
Q: How would you describe your character?
Keely: Ezra is someone everyone has to like. No matter how naïve she may be, her love for her family and husband is always shining through.
Q: Did you do any special preparation for the role?
Keely: She runs on a high energy, so letting all my worries go and just being delightfully happy with life.
Q: How was your experience working on “Nuclear Family“?
Keely: Dominic and Wilfred were great, and the crew worked so well together. We need to make a “Nuclear Family 2″!