We discussed the possibility of a superhero who had a superpower as simple as the ability to remember and wondered what kind of movie could come out of that. We knew our superhero had to have his own place – a nostalgia lair, and that his lineage would date back to his basement (because he is only just graduating from high school).
We developed these ideas into an outline and brought in Jennica Harper to flush out the story and turn it into a screenplay.
In preparing NOSTALGIA BOY to go to camera, we created a thorough package that included a DVD of my previous work as a director and a storyboard comic book of the entire film (26 pages of black and white drawings with a coloured cover). In referencing the comic book now, there isn’t much difference between it and the final film. Only on a few occasions, did we have to make changes to our original conception and that was for budgetary reasons or time constraints.
These steps helped to solidify the key people – our casting agent, our actors, our crew and our storyboarded artist, who I worked through the entire film shot by shot with, taking the script and turning it into pictures. This ultimately worked to my advantage. If something went wrong, (such as we ran out of time), I knew what I could cut. On the other hand, I also knew exactly what shot I absolutely needed in order to tell the story. We then photographed the storyboards and created an animatic for the entire film. We brought in actors and recorded their voices. With this, we were able to time out the entire film much as they do in animation. I also found the animatic incredibly helpful when thinking about blocking with the actors when it came to principal photography.
Sonja Bennett was perfect for the part of Connie Golden and we were elated when she accepted the role. Sonja was able to find time amidst a film career, which has seen her kept busy with projects like Atom Egoyan’s WHERE THE TRUTH LIES in which she starred opposite Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth & Alison Lohman, CATCH & RELEASE, with Jennifer Garner & Timothy Olyphant and Fido with Carrie-Anne Moss.
Our casting director Sue Browse discovered Dustin Milligan who just recently starred in THE MESSENGERS, IN THE LAND OF WOMEN, SLITHER, and FINAL DESTINATION 3. We are blessed to have Dustin as Nostalgia Boy. Even if we had auditioned all of North America, he is the best choice we could have made – we wouldn’t have cast anyone else. And then Jillian Fargey came on board as Natalie, the character who has the most difficult journey through the film. Jillian has had an extraordinary career, working in television, THE X-FILES, COLD SQUAD, SEVEN DAYS, TWILIGHT ZONE, DAVINCI'S INQUEST and TRU CALLING.
Brian Pearson, one of Canada’s best young Director’s of Photography had time available and provided invaluable assistance during the creative process. Originally, I thought we would shoot on HD for budgetary reasons and for its flexibility in Post. However, Brian wanted to capture NOSTALGIA BOY in film and not in video. Video simply lacked the nostalgic feel that film could provide us. Super 16 was cost effective and we had a healthy shooting ratio of 1:6. For technical reasons and time constraints, we shot some of the memory sequences on DV ahead of time. That way we could project them during principal photography.
Maurice Woodworth our Production Designer, created the look of the film and Nostalgia Boy’s lair. When people watch the movie, they ask where the basement is – because it feels so real. But the basement was a set located in the back of our office, in a warehouse. It was 500-700 square feet, an incredibly large build for a no budget film. We had three designated painters and up to five carpenters. To find those resources at the peak of the production season in Vancouver was incredible.
Everyone volunteered their time, taking a day or even a week out of their schedules to work on this film. As a Director, you can’t work in a bubble and do everything yourself. The crew was inspirational. Their support and confidence was an amazing gift.
Principal photography lasted 5 days and it took approximately 5-7 days to film all the memory sequences. I shot the five memory sequences dogma style with a skeleton crew. We were also shooting in places you couldn’t normally film in, like for 6 hours one Saturday night at the Canada Games Pool in New Westminster. Our first day of filming was at a beautiful, new Port Moody school. Fox was using the facility for a production and they didn’t know we would be using certain parts of the school. They were going to shut us down but we managed to negotiate with them. That day we had 100-125 cast and crew on set. We were as large as any Hollywood film or TV show. It was a big day for us.
Three of our days of principal photography in the studio took place during the hottest week of summer. It was 30-35 degrees inside with the lights and 20-30 crew and cast. Dustin’s costume was made of polar fleece. He would have to take off his shirt constantly and the girls would spritz him down to keep him cool! We only had one fan to keep on set. Nostalgia Boy has a projector in his basement lair but the image is actually coming from a state of the art video projector located underneath it. It was so hot that the video projector kept turning off. So that one fan was directed on the video projector to keep it from overheating!
The scariest part of production was the projector burn, Nostalgia Boy’s lifeline and the very thing Connie tries to destroy in the film. We rigged it with propane tubes that would allow it to be lit on fire. We planned that both reels of 16mm film would be spinning and burning. David Barkes, a seasoned Special Effects Coordinator, looked after this difficult and dangerous special effect.
The elements of smoke and fire slow down a production. We had to push hard to make our days and get the coverage we needed. But, Clif Prowse our 1st AD was a great mediator and kept the days running efficiently and effectively.
What drove us all crazy were the drastic changes on set. We would go from normal set to the Nostalgia Lair. Izabela Domachowski, our Art Director, had an incredible amount of responsibility. Set changes would happen over lunch and we would have to move hundreds of objects. It was a big undertaking to pull this off on a set the size of the Nostalgia Lair.
We rented ‘Connie’s house’ for two weeks. It actually played as both Connie’s and Nostalgia Boy’s house. We combined the two to save money and time. The house was scheduled for demolition so we were allowed to do anything to it. We painted each room – making specific colour choices to enhance the look of the film. In one shot, we couldn’t get the camera back far enough for a two shoot of Connie and Natalie in the kitchen. So we cut a hole in the wall and filmed from the hallway.
Lego plays a huge role in the film. We had a 4 by 4 square foot Lego city built for us by Brickville Designworks & the Vancouver Lego Club. In the first draft of the script, it was an origami city. But origami and monumental structures don’t fit together. So we went with Lego. The Lego Club of Vancouver & Brickville Designworks worked together to create Nostalgia Boy’s Lego City, a place where he can lose himself. We came up with plans – pretty close to architectural plans actually – which detailed where the buildings would be located and what the streets looked like. The Lego collectors already had some of these buildings in their collection. Some as high as 2 ½ feet in height were also created! It was a unique and influential set piece.
Susan Taylor Brouse
Special Effects Coordinator
Awards & Nominations
• Best Short Film & Best Editing - Sacramento Film Festival
Leo Awards & Nominations
• Winner - Best Cinematography in a Short Drama
• Nominated - Best Lead Performance by a Female, Best Musical Score, Best Sound Design & Best Picture Editing in a Short Drama
Comic-Con International Film Festival
Rhode Island International Film Festival
Palm Springs International Short Film Festival
Montréal World Film Festival
Los Angeles International Short Film Festival
Calgary Film Festival
Edmonton International Film Festival
Sacramento International Film Festival
Dawson City International Short Film Festival