Film Courage: Where did you grow up?
Nathan Oliver: I grew up in Maine and stayed here until I was 18. After that I moved to North Carolina and then to Montreal, Quebec for just shy of a decade. My home life was pretty topsy-turvy but loving. I lived with my mom and brother through poverty and isolation in Northern Maine. That isn’t so pleasant but it’s part of who I am and I embrace it.
Film Courage: Which one of your parents do you resemble most?
Nathan: I physically resemble my father. My stubbornness and temperament is very much from my mother’s side of the family.
Film Courage: Did your parents lend support toward creativity or encourage another type of career/focus?
Nathan: Oh my, yes! Both of my parents have been instrumental in helping me get to where I am today. At first my mother was pushing me hard to be a lawyer or go in to politics but I never had the stomach for it. So I opted for the more gentle blood and guts cinema that has shaped my vision and voice through the years. My father has consistently told me to keep going even when what I was making was just terrible. They both reminded me that it is ok to fail but not to give up.
Film Courage: What were your plans after high school?
Nathan: My plans after high school were to drop everything and get to Los Angeles where I was going to convince everyone that I was a big star just ready to pop. I already knew that I wanted to be a filmmaker and thought of myself as already being one. Then my mother stepped in, reminded me firmly of the importance of an education, and so I went to school.
First I was at Cape Fear Community College under Duke Fire for a year. That was great! I had free access to gear and no restraints on content. His focus was purely on DOING SOMETHING. After a year of that, I was accepted to the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University in Montreal. This program was much more restrictive but in a way that forced me to focus on what the importance of zeroing in on the art of making movies was. Making sure that you treated your content, whatever that may be, as an expression and extension of yourself and less a means to an end.
Then the school hired me to run their equipment depot and studio spaces. I did that for a few years while freelancing as a grip/swing/electric for massive productions rolling through the city. Also, during that time I figured out that what I really wanted to do was tell stories. Good stories. I wanted to be in charge of the reaction.
After my time there I relocated to Maine and have been pushing foreword ever since!
Film Courage: What makes Maine’s artists unique?
Nathan: Accessibility. The people here are open to interaction. They want collaboration. They want each other to do good work and make a splash. They give the same support that they get and keep their art alive by keeping it open. In Portland, every first Friday of the month, they host an Art Walk downtown where artists collect on the streets and show what they can do. The youngest dance with fire and paint with spray paint. The more seasoned set up booths as far as the eye can see to exhibit what they do. And more importantly, people show up.
Film Courage: Horror film that scared you the most as a kid?
Nathan: I wasn’t really little but when I saw Event Horizon in the theater. Holy crap.
Film Courage: Favorite scene from a horror movie?
Nathan: Right now my favorite scene from a horror movie is the wood-splinter/eye-ball scene from Lucio Fulci’s Zombie. It’s one of the few that I can revisit in my mind over and over and still feel uncomfortable about. That is effective. The tribal thumping in the background, the extreme close-up of the eye, the jagged organic splintering of the shard of wood moving ever closer. The anticipation of penetration, like sex, can drive you mad and leave you pale.
Film Courage: According to your IMDB you’ve made or been involved with two short films Dreamland (Short) (producer) 2005 Uncomfortable (Short) (producer). What did each one teach?
Nathan: Those shorts were a blast to make and surprised me with how they grew the legs that they did. Uncomfortable got some play in Italy and Dreamland landed at Raindance. Dreamland was great because I got to work directly with the very talented director David Marriott in all the fun parts of pre-prod and production and I got to see his style evolve in the short four day shoot. We also got together and bought a 16mm/35mm Steenbeck for him to cut the movie on. I remember being at his apartment in St. Henri with a case of Blue Ribbon and a broken machine we were trying to fix. Eventually, we used the pull tab from one of the beer cans to fix the problem and it stuck! Worked like a charm!
Uncomfortable was my first foray into a proper horror film. Dead whispers drive the killer insane, drawing from Poe and twisting the image to incorporate an angelic corpse. I thought I was so punk rock when I put it together! It was great to see it traveled and mattered to people beyond my six friends.
Film Courage: What is Damnationland? And why does it mean so much to you?
Nathan: Damnationland is a curated horror anthology program that invites specific Maine filmmakers to produce content and exhibits them all over New England. This year they are expanding the reach of the series further into other parts of the country. It means a ton to me because they are exactly what Maine film-making is about. They bring us all together, remind us that we have valid things to say, prop us up to succeed and follow through. They weren’t around when I was younger and I wish they had been. But they have been running for years, this being their 6th, and every year they grow exponentially.
Film Courage: How much time did you put in before launching your crowdfunding campaign for “We are the Ones – Damnationland 2015”?
Nathan: In thought, I put in a lot of time. I had to weigh options in front of me. I have a large movie coming out. I didn’t want to offend my history by taking a step back but I also didn’t want to go broke saying yes. In execution, I took less time. I have started a few crowd-funding campaigns and they have really stream-lined the process at Kickstarter.com. The set-up takes minutes if you have the content and this time around, oh boy did I have the content.
Film Courage: What camera/lens did you use to shoot your crowdfunding pitch video with?
Nathan: It was a 24-105 Canon L-series provided by the wonderful Charlotte Warren from Strong Paw Productions at Possible Studio in Portland, Maine.
Film Courage: What did the campaign for your 2011 Kickstarter “Lady Psycho Killer” teach you that you’re using toward “We are the Ones – Damnationland 2015”?
Nathan: I started that campaign with one goal in mind: Pay Albert Melamed. He needed the funds to offset the cost of printing/pizza/rent/internet and all the other things in life that I was sucking time from by asking him to walk down the “Lady Psycho Killer” path with. It taught me that there are people in my life that want to see me flourish artistically. It also taught me quickly things can move with the right steam pushing it forward.
Film Courage: What was the biggest lesson from co-writing/directing Lady Psycho Killer?
Nathan: Never go into a meeting expecting a “yes.” You will hear “no” a thousand times before hearing a “yes.” But don’t think that a “no” is permanent either. When trying to convince people that are not your friends and family that you are capable of doing something, the onus is on you to prove it. Always and every time.
Film Courage: What specifically are you crowdfunding for as it relates to We Are The Ones?
Nathan: I have lined up some amazing people for the show. Make-up and creature effects are a number-one priority for “We are the Ones” and the material costs alone account for a third of the Kickstarter campaign. The state of Maine also requires general liability insurance to be granted permits to film in public space and that quote clocked in at just over $700. Studio space is normally, in my area, $800 a day but a friend at Real Media Soundstage is offering a great rate and lots of flexibility. Those three things make up most of the Kickstarter campaign. There is a little left over in the coffers for some art design and props but the rest of the costs like food, fuel, stipend etc. is coming out of pocket as my own contribution to the cause.
Film Courage: Have you used a drone before?
Nathan: I have not! My friend and awesome DOP Jason Bosch from Red Stallion Media has, though, and he has graciously offered his time and gear for my little effort.
Film Courage: What tips on using drones can you share with first-time users?
Nathan: Honestly, my biggest tip, since my experience is limited, is to find someone that knows what they are doing and suck their brains dry. Then, practice, crash and burn but do it with your own stuff. Never jump in and take over when you could ruin someone else’s day.
Film Courage: How many of the 70 Maine lighthouses have you visited?
Nathan: I have been to…10? Bug Light in South Portland is my favorite for casual picnicking and kite flying. Portland Head Light is pretty impressive but swarming with people in the summer. No, I’m a bigger fan of the more isolated Houses. Like the ones on the islands. They are proper creepy.
Film Courage: Best quote from your favorite author/book that sums up your outlook on life?
Nathan: “Talent is cheaper than salt. What separates the talented one from the successful on is a lot of hard work.” That’s Stephen King, I think.
Film Courage: Favorite quote from a director that sums up your take on film?
Nathan: “I prefer people who rock the boat than people who jump out.” That one I know is Orson Welles
Film Courage: Since you love the horror/thriller genre, any real life experience that mimic something in a movie, either yours or a favorite directors?
Nathan: I have never encountered anything remotely spiritual, supernatural or the like. But I want to SO BADLY! I don’t want to be the victim of my own horror but I would love to watch a UFO light up the sky or see a real ghost. In terms of incorporating things from my own life into my work, you bet I do. I give my characters traits of people I have encountered. Some I know very well, like Ella in “Lady Psycho Killer” who is based in part on a close friend I had in university. Then there are classic tropes I like to bend and twist and find something cool within them that I can hold up and show the world. The lead character in “We are the Ones” is a classic character set-up but the context I’ve placed him in is not. I love doing that.
Film Courage: Will you ever move from the beautiful State of Maine? Is it your permanent home?
Nathan: Maine is fantastic. I will go where I am asked and do what I like doing and in this career, you really can do it anywhere in the world. There is always a community for you, even if you have to start it yourself. Maine is full of the things that make life worth it, outside of the chaos of the world.
Film Courage: Creative plans after ‘We Are the Ones‘?
In his debut feature film Lady Psycho Killer Nathan has taken the reigns as not only co-writer with Albert Melamed (Lady Psycho Killer; John McAfee) but as director, guiding memorable performances from a star-studded cast including Michael Madsen (Donnie Brasco,; Reservoir Dogs), Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Halloween), Ron Jeremy (Boondock Saints; Return to Nuke ‘Em High Vol 2) and Daniel Baldwin (Homicide: Life in the Streets; John Carpenter’s Vampires). He continues to write everyday and promises to bring more unique stories to the world.