Q + A with Nicholas Sailer, director of “The Strong One”
“The Strong One” was recently featured at the Chancellor’s fall forum during his “State of the University” speech. After highlighting a long list of accomplishments that the University has achieved this past year, Chancellor Woodson ended his speech with a viewing of the award-winning short film by Industrial Design senior Nicholas Sailer, business student Josh Bielick and CHASS graduate Tim Reavis.
This past summer Sailer, Bielick and Reavis traveled to Hollywood to take part in the Campus Movie Fest awards held at the Globe Theatre at Universal Studios. With over 200 films selected among a thousand submissions, Sailer took home the “Best Director” prize as well as “Best Picture.” The film was also selected to show at the Cannes Film Festival in France this past May.
During his busy schedule with the upcoming release of his full-length feature film “Ipseity” and in the midst of his classes at the College of Design, Nicholas was able to spend some time to elaborate on his experience with Campus Movie Fest, his experiences with the College and what’s coming up for him in the horizon.
How did you team up with Josh and Tim?
I met Tim (Reavis) in the spring of 2011 and we ended up studying together at the Prague Institute that summer. That’s where we got to know each other.
Josh (Bielick) and I crossed paths many times before we “officially” met. I entered a film for Campus Movie Fest in 2011 with a couple of other people. Josh had also entered it by himself. My film ended up winning best picture at State and Josh’s won best drama at State. We didn’t really talk much then but we both ended up attending an entrepreneurial event at State and that’s where we officially met.
Josh had been talking to Tim about using his poems for a film. I had been looking around to see who I can work with for Campus Movie Fest since people I’ve worked with previously graduated. During Christmas break, I sent Josh over a script I had written. I also had wanted to work with Tim and his poems. Usually I try to do my own work where I write and direct but I really wanted to work with others. So in January, Tim, Josh and I looked over five of Tim’s poems and we went with “The Strong One” which was originally called “Jurassic Parking Lot.” Tim had written this poem based on his childhood growing up in Durham for one of his poetry classes. When we met in January, we developed ideas for it and made a few changes, we also talked about actors, locations and ways we could do the scenes.
The cool thing about Campus Movie Fest is that it all has to be produced and finished in seven days. You have one week to shoot, edit and present a finished product. We ended up with a really extensive schedule where we shot for six of the seven days and edited for three of them. It was a lot of fun and most of it was shot in Durham since it was based on Tim’s childhood memories and how he used the dinosaurs he visited as a kid as a vehicle to understand different things he went through in his life.
What was Campus Movie Fest like?
Part of the deal with Campus Movie Fest was that if you win at the campus level you go to the grand finale in Hollywood. So at the end of June, Josh, Tim and I went to Hollywood and just networked like crazy at first. Then during the last day, there were screenings for the top two hundred films and we were able to see some of them. At the awards ceremony, I was up against four others in the Best Director category and it was just surreal when they announced my name and I walked up on stage in front of all of CMF to accept the award. They also announced our name for the Best Picture and we were in awe because looking back, we edited this film in DH Hill. We didn’t know what we had in our hands when we were editing it and that it would take us on this long journey. After the awards ceremony, it was like five hours of non-stop people congratulating us.
How did you pick up film making since you’re an industrial design major?
I have been making films since I was sixteen. I wrote and directed a couple of films and when I was interviewing for the College of Design, I had shown a trailer for a film I had made. I also showed my story boards along with the trailer side-by-side to show the process I went through. I have been learning and picking up ideas from different people throughout the years.
Any of your current courses help you with the visuals or with story boarding?
A lot of people actually ask if I am in a film program and I have to say no. Everything I learned at the Design school has been creative and visual principals that I apply to film making. Instead of applying them to products, I apply it to film. Things like hierarchy, contrast, unity, order and juxtaposition — all those things that go into making a good product can also be used to make a good composition for a film. A good composition is the basis of a good film. Your composition makes up your shots, your shots make up your scenes and your scenes make up your film.
Do you plan to work with Josh or Tim to make more films?
I have one more year here so I want to make some more films. I know I will be working with Josh because he has an amazing vision for films.
What’s up next?
Right now, I am wrapping up my next film, Ipseity, which is a feature length film. I have the teaser trailer and photographs of behind the scenes and stills from the film. I’m hoping to get the theatrical trailer out as well as interviews with the actors for promotion.
After graduation, what are your plans?
I am not really sure where I will be right after I graduate but I know it will be very creative and very visual. I think I will always be making films because I always have ideas for stories. I think subconsciously in high school I knew what I wanted to do but wasn’t sure how to realize it.
The College of Design has done a really good job of integrating story telling into everything we do. There are a lot of professors that will tell you to find a way to tell a story from a product perspective and that’s really cool.