UT graduate’s short film heading to CannesWritten by Chase Will | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It pays to dream big.
Toledoan Nathan Elias can attest to that. His short film “The Chest” has officially been accepted into the 2015 Cannes International Film Festival.
Elias not only directed the film, but co-wrote and co-starred in it alongside writing partner Rachel Paulson, sister of “American Horror Story” actress Sarah Paulson.
“The Chest” is a dramatic short about three dysfunctional siblings battling over their father’s possessions after his death. Elias plays Oliver, whose manic depression is worsened by his egotistical brother’s taunts.
“When Rachel and I were writing the piece, we tried to write something that was very personal to both of us,” Elias said. “It comes from a person who doesn’t quite know their identity. They know they’re different from their family but can’t quite explain why.”
Acceptance into Cannes is one of the most prestigious honors for filmmakers. The invitation-only event takes place in Cannes, France, each May and has been the launching ground for many careers in show business.
Receiving the email announcement of acceptance sent shockwaves through Elias, who’s been honing his craft for nearly 11 years.
“I had to go online and double-check the email was correct,” he said. “I got it really early in the morning. I think if I would’ve gotten it mid-afternoon I would’ve been jumping for joy, but I was barely conscious when I saw it.”
The acceptance also validated the countless hours put into production, from crowdfunding the project via IndieGoGo.com to highlighting the specificity within each shot during postproduction.
“There was a sigh of relief that the work had paid off,” Elias said. “You always enter a danger zone when you make any artistic piece and put it out into the world. There’s a question of, ‘If I throw this against the wall, will it stick?’ I’ve made projects that don’t stick and never see the light of day.”
Elias is a 2011 film and creative writing graduate of the University of Toledo. He moved to Los Angeles after finding jobs on a few shoots in Ohio, such as doing crew work on 2012’s “Fun Size” and field producing MTV’s reality show “Made.”
Contacts he made on each set told him work was more consistent in Los Angeles. Planning on making film a full-time gig, Elias knew he needed to go west.
“I was in a position where I would travel to different cities just to work on these films and I’d be living out of hotel rooms,” Elias said. “Basically, the money I’d make on set would just pay for these hotel rooms so I could be on set somewhere.”
After meeting Paulson, the duo co-wrote their first short, “Kleptos.” The seven-minute story of a conservative man taught the joys of shoplifting by an enigmatic girl, which Elias also appeared in, was an Official Selection of the 2014 Texas Independent Film Festival.
The experience of acting in the same film he’d co-written fed Elias’s ambition, and he decided he’d direct the next project. This was how they arrived at “The Chest,” which is nearly three times the length of “Kleptos” and was far more demanding in every aspect, Elias said.
“Usually with short films, they tell you to keep them as short as possible, but we kind of wanted to go a risky route and also tell a good story,” Elias said.
Elias and Paulson decided to use “Kleptos” to demonstrate to investors their abilities both behind and in front of the camera. Although much of the film was shot before the online funding campaign ended, the project ended up fully funded.
In making “The Chest,” the duo was joined by Kenneth Bauer, another UT graduate.
Bauer was director of photography for the shoot. He’d met Elias through jobs in Ohio before moving to California and landing a job in the camera department of 2013’s “Parker,” starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez.
“I like working with Nate. He was really precise, a great writer,” Bauer said. “I really admired his work for a while, so after reading the script I really just wanted to be part of it because I knew it would turn out nicely.”
Elias is currently working on a short film based on his fiction story, “Right Now at This Very Moment,” which was published in Birdville Magazine.
Watch the trailer:
For updates on the North American premiere date of “The Chest” and upcoming projects from Elias, visit www.thenathanelias.com.