"An award winning director, writer, and producer, Nicholas has a
penchant for personal stories with supernatural twists. His
prior works include his found footage duology Lygophobia and
Monophobia, Saturday morning cartoon throwback The Guy, candid
Paranormal Investigation documentary A Weekend at the Shanley Hotel,
and zombie thriller Bitten. Since returning to college in Spring of
2020 he's gone on to create a pandemic produced short film,
Intrusion, which went on to win sixteen awards as well as its more
uplifting tie-in, Seclusion. Most recently, he's completed his senior
thesis film, The Door, which he intends to use as a proof of concept
piece to find funding for a feature film.
1. Your project has entered our festival. What is your project about?
The Door is a story of two brothers dealing with grief. They have a bit of an awkward disconnect after the death of their mother, with neither of them able to process or accept it in a healthy manner. The short follows their attempt to reconcile, leading to their unfortunate discovery of a door in the middle of the woods.
2. What are your ambitions with your project?
First and foremost, I want to tell a story that makes you feel something. I feel like a lot of horror shorts (and often features) focus too much on “the other”. The scary entity, creature, killer, etc. I want to focus on character. If you don’t care for these characters before something bad happens to them, you won't have a reason to worry about them or root for their escape. Ultimately, my main goal with The Door is to turn it into a feature film. My fiance, Skye Cruz, and I have been working on this story for over 5 years. This short is an alternate version of the beginning of our feature film. There’s a whole lot of story left to tell and I want to use this short to try to find more funding or even a distributor willing to take it on and create it as a feature film. So I guess to truly answer the question, I want people wanting more from these characters and this world.
3. Tell us something about your shooting? What pleasantly surprised you?
Honestly, my biggest surprise is that it actually happened and went as smoothly as it did. As I mentioned, this project has been in the works for 5 years. I knew that I wanted to create this as my senior thesis film at DeSales University. In order to do that though, I would need to pitch the project in front of my class and they would vote on whether the class moves forward with it or not. I was lucky enough to be 1 of 3 films selected that year and production finally got started. It was pretty bumpy at first, I won’t sugar coat that. There were so many times throughout the pre-production process that I thought we’d need to scrap it and give up. Locations fell through, we had a hard time finding actors, there were so many outside factors that seemed to push against us. Luckily within a week before filming, everything fell into place. We were somehow able to secure state game land in Pennsylvania a week before turkey season (which I guess is a pretty big deal here in PA) and we needed to rush to get all of our cult scenes done that weekend. My producer Ella Evans and 1st AD Chris Foley somehow made everything work, it was really a small miracle. The cast and crew had nothing but great things to say about their time on set and I’m so proud of how everything came out. It really was a dream come true.
4. For what group of spectators is your film targeted?
I'd say if you’re a fan of elevated horror, you’d like this. It’s not a very “scary” horror film, it’s more suspenseful and psychological.
5. Why should distributors buy your film?
I truly believe the story of The Door has a lot of potential. With this film being a proof of concept piece, I’ve already had people come up to me telling me they need to know how the rest of the story plays out. I can say for a fact that there is so much left to uncover in this world and those stories and characters can only be revealed if the film is picked up for a feature film. I have my pitch ready and I’m only one call away from giving you a mind bending, thrilling, artistic horror film. Let's talk.
6. How would you specify your work? What characterizes your film?
I think the best way to characterize my work is that it is always related in some way to the supernatural. I’ve very rarely deviated from the horror or sci-fi genres and I try to blend the two whenever I can.
7. Why did you decide to become a filmmaker?
I remember the moment vividly. My father took me to see Peter Jackson’s King Kong on the day it came out. I sat in that theater and was absolutely amazed by what I saw. The epic landscapes, the intense action sequences, the heart behind the film. I soaked it all in and left with such a distinct feeling: I wanted to tell stories that made people feel just like I did in that theater. From that point on watching movies became a comfort unlike any other. I became obsessed with film. Now, film is my passion and I don't see any other line of work for me. I thrive in it.
8. Who is your role model?
When I was young, I remember watching interviews with Guillermo del Toro. I’ll never forget hearing his advice to young filmmakers, to just keep creating films no matter what. His views on filmmaking and his passion for his craft were so inspirational to me. The way all of his films ooze with heart and soul and the way he puts so much of himself into his art is something I’ve tried to emulate in my own work.
9. Which movies are your favorites? Why?
I’m a sucker for found footage horror films, especially those that try to stretch the genre. For example, I adore Cloverfield (2008), a found footage monster movie is such an awesome idea and Reeves and his team executed it perfectly. Monster movies in general are some of my favorites. I really appreciate those kinds of movies for allowing me to experience something that is absolutely unfathomable. Wide scale destruction and obliterated cities are things you never wish to see in person, but it’s so cool seeing them on a huge screen in a movie theater.
10. Where do you look for inspiration for your films?
I like to look at events in my own life and loosely base things off of those experiences. I take things that we all can relate to and translate them into visuals. For instance, one feeling that I alway try to capture is the split second immediately after a life changing event, that moment when you realize that no matter what, you’ll never be able to go back to the way things were before. It’s like the trap has been sprung, you made a mistake and things will never be the same. Think of a car crash, the loss of a loved one, or receiving bad news. Those tiny moments you unknowingly walk into and leave forever changed. It’s terrifying to me, and I use the feeling of “that moment” in all of my films. It's a very simple, but almost indescribable feeling that we all have felt at some point in our lives. I tend not to look at other films for inspiration out of fear of being compared to them or”copying” them.
11. Which topics interest you the most?
I love history, especially if there's something spooky or weird about it. I'm obsessed with cryptozoology and ghost stories. But my favorite topic would have to be paleontology and prehistory. I’ve never lost the love I had for dinosaurs as a kid. There’s simply nothing else like going on a deep dive on these almost mythical beasts. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that those things were on this same planet at one point.
12. What do you consider your greatest achievement in your career?
This is a hard one for me, as I feel like my career really started last year with the release of my last film, Intrusion. I would say that up to this point, I think my greatest achievement has been winning 3 “Best Director” awards (the first being from New Fort International Film Festival for my work on Intrusion, and the second and third being from Hollywood Blood Horror Festival and Austin International Art Festival for The Door). There’s nothing that compares to the feeling of being recognised and awarded for your passion. I have nothing but hope and optimism for more in the future, but if those are the only 3 awards I get for it I’d still feel like I realized my dream of becoming a successful director.
13. What do you consider most important about filming?
The most important aspect about filming to me is the fact that you have the ability to allow your audience to feel something they might not have the chance to experience in their everyday life. To feel a fear of the supernatural, the anxiety of an alien invasion, or the panic of being stuck in a time loop. Watching a film can make you feel so many things. My favorite thing about supernatural horror is that it evokes a kind of fear that is easy to separate from our reality due to how unrealistic it is. We can have fun feeling unsettled that way, whereas psychos wielding knives, kidnappers, or stalkers can be real threats that keep us up at night.
14. Which film technique of shooting do you consider the best?
After experimenting with Found Footage in my early career, I quickly decided that kind of technique just wasn't for me. A more traditional approach to shooting allows a story to flow more naturally and is most importantly easy on the eyes. I dabbled in documentary filmmaking and while I have many more ideas and stories I’d like to cover, I don’t believe I have the right means to tackle those ideas quite yet.
15. How would you rate/What is your opinion about current filmmaking?
I think the current climate of filmmaking, if anything, is very inspiring to me as a filmmaker. I see so many studios taking chances on up and coming filmmakers or streaming platforms picking up fresh and original content.
16. What can disappoint you in a movie?
A bad or rushed ending will ruin a movie for me. Oftentimes I find myself in a theater and absolutely loving a movie, and then within the last 20 minutes of the film the story falls apart and it drops the ball. It’s like people put all the effort into the beginning and middle of a story and then dont know how to properly end it.
17. Who supports you in your film career?
For The Door specifically, I had overwhelming support from our Indie Go Go backers. My family, friends, and so many more came out in full force to ensure this film was made. In general, my family is my biggest support group. My mom and dad always show up to any in person event I’m featured in and it really means the world to me seeing how proud they are of what I’ve done so far. My fiancé is another massive supporter, she helps me write and cleans up all of my scripts. I wouldn’t be the filmmaker I am today without her incredible writing talent.
18. What are the reactions to your film? (opinion of spectators, film critics, friends and family)
I’ll never forget when my dad first watched The Door, his immediate reaction was that he wanted to know more about the door and the cult surrounding it. It made me so happy to hear that he wanted more of this story because that was the goal, to get people interested in what could come after this. Since then, it’s gone on to garner awards, reviews, and a lot of attention. I couldn’t be happier about all the love this film has been getting.
19. Have you already visited any of the prestigious film festivals?
I’ve been to several local festivals, like The Greater Lehigh Valley Filmmaker Festival or The DeSales University Film Festival, but nothing major. As a student on a very limited budget, it’s hard enough to make it out of my own state let alone the country! In time, when my career grows and grows, I’d love to attend all the major festivals. There’s nothing like film festivals–from the people you meet to the incredible art you get to watch.
20. What are your future plans in filmmaking carriere?
At the moment, I have a few ideas for other short films but I’d like to focus my attention on getting The Door out there and in front of the eyes of people I'd like to see it the most. I've had this dream of The Door being my stepping stone into the larger film industry. Up to this point in my career, I have always done everything I set out to do, and I see this no differently. It’s ambitious and it’s going to be one of if not the most difficult thing I’ve attempted yet, but I’ll never know until I try.