The story of how a student from Marist became a Fulbright Scholarship recipient and an international filmmaker.
It all began for filmmaker Nick Homler at the 2012 Lake Placid Film Forum. As a Marist College student participating in the Sleepless in Lake Placid 24-hr Student Filmmaking Competition, Nick attended a panel discussion the morning after his film showcased at a screening along with several other participating school teams. The panel discussion “Do Movie Theaters Have A Future?” sparked the idea of a senior thesis capping video on the digital conversion of movie theatre projection. The next year, “Coffee and Conversation,” a keynote presentation from producer and educator Ira Deutchman, convinced Nick to move forward with a documentary he called “The Shared Experience.” Now Nick is taking the project to New Zealand on a Fulbright Scholarship. Here’s Nick writing a guest post for us, telling the story in his own words.
From Coffee to Kiwis
By Nick Homler
Every single story of luck, happiness, and fortune can be traced back to an origin. And my origin hails from a single event in 2012.
Recently, I was granted my stroke of fortune when I received a Fulbright Scholarship to New Zealand. In January 2015, I will travel to the other side of the world to make a documentary film, “The Shared Experience of New Zealand,” that both celebrates independent, local cinemas and highlights their struggles. In addition to filming my documentary, I will travel cross-country to roughly thirty movie theaters to interview their owners and patrons to create two-minute video clips that these cinemas can use for social media purposes. I embark to N.Z. in January and return to the U.S. in November. I could not be more excited for this opportunity.
I never imagined that I would spend a year of my life in another country or that I would have the opportunity to create a documentary film with the potential to have an impact on the movie theater business. I know that this opportunity is a combination of determination and fortune, but more than anything, I know that the origin of my upcoming life-changing adventure can be traced back to my first experience at the Lake Placid Film Forum two years ago.
Sleepless in Lake Placid was my first filmmaking competition and it was an amazing experience. Working alongside other college teams, we completed our film in a 24-hour period. Our film, “The Wild,” won Best Performance by an Actor. More importantly than winning an award though, I learned valuable production lessons, met some wonderful people, and realized the importance of collaboration in a working production.
After the all night event, the participating filmmakers were invited to various screenings, socials, and discussions. One of these discussions, called “Do Movie Theaters have a Future?” took place early in the morning within the majestic Palace Theater. The topic focused on the upcoming mandatory and costly digital conversion for movie theaters nationwide with a small panel of experts including Bill Coppard, Nelson Page, Betsy Lowe, and Gregory Orr. There was an urgency in their voices and a heavy tone of seriousness in the room. The transition from film projectors to digital meant that many theater owners could potentially be forced to close their beloved business. Little did I know that this forum event would spark a fire in me and lead to the opportunity of a lifetime.
Several months after the Film Forum, I decided to make a short documentary on the digital conversion and its effect on small, independent theaters for my senior thesis project at Marist College. I assembled a small team of Marist seniors and worked in collaboration with ADK Mogul. We interviewed film critics, theater owners, and some other experts in the field and put together a ten-minute short film. It surely translated the message across to our audience, but the film appeared rushed due to the hectic life and time sensitive deadlines of college classes. I knew that this topic could be represented in a more artistic and meaningful manner. After graduation, and after attending “Coffee & Conversation,” a keynote presentation from Columbia University educator and film producer Ira Deutchman, I decided to direct and produce “The Shared Experience” documentary on my own.
During the summer of 2013, I created logos, video clips, and websites devoted to the film. After raising roughly $4,000 through contributions and an Indiegogo online campaign, I had the funds to pay for my travels and for a cinematographer to continue to work on the documentary. With the charity of the Marist College Media Center, I was given free production equipment to use for my upcoming interviews and filming.
“The Shared Experience” includes quality interviews with cinema owners, experts in the field, as well as an array of other characters. As the editor of the film, I am currently in the post-production stage of the process and I am excited to share what I have captured. The main goal of this film was to capture the effect that the digital conversion has on local cinema, but it has developed into much more – the film captures the love that communities have for these small business. Just like in the ending of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, over the past year movie theater owners received unexpected charity from their patrons. The film also explores talented artists and passionate business owners throughout the northeast.
As I continued to work on the documentary and delve further into the issue of digital conversion, I realized that I had found myself a niche and could apply it internationally. So, I discovered a passionate film lover in New Zealand who has a well-kept blog of local cinemas throughout both islands and decided to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship that would allow me to continue to explore the issue. After countless hours upon hours of paperwork, essays, and editing, my application was sent to Washington D.C. and then to New Zealand for review. I was selected in April and am honored and amazed to be working on this project.
I never imagined that a morning of coffee and conversation would lead to more luck, happiness, and fortune than I could ever ask for.
Thank you, ADK Mogul, Adirondack Film Society, Lake Placid Film Forum, the community of Lake Placid, my donors, and Marist for giving me a niche to pursue and a spark to light the adventures that lay ahead in my life.
To follow Nick’s progress on The Shared Experience, CLICK HERE!