NEW YORK FILM ACADEMY FILMS

A Little Harmless Murder (2003)  23 min.  London England

Writer/Director: Nick Karner

With: Jon Campling, Daniel Dresner, Anna Parker-Naples

IMDB SYNOPSIS:  Paul has just lost his girlfriend, his job, his dignity, and gained a rash. With nothing left to live for, so he decides to end it all. After several failed attempts at suicide, Paul opts for the next best thing: asking complete strangers on the street to kill him.

History and Trivia:

    This was my final thesis film at the NYFA. The idea for the short came to me when I realized that I’d never seen a film where someone goes up to complete strangers and asks them to kill him.  I decided the best way to do this was to make it a comedy and do it in the nonsensical style of my old action figure films.  So I had these professional actors saying some pretty ridiculous things. But that’s why they’re professional actors. They do the lines and give me a performance.   Jon Campling won a Best Actor award from the New York Short Film Festival. He’s been very busy, appearing in several films including two Harry Potter films.  

    One thing I'll never forget.  My actress texted me about 10 minutes before she was due to arrive and said her grandfather had died and she wasn't coming.  I did the scene from her POV and had another actress dub over her voice.  I'll never know if she was lying or not.  

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Space Coffee (2003) 5 min.  London, England

A Film by Nick Karner

With Wendy Kuan, David Najar, Rudi Fieldgrass, Jamie Sheldon

Crew: Brian Davenport, Pep Ribal, Puneet Mehra, Saleh Karama, Conrad Clark

     This was one of my last NYFA films. Every Friday for about a month, we’d be told that everyone was going to go out and make a group film. We were supposed to write a script in the morning, be ready to shoot it by the afternoon and knock it out before 5pm.  The first couple times we had to do this, it was pretty tough because they’re asking about 20 people to all just throw in ideas and there’s no way we’d be able to agree on one story.

     In our class, we all seemed to have our own niches.  Rudi Fieldgrass was an effects guy. He used his shorts to experiment and see what he could do when using green screens. David Najar wanted to be an editor and nothing else.  Wendy and Conrad were very much into making visually beautiful films. Jamie and Pep loved doing comedies.  Brian was into films within films.  Saleh was into art films that, while trying my best to be polite, were pretty hard to watch sometimes.  And for me, I was the writer. For some reason, I was able to knock out scripts very quickly at film school.  So, that morning, I had a 45 minute train ride and I wrote a parody of Invasion of the Body Snatchers where aliens are trying to take over the Earth by spiking our coffee.  Everyone was glad to have a script and it was probably our strongest group film because it was ready to go by about 10 am and we got a lot more scenes shot by the end of the day.  We shot it by a coffee shop on the River Thames near Waterloo Station.  During our lunch break, some of the students got regular people to fake drink coffee so we’d have a montage for the alien take-over. I used Dario Argento music for that sequence. The final shot was done on the Waterloo Bridge looking down on David as he was attacked by coffee aliens/zombies.    

Poppers (2003)  5 mins  London, England

Writer/Director: Nick Karner

With: Pep Ribal, Nick Karner

     This was another one of those films that we shot on a Friday in a group. This time they divided the class into three groups.  I knocked out this script in probably about 20 minutes.  It takes place in a junkie’s apartment. A drug dealer shows up and the junkie begs for pills.  He has no money so the dealer tells him he can get some pills if he kills someone for him. He tries to resist, but finally, he relents.  We used tic tacs for the pills. Shouldn’t have shot a close-up of those. Was VERY obvious what they were. Not sure where the story for this came from, but after we shot this one, anyone who wanted slang terms for drugs came to me first. I’m not even sure if “poppers” is a euphemism for a pill popper. I also called Percocet the “yellow fever.”  Yikes. 

CAGE (2005)  9 min.  London, England

Writer/Director: Nick Karner

With: Anna Parker-Naples and Anna Scaife

IMDB SYNOPSIS: A woman hears strange noises from the inside of a garage. She discovers, to her horror, that a psychotic girl is trapped inside a small animal cage. The girl needs her help...or does she?

     The darkest movie I made at the NYFA. It was during my “women” period. I wanted to challenge myself and write films just for women. I was watching a lot of Pedro Almodovar films at the time so I felt like I needed to step it up in terms of writing for women.  I built the cage out of scrap pieces of wood. It was not exactly well-constructed so I had to shoot very carefully so the two Anna’s wouldn’t get bonked on the head. I didn’t know the recipe for fake blood, so I made it out of ketchup and water. Anna P-N told me it was so cold when I poured it on her.  I’ve always been pleased about the ending to this movie. Most people told me they definitely didn’t see it coming.  I held onto this one and re-cut it for festivals in 2005.

Outsider (2005) 9 min.  London, England

Writer/Director:  Nick Karner

With: Karen Morgan and Nicky Spencer

IMDB SYNOPSIS: April is getting married, but she's having second thoughts. She confides her fears and regrets with her best friend, Lois. Little does April realize that Lois has many more problems than she ever imagined.

     Another one of my “women” films.  I treated this one like a one-act play.  Karen and Nicky auditioned together and they said the script actually mirrored their own relationship, which was nice to hear.  I had Beata Chelkowska, a student at the NYFA, shoot the film, but I shot the final scene as I didn’t think her handheld work was exactly what I was looking for. I always feel bad doing that to a DP, but I only had the morning to shoot the film. At film school, we’d be a group of four, and everyone had half a day to shoot their film, so we’d shoot one in the morning and one in the afternoon, into the evening.

Nuclear Gangsters (2003) 2 mins  London, England

Directors: Rudi Fieldgrass and Nick Karner

With: Rudi Fieldgrass, Nick Karner, Puneet Mehra

    This was really more of a test film. I used Lalo Schifrin music to make it exciting. The jist was that I’m tied to a chair and my guards are nodding off. I manage to wriggle out of the rope and I make a break for it.  I get chased down a hallway but outsmart the bad guys. There was a neat long hallway shot near the end where I smile at the camera and then run off.   As I recall, we were going to do something much more elaborate, but after we’d planned the whole movie in this seemingly abandoned room, workers showed up and we were kicked out.  

Monarch (2003) 5 min.  London, England

Writer: Nick Karner

With: Manfred Schoberth and Nick Karner

    I’d just finished a book on Picasso by Norman Mailer. This was another film where we were divided into groups and had to write and shoot a film in one day. I wrote this in about 30 minutes. It’s about a reckless artist and his frustrated agent.   It was great fun to work with one of my best friends at the school, Manfred Schoberth. Manfred is German and didn’t like his host family. He was planning on secretly staying at the school overnight and then going to Waterloo Station to use their showers.  I don’t believe he ever did that, though.  Monarch refers to a fictional art gallery.  

5 (2005)  9 min.  London, England

Writer/Director: Nick Karner

With: Beata Chelkowska and Nick Karner

IMDB SYNOPSIS: A mafia boss' hit man turns stool pigeon and attempts to hide in his mother's home.

     This was my first digital short. We’d finished our 16mm films and were given the Sony PD-150 camcorder.  It was supposed to be 3 minutes long but I got very ambitious with my script. Beata had never acted before, but I think my script struck a nerve with her because she really gave a fantastic performance. At our film screening, people were very impressed by her.  The theme of a mother ultimately giving up her son because of his crimes is one I explored again in Heartless

A Tasteful Holiday (2009)  10 mins  London, England.

Writer/Director/Star: Nick Karner

     My last 16mm film.  Originally, I wrote and prepared to shoot a dark little piece about my girlfriend being murdered. The twist was that it would turn out that I had a split personality and it was me who had killer her all along.  At the very last minute, my location got taken away from me and I wrote this in one night. I was reading a lot of Dilbert, The Far Side, and Calvin and Hobbes. I loved the idea that maybe there are millions of little versions of you running around inside your body, making all of your parts work.  What if one of them got bored and wanted to go on vacation? What if he went to the Tongue Riviera? 

     At the NYFA, we had class from 9-5, giving us very little time to buy affordable props, since you want to go to a consignment shop, but they all close before 6.  I finally had a day free because of a holiday, so I bought pink sheet and glued black string on them to represent blood and veins.  The film was in black and white so it really didn’t matter, but what did I know? I used the school’s elevator to represent my throat, traveling to the tongue. I had them flash me with light, on and off, to show my mouth opening and shutting. Then I was pelted with horrible squished food. The clean-up was awful. Hadn’t really planned on that.  Unfortunately, Beata, who was shooting it, had somehow not been framing it properly, so I had to crop a bunch of the shots, giving it a fuzzy look.  She was very upset about it and offered to pay to reshoot the movie, but I said no.  She let us use her house to shoot it, so I appreciated that.  I re-cut this for festivals in 2009.  

Crime on a String (2005) 1 min.  London, England

Writer/Director: Nick Karner

With: Rudi Fieldgrass, Nick Karner

IMDB SYNOPSIS: A thief gets more than he bargained for from a hapless victim's pants.

    My very first film at the NYFA!  It was our Mise-En-Scene project. It was unclear whether we could only do one shot or multiples, but I went for a single.  I snatched Rudi’s boxers but find them connected to a string, which I continue to pull and discover an apple, a shoe, and a “Beware of Attack Frog” sign.  The best moment was when some woman in the background just stopped and stared at me. It seemed planned since she stopped at the perfect spot.  

Shitty Chicken (2004)  2 min  London, England

Writer/Director/Star: Nick Karner

     This was a pretty messed up idea. Around London, there were a lot of homeless people, so a lot of student films involved them since you could get them into just about any situation. In the film, I’m so hungry that I eat a picture of a plate of chicken. Later, I go to the bathroom. When I’m done, I turn to flush, and discover that an entire plate of chicken is in the toilet. 

     We shot it in a public restroom, which, in retrospect was pretty stupid since we probably could’ve used the school’s bathroom. My DP, Puneet, hated shooting in the bathroom so much that he didn’t even notice that the film stock had run out. I was able to piece the film together with what I had.  Except for A Little Harmless Murder, this was the film I started sending to festivals almost immediately.  

Stare Down (2008) 2 min.  London, England

Writer/Director: Nick Karner

With: Napoleon Ryan, Posy Brewer, Sebastian Bates.

IMDB SYNOPSIS:  An explosive encounter between an ex-boyfriend and the girl's new man.

     This was my 3rd 16mm short. We were told to make a music video, although what they meant by that was to make a film using music since the last two were silent.  I had a limited amount of cd’s at the time, but I had the Jackie Brown soundtrack, so I used Bill Withers’ “Who Is He (and What is He to You?”.  The film was a good lesson for me because I planned way too many shots. I believe I had mapped out over 50 set-ups, or shots, and I only had the morning to shoot it and we were shooting on film. I was able to cobble the film together with what I had. I enjoyed using flash backs to tell the couple’s story and was even able to coax some implied nudity out of the actors for a bedroom scene.