Toledo Native Makes It To Cannes Film Festival

Toledo Local Features  |  By Michael Pierce  |  05/01/2015

Nathan Elias realized at a young age what he wanted to do with his life.  “At age 13, I was addicted to playing video games and the only way I could stop was to make myself do something fruitful with my life. The only other things I liked were movies and books”, says Elias.  Taking influence from the likes of John Hughes and Quentin Tarantino, he delved deeply into writing and filmmaking, and has never looked back. The 2011 UT graduate now resides in Los Angeles and has written, directed, and acted in several short films.  His most recent work, The Chest (co-written with Rachel Paulson), has been accepted into the Cannes Film Festival.  This prestigious award is often a game-changer for aspiring filmmakers.  

When did you begin working on this project?

“We started shooting last March and it took us about a year to get the final cut with editing and whatnot.  When we finally had it completed, it was really close to the deadline.  The competition had already closed, but there was still an opening to submit for the short film corner, and I got it in just in time - within a day or two from the deadline.”

How did you and Rachel Paulson begin working together?

“Rachel was my writing partner for The Chest and a previous short film that we wrote together called Kleptos.  We met through a mutual friend who I had met on a film in Ohio.  The two of them are actors getting into writing, and I was a writer getting into acting, and Rachel and I just clicked.”

How did this story come about?

The Chest is a story that was personal to both of us.  For this project we had to delve into family history and how we feel about certain things in our lives. But at the same time we wanted to tell a universal story that other people can relate to.  With the subject of family, there are a number of directions one can go.  We chose to go the dysfunctional route.  The main character goes into a manic depressive rage because he feels estranged from his other siblings - who also have their own issues and flaws - which may be equal to his manic depressive disorder.  So really, it was us trying to take a lot of issues that people feel and how they feel trapped in the confines of their life, and also to show how people can turn ugly in the face of greed.”  

Tell us about the cinematography for this film.

“The cinematographer’s name is Kenneth Bauer, who is also a UT graduate.  We shot digitally with a Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera and with a BMPCC anamorphic lens.  For the aesthetic of this film, we were shooting with a static set - meaning that everything takes place in one location, for the most part.  And in order to convey a larger sense of space in a tiny area, the anamorphic lens allowed us to open up what you see visually and make it feel like we’re in a bigger space.  The anamorphic lens also gives us a bit of a more nostalgic look, in that sometimes it will open up a lens flare. A big part of the story is about the reveal of a family photo album, and the lens flare would give us this old-timey photo feel.”   

How do you balance both writing and directing?

“Honestly, it’s different for every project.  Myself, I only tend to direct projects that I write.  I’m not opposed to directing something someone else has written, but the way I work is different than the way some other people might work. I will think of a script because I have an itch to make a film, and then I will work within the confines of my limitations and what I have available at that point in my life.  For The Chest, we set out to write something that can take place in just one room. At this point in my career and my artistic life, when I write a script that I’m going to make, I try to keep the budget as tight as possible, which usually means it will affect my locations and my writing process.”

How was your experience at The University of Toledo?

“My time at UT was great.  The advisors there are really influential, and they really encourage artistry and integrity.  It’s a great program and I learned a lot there.  I was able to really get my feet wet and learn the basics of camera gear and equipment while also having the opportunity to tell stories.  Attending university was the first time that I was able to be a part of a community of other students who were also hungry to be a part of making films.”

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