By Peter Barell
Arts and Entertainnment Editor
A free screening of the film “Other Months,” and a talk with first- time feature film director and editor, Nick Singer, was held Monday, March 24 in the Kahn Building during common hour. The event was coordinated by Film professor Susan Zeig, who is friends with Singer’s parents, and encouraged him to attend a summer camp for high school students called SOCAPA, with locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, founded my Jamie Yerkes, a former LIU Post Professor. Singer grew up in New York, and graduated from Wesleyan University’s Film Studies Department in 2011. Students asked Singer questions regarding the film after the screening, with Zeig acting as moderator.
“Other Months,” Singer’s first feature effort, was an official selection at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival 2014 in Austin, Texas, screening three times. In the film, a young writer named Nash (Christopher Bonewitz) finds an uneasy security in his job as
a plumber, but is conflicted about giving up his artistic dreams for a sense of safety. The film follows Nash over the course of several months, where he works, meets and hooks up with women, and has lapses into
a depression as he tries to sort out personal meaning in his life. Highly visual and meditative, Singer described the film as “arty” and “slow,” but with its own distinct rhythm.
“It’s really great to use his advice, moving forward,” Zeig said. “[Singer] was able to finish his first feature. He spent quite a few years on it, and it was a very thoughtful process. Sometimes it’s hard to make a feature, when you don’t have money all at once. Nick was able to make [“Other Months”] in several parts, and the film itself works well completely whole. It’s a very smart strategy, with fantastic results.” The filmmaker gave students advice on funding projects, music copyright, submitting to festivals and more.
Singer discussed financing independent films, as many Post filmmakers anticipate funding their own thesis and production lab projects. “The money was personal money, but two-thirds of it was raised on Kickstarter a year and a half ago,” Singer. said “It [cost] $28,000 for the whole film, which seems like a lot of money now, but it’s really nothing compared to any other film that was at SXSW.”
Crewmembers for “Other Months” consisted of mostly college friends of Singer. “The crew, throughout the whole process, has been this knot of people,” Singer said. “We were just students who got much better at working together over the years. The actor, Chris, I worked with on a short project a year before we shot the first piece of the film. He’s a professional actor.” Singer hired a publicist for the film as it is entering festivals, in hope of being approached by future financiers, and reaching an audience through a distribution deal.
“The starting point for me and the whole project was the dream [sequence] in the beginning,” Singer said. That scene is very surreal and abstracted, tapping instantly into the sense of claustrophobia the main character feels. In it, wolf-like shapes are making love in what would be total darkness if not for faint red light. “There’s a red sort of sex scene; it’s a very abstracted, kind of dream sex scene,” he continued. “I had this crazy dream of this moment, and I thought ‘that’s very interesting.’ I couldn’t get it out of my head. I spoke to some friends about it and it just grew, it accrued meaning, the longer it stayed around, and the wolf became different things. The project grew from that.”
There is an unorthodox approach to pacing in “Other Months” where silent nature scenes often give way to long and heavy dialogue between characters. In one scene, we find Nash drunk at a bar with a friend, discussing in-depth their philosophy of chaos, and what it means to find security in the world. Singer often maintains long-takes, never cutting to a new shot, displaying superb acting skills, with little deviation from the script. “There was almost no improv,” noted Singer. “Other Months” was shot over the course of three years, with segments of the film standing as stand-alone stories of Nash’s life. The first segment of the film, titled “February” was an official selection of the prestigious Slamdance Film Festival 2012, in Utah.
Slamdance has launched the careers of filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan (“Inception”). Singer’s segmentation of the film fits the whole piece artistically: “If there’s one overall message of the film, its disconnection,” said Singer. “Disconnection visually and thematically.”