There’s a belief that says if you do what you love, it doesn’t feel like work. Filmmaker Nick Spina ’19 is learning this lesson early on in his career.
This past summer, Spina interned for one week with Direct Line Media in West Hartford where he was a production assistant for an online series focusing on women re-entering the workforce. Days were long, but Spina learned about the intricacies of lighting and the necessity for absolute silence on a set. “It was crazy to see how the audio picked up even the slightest sound from the hum of the air conditioning to a distant whistle. We had to film the scene without air conditioning in order to stop the ambient noise. I learned that the littlest things can make a big difference.”
Spina also attended a film institute at St. John’s University where he and the other students toured different studios and sets, including an HBO production. The final project of the program was for the students to complete a three-to-five-minute film within a tight timeframe - three hours of total shooting time and three hours of editing time.
Spina’s team of six bounced ideas off one another to determine the course of the film. Naturally, the team floated the idea of a zombie film, but that was nixed in favor of a teammate’s seventh-grade poem on the theme of war. “After we read the poem we all thought ‘How did you come up with this? It’s very deep.’ We built the narrative around the poem and wove into it the idea of mental health. It was, by far, the most complicated storyline.”
The movie, Wartorn, centers around a young man speaking to his therapist and reading a poem about his war experience. The war scenes are produced in sophisticated flashbacks with an intricate use of editing. When the therapist reveals to the patient that he never served in the military, the audience learns through a flashback that the young man discovered the body of his friend who died from a suicidal overdose which is the source of his trauma.
"One reason for making the film about mental health was to spread awareness and a positive message because of all the mental health issues that surround the world now, but more specifically, in our age group,” Spina said.
Spina’s production crew took the project seriously and circumvented the timeframe given by the staff because they believed in their work. Instead of the three-hour filming and three-hour editing constraint, they filmed a total of 10 hours, edited 30 in total, including staying up every night from 9:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. to perfect the work.
The crew’s hard work showed. The film was showcased in front of 200 people, and the group was selected to speak in front of the audience since their film was deemed the best. “Even the head of the program cried after watching the film. It’s crazy to watch people cry when they show your work. Even I was getting choked up. I was looking around at everyone. I didn't think you could make this much of an impact. And it was mine. It’s nuts,” Spina said.
Spina made deep connections with his roommates and others who share his love for film. “I always thought that I was one of the only ones that really liked film so it was cool to be around other people that shared that interest. You got close to those people in a short amount of time, and we were brothers by the end. We had a couple of instances of conflicts in ideas, but either the majority ruled or we would try the other person’s idea and see how it went,” he said.
After the premiere, the group explained their process to the audience, how much the film meant to them, the relationships they forged, and how well they worked together so they could “create something awesome.”
Within the first 48 hours of posting the film on YouTube, the film received over 1,000 views. The film will be shown at the Mental Health Awareness assembly at KO on September 25, and Spina and his crew plan on submitting the short to the New York Film Festival and other film festivals in the spring. Look out, Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee. There’s someone nipping at your heels.
Nick Spina ’19 is on the far left of the photo
Watch the short film Wartorn.