By Sven Mikulec
Nick Delgado contacted us a while back, wondering if we’d be interested in seeing a short film he’d made. At the time, C&B was trying to build a small platform for showcasing short films of young, interesting filmmakers, a project of love that was unfortunately put to a (hopefully temporary) halt by a sheer lack of manpower. One of the films that genuinely impressed us turned out to be Nick’s. The Macabre World of Lavender Williams exceeded our expectations, as it turned out to be an imaginative, visually entrancing and deeply moving piece of work. For a student short film it was chock-full of great movie stars (Christopher Lloyd and John Lithgow, for God’s sakes!), its production value was surprisingly high and the fact that Delgado was mentored by the great Robert Zemeckis, one of our favorite storytellers, only made the surprise even more pleasant. When we heard Nick was preparing a new short film, far more determined and ambitious than before, we became intrigued and decided to stick our noses into his business.
WebCam is a post-apocalyptic short which tells the story of a seemingly last man on Earth who suddenly receives a mysterious transmission that will change his life and the world as he knows it. Given the quality of Lavender Williams, we’d watch this film even with a far less interesting premise, but the end-of-the-world films with the potential to radiate humanity, humor and heart have always been our thing. We caught up with Nick as he’s gathering funds for the post-production of WebCam, currently kicking ass on Kickstarter.
On your first grand filmmaking endeavor you directed such legends as Christopher Lloyd and John Lithgow. Moreover, you were mentored by none other than Robert Zemeckis. To what degree has this affected you as a professional?
It was definitely wild to be working with all my heroes in the same movie! A dream come true and a terrific learning experience. Robert Zemeckis is one of the master storytellers and his insight on Lavender‘s script during our story sessions made making the movie worth it. It was incredibly to be talking story with him, answering the tough questions and coming up with ideas together. And regarding the actors, it is amazing how much you learn working with talented artists like Chris, John and Rex Linn. I became a much better actors’ director working on this movie. Together with meeting Steven Spielberg, this might still be the best experience of my professional life. Though WebCam has come close!
When we talked to you about The Macabre World of Lavender Williams, you mentioned how you were always attracted to the idea of a character setting out to find what they want, only to end up finding what they need instead. Without any spoilers, can we expect this inspiring idea to lie at the heart of WebCam?
Big time! This might have to deal with how much I like twist endings that surprise you at first but then make you realize that they were the only way to end the movie properly. Surprising and inevitable at the same time. A difficult feat to achieve, for sure, but I believe that in movies, like in life, it’s better if the people get what they need rather than what they want. It’s the only way that they can grow morally or spiritually—this doesn’t mean they can’t get what they want too, but I prefer if that want gets transformed into them choosing what they need (love over gold, for example). This is at the spine of WebCam… on the surface it’s a love story, but it might not be the love story you expect at first glance.
The Macabre World of Lavender Williams was a wonder to look at, and special effects were a solid part of its appeal. Given the nature and genre of WebCam, is it safe to say you once again let your passion for effects (both practical and special) run wild?
Very much so. For me effects, both practical and digital, are another tool in the storytelling kit, like cinematography and music, and we must take full advantage of it. Visual effects can be like metaphors to a writer or used to create characters and settings. It’s an incredibly powerful tool and it must be used with care. I think in my last interview I mentioned how special effects aren’t special anymore if they are occurring non-stop rather than being used for a narrative reason, and I stand by that rule. I’ll take The Curious Case of Benjamin Button over Transformers any time. The first one was fun, though.
You said the only way an aspirational filmmaker can get better is by simply making movies, not giving up. In what ways are you a better filmmaker on WebCam than you were on Lavender Williams?
I’m a better storyteller now and I’m making better decisions! (laughs) But seriously, all the writing and storyboarding and directing (I direct commercials) between the two projects have paid off. I told this story better on the page and on set than I did with Lavender. I think my camera angles are better and my directing of the actors more nuanced. I’m also more determined and sure of myself which helps when you have to make quick decisions. What hasn’t changed between the two projects is how much I love making movies and working with the actors. One particular great experience from WebCam was workshopping the script with Drew and Dichen. We did a table read where we went through the script together and put on its feet and their insight on their characters and their suggestions were incredible and made the script so much better. And the back and forth with them was really creative. While a strong unified vision for a movie is essential for the project’s well being, it’s important to allow and foster a spirit of collaboration where every member of the cast and crew can bring their ideas to the table. I’m the final arbiter of course, but a lot of the times Drew and Dichen understood their characters better than I did. So it was blast collaborating with them.
Characters and the way writers make you care for them are, as you stated, what matters most in movies. The stakes are even higher when you shoot a post-apocalyptic short film with so few characters. How big of a challenge was to write this story?
Actually, the proof of concept short (this short is really the contained, first ten minutes of a feature film) was not that hard to write… at first. The first pass of the story happened very quickly. I did maybe twenty drafts after that but with the same building blocks, and we started preproduction… and yet I wasn’t happy with it. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why but I was uncomfortable with it. The reason I know was because I wasn’t enjoying the storyboarding process. The angles didn’t jump out at me, it felt static. My manager and producer, David Server, suggested a writer friend of ours, Daniel Wilson, to come in and work with me on it. On my first meeting with Dan, he had great ideas and he said something that made me realize what the problem with the script was. Part if it was that the short was just a set-up for the feature, and we found a way to tell a complete story with larger implications. I was so pleased with Daniel’s ideas that I asked him to take a pass at the script (the first time I collaborate with another writer like this), which he did beautifully, and then I did a final rewrite off his. And that’s what we shot!
Casting is, obviously, extremely important, but it seems it was crucial here. How difficult was it to find a perfect actor for the protagonist’s shoes?
Casting was actually a long and arduous process and we talked to several people over a year-long period, but it just wasn’t clicking. Then my manager and WebCam co-producer David Server suggested Drew Van Acker. I wasn’t sure at first because I was imagining somebody older but if David likes somebody, you better listen, he has great instincts. And I liked Drew’s past work on a short-lived TV series called Tower Prep. So we met for lunch and he was so enthusiastic about the movie and had so many questions and ideas about the character that within fifteen minutes of meeting him, I knew it had to be him. And that was the best decision we ever made. Drew turned out to be the most talented, delightful, hard-working and generous actor I’ve ever worked with. It was the closest working relationship I ever had. He became my partner in the storytelling. I love him.
I’d love to talk about Dichen Lachman as well. She actually came onboard a few months before Drew. I loved her work in Dollhouse and there was nobody else in my mind that could play Kitty. Luckily she loved the story and really wanted to play this part… I cannot tell you what drew her to it because I’d be spoiling the ending but she really wanted to do it. And she was so generous and helpful–she went beyond just being an actor on the project, she helped us find crew members, made calls, and became really involved in making sure we got this movie made. And, of course, when I got the chance to direct her, it was everything I’d dreamed of. She was inventive, very precise and really amazing to work with. I’m the luckiest director in the world!
Post-apocalyptic worlds have already been explored countless times, but you wouldn’t have made WebCam if you didn’t feel you had something new to say. What freshness do you believe you’re bringing to the genre with this film?
I am a big fan of post-apocalyptic stories, especially Planet of the Apes and the granddaddy of all dystopian stories, I am Legend, which is one of my favorite books, but whereas most of these stories are very grim and offer a bleak view of humanity, I wanted to do the opposite and tell a very optimistic story in this context. I think it’s a great setting for a sci-fi adventure love story that will make people feel good… or so I hope! (laughs)
Your hope is that this short film might serve as your entry ticket into Hollywood, to turn WebCam into a feature film?
That was always the plan, so to showcase the premise, the characters, and the world and look of the story, we decided to make the short, which tells a complete story, but also sets up the feature in A VERY BIG, DRAMATIC WAY! (laughs) I can also tell you, and we are revealing this for the first time here, that I’m developing WebCam the feature with screenwriter Bill Marsilii, who wrote Tony Scott’s Deja Vu. He’s another idol of mine and I’m really enjoying the process!
We know of your admiration for Steven Spielberg. How did you get to meet him?
I met Mr. Spielberg while I was at film school. He came down for an event and me and a friend really wanted to meet him, but as students we weren’t invited to the event. So we pretended to be journalists from the school paper and they let us in… and we interviewed him! He graciously and enthusiastically answered all our questions and at the end of the interview I told him I was a film student. I told him that one of my dreams was directing movies for DreamWorks. He shook my hand and looking me straight into the eye, he said: you will. Needless to say, I couldn’t sleep that night! Hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to make something worthy of his attention and meet him professionally.
You moved to the States to pursue a filmmaking career and you’re working hard at it, not taking any shortcuts. What’s the next step?
Next is getting fully funded to finish WebCam the short (here’s crossing my fingers!) and if we’re lucky enough to get funded, then we have to finish all the visual effects, sound design, the score, the D.I… When all that’s said and done we should also have the feature script ready for the world so we’ll use the short to find financing for the feature. Wish us luck!
I’d also like to tell you how proud I am of the work my team have done so far. The short looks and feels amazing and I’m especially proud of the performances. So here’s a shout-out to Begona Castillo, David Server (producers), Alvaro Martin-Blanco (cinematographer), Ramiro Cazaux (production designer), Ari Levinson (vfx supervisor), Mark Apicella (editor), their teams, and of course Drew and Dichen, who are the soul of the film.
Since I loved Lavender Williams so much, I have to ask you—are there any news regarding the feature version?
WebCam has taken over our lives! But… we’re still working on Lavender the feature. We have a script and I’m in talks with screenwriter Donna Thorland (Salem) to do the next draft together. Hopefully that will be the closer and we will move onto the next phase. We’re also doing designs and concept art, and I’m sharing one piece with you. Nobody else outside my team has seen this!
Thanks for your time and congrats on a great campaign once again.
If you want to help Nick Delgado finish this potentially wonderful project, we encourage you to donate however much you can. Maybe it’s your couple of bucks that actually enable WebCam’s funding!
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