Nickel Children – a short sci-fi steampunk Western that has already won awards at two film festivals. You can read my review elsewhere on this blog. Here is my interview with creator and director Kevin Eslinger.
I recently had the chance to watch
PG: Can you please fill us in on your background Kevin.
KE: I am originally from Indiana and have been living in Nashville, for over seven years where I graduated from Watkins College of Art and Design. I studied Film with a concentration in cinematography. I am mostly a shooter and have shot dozens of projects on both HD and film mediums, including 16mm and 35mm film, however two years ago I finally decided to produce one of my own projects.
PG: Tell us about your current project ”Nickel Children.”
KE: “Nickel Children” was written about five years ago and I have been periodically coming back to it every so often. Make changes, sit it on a shelf, and come back to it later. Slowly tightening it over time. In between edits, I was also creating characters, villains, plots and subplots. Developing an almanac of sorts full of history and lore about this new alternate world. I began looking at my interests :Sergio Leone westerns, dark/gothic settings, Universal monsters (my father was a huge Universal monsters fan – Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Dracula), science fiction and Robert E. Howard. After researching and pulling all of these influences I kept coming up with this term “steampunk”, which oddly enough had most of those aesthetics built in. I never knew my interests combined had a name. More research shifted the style into Gaslamp Fantasy, and finally as I began developing the story and really hanging true to my interests, it fell into WEIRD WEST.
The film was shot in 5 days on a ridiculously low budget, self funded, on location in Nashville TN. However, for all of the exteriors, I traveled to Nevada and took several reference photos that I knew we were going to need. My brother, Justin, did all of the visual effects and 3d modeling in the film, as well as shot a large portion of it. We both collaborated to create the look and tone of the film. The film was completed in July 2010 and began hitting the festivals/conventions in September, starting with Dragon*CON.
One of the things I wanted to do with the film, was just jump in head first. And slowly release more information about the characters origins through the series. The audience will wonder, create, and grow with the characters. Most of my writing involves leaving a lot of the exposition out and let the actors act. I don’t like to slap the audience in the face, or hit them over the head with all of the details. I love leaving out a few details to let the viewers/readers mind wander a bit and start to develop their own back stories, wants, or desires for the characters based on the actions.
Another aspect of the piece, was to include modern social issues that could have been an issue in our alternate universe as well. I feel that sometimes by taking these issues and just re-wrapper it set within a sci-fi or fantasy backdrop, that it could just as easy raise awareness as even a documentary on that issue. A couple of the conventions, I actually had people come up to me after a screening and ask me if that sort of thing really happened in the late 19th century. While I expressed that the film is solely fiction, I would not guarantee that such atrocities did not exist. We have had numerous people respond to us that they felt that the film is effective in raising that awareness in which I am glad that the film has that impact.
We had local members from the steampunk community from Nashville and Atlanta, that travelled to be in the film. We also had prop makers and costumers lend their wares to help including Kaitlyn McClain (KMK Designs),Justin Stanley (Red Fork Empire), Hans Meier (PH Factor), Jill Osborn, and Christian Matzke. Aria Durso led the costuming department to get everyone suited up and did an amazing job! Keith Stacey nailed the score on the film, and Ian Quinn (stunt coordinator from 24, Heroes) was excellent and keeping everyone safe.
PG: What’s been the reaction so far?
KE: We have screened in well over twenty venues, from film festivals to sci-fi fantasy conventions with enormous response. The audience have said they loved the characters, the costumes, the production design, the music, or the message or all the above. However, the most common complaint we get is, “It’s not long enough!” and this is a complaint that the entire cast and crew love hearing. After every screening, we also hear how they want to see more. The film ends wide open, and really leaves the viewers hanging a bit. However, this is something that was completely intentional and set up very episodic. As this is something that I am definitely pushing for, to take the world and its characters and expand its universe.
PG: Where do you plan to go next with the project?
KE: The next step, we are working with local artists to create graphic novels and online web comics to complement the films, and are planning to release them online as I continue to expand the world and build the community. The next films are going to require a little bit more budget than I can handle out of pocket. So in the mean time, I am going to continue delivering content with mini-stories around the characters, build the community and once the bigger budget hits we’ll do the films.”
Interview copyright Paul Green “Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns” 2011.