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Filmmaker Interview with Tim Earnheart

Filmmaker Interview by Chris Olson

Having featured his short film Ricochet in my eBook 20 Best Short Films 2019, when Tim Earnheart announced he had made another short film that year, NEMESIS, I was really eager to find out more about Tim's journey and his movie.

NEMESIS Movie Poster
NEMESIS Movie Poster

How did NEMESIS come about?

I wasn't planning on making another short film last year. I was too burned out from making RICOCHET. But then one day in late August of 2019, I came up with the idea about doing a "Hunger Games" type of movie but with wealthy people. Essentially, how would wealthy people get revenge on another wealthy person -- to what lengths would they go? That was the initial idea. Then I realized I could dive into the RICOCHET universe more and explore what "The Institute" does a little bit. So I got excited when I started initially putting the pieces together.

So it was kind of a sequel to RICOCHET, but I knew I had to make it a standalone movie for those who have never seen RICOCHET as well.

How aware were you, making it, of the visual style you had already achieved in Ricochet? And in what ways did you seek to improve or change that?

When I talked to my DoP Matt Fleming about it, I told him I really liked what we did with the opening of RICOCHET -- with the LED lighting. I wanted to have more of that. It brings a sense of warmth to the movie that I really liked. But also, when it came to camera work, I wanted this to feel more epic -- using more of the 20ft jib Matt has and the Dana Dolly he also owns. So trying to have more epic shots was something I was leaning more towards. It's hard when you have a 5 person crew over a 5-day shoot, and a few of those days we were doing 65 setups a day. It was really crazy.

That frenetic energy does permeate the movie. On top of that, you have frenetic energy. It all comes together really well. Do you think you could sustain that immense energy for a feature?

Yes, I could, because I'd have an actual crew and department heads. What's intense about my shorts is that we're in pre-production for 3 months before we shoot. NEMESIS, in particular, was hard -- since I do the costume design and production design as well. For me, those two were the most time-consuming. S. Joe Downing played "Dr. Woo" and the two creatures in the costumes.

S. Joe Downing
S. Joe Downing

For the main creature costume, the LED armour was fabricated in Toronto, pieces were made in London, the silicone masks in Los Angeles, and the rest was bought on Amazon -- so it was a logistical nightmare -- and you're praying everything comes together and doesn't look bad. You hope it will look convincing. I think it worked out well. So it would be easier if I wasn't doing most of the work myself and I had more help.

And as crazy as the shoot was -- this was actually the easiest shoot I've worked on. Chalk it up to experience or confidence or whatever. But we had such a blast making this. Everyone was so much fun to be around and work with. And because I have a shot list, I know exactly what I want. I think that's what made it feel easy -- it's still a ton of work. But I really shoot for the edit, but also have some back up shots in case something doesn't cut together like I think it would've.

I have to add, Diana Martinez was my production designer on this and she was really awesome about bringing the weapon displays and the power station to the next level so they looked as real as they could. She also helped with the costumes as well. It was great to have her take what I had and create something even better then I had in mind, but made sense in the world I was trying to create,

A man of many hats then. If you had to choose, writing or directing, which would it be and why?

The toughest question. HAHA! I came from writing because I wanted to direct my own scripts. But after making shorts, I realized, writing makes you a better director and being a director makes you a better writer. And they both make you a better producer. I like wearing all the hats. Creative and business. But I think I'd probably want to direct more. Seeing everything comes alive in pre-production through post-production is really amazing when you have a vision.

Do you have any directors you look to for inspiration?

Definitely David Fincher. He is not only a master of visuals but great with story too. And I’d have to say Sam Firstenberg, who directed a bunch of ninja movies for cannon back in the 80s, which I just help produce a book about his life that’s out on Amazon now.

I think Louis Leterrier too. He’s a master craftsman — he doesn’t get the credit I think he deserves.

Having directed several successful short films yourself now, what advice would you give to new filmmakers?

Focus on the script. If it’s not right in the script it won’t be right when you shoot. And start making contained movies that don’t cost a lot to make. Gradually have more ambition with each project. Push yourself out of your comfort zone with each project— it’s the only way you grow as a filmmaker. But also don’t make a sci-fi movie if the effects won’t be good. Just know your limits with your time and budget constraints.

Good advice. What's next for you?

A little sleep and a vacation!

It’s important to enjoy the whole ride before and during the festival run with NEMESIS.

Good idea. And lastly, what would you say if you were a dolphin?

Please don't send me to Seaworld!



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