Tuesday, October 3, 2023

UT Film Graduate Cannes Do It

Nathan Elias found himself in Cannes with his current work, The Chest, an emotional short film about complicated family dynamics and grief. Born and raised in Toledo, Elias daydreamed about going to the Toledo School for the Arts. After studying engineering and computer science at Toledo Technical Academy, he pursued film at The University of Toledo. Now, he’s a long way from home.

Much of his inspiration comes from his midwestern roots. Elias says, “Toledo has an amazing community of poets, artists, filmmakers, and artistic/creative entrepreneurs. (It’s) always inspired me…I am heart broken still by the loss of the Collingwood Arts Center residency program,” with which Elias was once involved. 

Having a passion for reading and writing since childhood, he became interested in film while in high school after being exposed to movies like The Breakfast Club, Pulp Fiction, and Good Will Hunting. To his friends it was pop culture, but for him it was profoundly impactful.


Opening “The Chest”

The day he received his acceptance into Cannes was like any other day. He climbed out of bed early to write and opened his email, finding that he’d been accepted. Immediately, Elias told April Preston, his partner and producer on The Chest

The character Joy, Oliver’s wife doesn’t speak English but is ultimately the only reasonable character in the film,  “by making her literally speak another language, it makes that concept more pronounced for the audience,” says Elias. 

“For me, there is a mountain of comedy to be drawn from language itself. Language, conception, communication, miscommunication, etc,” says Elias, commenting on how he is deeply inspired by other cultures and the complexities of language.

Citing the likes of Van Sant, Wes Anderson, the Duplass Brothers, Gondry, Godard, Nolan, and others, Elias shows he’s drawn to more unconventional cinema. “I like things that deal with philosophy, ethics, love, romance, friendship, coming of age, and I am really drawn toward dramatic comedies.”


Tools of the trade 

“I believe in making work for yourself. … I believe in starting with passion projects. I believe in finding your voice. I believe whether you want to be in business or in art… you have to learn all the technical stuff first, like lighting, camera, audio and sound, screenplay structure, etc, then go make a film from your heart,” said Elias, when reflecting on his positive experience in UT’s Film and Creative Writing departments. 

Before The Chest, the former Toledoan had directed several short form pieces, also pursuing acting and writing careers. He inevitably co-wrote and co-starred in Kleptos with Rachel Paulson.

“Really, I plan to do writing, directing, acting, producing… either together, or separately. Kleptos was the first time I performed something I wrote. The plan was always to get to a point where I could direct something I wrote that I also act in… (I’m) in it to be an artist and an auteur.”

Elias intends next to foray into directing and writing features. I Will Go with You is a project he developed for a platform like Netflix or HBO that could be retooled to play as a short film accompanying a feature. He’s also currently developing a feature-length psychological drama.

After its festival run, Elias plans to screen his current film along with his other short works here in town. Be on the lookout for much more from this passionate auteur who is clearly just getting started. For more information,please visit thenathanelias.com/films


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