What the interview here.
Through a dark amalgam of various genres and atmospheres, Henry Nader pushes the limits of independent film, allowing his viewers to experience and interpret his work as they please. From experimenting with various digital mediums to challenging himself through meticulous use of 16mm film, Nader is working to create films that defy preconceived notions.
Nader, a Jacksonville native, has been deeply fascinated and intrigued by film and the arts, starting from a very young age. Nader’s love for film started as a kid when he first saw Star Wars in theaters, resulting in him watching all sorts of behind the scenes footage of various science fiction films.
With a father who is a musician, Nader devoted himself to music starting at 13 years old, believing that finding any success within the film industry was simply unattainable. Nader remained committed to music for decades, focusing on his band Hank El Diablo. Punk in nature, Hank El Diablo also combined various genres of music to create its experimental sound.
When Nader turned 39, he decided that he was going to take his passion for film to the next level and pursue this lifelong dream of his.
Today, Nader has two independent film releases under his belt. The first film, Shoot the Messenger, was released in 2016 and tells the story of a troubled young man whose life takes an unusual detour as he unwittingly stumbles upon a bizarre and dangerous underworld. With hints of action and a whole lot of darkness, the film had audiences hooked from start to finish. The cast consists of both actors and non-actors, with Justen Mann starring as the film’s main protagonist. The film was shot in Jacksonville, with glimpses of Downtown architecture making an appearance.
Nader’s second film, The Exchange, was released earlier this year. The film, also shot on 16mm, follows Hattie and Draven Walker, a mother and son who move to a new town that is quick to scope the newcomers out. Reigning over this small town is a man, Rev. Wrathbone. Full of oddities, twists and turns, The Exchange features Breezy Sharp and Auggie Pulliam, as well as John Amplas whose credits include cult classics Dawn of the Dead, Creepshow and Day of the Dead.
Some might describe the film as a thriller, but, according to Nader, The Exchange can’t be confined to one genre. “It has elements of horror, it has elements of suspense and drama, certainly. It’s a very simple story, as is Shoot the Messenger, but there are things going on kind of underneath an undercurrent, which is something that I focus on—the atmosphere, the emotional tone.”
Shooting in 16mm gave Nader the feel he was looking for on screen, but doing so came with its challenges.
“It was terrible at times . . . There’s an immediacy to film, for example, you really have to light everything, and I mean really push the lighting,” he explained. Sometimes you could spend all day getting that set up and you will roll two or three takes which are 30 seconds each and you’ll end up with 15 seconds maybe [for the film]. … It’s a completely different animal.” Despite the difficulties using 16mm, Nader said he was glad he did it. “I feel like it’s made me a better filmmaker.”
In terms of inspiration and actually sitting down and starting the process of writing a film, Nader said it’s sacred and personal.
“I don’t sit down with preconceived notions,” said Nader, “I just start to have conversations with the characters and kind of let them go where they need to go so things happen organically.”
He also looks to other art forms for inspiration. “Music is a big one. I’ll try to find inspiration from music or poetry, really focusing on emotional tone,” he said. “Instead of watching modern movies, I’d probably be better off listening to an old jazz record. I also watch a lot of short films from around the world.”
The future is very exciting and full of possibilities for Nader, who is currently working on a 10-minute short film, Disunity: A Love Story. He’s also written several other shorts and feature films he hopes to get the ball rolling on soon.
The mind and works of Henry Nader are actively pushing boundaries through experimentation with various genres, atmospheres, media and themes of darkness.