I can’t decide if this week’s column will ruin Matt Nelsen’s career or help make it.
The fact is, the boy — along with his writing partner, Marty Schousboe — may be a comic genius. Unfortunately, he and his cohort (including producer Karla Rodriguez) are also comic pragmatists. Or, is that fortunate? It’s hard to say.
Favors and frugality have resulted in a shoestring film that packs a punch every bit as hard as an indie made for 50 times the amount. That’s amazing, because it exists, right? Yes. Problem is, it’s troubling for the same reason.
Directed by Nelsen, shot and edited by Schousboe, scored courtesy of Don Giovanni Records, and starring a Who’s Who of the New York improv community, including Carmen Christopher, Ana Fabrega, Jessica Frey, Josh Greenwood, Wes Haney, Eleanore Pienta, Lorelei Ramirez, John Reynolds, Gary Richardson, and Nelsen himself, A Maine Movie is a small miracle.
The film is a powerfully funny, inspired, and incredibly simple ensemble comedy that begins with Gary Richardson proposing to Jessica Frey, who’s really gotta poop, and ends quietly on a beach, with the relics of a larger friend group who’ve just spent one very eventful and totally believable 24 hours together at an Airbnb. Sounds … like a student film sorta? No, no. It’s a real movie, a marvel of millennial mumblecore and airtight retroscripting. And it was shot in seven days on the back of a sparkling group effort. This cast and crew are clearly a family so precisely dialed into each other’s wants, needs, and sensibilities that they were able to pull off the impossible.
Unlike countless horror flicks that are made for under $250K and go on to earn millions, or even tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, comedy is really tough to sell internationally because making someone laugh relies on a more subjective response than horrifying them. This means that the opportunities for a group like Nelsen’s to hit it big with an indie comedy are slimmer than, say, the makers of Paranormal Activity. And that means that there will be fewer outlets for licensing and distribution. And that means that there may be the same level of financial support (or even less) for Nelsen and his crew the next time they want to make a movie, even though they created something great. Perhaps because they did. That’s the really shitty part. They pulled it off once, so can’t they do it again? For $75K? Probably, but shouldn’t they be rewarded for their success?
Yes, of course they should. Objectively.
They won’t be unless the public gives A Maine Movie the cult-classic status it deserves.
Let’s get to work.