So back in May I discovered I was one of three nominees in the Film & Video category for the Phoenix New Times new award for emerging artists, called the Big Brain Award. I know, totally rad. I am occasionally completely clueless. From what I gather, there was a hoopla a few months prior, on facebook, of people trying to get themselves nominated. You submit nominations for the Big Brain Award, and then a panel of chosen experts choose those nominees and then the winner.
So I had no idea about this whole thing until I got the email. My name was put forward by unknown people, to which I am very grateful for. I know for a fact that one big-wig in the film community, who I have never met, pushed my name forward… To which, again, I am equal parts grateful and blown away.
Well flash-forward to May 22nd, the night of the big event. Held at Madcap Theaters in Tempe, it was both a Big Brain Award shindig and a Phoenix New Times 40th Anniversary part. Meaning, everyone was slightly more interested in the food and drink than the whole “award thing.” Kinda like Final Draft’s Big Break ceremony. You quickly understood that the event was actually the company’s end of the year party.
Claire Lawton did a great profile on me for the Phoenix New Times, which I’ll include in this blog.
So I didn’t win, but that’s okay. Actually the award was a thousand bucks. Dammit. I freaking wanted that. Lol. So I totally swiped the display they put up about me (which one would assume I could take home anyway, but I decided not to ask).
All in all, a total blast of an experience. Thanks again superdudes! Here’s some photos from the event:
Here’s the great write up from the New Times. Thanks again to Claire Lawton and all the other staff at the Phoenix New Times:
When he’s not looking through his video camera lens, Nathan Blackwell’s
in the stingray tank.
It’s an odd day job for a film director, but being an exhibition tour guide
and stingray educator at the Phoenix Zoo gave Blackwell plenty of
background for his latest screenplay.
If the screenplay gains enough interest (i.e., financial backing), he’ll be
back behind his camera directing and filming a couple on a doomed first
date, which begins with an alien abduction and relocation in an outer-
space zoo exhibit.
The bizarre and extraordinary plot is a “Blackwell classic,” as it joins a
list of films he’s produced, such as “The Hand You’re Dealt,” in which a
guy walks into a tarot card reading and has to leave after his first three
cards are death, car bomb, and alien rectal probe, or “The Constant
Epiphanies of Billy the Blood Donor,” in which poor Billy finds himself
in the center of a blood donation clinic’s soft drink conspiracy.
It’s here where Blackwell succeeds: in the imaginative backstories, the
intense character development, and in the concrete and often comedic,
bloody visuals he uses under extreme time and resource limits (the tarot
card short was written and shot in 48 hours).
His film career began as soon as the first kid on his block got an 8mm
video camera for Christmas. The Central Phoenix neighborhood, just
miles from where he still lives, made a perfect backdrop for low-tech
renditions of Indiana Jones and Star Wars films.
“For me, it has always been about the imagination. It’s why I’ve stayed
here in Phoenix, and it’s why I keep throwing resources at what I create .
. . I’m not looking to make Hollywood blockbusters, but I also don’t
think my films are the typical ‘loners sitting around in a room’-type indie
As Blackwell continued experimenting and borrowing equipment, he
found himself looking for inspiration. He enrolled in Scottsdale
Community College’s film production program and, after graduating,
created Squishy Studios with a few friends. Blackwell and his four-
person studio have since created 40 short films, two feature films, six
screenplays. (His second job — the one that actually pays the bills — is
freelance commercial work.)
“Squishy comes from the very colorful, fun movies we like to make,” he
says of his company’s name. “We’re not Disney, by any means, but we’re
into that joie de vivre, irrepressible silliness.”
At 34, Blackwell describes himself as a late bloomer — perhaps not the
kind that couldn’t find a date to prom, but the artist whose work still
doesn’t fit in with what’s considered slick or cool.
“I used to look at Chuck Jones (of Looney Toons), who was depressed in
art school because he couldn’t draw as well as the other students. He was
talking to his uncle, who told him that up against a bunch of sports cars,
you can be the fastest pig you can be, but you shouldn’t want to compete
in the same arena. And it’s a lot like that for me. I want to create my own
projects and share my vision of a unique, fun and enjoyable world.”
— Claire Lawton