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You're not likely to see a movie script detailing the bizarre journey of two teens who, after drinking contaminated water, turn into monstrous zitheads with grotesque pustules atop their craniums, landing on the desk of some famous Hollywood movie producer's desk anytime soon. And that suits independent filmmaker Rusty Nails just fine.
Nails - a film and punk rock fanatic - wrote, directed, produced and also starred in his first full-length feature film entitled "Acne," which will be featured in this year's 3rd annual Black Point Film Festival in Lake Geneva next week "It's really an homage to French New Wave, film noir and 1940s and '50s horror and science fiction movies," the filmmaker explained about his offbeat movie. "And it's also a cynical comedy about government conspiracy. It's really a mixture of all those different types of things. Although I really think that it comes out as something new unto itself."
This will be the Chicago resident's second film appearance at the festival. Last year his film "Grethel & Hansel" won Best Dramatic Short Film at the fest. Nails' interest in film can be traced back to his family frequently moving when he was a young boy. "I traveled a lot when I was a kid," he remembered." My father was a cook and we moved pretty often. Initially we were in Alabama then to Minnesota and later in Illinois. I think this helped me [with my future filmmaking] by meeting all different types of people, but at the same time it was hard to make long lasting friendships. So a lot of times I would rely on fantasy kind of stuff. I was really fascinated by it."
When he was just nine he saw the science fiction film "Fantastic Voyage" for the first time on cable TV. "It was where Raquel Welch and the other actors were all shrunk down and traveled through the human body. That movie and "The Wizard of Oz" really made me think about the fantastic properties of film - taking people to places that they've never been before."
Although he originally wanted to act, Nails soon realized in his early teens that Hollywood wouldn't be an easy place for an actor to get into. "I was to quick to figure out on my own that if I wanted to be in movies that I would have to make movies. So my mom gave me an old Super 8 camera when I was twelve, thankfully they were still making film for them in the video age, and I just started filming things and making small movies. I would just go and film different kinds of people on the street and anything that I thought was interesting."
Without like-minded friends and lack of equipment Nails decided to move to Chicago in 2003 and live with his aunt. "It was in Chicago that I would meet most of my future crew people. I realized that I wanted to make a feature before I left Chicago. I figured that once I left I wouldn't have the access to the same great crew. I also got folks from hanging out at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio"
Nails continued,"I had friends who were going to Northwestern University, and you're not supposed to make feature films there, but we decided to break that law and make one, pretending we were making a short film."
That movie was "Acne," but it was far from a weekend school project. In fact, it's taken closer to four years and $14,000 to finalize the project. "As a kid my family didn't have a lot of money. So most of my life I was making, at most, two-hundred-and-fifty bucks a week. As far as making the film, I didn't have anybody that I could borrow the money from. I didn't have a Hollywood cousin or a well off uncle or anything like that. The summer before I started making the movie, I worked at a grocery store when I was still in Minneapolis. I was staying at a friend's place where I didn't have to pay rent at the time, so I was able to save my weekly earnings for a whole summer. I was hoping that $3,000 would be the budget of the film. But I also thought the film was only going to take three weeks to make."
Nails continued, "I was spending every bit I had for the next few years on the film. Thankfully I had a Hare Krishna friend who gave me a $1,000 when he was giving up all of his monetary gains. I had yard sales almost every week, selling anything I could get my hands on - a lot of CDs and records, dvds, books left in the alley and things like that. I painted houses as a job for a good while. Did the waiter thing also. I was pretty driven and pretty mad. I became sort of Hamlet in relation to the film. I was brutally poor for years, all for the film."
Nails also organizes the Moveside Film Festival. The festival, which travels throughout the U.S., is celebrating its Second anniversary this year. Previous guest hosts have included high-profile filmmakers such as John Waters and Jim Jarmusch. This year's host will be horror master George Romero. "Part of our mission, " explained Nails, "is to bring people that we want to see. All three of our guest hosts were people that we wanted to see. We felt that if someone else brought them to town it'd probably be a more expensive event and you wouldn't get as much. But with this we'll be showing two features, along with sort films and the guest hosts, all for nine or ten dollars."
While most of Nails' previous work has had a dark, bizarre edge to it, he's currently doing post-production on his next feature film, "Highway Robbery," a decidedly more straightforward documentary about the government seizing a Rockford resident's property to build a highway on.
With so much on this young movie maverick's plate, it's a wonder he has the time to actually attend so many other film festivals, such as Black Point next week. "Its really fun coming up there," he stated about the Lake Geneva film festival. "The people that run Black Point are really very inviting and sweet. And last year the audience was good and they seemed very receptive." There will be a special work-in-progress screening of Rusty Nails' film Acne, preceded by his short film "The Ramones and I" on Sunday, April 25, 8:00 p.m. at Horticultural Hall, 330 Broad St., Lake Geneva. For more information log onto: http://www.myspace.com/rustynailsofficial