Director Nick Terry is no stranger to film festivals. His first feature, the verité ensemble comedy Senior Prom, premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival in 2010, when Terry was just 17 years old. The Historic, his follow-up, screened at the Tacoma Film Festival in 2012. Now, he’s back at SIFF with his latest feature film, Finding October, a three-person character study about two road-tripping best buddies (Michael Harrison Ward and Terry), and an impish free spirit (Karin Terry, Nick’s wife) who winds up joining them. The movie navigates its familiar indie-romance setup with surprising grace, anchored by the three engaging leads and a wistfully likable spirit that’s becoming one of Terry’s filmmaking trademarks.
The writer/director/actor chatted with me about his third feature.
Finding October marks your third feature film as a director, and you’ve made a lot of shorts as well. What have you learned as a filmmaker over the last seven-plus years?
I’ve learned an incredible amount, the vast majority of which came from taking film classes at Shoreline Community College. I went in having made two features and realized immediately that I had so much to learn about lighting, camera equipment, cinematography, editing, writing. One of those teachers, Kris Boustedt, and his wife, Lindy, are local filmmakers and have had me on set for some of their own personal projects, which has also been an excellent learning experience. I know so much more than I did back in 2009 with Senior Prom, and I’m constantly learning more as I go.
Is there any real-life inspiration for Finding October’s basic storyline?
My wife and I had gotten engaged the summer before we started to talk about making this film, and so a lot of my memories of mentally preparing for the proposal were still fresh. While the highs and lows weren’t quite as extreme as those in the film, it was definitely an influence on our decision to make the film center around a marriage proposal.
Senior Prom was highly improvised by your cast around a basic framework. Was the case for Finding October as well?
Finding October is actually my first feature to shoot from a full script. I enjoy writing immensely and felt that this film would benefit from having more structure and direction. That said, I did encourage the cast to improvise and go off-script whenever they felt the scene would benefit as a result.
You financed Finding October with an IndieGoGo campaign. What are the pluses and minuses of using crowdfunding to finance your film?
The most obvious plus is having a budget, something I hadn’t had before on one of my projects. It allowed me to get some equipment, pay for hotel rooms, etc. But it also provided unexpected motivation. This film, from idea to completion, took roughly two-and-a-half years, and it’s easy to get discouraged during that time. However, knowing that people had paid for a product that I promised them meant that I had to deliver.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently in production on my fourth feature, in which I’m returning to my faux-documentary “roots,” I guess you could say. It’s exciting to mix the feel of my first films with the knowledge of filmmaking and storytelling I’ve gained since then.
Have you moved toward a career in film or is filmmaking something that exists outside of the day-to-day for you at this point?
I haven’t actively pursued a career in film since school, though I did some freelancing for a while before getting a full-time job outside of the film industry. Directing has always been more of a hobby, and if I were to get a job in the industry, I’d prefer to work as a writer or editor, as those have always been where I feel I thrive. That said, I’ve been keeping an eye on various video game developers around the area, as I’d love to break into that industry as a writer, as that might provide more structure and consistency in the form of a Monday-to-Friday work week while still allowing me to express myself creatively.
Finding October screens as part of the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival May 30 at the Shoreline Community College Theater, and June 2 at the SIFF Cinema Uptown.