Nick Lieberman, CC16, and Richard Whiddington, CC15, make movies together. Nick is the director and Richard is the writer. Learn more below.
Bwog: How did the two of you decide to start making movies together?
Nick (N): Last semester, Richard put together a script for a music video, which Paul (our cinematographer) produced along with Postcrypt. I got brought in to do lighting as a gaffer on that film, which I was basically 100% inexperienced in doing. I did as well as I could, but it became clear that my skill set was elsewhere. Richard and Paul were nice enough to think that I might be able to take a different role in their next project.
Richard (R): Basically, the way it worked was Paul had asked me to cook for him during the music video. Then he said, kind of, “While you’re at it, could you write me a music video?” I was like, “Yeah, I’ve never done that before, but sure!”
Bwog: Wait, he asked you to cook for him, like make food? (Bwog wasn’t sure if this was a fancy movie term he hadn’t heard before.)
R: Ya, because we were all in ADP. And it was pretty tasty, if I do say so myself!
Bwog: So how did the cook and an inexperienced gaffer end up coming together to make a film together?
R: Toward the end of last semester, I wrote this script. I approached Paul with it, and told him that I wanted to get a group together to make a short film. We got a team together, and we asked Nick to direct. We knew Nick was interested, he and I were in a film class together, he was rushing ADP…and we really liked Nick.
N: Ya, I’m so grateful that they thought of me! I’ve been happy to take on this role, and Richard has been a dream writer to work with.
R: Cheers. (laughs) Ya, really the whole thing is about learning for us. That’s why we created For Dad. We could have latched onto a Columbia film program, but we wanted to do things in a different way.
N: We really wanted to own our creative decisions, the branding, how it’s distributed. Even though we know that we’re relatively inexperienced, we just kind of assume competence! You know, fake it until you can’t fake it anymore, then find someone who can help you out. But I’d say that it’s gone really well so far! People are really putting their all into every facet of production.
Bwog: What is your current project?
R: Everyone dies…
N: No, no one dies! (laughs)
R: It’s called A Certain Tendency, and it is the story of Korean students at university in America. It’s about their attempts at assimilation and the difficulties they face in doing so.
N: Specifically, it’s about a girl named Wendy who goes out on a first date with an American boy named Jeremy who is very passionate about Korean culture. He’s very interested in Wendy, especially in very specific cultural terms. Wendy doesn’t really know what to do on this date, or how much Jeremy’s preconceived notions of what a “good, little, Korean girl” should be will factor into their time together. So she gets really drunk.
Bwog: Where did you get the inspiration to write this story?
R: I’m an ELAC major, I’ve been studying Chinese for a long time, and I took a year off to travel to China. I guess I feel like because of that I have a distinct awareness of Asian ethnic groups on campus. While I feel like a lot of attention is given to a number of different ethnic groups and how they fit into the campus community, but very little attention is given to how different pockets of Asian students fit in.
When I started thinking about this, I started to notice that a lot of Asian groups on campus weren’t really assimilating. They were grouping themselves together. It seems very obvious, but what made me want to write this story is noticing the assumption on both sides (American students and Asian students) that their place is already determined in some way. And that each side is OK with where they are. I don’t think this is very logical. You come to a university abroad not just to get a great education, but to meet people from all over the world. So I think that if you told these students before they came here that they would be hanging out with mainly other people from their home country, they would think that was really strange. Sorry, this is so long, but it’s something I’ve thought a lot about.
There are also people who act almost like mediators between these groups. Jeremy sees himself as one of these people. They attempt to cross the gap that exists there, and that is where the conflict or dynamics exist in this story.
N: I guess what I think about when I hear [Richard] talk about all this stuff, is that I have no background in East Asian anything. For me, this story is both very specific, but it is also a story that is about being new to a community and having to define yourself by your most legible traits. That’s something that I think everyone goes through. It’s about anyone feeling out of place in this weird age of 18 and 24.
Bwog: What are some of the roadblocks that you’ve faced on the way to making this movie a reality?
R: What we’re trying to do with For Dad is really quite novel, in so much as there aren’t a lot of ways to get funding for groups like us.
N: The support we’ve received so far has been from ADP, Double Exposure Film Journal, and KSA. They’ve helped us cover a lot of ground, and it’s great that our project appeals to those three groups. But it’s been tough. Our team has put in a lot of effort toward making things happen on that end. Now, as far as my personal travails… crippling self-doubt. (laughs) Don’t say that. Or if you do, make sure you tell everyone that I didn’t want you to say that. (laughs)
Finding the thematic life of this film has always been pretty easy, but finding the authentic realism has been difficult. Finding all the locations, the people, and everything has been difficult. Translating the ideas into a real product has been a big thing. Again, our team is so great though! We really have a great group of people working with us!
Bwog: Can you explain your name? Why For Dad films? Also… the logo?
R: I was taking a tour of the trenches at Passchendaele, France. This was a site of a big battle in the First World War. While there, I found the remnants of a dead carrier pigeon. It’s talons it still had the message it had been carrying, but all you could read was “For D”. This stuck with me from the summer. So when we were throwing ideas around for a logo, I knew that I wanted a carrier pigeon in the logo. We didn’t know what we wanted our name to be though.
N: That story really resonated with me. The crocodile comes from a drawing I gave to my father as a child. Those two things together pushed us all to start talking about our relationships with our father – also not that at all. We didn’t want this to be like we were giving this thing to our fathers either.
R: Ya, our dads aren’t allowed to see the film. (laughs)
Bwog: What are your plans for For Dad Films as you look ahead?
R: To make film. To keep making film.
N: And under this banner. Who knows what version of the team will always be available, but we want to think of ourselves as a group that is inclusive of many projects.
R: Ya, we just want to make art. Yes, make art.
N: Quote him specifically on that. (laughs)
About this time, the rest of For Dad Films showed up for their meeting that was about to take place. I said my goodbyes, and they immediately went to work.
This interview was edited for clarity.