Young Director Premieres Short-Film Thriller

Nick Wiench (right), a senior at the University of Central Arkansas, takes a break from the Fayetteville Film Festival Oct. 5 with his brother, Alex, at the Axis Lounge. Wiench, a philosophy and film-making double major, directed the short film "Decisions," which was entered in the Emerging Filmaker category.

In his directorial debut, Nicholas Wiench, 21, tells the story of an alcoholic trying to cover up an accidental murder in the short film “Decisions,” which premiered Thursday at the Fayetteville Film Festival.

Wiench’s 6-minute-48-second psychological thriller follows a disillusioned man as he argues with the dapper yet sinister personification of alcoholism, portrayed by Jason Scott Morgan, after killing a pedestrian while driving drunk.

“One of the things I try to do is not necessarily disturb people, but try to make them feel uncomfortable,” Wiench said.

While plotting his films, Wiench creates extreme scenarios to analyze how flawed characters deal with the situation, he said. To him, characters’ flaws are what make them interesting to watch.

“Following these people and putting them in bad situations shows the true nature of what a human being is,” Wiench said. 

For the past three years, Wiench has worked behind the camera, focusing on framing and filming. During production of “Decisions,” he developed new skills beyond cinematography, like coaching actors on screen and plotting the story, which “is as fun as it is stressful,” he said. 

Wiench marks the beginning of his passion at 13 years old, when he watched “Moonrise Kingdom”, a 2012 release from award-winning director Wes Anderson. 

“This was the first time I was really like, ‘Wow, I love the art of film,’” Wiench said. 

“Moonrise Kingdom” inspired Wiench to enroll in a broadcasting class at Rogers Heritage High School in Rogers to explore creative ways of filmmaking, he said.

Now a senior at the University of Central Arkansas majoring in film and philosophy, Wiench got his start in film with a music video he made in high school, he said. 

“Me and a friend wanted to make a music video for A-ha’s ‘Take On Me’, so we got our friends, created a little storyline to it, went on the auditorium stage, got instruments and fake played the song,” Wiench said. 

This was when Wiench realized the plot and flow of his films were most important, rather than focusing on beautiful visuals like a lot of young filmmakers, he said. 

“More of what I try to do is have visuals that support the story that’s being told, rather than focusing on a shot that will make your jaw drop,” Wiench said.  

Wiench finds editing dozens of shots to make a coherent story makes him anxious about the quality of his final product, he said.

As for advice for those trying to get into filmmaking, Wiench thinks that setting realistic goals for what you can do is key to making good films, he said. 

“Play to your strengths,” Wiench said. “Play to what you have available to you.”

Although Wiench’s film did not win at the festival, he plans on releasing “Decisions” on YouTube, though he is unsure when, he said.

Wiench wants to continue to make short films for the next couple of years but is considering pursuing a career in journalism or going to graduate school before returning to film to create feature-length movies, he said.

“I want to take a break at some point, get some world experience and come back to film later in my life,” Wiench said, “I want to do something else that gets me around the world so that when I come back I can write more characters.”

Nathanael Davis is an associate news editor for The Arkansas Traveler. He previously worked as a reporter and photographer.

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