Last month, I got the chance to see a movie called Normal…which, ironically enough, was anything but normal! Well, it was such an unusual movie, that I couldn’t help but wonder about the imagination behind such a movie…after all, how often do you see a time-traveling slacker in a gorilla suit? So, I hunted down writer/director Nicholas Richards to see how he got started, what he’s working on now, and what’s up with that gorilla suit!
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BM – Hey, Nick, thanks for taking the time.
NR – Thank you.
BM – How did you get started in film-making?
NR – I would love to tell you that I was the kid running around with my parents’ 8mm camera at the age of 3, but I wasn’t. I was introduced to the idea of filmmaking by my close friend and cousin-in-law Michael R Steinbeck, who was interviewed on your site about 6 years ago. I originally planned on becoming a music teacher. And when that didn’t work out, I needed to figure out something else to do with my life. Mike had a nice DV camera and included me in some of his ridiculous early short films. They were a blast to make and thought it might be a cool way to make a living (though I’m still trying to figure out how to make money).
BM – How did you come up with the idea for Normal??
NR – Unlike the other scripts that I have written, I sat down and just started plunking away; no outline, no ending, no real goal. I had finally finished my first film, Transcendence, and I wanted to do something a little more low-key, something that I could cast my acting friends in and shoot at acquaintances homes and businesses. So the initial concept was to put Phin through the worst day possible. I would write a few scenes and then come up with a new, crazy set of circumstances to test his patience. I found myself drawing inspiration from the stories of people that I had met since moving to the south-side of Chicago. I met some of the most interesting people. They’re the kind of people that are natural story-tellers, so their "adventures" would be unbelievable if it weren’t for the conviction with which they told them. And while the story evolved a great deal from that first draft, I could completely see the guitar shop owner in Griffith, IN telling me about the time he got stuck in a gorilla costume and had to deliver a package to a rip in space time, and me almost believing him.
BM – Most indie filmmakers take things from their real life for movies like this, anything you’d like to tell us about ever wearing a gorilla suit?
NR – The gorilla stuff all came from this family story. When I was young, my Father got a gorilla suit for Halloween one year. It was a really high-quality suit with glowing red eyes. He went over to his cousin’s house nearby, burst through the door, and picked up his cousin, all the while whooping and hollering like a gorilla. She just about has a heart attack. Eventually, my Dad revealed himself. This story became Richards’ lore. Every holiday the extended family would retell this story of my Dad scaring the crap out of his cousin. And of course the costume spent years in our basement, so my sister and I would pull it out and play with it from time to time. I actually won my 8th grade Halloween costume contest with that suit. I guess the gorilla suit was burned into my psyche.
BM – How long did it take to get this film made?
NR – I finished the first draft of the script in 2008. I casually polished it over the course of a couple years and then went into serious pre-production in February of 2010. Our primary shoot was three weeks in September and October of 2010. Because of some lost days and lost locations, we had to do some pick-up shooting in the spring of 2011. Then post-production took about a year. So since starting pre-pro, it has taken about 2 years.
BM – Normal is one of the most unique indie comedies I’ve seen in years, you might not even call it a comedy per se, there’s action, romance and even some sci-fi in there, was it difficult mashing up these different genres together?
NR – From a writing perspective it wasn’t difficult at all. In fact, given the way that I wrote it and the style with which I tend to write, it probably would have been more difficult to keep Normal limited to one genre. I was really excited about a story that had all of these different elements but didn’t focus on any one specific genre. I think that probably comes from my love of The Twilight Zone. The different stories on TZ also never seemed to be contained to one particular genre. They were just fun and thought-provoking and unapologetic. That’s what I wanted to do. Now whether or not I convincingly pulled it off I think is yet to be seen. But we’ve gotten some really complimentary reviews (yours included) so we’re all feeling really good about what we’ve put together.
BM – Any plans to continue the story of Phin?
NR – I don’t think so. As much as I love Phin’s story, it isn’t epic. I think you need a good dose of grandeur in a story in order to justify sequels, prequels and the like. That’s not to say that you won’t see the portals or cameos in any of my other work. I like the idea of crossover. It feels more like I am creating another world instead of just isolated stories. That being said, I don’t have any current plans to include any of the portals or characters in other works, but it’s a possibility.
BM – What are you working on now? What’s next?
NR – I am at an interesting cross-road in my film career. I have moved across country which gives me the task of rebuilding my network of cast and crew. I also had a daughter who is now two. So far, I have been lucky enough to be a stay-at-home Dad, but I am not sure how much longer I can do that before I have to start making money again. I think a lot of my future depends on how well Normal does. I wrote a script for Mike that he is currently trying to raise a budget for. It is a dark piece called ALIA, about a mother who after missing for over a decade mysteriously shows up again. You can get details on Alia and see a teaser scene at www.aliamovie.com. I am also working on four other scripts that I want to finish by the end of the year. I am considering making a go at getting an agent and becoming a writer. But if I finish a script and shooting it becomes a reality, I would jump on the opportunity.
BM – Keep us in the loop about ALIA, it sounds great! And thanks for your time.
NR – Thank you.
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If you haven’t seen Normal yet, trust me, it’s worth your time; it’s definitely a movie like nothing you’ve ever seen before! Head over to http://www.normalfilm.com and if you want to help Nick out with his next project, head over to http://www.rule-42.com and keep up with this cool up-and-coming filmmaker! We here at RC, wish Nick all the best and hope to hear more from him in the future…whether he’s in the gorilla suit or not!