Martin Landau and Nik Fackler pose on the set of “Lovely, Still.” Photo from nikfackler.com.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series titled Nebraska Film: An Exploration of the Growing Community. Learn more about the goals of this series and find links to its articles in our announcement: Nebraska Film series starts Monday, August 9.
Last November, the newly-opened Marcus Midtown Cinema played host to Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau for an exclusive showing of his latest lead acting role, “Lovely, Still“. The man of the hour, however, was one 56 years younger than Landau, Nik Fackler. The film’s 25 year-old writer and director (now 26), was in his hometown to present his first feature film.
Fast forward 10 month to today, the film is opening in New York and Pennsylvania. Two weeks from now, it’ll open in Omaha. In all, the film’s distributor, Monterey Media, has scheduled 17 states for Fackler’s debut as a feature film writer and director.
This accomplishment, as Fackler puts it, is only one on a list of a personal goals. Instead of accepting his admittance to Los Angeles Film School after high school graduation, Fackler choose to stay in Omaha to pursue a film career. “I just made a vow to myself…if I don’t go to college, it means that I just have to work really, really hard until I accomplish all my goals. I just have to be my own boss in a way. And so that’s just what I did.”
Music Videos to Feature Film
“From ‘Mynoot Loss,’ I got a music video gig from this band Azure Ray,” Fackler said. This video, for their song “We Are Mice“, began building up Fackler’s reputation in Omaha’s independent music scene as a director of music videos. But, he said, his sights were still set on directing feature films.
Enter Dana Altman, owner, producer, and director of North Sea Films. “Dana is totally my guru,” Fackler said. “He kind of took me in.” After Fackler showed Altman his first film, one that he made when he was 15, Altman never stopped encouraging him. He began lending him camera equipment and 35 mm stock, and at one point, even helped him get a crew together which included a cinematographer.
For “Lovely, Still,” Altman served as one of the film’s producer. “[He’s] definitely a huge figure in my life, a very important figure,” Fackler said.
Love for Omaha
In addition to Altman, there’s a long list of individuals from Omaha that played a part in bringing “Lovely, Still” to the big screen. “This film really ended up being a showcase for Omaha in a weird way, like it got to the point where I was like ‘I’m really proud of where I come from,'” Fackler said.
“In ‘Lovely, Still,’ every aspect of it I wanted to have be Omaha – from the score, which was Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott, both Omaha guys, to the original music…to the crew,” Fackler said. “There’s a bunch of paintings in the film and that’s by an Omaha painter, Dan Boylan…I mean it’s everything. As much as I could possibly get in I did.”
To begin production on this film in the first place, however, Fackler needed funding. This was all in his plans. “If I write a film that stars two older people, then I could get really amazing actors and then with really amazing actors get really amazing funding,” Fackler said. The plan, needless to say, worked. Fackler found three investors.
“And it’s also being a film nerd, [the film’s main actors, Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn, are] like the big actors and stuff. Being a film nerd those are your sort of mythological figures,” Fackler said. “I knew that if I worked with them it’d also be like going to film school, too. Literally, every day was spent learning.”
Omaha Film Community
Knowing that this path isn’t easy to come by, Fackler is excited about the possibility of one day supporting the Omaha film community. “I’d love to start a studio where I could fund films myself and for Omaha,” Fackler said.
When reflecting on what that community would look like, Fackler said, “Traditionally, what Omaha has done that’s worked for it, that I’m proud to say I’m from, is that we’re very like ruggedly independent and artistic…when I think about the music scene here, we’re very proud and we’re not going to let some industry come and take us over, it’s not our style, we’re proud to be Omaha.
“I’d want [Omaha’s film community] to be like that and I’d love it if we could just have support to make films more simply,” Fackler said. “We have all the tools, we have the equipment, we just don’t have the money to make it and to give people.”
When asked about state film incentives to boost the industry, Fackler said, “The way I look at it is, we shouldn’t need an excuse to be making films. Film incentives are great and they’re gonna get films to come here but they’re not gonna be Omaha films, they’re gonna be films from outside Omaha coming in that give everyone jobs…that is the money-making side, or the work side, but that doesn’t fuel a creative side.
“It’ll be helpful for Omaha filmmakers, of course, to have a film incentive. It would’ve been great to have a film incentive on Lovely, Still. I just don’t want us to loose track…if there’s to be a big film scene in Omaha, I would want it to be all driven from us and not from outside sources coming in to fuel it.
After listing off other talented Omaha artists, such as Max Mentzer and Tim Kasher, Fackler said, “I can see in the next five years there actually being kind of a film boom [but] I don’t know if that necessarily means if they’re all going to be shot in Omaha, but it would be production probably started in Omaha.”
Where Fackler will fit into that community is still unknown to even himself. He’s currently spending time in Los Angeles working on his next film (left, photo from nikfackler.com), which he says features a “new style of puppetry.”
“I want to learn how to really be a good puppeteer,” Fackler said. “Then I want to get into music, I want to become a better musician. I want to make a comic, a video game. I want to start directing cartoons…and then start a major corporation, why not?”
Whatever Fackler pursues, when speaking with him you get a real sense that he has strong ties to Omaha, now and in the future. “I bought a house [in Omaha], so I’m, you know, still paying Omaha taxes,” he joked.
To view showtimes for “Lovely, Still,” visit lovelystillthemovie.com. And keep in eye out for more of Fackler’s work in the months to come. In January, he’ll be releasing his own record on Team Love records.