This weekend is the start of the 12th annual Beloit International Film Festival (BIFF) in Beloit, WI. Rock Valley College Mass Com student Nick Talan’s film The Monster Within will be shown at the festival on Saturday, February 25 at 2:30 p.m. at La Casa Grande restaurant.
We caught up with Nick on the eve of the showing to talk about his film, where his love for film making began, and where he hopes to go from here.
Can you talk about your film and what inspired it?
The Monster Within is a documentary that focuses on two veterans, Jim Thew (Persian Gulf) and Alex Faggestad (Afghanistan/War on Terror). It highlights their experiences leading up to joining the military, their stories of sacrifice, and their struggles that awaited them when they came home. Throughout the documentary, the Harlem Veteran Project is showcased as an outlet to help veterans cope with some of the burdens that accompany the return home from war by simply talking about it, and the effects the project has on the students and veterans as well. The inspiration came from the founder of the Veteran Project, Mr. Nick Stange. He knew that this was a very powerful story to tell and it has always been his dream to create a full length feature documentary. All the members that have come through the Harlem Veteran Project know the positive effects it has on the community and we all understand that these stories have to be preserved and need to be heard.
What interested you in filmmaking? How long have you known this is something you wanted to do?
My brother Nathan Talan and my father David Talan have always loved movies. Growing up I enjoyed sitting down and watching a great comedy or exhilarating action movie, but I never really looked deeper into movies or caught on to the addiction to movies that my brother and dad shared. I was always the kid that was interested in sports and only watched sports related television programs. That all changed about two years ago when I watched a movie with a couple friends and that movie was Interstellar directed by Christopher Nolan. This movie showed me the true artistry of film and how cinematic language can be just as powerful as the spoken word. I immediately went home after watching the movie and talked to my brother about how incredible it was, and ever since I have loved watching movies and looking for the deeper aspects that are buried within a single film. My girlfriend Emily Guske has also been my go to person to watch movies with and shares the same love that I do for the art and work that goes behind making a movie. As for how long I’ve know this is a field I wanted to pursue, not very long. Last year at Harlem High School I signed up to take a yearlong documentary class and be a part of The Harlem Veteran Project. This changed my life, the lessons I’ve learned from sitting in on interviews, listening to friends’ veterans that they were doing their documentaries on and listening to the man that I had the honor to make my documentary on, Loren Salzman (Vietnam War Rifleman and Member of the Mobile Riverine Force). On top of being part of that class, my girlfriend Emily Guske talked me into taking a Media Studies class which was also called HNN (Harlem News Network). Mr. Stange taught both classes alongside Mr. David Johnson. They taught me the basics and then some about making videos and analyzing them. After being a part of these classes for a couple months, I knew that this was going to be the career I wanted to pursue.
What drew you to RVC and our Mass Com program?
When I knew I was going to Rock Valley, I knew without a doubt that I was going to go into the Mass Com program because of my brother. He told me about all of the things he had done with the program and what else the program contained. I was then informed on how many outlets (career wise) a degree in Mass Communications had to offer. My brother has been a student worker [at RVC] for about a year now, so I knew that I would have someone to help me if I ever struggled with a class. One of my favorite teachers, Mr. Stange, had ties with the Chair of the Mass Com Program, Jerry LaBuy, and I heard nothing but great things about him.
What are some of the most important things you have learned since you started in RVC’s Mass Com program?
Since I’ve started taking Mass Com courses at Rock Valley, I have already learned a lot of new information. I have been taught the history of film, aspects about audio that I didn’t even know existed, hands-on tutorials and information that I will carry with me as I try to pursue a career in this field from the basic production classes. I have taken the Film History Class, and I am in Introduction to Mass Communications, and the Basic Audio and Video classes right now. I am just getting started and plan to learn a lot more and make some connections along the way. I love the staff [at RVC] and could not ask for a better environment to learn.
What are your long-term aspirations? Do you see yourself as a documentarian or making other types of films as well?
As for future aspirations, I am not quite sure. I want to see what opportunities will present themselves and what doors will open during next few years. I love the features that documentaries bring to the table, but I also love the immersion that movies provide and much more. I will just have to wait and see.
Do you prefer writing, directing, producing, a little of each?
I really respect every position that goes into a production like a movie or documentary. I like trying to get involved and contributing in every way I can. That being said, my favorite part of the production is the editing. I feel like this is where the magic is made and I know how much hard work goes into that job title. The editing is where the filmmakers and crew can communicate to the audience without using dialogue and that is really incredible to me.
What filmmakers or films have inspired you?
There are few filmmakers who come to mind when I think about who inspires me. Christopher Nolan is one of them. The ways he can tell a story never ceases to amaze me. For example, The Prestige (2006). Nolan is a genius who gives you every piece of the puzzle you need throughout the two hour and ten minute run time and when it finally is all put together you are left with a piece of cinematic artistry at its finest. This my favorite movie of all time and favorite movie to re-watch because you pick up on something new every time and it’s brilliant. Another filmmaker that I look up to is Damien Chazelle. He is relatively young and has already created two of the best movies I have seen, La La Land (2016) and Whiplash (2014). He is astounding when it comes to storytelling and that is something that will have me going to see every movie he does in the future.
Talk about BIFF. How did your film get selected, what was the process, etc.?
We met with Marty Densch, festival board president, and invited him to the end of year gala screening of our [RVC Mass Com] documentaries. Densch had the idea for us to submit a new, powerful, full-length feature that had the same feel of our shorter films. Mr. Stange found out that we would have a spot in the Beloit Film Festival this past summer and then started recruiting Harlem alumni and people who have come through the Harlem Veteran Project to help with it.
BIFF is a ten-day tribute to the power of film and the excitement of independent film from around the world. Local residents and visitors from across the nation fill venues, ranging in size from 40 to 400 seats for more than 100 films, and to meet scores of filmmakers who come from throughout the U.S. and as far away as Europe, Asia and Latin America.
To learn more about Rock Valley College’s Mass Communication program go to rockvalleycollege.edu/masscom.