Nelms Brothers Interview On Directing Fatman & Working With Mel Gibson

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Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms

The Nelms Brothers- Eshom and Ian Nelms have written and directed numerous award-winning and critically- acclaimed films.

With each of their endeavors completely different from the last, the Nelms Brothers are known for their unique ability to traverse from one genre to another, seamlessly and successfully, from drama to comedy to thrillers. Their recent works involve Mel Gibson starring as a Santa in the movie called Fatman.

Greetings both of you, we at The Movie Culture are thrilled to have you guys. We certainly hope that during times like these you and your family are doing well.

Nelms Brothers: Thanks for having us!

Q. To start this interview, I need to ask you guys about Fatman, such an unusual premise! What was it like creating the story?

Nelms Brothers: We’ve all seen the Tim Allen, family friendly version of Santa and the horror films where a guy comes down your chimney with a hatchet, but we were craving a more grounded version of Santa and that’s where it began. We felt there was room in the Christmas gene. There was a space for something that hadn’t been seen before and that excited us. We started brainstorming and talking about the myths and tropes of Christmas and asked ourselves: “what would it look like if this man actually had to exist on planet Earth and survive amongst our current fiscal system?” We have deep-rooted affection for westerns and very much saw this as a contemporary extension of the genre.

Q. So you two are a directing duo, may I ask how does it work? Is there a group of tasks you divide between yourself?

Nelms Brothers: We’re incredibly co-dependent at this point. We definitely like to lean on each other’s strengths. It works a bit like this – all of our battles are had in the writing process. That’s where we nail down our synthesized vision for a project, so upon entering the directing phase we’re in step. We storyboard every frame of the film (no matter how simple) it’s boarded. We work through the visuals and further evolve the material, always striving to maximize every aspect of the picture. When things pop up on set, we’ll usually have a quick conversation, find something we both agree on and launch. We’re blessed in that we get along well and truly respect each other’s perspective.

Q. Fatman stars Mel Gibson and given how iconic his career has been starring in numerous comedies and action flicks over the year. What was the approach here? Is there a funny story?

Nelms Brothers: We’re big fans of Mel’s work both in front, and behind, the camera. There were certainly some nerves heading into the film, but Mel couldn’t have been a better collaborator. When he had thoughts, he’d start off by saying, “take it or leave it…” which is the best thing you can hear as a filmmaker – it takes all the pressure off and let’s everyone give an honest opinion. But so many of the times, his suggestions were spot on. He truly understood the character and type of film we were making with FATMAN. We will say this: The man sees everything on set. He’s been doing this a long time and nothing gets by him.

Q. Fatman was shot on location in Ottawa and you two tackled quite the natural obstruction, was it the first time you faced it? How you guys overcome?

Nelms Brothers: Ottawa in the winter is no joke. It’s called the great white North for a reason. It’s the first time we’ve ever had to shoot in such extreme weather. Everyone and everything moves slower. There’s a lot of gear and precaution. It was -36 degrees while we were shooting the final showdown between Mel and Walton. Besides coping with the weather there are other things to consider, like having to preserve the ground snow’s continuity. We had to really plan out every shot and make sure we were shooting from the outside in – because once the crew moves into an area, there’s so much foot traffic, the snow just gets destroyed. One thing to mention here: even during those -36 degree days, Mel refused to leave set and head into the warming tent. He stayed out there with the crew the whole time – which galvanized everyone! And he wasn’t in the best clothes – he was in his costume, while rest of us looked like we were dressed to summit Everest. I don’t know how he did it, but he told us “if you’re out here, I’m out here.”

Q. You both have done great indie work in the past and Fatman seems more Mainstream in nature. Was it a natural transition for you guys?

Nelms Brothers: We wrote the script over 14 years ago and we’ve been trying to make it ever since. It’s been a progression, in our minds. We’ve been writing scripts in order to build our way up to making Fatman. The nature of the subject matter might be what makes it feel more mainstream. Santa gives a universal impression – although I think our approach is a bit more subversive, but that’s our sensibilities.

Q. As directors do you both keep a lookout on the Critics? Do you guys think criticisms are important in order to self evaluate your work?

Nelms Brothers: We definitely look at it – but it depends. Some criticism is helpful and worth taking note. And some isn’t. If the person evaluating the work doesn’t understand it or can’t relate to it, then it’s probably not something we’re going to worry about – there’s just no reason. We purposefully made a certain type of film.

Q. Growing up there might be a film which is responsible for making you guys love Cinema? Any personal favourites Eshom and Ian?

Nelms Brothers: Thankfully, we have pretty similar taste. There are so many movies that have inspired us over the years, but probably the most influential stuff came early. Films like Terminator, Predator, Alien, Dirty Harry, the Eastwood/ Leone westerns. Our mom is a big movie buff and she loves Clint Eastwood – so she bought the Clint Eastwood collection and we’d get a new Eastwood classic every two weeks on VHS. We’d watch those movies to death, just wore out the cassettes. All the Dirty Harry’s, westerns and the lesser-known works, like Fire Fox and The Eiger Sanction.

Q. Can we talk about funding films, because I read up you guys wrote the script for Fatman in 2006, and it’s 2020 now, so any thoughts on that? Is there a change now to get films produced given the rise in OTT platforms?

Nelms Brothers: “For Fatman it was showing the financiers what type of film we were going to make. We actively tried to get it made for 14 years and we got a lot of “no’s” because the script isn’t something most folks could easily comp. It wasn’t until we made Small Town Crime that we were able to point to a film and say “that’s the tone.” That’s really what did it.

Q. This must seems random but whose idea was to Cast Walton Goggins in another Villain Role?

Nelms Brothers: I mean the guys nails a villain and he certainly has grip on a role. Walton’s so great! We were talking to about a dozen other actors, great actors, actors who would have all done an excellent and unique job, but ICM put Walton in our ear. We met him at a café and he just stood up and started doing lines and bits from the script. It was undeniable. He was the Skinny Man!

Q. You guys directed Chance Hurstfield in Fatman, and keeping the Dark source material in question, how do you approach directing a Kid?

Nelms Brothers: With Fatman, specifically, we approached the role of Billy the same way we approached the adults – by keeping the heightened nature and characters as grounded as possible. And we were so very fortunate to find Chance. He got the material right away. I remember we did a Skype call with him and he asked us for adjustments. We gave him a couple and suggested he take some time and send along a fresh video when he felt prepared. Chance insisted we do it right then, and there. He took the adjustments and quickly gave a us a very nuanced, layered performance incorporating the notes. It was shocking and wonderful to see a young actor nail something so fast. We knew then, Chance was the perfect fit!

Q. Now that you have worked with Mel Gibson and not to forget Danny Glover in the past, going forward Is there an Actor you would want to direct?

Nelms Brothers: The list is long… lol…. We’re ambitious. Danny and Mel were certainly high on the list, not to mention some of the other legends we’ve worked with. DiCaprio is high on the list. Kurt Russel, Jonah Hill, Denzel Washington, Sam Rockwell, Viola Davis, Nicholas Cage, Brad Pitt, Mark Wahlberg…. The list is endless! So many wonderful talents in the world!

Q. The Movie Culture is situated in India and we being fans of your work, we’d like to know whether you are aware of Bollywood? If yes, is there an actor you admire or a film?

Nelms Brothers: We’ve seen some of the incredible action films that have come out of India, Enthiran is one that comes to mind – they’re impressive and incredibly imaginative – and usually have a layer of humor worked in, which makes them really fun. So, at this point, we’d say Rajinikanth is probably the person we’re most familiar with in Bollywood.

Q. Are you guys working on any future projects lined up which you’d like to share with us and your fans?

Nelms Brothers: We have a few things circling right now, but not sure if there’s anything that feels like it’s definitely going to be next. We’re in the process of figuring that out right now.

Q. Being Directors such as yourself, is there a key advice which you give to people trying to make it big?

Nelms Brothers: Given the vast competition in the media field, how does one cope with rejection, any words? Absolutely! Just keep making things at whatever budget you have available. That’s always the answer. Our first feature cost $1,500.00 and got into a few film festivals. That experience galvanized us to keep going.

Q. Do you two have different techniques of your own!?

Nelms Brothers: Luckily there’s two of us, and we do a good job of picking the other one up, when one of us gets down or needs some incentive. We try to keep each other moving forward and always creating! We really feel that’s the key to it – just keep getting your vision out there in any way you can.

With this I would like to wrap up with the interview questions. The Movie Culture would indeed like to thank Mr. Eshom and Ian Nelms for agreeing to this wonderful interview.

Nelms Brothers: Really appreciate it!

The Movie Culture Synopsis

Nelms Brothers are an exciting duo who certainly know their Cinema. It’s just a wonder how two directors can create a single film. They definitely fall in line with the likes of Russo Brothers when it comes to making a premise feel fresh.

While they have done many Indie film’s in the past Fatman has certainly launched them into the mainstream. Fatman is available on PVOD platforms across the globe.