The Lonely Chair
It's rare that young filmmakers are able to combine an expressive, original score with the rhythm of on screen action, but that's just what Nathan Wellard has done in his experimental film, The Lonely Chair. This five-minute short probably won't win any awards, and it's not a groundbreaking piece, but it does a lot of the little things right. It's arguably the best short film about chairs that I've seen this year.
There can be only one (office chair)!-Screen Grab, The Lonely Chair by Nathan Wellard-
The plot is simple, yet universal. An office chair is living its life as the best loved and most used seat in the house. The other chairs are envious but they know their place and, other than the lawn chairs, they seem to accept the natural pecking order. All of this changes one day, however, when a newer, larger, more functional office chair is introduced, leaving our hero chair kicked to the curb. Just when things seem bleakest for our chair protagonist, the once envious lawn chairs come to his aid, getting him back on his casters and bringing him into the fold out in the garden. At the end, our protagonist sees what his life was, and what it has become, and is far happier now with his new life and his new family.
Leader of the Garden Gang.-Screen Grab, The Lonely Chair by Nathan Wellard-
This short is a well executed exercise in the fundamentals of storytelling and filmmaking. Each scene is effective both in developing the character narrative of the protagonist and for driving the story forward. The original score effectively teases out the appropriate emotional response from the viewer, while guiding us through the story from beginning to end. The conflict explored in this film is elemental; the eternal struggle against entropy and decay, and the slow march towards death. Addressing such weighty concepts with no lines nor actors, is an exercise I think that will be useful for all filmmakers. Saying something without saying anything can be more profound than even the most lyrical lines of dialogue. Nathan Wellard has made something that is more than just the sum of its parts, and that’s an accomplishment regardless of the subject matter.
If you've got five minutes, check out The Lonely Chair on YouTube. It's worth a watch.
Read the full text of my interview with Nathan Wellard below.
BG: So, Nathan, tell me a little bit about the short:
NW: I guess it was kind of a personal challenge, really. I’d just got out of film school and I kind of found myself back at home with no one really around me. I just thought I'd try to make something all on my own. Like, literally, all by myself with no other help. I thought to myself, “what were my actors,” so I thought I'd try to tell a story using inanimate objects.
BG: How long did the whole process take?
NW: Literally took six months. But actually took about three or four weekends, because I was dealing with some technical issues, and trying to find work...job-hunting. It was a day, or two days shooting, casually, it was very relaxing being entirely on your own with no deadlines, no other people.
BG: Since production was broken up over such a long period of time, I’d think that you'd lose continuity in the story. but the whole thing seems rather natural and fluid.
NW: Well, I shot most of it in one big chunk, and if anything it was really helpful having to step away and then come back and analyze it.
BG: What about the score, did you do that as well?
NW: Yeah, I've always been a bit of a budding composer and so I got a hold of a few music software programs and I wanted to do it on my own so I was like, I'll just do something very simple so I didn't have to rely on matching it to any royalty-free music.
BG: I recognized all the types of chairs except for the ones at the very end. Where did the “chair children” come from?
NW: My mom used to run a nursery, so she had a ton of little garden chairs at the house I was using so, I suppose I wasn't short of chairs. Seeing them [the small chairs] inspired the last scene of the film.
BG: Was this the first thing that you've shot at a film school?
NW: Yeah, I finished at the beginning of that summer, and started shooting at the end of that summer so I suppose it was. I've been spending time trying to get some work; you just get to the point where you’re like...you just want to make something.
BG: Are you working on anything now?
NW: I am, but I'm stepping back from the original idea for now. It's something with a fantasy origin but we kind of have to see where goes from there.
BG: Within the process of filmmaking, where do you see yourself in the future? Writing, directing, acting?
NW: Directing, and if I can writing but I appreciate there's probably a lot of better writers out there than me.
BG: In the film you're shooting inanimate objects, and you're obviously personifying them in someway, did you have someone in your life in mind that you used as the character for each of the chairs?
NW: I think mostly I just tried to personify the main character. I wouldn't say I necessarily took it from anywhere in particular, I knew I had a bit of a challenge trying to get an emotional charge from a chair. I think I just focused on trying to be a little bit in your face; not very subtle regards to the characters. If I had used actors to portray the characters, you would have seen them be very hammy, with no subtlety.
BG: Cool, thanks Nathan and good luck!
NW: Thank you, cheers!