Director Joachim Back has scored his first Oscar nomination for his short film The New Tenants. The short follows two men on what may be the worst moving day ever. They encounter the welcome wagon of the building, including a prying neighbor, a drug dealer and a man wielding a weapon and a vendetta. As they move into their new apartment, it begins to reveal its terrifying history as the movie shifts from funny to chilling to surprisingly romantic.
Here, Back discusses the process of making the short and its challenges.
MovieMaker (MM): Where did the idea for The New Tenants come from?
Joachim Back (JB): Anders Thomas Jensen, a screenwriter from Denmark, wrote a 10-minute screenplay and I really liked the concept. It expressed exactly what I wanted to say, and showed the twisted person I am. We took his idea and transformed it into a 21-minute neurotic story that addresses the problems of life and death in New York City.
MM: Who brought you the script?
JB: Tivi Magnusson from M&M Productions in Denmark sent us the original screenplay by Anders Thomas Jensen, a well-known writer.
MM: How did you secure the actors?
JB: Casting is key. I like people, and I’m not afraid of the wrong ones. Laura Rosenthal, a casting director based out of New York, also helped us find an interesting cross-section of actors who have the sensibility we needed for our story. I’ve always had my eye on David Rakoff, who is one of the leads in film. He was the perfect fit to give the film the intellectual feeling it needed, and he also collaborated a lot on the dialogue. My dear friend and one of the producers of The New Tenants Sam Bisbee introduced me to other key actors such as Vincent D’Onofrio and Kevin Corrigan.
MM: What was the biggest challenge in getting the film made?
JB: The biggest challenge was raising the financing. After that, finding the right balance to express the neurotic world through the characters in the script was the biggest challenge during the shoot. The story is full of all the cliches of life and the voices of New York City. I was working to mix all of these elements together and tease the audience a little bit.
MM: Have you directed short films previously?
JB: No. This script just felt right, and it wasn’t a huge move to film because my other projects are pretty cinematic—or so they say. Directing this project made me want to develop a feature, but you have to make a most entertaining film to sell it.
MM: Any funny or unusual stories to share about the filming?
JB: The history of the Chelsea Hotel came alive through all the tenants who lived there for generations; some of them were our crew members. There was one moment in particular when some of the crew claimed to see the ghost of Sid Vicious’ wife and people started to get a little spooked. We added her to the call sheet but she never showed up again.
The five live-action short films nominated for this year’s Oscars are currently screening (along with the nominated animated shorts) at the IFC Center in New York City until March 2. For more information on The New Tenants visit http://www.thenewtenantsfilm.com.