2023 Woodstock Film Festival: A Conversation With Filmmaker Henry Nelson on his Directorial Debut
In celebration of the 2023 Woodstock Film Festival, INSIDE+OUT presents a series of interviews with filmmakers showcasing their films in this year’s festival. Today we catch up with Henry Nelson about his directorial debut, Asleep in My Palm.
You may already know Henry’s dad, character actor Tim Blake Nelson. Tim produced and stars in Asleep in My Palm, a dark drama written and directed by Henry. Tim Nelson plays Tom, a man who has set up home with his high school-aged daughter Beth Anne. The two live off the grid in a self-storage unit near an elite college town. Tom splits his time between imparting wisdom and philosophy to his daughter and stealing bikes from local college students for a price. Whenever he goes out into the world, he is suspicious of everyone he encounters, knowing that every exposure or interaction jeopardizes their circumstances. This is put to the test when, against his better judgment, he follows an acquaintance to make some quick money. In Asleep in My Palm, one wrong move can lead to one’s undoing.
Let’s get to know Henry Nelson…
INSIDE+OUT: Tell us about your latest film, which will be shown at this year’s festival.
Henry Nelson: Asleep in My Palm is a small film about a father and daughter who live off the grid on the outskirts of a liberal arts school.
What inspired you to choose a career in the film business, and what was your journey?
I came into directing through my father, who’s an actor and a writer/director. He and I bonded over music and movies from when I could talk. Since then, doing this felt inevitable.
What was your most rewarding or the most challenging project to date?
The most challenging was probably making this film for over 16 days, in the middle of COVID-19, during one of the worst winters Ohio has ever experienced.
What are your thoughts on technology and the changing landscape of the TV and film industry?
Well, I think the phasing out of film, while demoralizing to those who enjoyed the traditions and particularities of that process, is ultimately leading to the full democratization of moviemaking.
What is one question you’re constantly asked, or what’s the biggest misconception about what you do?
In all honesty, I haven’t been in the industry long enough to have been asked a lot of questions about what I do. That said, unaffiliated people constantly tell me how easy it is to shoot car scenes. I don’t know where the hell they got that idea. Car scenes are such a goddamn hassle it almost doesn’t seem worth it. Let alone the time it takes to build the various rigs that make car scenes possible; actually, getting on the road with them is even worse. One must drive incredibly slow, which means you have to have squad cars in front and behind the picture car the whole time just to ensure no one rear-ends it. I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it at that. They’re a money and time suck all the way!
Can you put your finger on what makes a great Director/Writer and who inspires you?
From a broad perspective, I think a great writer/director is a person who makes honest and effective movies, whatever the cost, whatever the limitations. That said, I think a skilled director has an understanding of the tone they create on set. I think this manifests in who they hire, how they communicate with actors/crew and how they behave when shit inevitably hits the fan.
What are you working on now that you’re excited about?
My dad and I just finished working on a music video for Armand Hammer that we’re really proud of.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
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Founded in 2000, the Woodstock Film Festival (WFF) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that nurtures and supports emerging and established filmmakers, sharing their creative voices through an annual festival and year-round programming to promote culture, diversity, community, educational opportunities and economic growth.
WFF provides innovative mentoring and inspired educational programs benefitting filmmakers, students and diverse audiences while serving as a powerful cultural and economic engine for New York’s Hudson Valley and beyond. Such efforts have consistently resulted in the festival being hailed as one of the top regional film festivals worldwide. The Woodstock Film Festival is an Oscar®-qualifying festival in the short film categories – Live Action Short Film, Animated Short Film, and Documentary Short Film.