Shawn Christensen writes, directs and stars in the Oscar-nominated short film "Curfew," the story of a man on the verge of suicide who gets a phone call from his estranged sister asking if he can take care of her daughter. Widely considered the frontrunner to take the Live Action Short Oscar (though that's always a risky designation in the often unpredictable short film categories), Christensen spoke to Indiewire about the film, finding out about his Oscar nod, and what's next for him.
Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up and how did you get into filmmaking?
Grew up in the heart of the suburbs in upstate, NY. I fell in love with going to the movies at an early age, but initially was interested in becoming a Disney animator. I drew cartoons all throughout my childhood and that was going to be my life. As time went on, that plan failed and I channeled my interests into music, writing scripts and learning about the camera.
Tell us about your work leading up to 'Curfew'
I was in a band for many years called Stellastarr*. We toured around the world, with many of our favorite bands, and released three records. While on the road, I got interested in writing screenplays and then sold a few. After seeing a couple of those scripts get destroyed by their respective studios, I started to make short films in New York with my friends.
Tell us about the short in your words. Why did you want to make this film?
The short is about a person who is as at the end of his rope, spending the evening with a person who is at the beginning of her life. Originally, the idea came to me after meeting a very sharp kid who I realized could probably teach me a couple things in life, rather than the other way around. I think I came into 2011 a bit depressed and feeling that I had very little pride in my work. I just wanted to direct this little movie so I could be happy about something I worked on, even if nobody would ever see it.
How did you find the Oscar nomination?
It was more nerve-racking than intense because they 'short list' you a month earlier. So with a 50/50 chance, we were very nervous about the outcome. Some of the crew came out to LA, and we watched the live broadcast together at 5:30 in the morning. Half way through the broadcast, we realized that the nominations were already online, and that all of our family and friends knew we were nominated before we did.
Whose your date to the Oscars? And who would you thank first if you won?
My beautiful wife. I would thank my mom, followed quickly by my producer, Damon Russell.
What's next for you?
I've ceased selling spec screenplays for now. I'd like to continue making films but have more control over what happens to my writing. Directing and acting are my first loves and I will be delving into those fields more and more in the future.