A director shares how fearless, unflinching documentaries helped shape the look and feel of his newest narrative feature.
We’re thrilled to continue the series with a list from Nathan Silver, the prolific director of four feature films including recent Fandor Featured Release Stinking Heaven. Set in a suburban New Jersey sober house circa 1990 — a moment in time brought to life with the ingenious use of betacam cinematography — as a newcomer sends the tenants’ tenuous communal harmony into chaos, the film is a manic triumph of ensemble improvisation that was inspired by nonfiction accounts of group homes, addiction and interpersonal strife.Movies are never made in a vacuum, and Silver was generous enough to walk us through some of the moments of his film that were shaped by his own “mental queue” of movies seen over the years. Without further ado, we’ll let Nathan tell (and show) you in his own words:The films of Jon Alpert + The Downtown Community Television Center
After stumbling on Jon Alpert’s documentary Junkie Junior on YouTube, I knew we had to shoot on the same camera. The texture and colors brought back a sense of impending doom that I’d felt as a little kid — perfectly fitting for Stinking Heaven‘s toxic atmosphere and the era in which the story takes place.
Advisory: These clips contain explicit language. Listen with headphones if you are in public!
After becoming obsessed with Junkie Junior, I watched anything I could find by the director, Jon Alpert. I was particularly bowled over by Life of Crime, which is an insanely up-close-and-personal portrait of thieves and junkies. The idea of having Courtney steal due to her father’s f***-up certainly came from watching this.
2. The films of Allan King
During pre-production on Stinking Heaven, I watched Allan King’s Warrendale on repeat. The way that King deals with volatile environments really rubbed off on how we approached the group scenes.
Adam (the Director of Photography), Britni (the production designer) and I are all obsessed with another Allan King movie: A Married Couple. We all really love the scene in which the husband and wife are shot through a beveled glass while they dance to the Beatles. Throughout production we were in search of beveled glass but couldn’t afford to buy any. On the last day of the shoot, the downstairs neighbors moved out of our primary location, and we discovered that there had been a beautiful beveled glass door below us the whole time. We knew we had to incorporate it into the scene scheduled for that day — it happened to be a drunken fight instead of a tender scene, like in King’s movie.