Student filmmaker has films shown at Cannes

Making films since childhood, international first year student has had films screened at film festivals across the world.

Playing video games wasn’t Nicolas Wendl’s idea of fun at age 9. He preferred editing and directing homemade films with a cast of dolls and action figures.Since his childhood in Munich, Germany, Wendl continues to expand his filmmaking skills as a freshman international film production student at Chapman this year. But before arriving at Chapman, Wendl had already taken major strides in the film industry.His 2008 movie Twisted” and 2009 movie “There’s Something in the Air” were submitted and screened at the Cannes International Film Festival ” one of the oldest and most prestigious festivals ” held in southern France. His devotion to making movies led him to Chapman for its established film program and its proximity to Los Angeles in a country where possibilities in film are much greater, he said.”When I walk around, everything I look at I say, ‘How can this work in a movie?'” Wendl said. “My eyes are almost like a camera.”The movies Wendl submitted in the Cannes Film Festival also were screened in the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival in 2008 and 2009. His 2009 film “What if Tomorrow” was also in this festival.Although his films did not win at either festival, Wendl considers the experience a major accomplishment. The festivals showed that the skills he taught himself were worth something, he said.”Being able to actually touch the audience was worth so much more than getting a little statue,” he said.”Twisted” tells the story of a girl stuck in her house during a tornado. At the end of the film, she has to save herself from getting crushed underneath the home. She finds herself caught between dreams and reality throughout the movie, Wendl said. “There’s Something in the Air” is based off a joke called baked beans. A woman has an unnatural obsession with baked beans and decides to stop eating them the day she gets married. But on her way home one day, she walks past a restaurant whose dish of the day is baked beans. She can barely resist the temptation and then something goes wrong, which determines her fate for the rest of the film, Wendl said.His interest in filmmaking did not come from having parents in the business, although his mother wanted to be an actress when she was younger.”My mom always says I’m living her dream,” Wendl said. “I’m here in America doing what she wanted to do.”After living in Germany Wendl, his mom Nathalie and his dad Michael moved to Switzerland in 1999 for three years. They had to move yet again because the computer software company his dad used to work for, Citrix, moved to a new location. In 2002, they finally settled in Montpellier, France.Moving to America has proven to be a major change for Wendl. He finds the school system different. The interaction between students and teachers in America is much more open than in France, he said.”There are all these steps that I have to get used to,” he said. “But I think in the past one and a half months I’ve done pretty good.”Before coming to Chapman, Wendl had never taken a film class. He taught himself how to film, direct and edit movies at a young age using a LEGO Studios camera, he said. He is currently enrolled in introduction to visual storytelling (FTV 130) and introduction to film aesthetics (FTV 140).”Filmmaking is a very frightening experience for me so far. I have a lot of practice, but I’ve never done theory,” Wendl said.Diane Ambruso, adjunct professor at Dodge College, teaches Wendl in her visual storytelling class. The course requires students to create eight, two-minute films during the semester featuring various topics such as a location, moment of decision and monologue.From Wendl’s class work thus far, Ambruso considers him to be a dedicated and passionate filmmaker.”He has strong natural instincts about human emotion and composition,” she said.Ambruso viewed Wendl’s 17-minute film “What if Tomorrow” one day after class. The film is a family drama focused on cancer. Ambruso found the movie to be extremely moving. It had a strong story, fine camera movement and a great deal of emotion, she said.Wendl also showed his film to Aubrey Davis, a freshman creative producing major, on his laptop while hanging out at Starbucks.”The movie made me cry and made everyone who’s seen it cry,” said Davis. “It’s really above and beyond anything that I would have thought to do.”Davis met Wendl in September 2009 during a boot camp for their visual storytelling class. She admires Wendl’s ambition to accomplish his vision for films.Whenever the class is assigned a project, Wendl immediately has an idea of what he wants to create. He does whatever he can to produce what he saw in his head, she said.Wendl’s most recent idea was to film his project in Echo Park at the house used in the TNT show “Charmed.” After receiving permission from the owner, he was able to film his movie last Saturday.”Wendl is just on a whole different level,” Davis said. “He puts himself up to very high standards.

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