Oklahoma film Electric Nostalgia continues to earn accolades 

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Winner of Best Oklahoma Feature Film at the 2016 deadCenter Film Festival, Electric Nostalgia is not a movie that automatically screams, “Oklahoma!”

A synopsis could read, “A grounded yet high-concept black-and-white science fiction thriller, the film’s inspirations range from writer/director Jacob Leighton Burns’ lifelong affinity of The Twilight Zone to Noah Baumbach’s 2012 comedy Frances Ha. The film tells the story of a woman (Lauren Analla) brought back from the dead in a body that is not her own. Cerebral shenanigans ensue.”

click to enlarge ZACH BURNS
  • Zach Burns

Burns said Oklahoma served as the perfect environment for a film like Electric Nostalgia to take shape and described the state’s small yet growing film industry as “incredibly loyal, encouraging and supportive.”

“Everybody wants everybody to succeed and sees value in helping others succeed. I would never have been able to make Electric Nostalgia anywhere else,” he said. “The way the community encouraged and supported us through the entire process was amazing.”

Working with a $15,000 budget raised primarily through a successful Indiegogo campaign and a cast and crew comprised entirely of local talent, Burns utilized a number of OKC landmarks — the Paramount Building on Film Row and The Mule and the former Size Records in the Plaza District — during production that viewers might recognize.

Burns described the film’s three-week production in the summer of 2014 as exhausting yet rewarding. He said lead actress Analla likened the experience to summer camp.

“When it was over, nobody wanted to go home,” Burns said. “Everybody on both sides of the camera was so committed to making the film the best it could be, but also doing our best to keep the atmosphere lighthearted and fun.”

Burns said he was briefly hesitant about making the film black-and-white, as it can often be interpreted as a somewhat cliché route for many first-time directors to take.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about black-and-white. It’s not just as easy as clicking a magical black-and-white button that converts everything for you,” Burns said as he explained the trial-and-error process in determining the right look for the film.

He believes it ultimately strengthened the film’s dreamlike aesthetic, creating a distance between our reality and that of the movie.

Burns said he was overwhelmed with shock and gratitude at the film’s reception at deadCenter. He described the first screening as “magical.”

“Making movies is a tough process, and that award was an acknowledgement of all the hard work, money, time and talent that many Oklahomans had put into the film,” Burns said. “It’s difficult to put into words what a wonderful feeling that is.”

In addition to its fruitful deadCenter turnout, the project screens this fall at film festivals in Austin, Texas; Orlando, Florida; and Tulsa.

Prosperous productions

In many ways, the film’s success represents just one in a continuing series of cinematic precipices for Burns and his Planet Thunder Productions partners, brother Zachary and Vinnie Hogan. The three lifelong film buffs have produced 20 short films together as well as another full-length feature, The Fable of Shannon Cable, written and directed by Hogan, which premiered at Austin Film Festival in 2013.

Hogan, producer and composer of Electric Nostalgia, said he immediately knew the film was the right choice for the trio’s next feature after Burns’ initial pitch combined with his own first read-through of the screenplay.

“I will never forget reading the script late at night, desperately wanting to go to sleep and yet needing to finish the last 20 pages so I could see what happens to the characters,” he said.

In a landscape dominated by ever-expanding cinematic universes, Electric Nostalgia is representative of a humble yet noticeable wave of smaller, high-concept features gaining critical traction via word-of-mouth generated by outlets including the film festival circuit and Netflix. Burns cited recent examples like It Follows, Green Room and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night as inspiration to move the project forward and evidence that there is indeed a market for niche, stand-alone movies like his.

“Seeing these films gave me confidence that there is an audience for the type of films I want to make, and I’m fortunate to be creating at a time when they are growing in popularity, especially amongst art house crowds,” he said.

Independent directors like Burns find themselves entering a marketplace in which directors are plucked from relative obscurity by major Hollywood studios and placed at the helm of the next tent pole. Burns said his main intention moving forward is to simply keep making movies he wants to make, growing incrementally stronger with each production.

He also intends to work toward building his home state’s burgeoning film industry for the immediate future.

“I think for our industry to really break through, it’s going to have to come from within,” he said.

As more and more Oklahoma talent begins to emerge, it’s only a matter of time before someone makes it big.

Both Burns and Blue Thunder Productions will have multiple opportunities, given their packed slate of upcoming Oklahoma-based projects, including a second season of web series Talkies, a documentary co-directed by Jacob and Zachary, and Hogan’s second film as writer and director, Werewolf Scouts, due to begin production next summer.

Print headline: Electric endeavor, Oklahoma filmmakers’ Electric Nostalgia continues to earn accolades.

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