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SxSW 2017 Interview: SMALL TOWN CRIME directors Ian & Eshom Nelms

by Jason Whyte

"SMALL TOWN CRIME is about ex-cop, Mike Kendall, who discovers the body of a young woman and, in an act of self-redemption, becomes hellbent on finding the killer. While his un-couth and quirky detective style helps break open the case, his dogged determination unwittingly puts his family in danger. The film stars John Hawkes, Anthony Anderson,Octavia Spencer, Robert Forster, Clifton Collins Jr, Michael Vartan, Daniel Sunjata, Don Harvey, James Lafferty, Jeremy Ratchford, Caity Lotz and Dale Dickey." Directors Ian and Eshom Nelms on SMALL TOWN CRIME which screens at the 2017 South By Southwest Conference.

This is going to be one of the very big screenings at SxSW this year! Congratulations! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?

Yes, it's our first time here and we are very honored and excited to be a part of the festival this year! We'll be at all three screenings.

So how did you both get into this business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.

Back in the early 2000s, when we first moved to Los Angeles, we met screenwriter/producer Steven Rogers through a mutual friend, and he invited us to a fourth of July party that happens on his block. There we met a lot of his friends, who were also aspiring independent filmmakers. We started helping them with short films and music videos they were putting together, and that group included Tate Taylor, Brunson Green, and Octavia Spencer. As we started putting our own projects together, they have always been a great sounding board, guide, and collaborators along the way.

Great! How did SMALL TOWN CRIME come about?

We had done a previous film WAFFLE STREET with producers John Kelly and Brad Johnson. They asked what we wanted to do next and we said, SMALL TOWN CRIME Around the same time, we were working with Octavia Spencer on another project and we started talking about the script for SMALL TOWN CRIME. She ended up loving it and wanting to help us get it made. She came on board as executive producer and to play the part of Kelly. She reached out to John Hawkes and Anthony Anderson on our behalf, and that's ultimately what got us our financing from AVVA Pictures. Octavia's been an incredibly passionate collaborator throughout the entire process. We couldn't have done it without her.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

For us, it starts with the intensity and excitement of being on set, working with the crew and cast, and seeing the film come alive. But after a couple weeks, you definitely have to double down, and for me (Ian) it's tea and sugar. For Eshom, it's a swirling cocktail of tea, energy drinks, and blueberries...lots of blueberries.

With all of the big talent and support, what was your biggest challenge with making SMALL TOWN CRIME and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

If we had to pick just one, it would be keeping a sense of objectivity throughout the process. It's a constant struggle to find the best ideas and approach.

Tell me about the tech side of things and how you got the look of SMALL TOWN CRIME!

Johnny Derango was our director of photography. This is our third feature film working together. He's incredibly talented and versatile. We used the Sony F55, paired with Cooke primes. Johnny pulled off a wonderful look. He was very efficient with his lighting equipment, as the budget didn't allow for excess of any kind. Each scene was lit according its tone, blocking and intent. No small feat on a film like this. Johnny and his team killed it! We're very specific in our shot design. Every scene is storyboarded ahead of time. It's how we have done all of our films. The photography is in service of the story. That's the number one priority. Creating these detailed roadmaps also allows us to prioritize set ups and maximize shooting time, which is especially critical when we are striving to pull off ambitious scenes.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?

It is the town, the festival, the audiences, and the other films and filmmakers. We are really looking forward to the whole experience. This is where some of the best filmmakers working today come to show their films and talk about film, and we are really excited to be a part of that this year.

After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next?

We have some options, but we haven't committed to anything yet. I'll have to say 'TBD' on that one.

If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

We would have to say the Arclight in Hollywood, Ca. Eshom used to work there when it first opened in the early 2000s. It's a beautiful theatre. We met a lot of our filmmaking friends there, and we all used to dream about having our own films play there one day.

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?

I think persistence and the ability to overcome rejection are the two most important things. After that, it's craft and talent. Work hard and don't give up. It's a long game. Your abilities and chances of success will improve exponentially with each effort.

And finally, what is the greatest movie you have ever seen?

It's tough to cull it down to one, but we can throw out a few titles. TENDER MERCIES, PREDATOR, BOOGIE NIGHTS, TRUE ROMANCE, and LETHAL WEAPON are all on serious rotation throughout the year. We crave watching each one for very different
reasons, but they all hold a lot of weight. There are mountains more, but this is a pretty good sample of what inspires us.


World Premiere: 3/11 at 3pm at Paramount Theater

Screening #2: 3/12 at 10pm at Rollins Theater at The Long Center

Screening #3: 3/17 at 11am Alamo Drafthouse Lamar A

Be sure to follow SMALL TOWN CRIME online on Facebook, on Instagram and on Twitter!

[bigger]We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview as part of our coverage of SxSW 2017. To see the entire series click on the Live Report sidebar on your right. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2017 SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas taking place March 10-18. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

link directly to this feature at
originally posted: 03/10/17 03:03:40
last updated: 03/10/17 03:10:12
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