Awarded filmmaker gains attention with short film “Baby Nick”

Snapshot of Russell Reed, director of the short film

Photo courtesy of Ruben Caballero

Snapshot of Russell Reed, director of the short film "Baby Nick."

He cried out in terror as he bolted down the porch steps, rushing toward his daughter, “No, no, no! Amani!” All it took was one second for tragedy to strike, for the gunshots to go off. Suddenly, no longer is it just any other ordinary day filled with laughter and boxing lessons. Instead, it is one marking the life-altering event that would change his life forever: the death of his on-screen daughter, Amani Nicholas.

The short film “Baby Nick” introduces two amateur boxers: Sahar Nicholas and Canu Abel. The two begin their individual journeys toward becoming better men and human beings mentally, spiritually and physically in the midst of struggling with loss, grief and constant tribulation. The film was directed by Texas State marketing senior Russell Reed.

Reed credits success to his mom, who encouraged him to take his first theater class in high school. His passion for scriptwriting ignited when he began writing and directing theater plays during his high school years.

“My mom is the reason I do what I do; she doesn’t even know it,” Reed said.

With the intention of exploring his passion for acting, Reed created a YouTube channel in college where he could express himself through short videos and comedy skits.

“Eventually, I wanted my videos to look better than they did, so I started to research,” Reed said. “In that process, I actually fell in love with storytelling behind the scenes.”

After seeing potential in a two-minute snippet he shot early January 2019, Reed shot the full short film, now called “Baby Nick,” February 2019 and entered it into a music film festival: Gentleman Jack Real to Real Short Film Contest.

Though “Baby Nick” did not win the $10,000 prize money, Reed saw potential in the storyline he had created and continued to submit the short film to various other festivals across the country and world. So far, “Baby Nick” has screened in a New York Online Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival and in the Capital City Black Film Festival in Austin, Texas, Aug. 30.

Reed said he found inspiration for the short film through his own naturally optimistic outlook on life as well as personal past experiences and struggles.

“I’ve gone through some really tough things in my life,” Reed said. “Now I am more educated and more cognoscente of the world around me so I’m able to wrap that all together and hone in on what the problem is.”

Reed said he is passionate about the film’s potential to impact people’s lives solely through a change in perspective.

“A lot of people are struggling and dealing with things that are maybe 20 times or even 50 times harder than what (someone else) is going through,” Reed said. “I want people to realize how grateful they are for the life they have.”

Xavier Alvarado, who plays Canu Abel in the film, was personally impacted by his involvement with “Baby Nick” and said it challenged him to think about how he could make every moment in life count.

“People should know it’s a privilege to be able to turn their head left and right, to walk, to sit in a car (without feeling) pain,” Alvarado said. “I won’t take people for granted because something can happen in a moment’s notice, at any second.”

For the project, “Baby Nick” creators rented a camera from Austin Movie Gear rental company, paid for person-to-head sound and split up the total budget cost of $400. While rolling on a tight budget, Reed said he could not think of a better way to connect to his actors during certain scenes involving pain or discomfort.

“If the story embodied struggle or a certain type of mood, then it only felt right I would focus myself and struggle through it with (the characters),” Reed said. “(The actors) may be feeling hurt in the scene but I was hurting too because I’d be squatting to get the shot.”

Collins Uzowulu, who plays Sahar Nicholas or “Baby Nick,” said the motion picture is unique and different from other boxing films because the storyline features two protagonists instead of one.

“There’s no antagonist and it’s very motivational,” Uzowulu said. “You’ll feel like you can come out of anything as long as you fight for it.”

Reed, Uzowulu and Alvarado are now looking to turn the roughly 10-minute short film into a full-length movie, which will expand on the storyline and themes of struggle, love and tribulation. Reed plans to start shooting the feature December 2019.

“I see ‘Baby Nick’ being in theaters one day,” Uzowulu said. “I think the film has the potential of being picked up by a distributor like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Video. I think everyone should watch the film because it’s real and uplifting.”

Reed has high hopes for “Baby Nick” and wants audiences to understand the strength within each and every individual person.

“Ultimately, what I want to do with this film is get everybody, black, white, green or blue, to understand whatever you are going through, you can come out of it stronger and a better person,” Reed said.

“Baby Nick” will be screening at the Lights On Festival in Concord, California, Sept. 14. The film has been selected to screen in the Los Angeles Liftoff Film Festival Sept. 24 in Los Angeles, California.

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