Mortimer Screen Shot

Filmmaker Friday: Nolan Sarner

December 07, 2018

This week for Filmmaker Friday, we have Nolan Sarner dropping in to tell us how details matter and how going the extra mile can get awkward:

Mortimer was my first legitimate short film: shot on 35mm, surrounded by extremely talented people – both in front of and behind the camera. It was an eye opening and rewarding experience for me, and helped me grow as a filmmaker tremendously. It also put me in some awkward positions that I otherwise could not even make up.

As you will see below, the lead in the film is a puppet named Mortimer, wonderfully ventriloquized by Carlo Rota. In order for the short to be a success, I put a lot of emphasis on creating the right feel and characterization for Mortimer. I wrote the character as a rude, crass and grumpy old man and it was key that his physical appearance followed suit. I had a rough idea what this character should look like, but I had zero clue where to find a three-foot-tall puppet resembling this idea… I scoured stores, called the entire phone book, posted to Facebook, Craigslist. Nothing.

As a last resort, I turned to eBay and hit the auctions. Believe it or not, there were puppets galore! I stumbled across the work of an incredibly skilled puppeteer in Manilla, Philippines. None of his dolls matched what I had envisioned (as it turns out angry old man dolls are not exactly a party hit), so, I decided to contact him personally. Sure enough, he was up for the challenge of creating a puppet more in line with what I was looking for.

When the puppet arrived everything looked great except for one glaring issue: Mortimer was buck naked. And just like that I’m back on the hunt for something completely strange — a formal suit and tie for a puppet. This brings me to the Kiddy Kidswear (where else?) with my new pal conspicuously concealed in a big black garbage bag.

After finding a winning ensemble, I find myself pulling a large, fairly wrinkly, old-man doll out of the bag and dressing him in the middle of the store. You know when you love something so much, you wear it right out of the store? It was that kinda moment for Mortimer.

I’m not sure what the sales person thought of me, but I imagine the tailor who had to alter the suit so that Carlo to get his hand through the back, felt very much the same way.

Anything for the shot…

You can see it below