For years, Nick Tierce has lived with the black-and-white image of a man sitting at a desk in a trench coat and fedora.
He’s even pictured the half-open mini blinds on his office window, a thin veil of smoke billowing out from his cigarette — the typical preoccupations of a screenwriter.
“I need to purge these film noir instincts,” Tierce says, “so I can finally move on.”
The 22-year-old filmmaker is on a mission.
Ever since his father handed him a VHS camera as a kid, Tierce has fantasized about writing and directing an independent film.
A Southern California native, he relocated in 2008 to Sarasota with his actress wife, Lindsay Marie Tierce, now a third-year student at the FSU/Asolo Conservatory and the leading lady in this month’s “Las Meninas.”
Other than poring over volumes of filmmaking books, Tierce, who works full time as the house services manager and volunteer coordinator at the Asolo Repertory Theatre, is entirely self-taught.
“You learn a lot through trial and error,” he says. “You shoot something. You cut it together. You read hundreds of books. And, eventually, stylistically, you find your way.”
Using his wife’s conservatory classmates and connections he’s made with film students at Ringling College of Art and Design, Tierce is set to shoot his first film noir short — “Grief Splattered Canvas,” the story of an ex-vigilante who’s pulled back into a life of crime by his wife’s murderer.
Third-year conservatory actor Danny Jones, whose voice Tierce describes as “rich and captivating,” inspired much of the movie’s vigilante role. Katie Cunningham, a second-year student, plays Jones’ femme fatale love interest.
Sean Keller, a senior in Ringling’s digital filmmaking program, recently signed on as Tierce’s director of photography after the two worked together on Keller’s senior-thesis project.
With Keller behind the camera, Tierce can focus on writing, directing and promoting the film, which he hopes to release in late May or early June.
He shot the trailer for the film in one day at a friend’s house in Sarasota and used a mid-grade camcorder and a single boom microphone taped to a broomstick.
“Maybe you shouldn’t write that,” Tierce says, and then hesitates. “Well … it got the job done.”
He’s currently writing a prequel story that the actors will present as a staged reading before the film’s preview screening.
Of course, the final execution of all of this hinges on funding.
To help raise money for the project, Tierce created a profile on Kickstarter.com, an online fundraising platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, writers and inventors.
The site, which launched in 2009, is a melting pot of creative ideas, many of which have accrued thousands of dollars in financial backing.
One film project — “Blue Like Jazz,” based on the bestselling New York Times memoir of the same name — raised $345,000 since it posted a year ago.
Tierce’s fundraising goal is much more modest. He’s hoping to secure $750 by March 27.
Why March 27?
Because by June, most of his young cast and crew will have graduated from their respective programs and moved on with their careers. By July, even the Tierces will have packed their bags and moved back to California.
“There’s nothing like a looming graduation deadline to motivate you,” Tierce says. “Once we all move away, who knows if we’ll ever see each other again?”
Contact Heidi Kurpiela at firstname.lastname@example.org
HELP ‘KICKSTART’ TIERCE’S PROJECT
To make an online pledge toward the production of Tierce’s film, visit griefsplatteredcanvas.blogspot.com. The project’s fundraising drive ends at 5 p.m. Sunday, March 27.