Filmmaker from Union reaches for the stars

UNION, NJ — It’s been a long time in the making, but a psychological thriller written, produced and directed by Union native Nick Basile is nearing a distribution deal for widespread release.

“Dark,” based on a script Basile first shopped around in 2012, will finally see the light of day.
“We don’t have an exact date, but it will be coming out in 2016,” said Basile. An initial deal fell through four years ago due to a lack of investors, but renewed efforts — which involved showing the script to another 85 companies and raising about $400,000 — put “Dark” back on the map. “By the time 2014 rolled around, we were ready to shoot that summer. It was a very tight, 18-day shoot. That kind of energy definitely enhanced the project.”

Most of that shoot was spent in the Brooklyn apartment in which “Dark” takes place, says Basile. The film closely follows the experiences of Kate, a model played by Whitney Able, in what Basile describes as a “tour-de-force” performance, over a 24-hour stretch during the 2003 New York blackout.

Engulfed in darkness at her new apartment, Kate becomes fearful she’s not alone. The more convinced she becomes that a stranger is stalking her, the more desperate Kate gets, but help — as long as the blackout persists — is beyond reach.

“It’s a movie that starts as kind of raw, kind of gritty, independent New York character piece that then evolves into a more
suspenseful, nightmarish one,” said Basile. “You really see this woman’s psyche slowly deteriorating, the whole movie takes place through her perspective. And it’s always interesting when a movie follows a character’s perspective when it’s not necessarily reliable.”

Evoking some of his favorite suspense directors, like Roman Polanski and Alfred Hitchcock, Basile uses “Dark” to explore its main character’s psychosis: Kate’s weaknesses, fears and the ways in which she reacts to a nightmarish situation. So the 2003 blackout, a wild and unpredictable event, was a fitting stage for such a story, he says.

“It almost had a party atmosphere to it. So we re-create a lot of that in some of the scenes. We had a scene we shot out in Brooklyn where we had the city take out the lights, the street lights, had the pyro-techs to make those burning barrels that people had on the street,” said Basile. “It gives you a genuine sense of what it was like.”

Public distribution is still on the horizon, but initial reactions at screenings and film festivals have received positive reviews. At the Oldenburg Film Festival, which Basile says is called “the German Sundance,” Able took home Best Actress honors and “Dark” won Best Picture.

Much of the film’s quality is because of its talented cast, says Basile, which includes a few recognizable faces. Michael Eklund has been in “Gotham” and “The Call,” among other critical darlings; Alexandra Breckenridge stars in “The Walking Dead” as Jessie Anderson; and Brendan Sexton III recently played Belko Royce for 15 episodes in “The Killing.”

But it’s the standout performance of Able, who also starred in the indie thriller “The Monsters,” that elevates “Dark,” says Basile.

“It is like a one-woman show, in a way. You have these great supporting performances by these other actors, but for her, it’s like a tour-de-force. It’s a movie that will give people a chance, who haven’t seen ‘The Monsters,’ to see her work,” said Basile. “This puts her front and center.”

While the film takes place in Brooklyn and features Hollywood actors, “Dark” also has deep roots in Union Township, where Basile grew up wanting to be a director “since I was 10, 11 years old,” he says.

He enlisted in the now-defunct Union Music School in the third grade, where he met “Dark” producing partner Kathryn Belli during a production of “The Wizard of Oz.” And then persisted in the arts.

In his freshman year at Union High School, from which he graduated in 1996, Basile made his first scary movie — “you can’t be a director unless you make at least one horror movie with a disembodied hand,” he says — about two decades before directing “Dark,” his first professional film with horror elements.

By that point, Basile had already known film was in his future. He’d been trying to imitate directors like Steven Spielberg, for years, as a child on the streets of Union, and hasn’t stopped since.

“I was one of those kids who, around Union when I was little, was directing little amateur movies,” said Basile. “I remember when my father bought our first home movie camera back when you had to sling them over your shoulder. Now you have it on your phone or something, but I was recruiting neighborhood kids to the crew and making movies, especially in the summertime. That was what we did.”

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