A Long Island native is coming home to make a film that gives the East End a starring role.
Christian Nilsson, 30, originally from East Moriches, launched an online fundraising campaign last week to help start production of his film, “Westhampton.”
The drama, which Nilsson has been tinkering with for the past three years, centers on a filmmaker’s return to his hometown of Westhampton. There he confronts the friends he left behind after a tragic accident and grapples with his feelings of alienation in a town that’s “grown to disdain him,” Nilsson said.
Nilsson began writing the script after he had moved to Los Angeles and came back to Westhampton to visit. Though he’d spent nearly everyday wandering Main Street as a teenager, Nilsson said when he returned, the town suddenly felt unfamiliar.
“I was the out-of-towner walking through Westhampton. That’s a real big thing in the film,” Nilsson said. “You can go back to where you’re from and be a complete stranger there.”
Nilsson, who now lives in Queens, hopes to raise $10,000 in the next month to take his first steps toward production, including paying for legal fees and filing as a limited liability company, Nilsson said.
Some local business owners have already donated to the campaign and others have offered up their establishments as potential filming locations, Nilsson said.
Terry Lucas, 60, said she thinks the film will be “wonderful for Westhampton.” Lucas owned The Open Book, a local bookstore that closed in 2012, and has donated to the project.
Nilsson worked at the store while at Westhampton Beach High School and used the bookstore as a backdrop in some of the short films he made in college.
“There’s gonna be support for it. It’s kind of a hometown story,” Lucas said.
If he reaches his fundraising goal, Nilsson plans to film on location beginning on “Tumbleweed Tuesday” — the day after Labor Day and the unofficial close of vacation season on the East End. Nilsson, who graduated from Westhampton Beach High School, hopes the film will introduce audiences to a quieter side of the Hamptons.
“Whenever I tell people that I grew up in Westhampton, they have this picture in their minds of what it looks like,” Nilsson said. “Everyone is familiar with what it looks like in the summer, but not how it looks like in the offseason.”
“Westhampton” will be Nilsson’s first feature-length film. He’s worked primarily as a video journalist and producer for publications including the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and Esquire, and won a New York Emmy Award in 2017 for his historical news segment, “The Fight to be the Oldest Bar in NYC,” which he produced for the Huffington Post.
He is adding to his staff and has signed on his childhood friend, Rob Hinderliter, who was raised in East Moriches and has experience as a Broadway producer, and Saraleah Cogan, who worked with Nilsson at Esquire, as producers.
All three appear in a short video asking for donations in front of the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. Since the video’s release Monday, it has drummed up some excitement among locals, Nilsson said.