Nick Hartman loves skateboarding. He also loves to make films and is good at it. He is skinny as a rail, has bright and excited about the future blue eyes, likes his Maker’s Mark in modest proportions, and can draw the most appealing characters. He is also gnarly on the board. Having earned a BA in Film and Video Studies from Grand Valley State University in 2012, Hartman is a certified member of the very talented club of emerging film makers living and working on the third coast, aka Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Hartman grew up on the east side of the state in a small town along Lake Huron called Alpena, with a population of approximately 10,500 residents. Like most budding filmmakers, the younger Hartman watched his share of movies. “I must have watched Return of the Living Dead over 50 times.” If you know Hartman’s panache for creating works that include zombies, Dan O’Bannon’s 1980-2005 series of films about zombies appears an obvious influence. “Everything about that movie is perfect; from the soundtrack to the actors, to the lighting and the plot structure. It’s the perfect balance between horror and comedy. It’s just so fun! It puts me in such a good mood every time I watch it and it never gets old.”
When talking to Hartman about his work there is a great determinedness about his past and future projects. The Four Riders is his current feature length project rooted in the genre of American zombie horror https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imKgHYKFElQ This gem of a short fold in many of the influences Hartman enjoys besides zombies, like skateboarding, 80’s punk aesthetic, amplified and fast guitar work, all paced in black and white against the backdrop of a small isolated town. By the Hands of the Devil https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HX5-vXhpaZg is a work Hartman created in 2012 that specifically references Italian horror cinema. “I’m very captivated by the works of Lucio Fulci, Mario Bava and most importantly Dario Argento, a master at surreal lighting techniques.”
When Hartman is not behind a camera or on his computer editing, he works as the Film Program Manager at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) which is the only art house film theatre in downtown Grand Rapids. UICA hosts a unique film program called Open Projector Night http://uica.org/event/openprojectornight/. The sense of community building among emerging film makers is a great value for the growing number of participants. According to Hartman, “This program allows filmmakers to come together and share their work. They all have the advantage to make connections with one another and to discuss and critique each others films. I’ve met so many other filmmakers because of OPN and it has allowed me to start building a crew for my next film. I can’t think of a better program for filmmakers in the Grand Rapids area.”
Others are taking notice of Hartman’s talents. He recently created a music video for the Cardboard Swords https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jC0Gq0XkGj8 The Grand Rapids Ballet have also recently utilized his talents for a promotional piece. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28jQDCcC7Ig
Michigan has produced some famous film careers, notably Francis Coppella, John Hughes, Sam Rami and Michael Moore who founded the Traverse City Film Festival in 2005, which serves approximately 100,000 visitors annually and is coming up this summer, from July 30 – August 4. For more information visit: http://www.traversecityfilmfestival.org/ This year’s line-up includes the screening of over 125 independent, foreign and documentary films, 7 free panel discussions featuring experienced professionals and celebrities as well as 9 film school programs. Who knows, perhaps next year attendees will be privy to the Michigan premiere of Hartman’s The Four Riders.