Eight-millimeter films taken by Nancy Theken’s father instilled in her a passion for filmmaking. Fast-forward a few decades and the Colorado Springs mother of four has now helped produce two feature-length films and is making the film festival circuit in Europe and North America. The first film she worked on, “Haze,” showed how binge drinking impairs judgment among college students. The next one, of which she is a producer, “The Creep Behind the Camera,” exposes the malevolence of the director of the 1964 monster movie “The Creeping Terror.” Nancy Theken sat down with the Business Journal and explained her love of film.
Explain your most recent movie.
“The Creeping Terror” was made in Hollywood by a con artist, a scammer who got people to pay him to be in the film. What fascinated us was how he was able to get a sophisticated community in film to buy in to this pitch that he was going to make the best monster movie of all time. The film went on to be a cult film. We wanted to tell the story behind the making of it. He was a psychopath, a con artist, misogynist, abuser. It really became a docudrama, a new hybrid. There’s documentary elements to it, but there’s narrative recreations and some interviews and animation.
How did your film make it to the international film festival circuit?
International film festivals found us. This film fits into a genre called fantastic films, films with sci-fi elements, horror elements to it, animation. There is a big festival in Amsterdam that stumbled across our trailer, and the programming director emailed me and said he loved the trailer and asked if would I submit a screener to them. They were really interested and they invited us, we went to the festival and they were very excited to have us. Right after that, we started getting emails out of Switzerland, Paris, Montreal.
Did the Cannes Film Festival call?
To get into something like that is somewhat tough. You need to have a world premiere with them, and we didn’t want to put all our eggs in one basket. We would have had to have foregone all these other festivals to try to get into Cannes. We wanted it to be spread out more than that. The bigger festivals really want an exclusive world premiere, and they take very few films.
How did you start making films?
It goes back to my childhood in Naples, Florida. For nine years, my father filmed us relentlessly. He passed away at 49 from cancer. I was 10 years old. We moved here in 1970. Really, looking back at this priceless documentary of our films that he shot had a huge impression on me. I’ve always loved technology. In the business marketing program at UCCS, I bought a video camera, an old VHS. I just started shooting everything. I decided to start a company called Video Keepsakes, where I shot birthday parties, real estate, weddings, other kids. I had children at home and I really wanted to be at home with them, so I learned how to shoot where you didn’t have to go back and edit. You have to be very deliberate.
How did you go from Keepsakes to making “Haze”? And on to “Creep”?
In 2001, a good friend of mine, Robb Watt, invited me into his company, Watt Imagination Productions in Colorado Springs. He hired me at the bottom level, pouring coffee as a production assistant. From there, we did quite a few corporate jobs for American Airlines, Yamaha Keyboards, the Fort Worth Museum of Nature and Science. The Gordie Foundation out of Dallas approached us to bid on a project for them about college binge drinking. We won the job, and Rob made me the associate producer of that film. That took two years and a lot of research and travel to put it together. I was able to get a film crew to ride along with EMTs in college campuses across the country on Friday nights. [Actress] Robin Wright championed our film and did the intro to it. It was really fun to meet her.
“Haze” Director Pete Schuermann and I worked well together. Pete used to watch these horrible “ monster movies. He loved it. That was in the early ’70s. One of the movies was “The Creeping Terror.” He pitched me on the idea; he said the story behind the making of this film is supposedly fascinating. We created an LLC, Slithering Carpet Films, launched in 2010. The monster in the original film was made up of carpet fragments and hoses.
How do you make money creating film and how do you fund it?
“Haze” wasn’t about making money; we were hired to create the film. Film is a challenge to make money with, quite honestly. But it can be done and it is done. For “Creep,” we launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised $72,000. We were really happy with that because our goal was $65,000. Our budget for the film was $680,000, but we shot it for less than that. We spent $280,000 on the film. We’re still spending money; we’re going to run the festival circuit.
Once you get the film out there in the world, my job is to get a distribution deal out of it. We go to festivals for the exposure, to build a fan base, and certain festivals will have buyers. We could sell it outright or make distribution deals. It could actually be in theaters, sci-fi cable channels or video on demand. nCSBJ