WEST ORANGE, NJ — Aspiring filmmaker and West Orange High School (WOHS) senior Truman Segal along with his talented team of students have received multiple awards for their film, "Uninspired."
The black-and-white film, which can be seen below, tells the story of a young writer who goes insane while trying to come up with an ending for her pulp gangster story.
"Uninspired" is written and directed by Truman Segal; produced by Kayleigh Arnold, Clare Cunningham, Joe Nalieth and Truman Segal; filmed by Joe Nalieth and Jacob Wasserman; and features an original score by Thomas Hughes (WOHS Class of 2018). The movie stars Erin Arnold, Matthew Schwartz and Joe Nalieth.
To date, the film has received the following awards:
BEST SCREENPLAY - NJ Visionaries 2018
BEST SCREENPLAY - Screenwriters Society June 2018
NOMINEE - BEST NORTH AMERICAN DRAMA - Alternative Film Festival Winter 2018
MEDALIST - New Jersey Thespian Festival 2019
OFFICIAL SELECTION - BAM! Festival 2019
WINNER - NJ Governor’s Award in Arts Education
OFFICIAL SELECTION - Count Basie Teen & College Film Festival 2019
BEST DIRECTION - Count Basie Teen & College Film Festival 2019
BEST NARRATIVE FILM - Count Basie Teen & College Film Festival 2019
"I have a lot of ideas for films, and the frequent competitions in Screenwriters Society (club at WOHS) pushes me to write them," said Segal, who also discussed his inspiration for the film. "This particular idea came from a desire to physically show self-reflection, which I thought could be interestingly done in a frame story sort of way.
"A lot of amateur shorts have teens playing people who clearly aren't their age carrying around guns and playing mobsters that they clearly are not very fit for, so I decided to play with that a bit too. I think the film that gave me the best idea for the structure was Sion Sono's ‘Into A Dream,’ which is kind of this but with dreams instead of writing and like six different layers. It's kind of an awkward blend between Kaufman and the Coens, but I think it works."
Segal also noted that "Uninspired" isn't the first film he has done.
"I also wanted to create kind of a capstone on this very loose ‘Altered Mental States’ trilogy with my last two films,” he said. “‘The Long Way Down’ dealt with how drugs affect the mind and how they're used as a form of conformity and self-experimentation; and ‘Hypnagogia’ involved an erratic man mad at the world, spiraling, unable to see both his and his ex's shortcomings in his failed relationship.
“For ‘Uninspired,’ I thought getting into the mind of a writer realizing (or maybe re-realizing) that art is primarily a tool of expression and reflection, and not so much about trying to appeal to audiences or not knowing that her writing was for her. Writing is a way to discover yourself, and it makes Melanie the perfect cap to this trilogy, which started with Mike and Ben and Josh and the rest of them literally dying because they used drugs as a way to not come to terms with themselves, and had Chet literally unable to make sense of who he was in the middle of that."
Segal said he has been working with Nalieth and Arnold for as long as he can remember, adding that they were both the first choice for their respective parts.
“The search for our Jim took a while,” he said. “We approached a couple actors who turned us down and turned down some others who didn't quite fit the part—until Joe introduced me to Matthew Schwartz, who I had never met before.
“It was a little awkward at first, as I had never directed somebody I wasn't close to before, but we shot with Matt like two days after I met him and we've been super close friends even since. He might even give my favorite performance in the film; he's just got such a comedic essence to him. He and Joe breathe these nothing-characters to life."
Nalieth, Cunningham and Arnold also produced, while Litzy Reyes-Polanco and Madeline Machado (WOHS Class of 2018) helped with various odd jobs around set.
“Clare, Joe, Matt, and I are all in Advanced Theater together,” said Segal. “Kayleigh and I are in Broadcast/TV together. Director of photography, Jacob Wasserman, attends Livingston High School. Shooting lasted three days in South Mountain Reservation and the senior cafeteria.”
In addition to Segal's “trilogy,” he has also directed short films from his own screenplays.
"Pencilfoot" is a 15-minute tribute to David Lynch, and he also recently wrapped production on "The Lover's Manifesto, or A Thesis on the Proceedings or Non-Proceedings of Love in Student Government," which is about an anarchist and the president of student council falling in love and sorting out their political differences.
There's a lot more coming, and Segal is looking forward to working on additional projects, including "Well Done," about a woman getting revenge on her abusive boyfriend; "Luna," written by Segal starring Erin Arnold and Matt Schwartz and Alex Perez, about a girl with the worst luck in the world; and "Fervor," starring Reyes-Polanco and Ruben Alexander Centeno.
Segal will be attending Emerson College, a top-ten film school, to study visual and media arts in the fall.