Alum's 'Nightmare' film awarded at Fantasia

By Dan O'Brien
August 11, 2014

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An artistic picture of Noah Aust '14. (Courtesy Photo) 

Halloween may not be for two and a half months, but Noah Aust ’14 can’t get enough of the spooky and scary—and now his fascination with horror and gothic is hitting the film festival circuit.

How to Make a Nightmare was viewed recently at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. It’s a “dark fantasy film about monsters who make nightmares,” said the Oakland, California, native, who used the nine-minute film as his undergraduate thesis project in the Visual and Media Arts Department last semester.

Aust, who is living in Los Angeles, described Fantasia as “the Sundance of [expletive]-up sci-fi/horror.”

Nightmare was awarded Special Mention of the Jury in the festival’s International Short Film Awards category for “its cinematic and psychological vision,” according to Variety.

In Aust’s movie, the monsters “cook [the nightmares] up in a weird underground laboratory and then program them into this girl’s head,” he said. “So they’re driving this girl crazy, but one of them starts falling in love with her.”

“It’s …a very strange, dreamlike fairy tale.”

Aust is also a talented two-dimensional artist, and features much of his work online at noahaust.com

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An example of art work found on Noah Aust's website. (Courtesy Photo)

He’s also begun a new project, a provocative art photography magazine, Acid Fatty, which he’s producing with Emerson alumni.

Explain why you made How to Make a Nightmare.

Aust: I wanted to make a movie about anxiety and guilt and mental illness, but I wanted it to be a dark comedy. And I love dream sequences.

Aust - portrait

Noah Aust '14. (Courtesy Photo)

Tell us about your artistic background.

I’ve been drawing, writing, and making weird movies for as long as I can remember. I was waving around a VHS camcorder when I was five or six. My parents are weird artists and I grew up in that kind of environment. I was pretty creepy from the beginning.

How would you describe this genre? Horror? Or something more specific?

Nightmare remixes a bunch of genre traditions. I drew a lot from Eastern European gothic/surrealist stuff, like Kafka and Svankmajer and their 21st-century counterparts, M. Dot Strange and the Brothers Quay. The storyline is part gothic literature, part 1970s surveillance thriller. The production design is pretty steampunk. I wanted this feeling of things rustling, corroding, breaking apart. I like steampunk because everything is deteriorating, and that’s a big theme of the story. Because the film’s storyline is kind of abstract, I had to find ways to convey the narrative through things like texture.

Why are you so into this?

I like the gothic genre because it’s all about anxiety. Working through anxiety is one of the main reasons I make art. It’s really cathartic to take all your ugly, [messed]-up feelings and process them into something beautiful. It gives them meaning and makes them worth something.

Why did you embark upon the Nightmare project at Emerson?

I really wanted to take everything I’d learned about filmmaking and cram it all into a short film. The movie is kind of cluttered, but that’s the point. I wanted to make an attack on the full senses…cramming as much into the frame as humanly possible.

What do you value most about Emerson?

Definitely the students. I met some really, really amazing collaborators at Emerson. Everybody’s really into collaboration and helping each other out. I made the best friends I’ve ever had.

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