Director Norry Niven: Insight Into Chasing Shakespeare and Making Movies

Director Norry Niven fell in love with the script as soon as he read it. A gift from his friend, James Bird, he read it for the first time while on a flight and he was moved to tears. He liked the script so much that he rushed it to his wife who was sitting in another spot on the plane and implored her to read it. She also fell in love with the story and they decided to find a way to create the film.

After the Thursday morning showing of Chasing Shakespeare at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival, Niven explained to the kids in attendance (the screening was a part of the Festival Field Trip Program) how he used the Golden Mean visually when constructing the scenes, how the story echoes the traditional hero’s journey story and more.

Norry Niven was raised in Galveston and suggested to other local kids who might want to break into Hollywood to, “set the bar as high as you possibly can, follow your bliss.” Niven chose to go to school at UT Arlington which isn’t the most glamorous school for wanna-be filmmakers to attend. He explained that he was impressed with their film program because students were actually making and selling movies while they were in college. Although he splits his time between Texas and California, he has kept a home in Texas, “because we (Texans) are the kind who roll up our sleeves and get it done.”

When sharing some of the tricks about the look of the film, Niven referred to a modern master. “Hobbits always move left to right. I made the action in this film do the same thing. That’s Peter Jackson’s, I stole it.”

A student asked about repetition in the film. Niven jumped into tales about reviewers who didn’t like the film. He said that the only people that he knew of who didn’t like it were, “men who watched the film alone in their cubicles. If you’re interested in it, it will give back to you.” He then shared that the film had won awards at a dozen film festivals.

Niven shared tales of unscripted magic surrounding the filming of Chasing Shakespeare.

  • In one scene a tree is supposed to blow up after receiving a direct lightning strike. The family who the production was renting the home from specifically requested that the tree be left alone. They went on to explain that a couple, existing of an African American man and a Native American woman, just like in the film, had lived in the home and the tree held significant meaning to them.  
  • While they were filming an outdoor scene in Dallas, the characters dancing on the marquee, (which is meant to be in NYC), the lightening storm became so intense that they had to stop filming.
  • To catch just the right storm for the camera, the director became a sort of storm chaser. The weather, he says is a main character of the film.

Niven encouraged possible filmmakers in the audience to stay open minded and not to become too specialized. He finished telling the kids: “Go, Learn, Do, Create, Be Amazing!”

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