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Saturday, February 24, 2024

With Hurricane-Set ‘No Sleep Till,’ Omnes Films Keen On Confronting the Virtue of Apocalyptic Angst


Onto the Next One

The boys are back in town, and they need your help.

To cinematically manifest the feature debut of the first female director in the Omnes Films director’s chair into the reality it damn well deserves to be is the mission. To complete it is where you come in, should you choose to accept it.

Reads the plot description of Alexandra Simpson’s Florida-set, first foray into feature-length filmmaking: “A small beach town in Florida is under strict orders of evacuation as Hurricane Wanda draws near. Within a general movement of desertion, two teenage brothers take the chance to run away, a furtive storm chaser arrives in the emptying town, and a young girl witnesses her familiar world unraveling. In the still of the night, each begin to believe that they are, somehow, the reason for the storm.”

Rave reviews of Smithtown native Tyler Taormina’s surrealist Ham on Rye (2019) and Happer’s Comet (2022) from The New Yorker, The NY Times and Rolling Stone put the Omnes collective even further on the map than being selected as one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker Magazine in 2021 did. Music supervisor-turned-director Jonathan Davies’ Topology of Sirens just arrived to the streaming platform MUBI after its coastal premieres not too long ago as well.

Omnes Films are currently in post-production on their biggest project to date, the DEADLINE: Exclusive-certified holiday comedy Christmas Eve in Miller’s Point, shot across Suffolk County on Long Island from February to March of this year, and starring Michael Cera, Maria Dizzia, Elsie Fisher, Francesca Scorsese, Ben Shenkman and Sawyer Spielberg; and Eephus, a “Sandlot for grown-ups” men’s league baseball love letter from Taormina’s trusty director of photography on ‘Ham’ and ‘Eve,’ Carson Lund. 

In the meantime, Omnes are wasting no time in keeping to their production moniker’s utmost indie roots while they still can before they’re promptly rewarded for their efforts with even more resources than typically accustomed to. They are no stranger to making moving miracles out of what little they have at their disposal… and No Sleep Till will be no different.

With Taormina on-board as producer this go-around while passing the director torch onto the next cinematic storyteller making their debut feature, make no mistake about it, Alexandra Simpson is far from unproven. The French-American filmmaker received a Special Mention from head of jury Alice Diop for her 2020 short The Crying House at the TBILISI International Film Festival. Her follow-up, Tony (2021), was selected in international festivals like Cinema Du Reel and International Kurzfilmtage Winterthur. She also worked as an editor on Sarah Imsand’s Le Chant de l’Oiseau, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019. 

On her call to bring No Sleep Till to life, Simpson contextualized her vision: “These past few years have posed a different kind of threat to the coastal towns of Florida. Hurricanes are a common seasonal occurrence, part of a typical routine for Floridians, only now they are a bit more likely to spell the destruction of an entire community. This coincides with a mass movement of people, all flocking towards cities across the globe.” 

“My film is set in this specific period in history where small coastal towns speak a great deal to modern anxieties of being left behind in a rocket speed modernization and being extinguished altogether due to climate catastrophe,” she added. “These fears bring about a morbid curiosity to the characters in No Sleep Till, who are tempted to meet this destruction for a relief from the anticipatory angst. They are also drawn to have any bit of excitement amongst the backdrop of small town stagnancy.” 

Principal photography on the film that calls Gus Van Sant films like Gerry (2002) and Paranoid Park (2007), and Kelly Reichart films like Night Moves (2013) foremost influences is being eyed for mid-to-late September in Atlantic Beach, Florida. 

What Omnes Films Needs From YOU

While they’ve already collected $17,000 of their $25,000 goal on the crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo, the gang still covets all the hope they can get— whether it’s donating what you can, or spreading the word to friends and friends of friends in-person and via social media. Per No Sleep Till’s Indie gogo campaign, the production is even gracious enough to offer credits beyond “thank you” and “special thanks” in exchange for your donations. 

If you reach a certain prong, you can get a character in the film named after you; another… even an Associate Producer credit! 

Ultimately, costs contributed to the film fundraiser will exclusively cover:

  • The cost of plane flights to Florida for the crew
  • Local crew positions 
  • On-set catering 
  • On-set transportation
  • Equipment
  • Insurance

It’s a passion project from a passionate mind ready to make more than a splash in feature film water. While guilds the world over are at war with the hands that feed, this purely in-the-clear indie perpetuates the essentiality of peace by taking the camera, and thereby the audience along with it, out of its “eye of the storm” safety net to send it deadsmack into the fray. 

The best way out of a hole, survey says, is to seek counsel from someone who’s been down one before, and therefore knows the way out. How many times has a movie been all that we needed to conquer whatever real-world struggle we find ourselves embroiled in?

The beauty of what film as an art form can accomplish. The beauty of family and friendship rendered eternal, rain or shine. The beauty of Omnes Films ensembles routinely coloring its ordinarily-scaled silhouettes with oh-so vibrantly-drawn layers as they experience a collective existential crisis of sneakily extraordinary proportions. It’s this litany of pro’s that has me more than confident in Alexandra Simpson, Tyler Taormina, Michael Graf and Co.’s ability to make visual poetry out of scriptorial prose— enough for me to donate my funds and services. What say you? 

(Left to right): The key creative crew of ‘No Sleep Till’ – Tyler Taormina, producer; Alexandra Simpson, writer-director; Michael Graf, producer.

“I have been drawn to this material for a number of years, partly because one of these small Floridian towns, Atlantic Beach (twenty minutes north of Jacksonville) is the hometown of my father,” Simpson said. “I was born and raised in Paris, however, my American side has always called me. I’ve always been shocked by the contrast of my metropolitan city life and the quaint offerings of Atlantic Beach; a town made for postcards that is scarcely visited by outsiders.” 

No Sleep Till is rooted in this environment,” she adds, “exploring the tension between Florida’s promise of paradise and the morbid curiosity felt during a period of collective apocalyptic angst.” 

There are 19 days left to make a donation to Alexandra Simpson’s profound-in-its-societal timeliness No Sleep Till! Visit: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/no-sleep-till-feature-film#/ to do so, and for more information on the campaign. 

Author’s Note: In my first post-Messenger Editor promo of an already-made, or about-to-be-made by hell or high water Omnes Film, let be perfectly clear: this team is a special band of forward-thinking, wise-beyond-their-years creative professionals who double as bang-up human beings.

I’m not just saying that because I’ve been fortunate to produce one film with them, and serve as a post-production assistant on another. I would think the same regardless, as a big believer in arthouse cinema and its place as an accurate marker of the times. A shoestring venture with built-in experimental leeway can especially stand to capture a scope so grand that it sees no bounds— because it, thanks to those who emotionally or financially invest in the vision of an independent film crew, thereby has no bounds whatsoever.

Moreover, when an audience grows as mesmerized by a dream realized in 90 minutes or less as investors were when they said “to hell with superhero movie saturation,” subsequently becoming real-life superheroes in the process by making it happen… that’s a beautiful thing. So let’s keep that going, and pretend like any espoused notion that A.I. could EVER embody the triumphant nature of the human spirit with whatever they could algorithmically churn out in place of a living, breathing survivor of this madhouse we call life, was just an “Impractical Jokers” bit that spiraled haplessly out of control…. 

Michael J. Reistetter
Michael J. Reistetter
Mike Reistetter, former Editor in Chief, is now a guest contributor to The Messenger Papers. Mike's current career in film production allows for his unique outlook on entertainment writing. Mike has won second place in "Best Editorials" at the New York Press Association 2022 Better Newspaper Contest.