'Stella For Star,' Co-Written and Directed by Alumni Available on Filmatique
BY Cody Daniel Beltis , October 19, 2020
Stella For Star, co-written and directed by alumnus Nick Singer '19 and co-written by alumnus Ben Gottlieb '19, is now available to view on Filmatique. Stella for Star premiered at IFFBoston, New Orleans, St. Cloud, the Big Apple Film Festival, and it won the Hammer-to-Nail Short Film Contest. The film received a 2017 production grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in recognition of its scientific themes, as well as an equipment grant from the Panavision New Filmmakers Program.
Shot in New Orleans in 2018, Stella for Star follows Dr. Marcy Later (Robin Weingert) who has devoted her life and career to nuclear fusion, a long-proposed but never realized renewable energy solution for climate change. At a scientific conference in New Orleans with her two young children, she neglects her maternal and professional responsibilities by hanging out with a group of Furries staying at the same hotel—and all the while, a hurricane gathers offshore.
“The film adopts a steady pace progression with a magnitude that slowly creeps up on you. Dr. Macy’s character arc develops with little conflict on the surface, but we can feel the internal struggle blooming. And while the resolution of that struggle may not come through in an obvious way, the metaphorical forecast certainly spells things out for us,” Film Shortage writes.
The film was developed in coordination with fusion scientists Dr. Francesco Volpe and Dr. Paul Hughes at Columbia University, and included visits to fusion conferences as well as to the world’s leading fusion experiment, ITER, in France. In an interview with The Museum of the Moving Image, Singer said, “I'm lucky to go to school at Columbia, which has one of the leading Applied Physics departments in the country and where they have actually built a fusion reactor. Dr. Francesco Volpe, our main advisor, was very helpful to us not only as an educator in the science of fusion, but more importantly as a window into the life of the scientists who work in the field.”
In an interview with Filmatique Talents, Singer said, “I know I'm not alone in being both terrified and apathetic about climate change. It's a very strange way to feel, and a little bit absurd. I had thought for some time that I might like to explore that feeling in a film, but wasn't sure how to go about it. The initial spark came when I read a New Yorker piece by Raffi Khatchadourian about ITER, which is the leading international nuclear fusion project. What they're trying to do at ITER is truly sublime: conjure an artificial star out of thin air that is ten times hotter than the sun, trap it in an invisible magnetic bottle, and use it as a power source”
Singer is an American screenwriter, film director, and producer. His thesis short film at Wesleyan University, February, premiered in competition at Slamdance—Singer expanded this film, which centers around the travails of an itinerant plumber, into his feature debut Other Months, which premiered at SXSW and BAMcinemafest.
Gottlieb is a recent Screenwriting graduate of Columbia's Film MFA Program. After graduating from Brown University with degrees in Art History and Literary Arts, he worked as an editor at The Washington Post and at WNYC. His writing has appeared on the Harper’s website and The Brooklyn Rail, and in the literary journals [sic], The Open Face Sandwich and Matrix Magazine, for which he received the 2013 LitPop Prize.