Some people come into our lives and drift out, without making much difference. Others have a profound impact and are never forgotten. For Nick Freeman, 22, of Ridgefield, one who mattered was Bill Bellion — his former manager at Squash’s Office Supply on Main Street in Ridgefield.
“Working at Squash’s for four years was truly an unforgettable experience,” said Freeman. “Bill felt like a second father to me. He never had children, but me and two other co-workers, celebrated Father’s Day one year with him and got him a card. His appreciation and care for us as more than his employees is something I can never forget.”
Those fond memories and Bellion’s recent passing inspired Freeman, a senior at New York University, to write “Help Wanted,” a short film for his senior thesis project in Advanced Narrative Workshop.
“I hope it will be a fitting tribute for one of the kindest, goodhearted people I’ve ever known. I tried to incorporate his unique brand of humor and wide emotional range into the writing,” said Freeman, who will earn a B.F.A. in film and TV in December.
To complete the film, he teamed up with his best friend of 10 years, Dion White, 22, of Ridgefield, a senior at Western Connecticut State University.
“It’s always been a dream of ours to work together on a project,” said White who will earn a B.A. in media production in December. “Nick always used to make music videos for his brother, which I was involved in. This inspired me to use the knowledge I already had and expand it further in my college studies.
White added: “I thank Dr. Barone in Westconn’s media department for the development of my craft.”
Freeman praises White’s production skills. “It’s incredible to work with Dion on this film because it’s very personal for both of us. We’re so happy to be shooting in our hometown and bringing this dream full circle.”
“Help Wanted” is a 15-minute dark comedy.
“It’s about a lonely store manager who comes into his second life after discovering the therapeutic wonder of ASMR [Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response] soap carving. ASMR is a type of therapy based in sound. Scientists have no idea what it is or how it works, but it exists. It’s an extremely strange phenomenon,” said Freeman.
“I heard about ASMR years ago through friends, but was inspired to incorporate it into the film after looking over the shoulder of a classmate who was watching ASMR soap carving videos in class. I found it both incredibly strange and very mesmerizing.”
Freeman’s objective is to create a world that captures the spirit of the store and his former boss.
“An office supply store seems ordinary. My goal is to heighten this seemingly normal experience and create something surreal and unexpected,” he said.
Although White never worked at Squash’s, Bellion was an important part of his high school experience.
“I’d frequently go there and talk to Bill. He was an exceptional person. He was truly the face of Squash’s and everyone in town knew and loved him,” White said.
The film has two starring leads, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Douglas McGrath, and writer-humorist, Patricia Marx.
“I met Doug and Patty when we began working on a mockumentary web series together last year. I was blown away by their quick wit and comedic sense,” Freeman said.
Both McGrath and Marx are known for their comedic writing for Saturday Night Live in the 1980s. McGrath has written and directed film and theater while Marx writes for The New Yorker.
“Doug is absolutely hilarious and can convey a broad emotional range. I couldn’t be more excited about having him,” Freeman said.
The cast and crew will be filming at Squash’s Office Supply in June.
“The town has been a huge help to us. We’re hoping to get even more support, making it a true Ridgefield production,” said White.
“I can’t thank Whitney Williams, the current owner of Squash’s, and Matt Bellagamba, the copy center manager, enough for all of their support,” added Freeman.
Freeman has high expectations for the film.
“I want this film to be sad, strange, funny, and beautiful. Because ASMR is the catalyst for the arc of the character, we’re planning on utilizing specialized microphones to capture the sounds in the film in the same way that ASMR is captured,” Freeman said. “The soundscape is crucial because we want the audience to tap into the experience of the protagonist.”
Freeman credits his professor, Katherine Lindberg, for being a tremendous help in developing the project. “She’s made her course incredibly challenging and gratifying,” he said.
Freeman also commended his cast and crew. “I’m working with some of the most creative and talented people I’ve ever met,” he said.