GENEVA – Geneva native Ben Nissen is in the home stretch of creating his first independent film, and he is hoping for local financial support in order to finish it.
Using Indie Gogo – similar to Go Fund Me, only for filmmakers—Nissen has raised more than $5,000 toward the $15,000 he needs.
"I wanted to tell my story, my way," Nissen said. "This is my first feature film and I wanted to be my own boss."
A trailer of the film can be seen by visiting vimeo.com.
Nissen said he is in charge of a video team at Groupon – a collection of filmmakers who shoot videos for commercials and marketing.
"I have a pretty lengthy history making video and films," Nissen said. "I went to Columbia College in Chicago for film school."
A 2001 graduate of Geneva High School, Nissen started the screenplay for his independent film in 2012, featuring "strange ideas" about consciousness.
Called "Nowhere Mind," Nissen said he was influenced by Robert Monroe, who had an out-of-body experience in the 1950s and wrote a book about it: "Journeys out of the Body."
The experience is also known as astral projection, he said.
"I thought it could be a really interesting basis for a story where a guy tries to give himself out-of-body experiences to escape the diagnosis of schizophrenia he just received," Nissen said. "The medications are not working; the traditional methods are not working. So he gets this idea from this fringe philosopher to meditate and train himself to escape his own body."
His character learns how to project his consciousness out of his body, getting good enough at it that the issue is less about what he can do and more about whether what he can do is right, Nissen said.
Nissen and his wife, Katie Clementz, a graphic designer who graduated from St. Charles North High School in 2004, financed the first part of the movie themselves.
The rest of the fundraising is for traveling in June to the Redwood National Forest in California to be able to finish the film, Nissen said.
"We're thrilled," Clementz said. "We've been planning this for almost four years now—kind of when we first got together six years ago. We are both fans of film, and we said, 'What if we could make this happen?' In 2012, when Ben started writing the script, we said maybe with planning and saving we could actually make this happen. And then last year, we decided to step on the gas."
Production started in May 2015 with a "hurry up and wait" frenzy of renting equipment and working around the other actors who have full-time jobs, Clementz said.
While Nissen is the filmmaker, Clementz is the script advisor and producer, she said.
"He has autonomy," Clementz said. "But I am there to help."
Nissen said the couple hopes to work through the editing process and have the 90-minute film ready for next year's Geneva Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival.
• To donate to "Nowhere Mind" feature film - www.indiegogo.com.
• Still images from 318 Coffeehouse and EvenFlow Music and Spirits - www.dropbox.
• Movie trailer - vimeo.com.