TFS Awards Quickie: Shawn Christensen, Oscar-nominated Director of Curfew

curfew

During the lead up to the Oscars every winter, much ink is spilled discussing what studio prestige release is going to win Best Picture and which high profile name will be trumphant in the Best Director/Actor/Actress categories. There are, however, 20 other categories to consider, including Best Live Action Short which actor/writer/director Shawn Christensen knows a thing or two about: his film Curfew is in the running to take home the golden statuette on February 24.

The film follows the story of Richie (played by Christensen) who’s depressed and borderline suicidal yet agrees to take care of his nine-year-old niece Sophia (Fatima Ptacek) for a few hours. Christensen came up with the idea after striking up a conversation with a little girl and realizing that she was a lot smarter than he initially gave her credit for. He decided that exploring the juxtaposition of a child who’s full of life interacting with an adult who’s drained of life yet still has an inner child buried somewhere deep inside him would make for an intriguing battle of wills. It seems that audiences all over the world agree since the film has won awards at almost every film festival its played.

Toronto Film Scene was able to talk with Shawn Christensen before his upcoming big night at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

Describe your film in 10 words or less:

Depressed junkie cancels suicide plans to babysit lively niece.

How did the film come about?

Thought of the general chemistry between the two characters a few years ago, as an acting vehicle, but nothing came of it. Later on, I added some of the crucial elements, including the idea that Richie was at a very low point in life and his niece was at a high point in her life, and then it all clicked together.

What’s the one thing you want people to know about your film?

That it has heart and humor.

What was the best thing about production?

Getting the film back after we shot, and seeing all of the great work everyone did to bring it to life – the cinematography, Fatima’s performance, the sets, the extras, etc.

The most frustrating?

The most frustratng thing for me was the fact that I was sick with the flu for the whole shoot, and wasn’t able to communicate that well with the crew, at times.

How did you find out you were nominated for an Academy Award? What was your initial reaction?

Some people who worked on it came out to LA, and we watched the live broadcast together at 5:30 in the morning. Half way through the broadcast, we realized that the nominations were already online, and that all of our family and friends knew we were nomnated before we did. We were ecstatic!

What’s the one thing you’re most looking forward to doing at the ceremony?

Giving Daniel Day-Lewis a high five.

What are you working on next?

The feature length version of Curfew .


Kristal Cooper has been a film buff since the age of two when her parents began sneaking her into the drive-in every weekend. Since then, she's pursued that passion by working for the Toronto International Film Festival and the Canadian Film Centre as well as spending many a happy hour inside Toronto's wonderful theatres (she still mourns the loss of The Uptown). She is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture and feminist issues, and continues to slog away at her day job as a small cog in the giant machinery of the Toronto film community.

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