Christina Choe's "Nancy"

A Face in the Crowd: Christina Choe Uncovers a Fraud in “Nancy”

As her celebrated run of shorts played on the festival circuit, Christina Choe had been working towards her feature debut, intended to be a comedy loosely based on her life that she had written years before. Yet plans changed, as well as the tenor of what would be her first feature, when she was shaken to her core by the revelation that a former professor of hers had deceived everyone around him, passing along inspirational lessons in class that weren’t his own. Asking herself whether the source mattered so long as she was able to take something away from it, she was motivated to start writing “Nancy,” a psychological thriller about a young woman who lives out a double life online to assay the drudgery of caring for her mother, attracting the attention of a man who falls for her fake persona. What happens next is even more unbelievable as Nancy becomes more and more entangled in her web of lies and emotional truth.

Originating not long before the Manti Te’o scandal dominated the news and “The Imposter” made waves at Sundance, “Nancy” has already captivated many in the indie film world, selected for various workshops including the Emerging Storytellers at IFP Project Forum, Film Independent’s Fast Track & Directing Lab and the Venice Biennale College Cinema Program. However, to get it finally in front of cameras later this year, Choe is turning to Kickstarter before a June 13th deadline to make the kind of uncompromising drama like the ones that helped inspire it, citing Barbara Loden’s gritty 1970 indie “Wanda,” about a dissatisfied housewife who hits the road with a thief, as a major influence.

“That was the first time I had seen a female anti-hero character who was morally ambiguous, and making bad choices, and I remember it making me feel uncomfortable,” recalls Choe. “I judged the character in a way that I don’t think I would have done if it was a male anti-hero because I don’t think I was used to seeing women on screen like that. That film was really pivotal for me and becomes more and more of a masterpiece each time I see it. It really inspired me to create a character like Nancy.”

Though creating a female-driven drama with a lead in the vein of morally ambiguous antiheroes such as Walter White and Travis Bickle has made the task of financing the film a little more difficult, Choe has assembled an impressive team of collaborators to help her, none of whom are strangers to daring material. Columbia Film School classmates Gerry Kim and Mayuran Tiruchelyam, who recently produced the Slamdance-winning (and Moveable Fest-approved) romance “Across the Sea,” are joining forces with “Pit Stop” and “Hellion” producers Jonathan Duffy and Kelly Williams to shepherd the film, the latter two helping secure the services of Terrence Malick’s casting director Lauren Grey. Choe has also found ways to cleverly exploit the project’s strong feminist roots, not only offering a juicy central role for an actress to sink her teeth into, but making a tote bag reward for Kickstarter backers that’s a play on those shirts with auteurs’ names rewritten as if they were heavy metal bands by highlighting female directors.

“I saw these T-shirts that they sell at the IFC Center and remember thinking how boring it was that not one of them were women,” says Choe, who is also getting quite crafty with another reward – postcards designed in North Korea, inspired by her annual travel there. “I’m interested in doing work that humanizes the people who often get negatively stereotyped.”

As a whole, “Nancy” appears to be an extension of that interest, a way for Choe to understand her own experience that will uncover some revelations for all in what truths can be found in people who habitually lie. In the process, one can also expect the film to reveal an exciting new filmmaker, so long as Choe can get a little help from the crowd.

To back this project and watch the filmmaker’s personal pitch video, click here.

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