Nathan Perkins knows what he wants to do. “I want to tell stories that impact people.”
That has been the case for as long as he can remember, and the soon-to-be graduate got the chance last semester with his student film, “The Writer.” The almost 20-minute short film doubled as his senior capstone project, but the work goes back even further than college.
Perkins, who grew up as a missionary kid, including time in India and Thailand, has always had an eye and ear for stories. In high school, he had some experience on projects with his church and some classes he was able to take, but his time at OKWU helped refine his skills and technique. Those skills were recently recognized when “The Writer” was nominated for awards at the Student World Impact Film Festival. The global festival for college students attracts submissions from more than 5,000 aspiring filmmakers from all over the world. While only a limited number of films will be shown for the festival, which has been moved online, Perkins’ entry has earned multiple awards nominations. The film also has surpassed 1,500 views on YouTube.
It’s an impressive accomplishment for Perkins, but more than that, it provides some closure to his college experience.
Jumping Right in
The digital cinema major came to OKWU in the fall of 2019. He had a major interest in filmmaking and an eye on directing when he arrived, and the opportunity to pursue that passion manifested itself early on in his academic career.
In the spring of 2020, he enrolled in the digital film production class. The goal of the class is to make a film. Perkins really wanted to act as director, but in a class with many older and more experienced students, he expected he would have to wait his turn. When none of the other students wanted to, Perkins stepped in.
The production didn’t have the smoothest start. The first script, which included the weeks of pre-production work that go into making a film, had to be scrapped completely and rewritten. When that was done, they got to filming. Perkins described the first day as an amazing experience.
“Everyone had the buzz from being on set,” he said. “It was one of those things where you know you’re in the right place.”
The cast and crew completed two days of filming, including a night shoot, with the same positive energy. The next day, all OKWU students gathered in the chapel for a meeting, where they were told that spring break was being extended by a week because of concerns over COVID-19. One week became two, and pretty soon it was clear that the students wouldn’t be returning to campus that semester. Perkins was understandably upset.
“This was my first big chance to direct – and it just dies, completely.”
That class ended virtually, as all the classes did that semester, with each of the students making their own short films at home. It was cathartic, Perkins said, to experience that together, but it wasn’t really a satisfying end. There was talk of getting together in the summer to finish the movie, but that never materialized as people headed in separate directions.
Looking for Closure
The next fall, in a documentary filmmaking class, Perkins did get the opportunity to wrap up his first film project, at least emotionally. He made a documentary about the unmade film, which was later showcased on campus.
From then on, Perkins was focused on his senior capstone. He knew what was coming and prepared for it. He started writing the script in the fall of 2021, and pre-production on “The Writer” began in the spring of 2022.
The idea for the movie actually came from high school. His class was assigned to write a story, and they came up with the idea of a writer who could “write things into reality.” That germ of a narrative had stuck with Perkins ever since, and now he had the opportunity to see it to fruition.
Perkins is quick to credit his professors at OKWU with his development as a filmmaker.
“If you want to create something, they’ll do anything they can to help you succeed.” He brought the passion with him, but he points to specific assignments that helped to expand and refine his skill set, all culminating with this final project.
As he looks towards a post-college life, Perkins isn’t quite sure what comes next. He’s done freelance work for several years, filming weddings, and he spent his summer working in a full-time position at a church. Whatever happens, though, it seems pretty clear that storytelling will be at the heart of it all for Perkins – just like it always has been.
Directed and Edited by Nathan Perkins
Produced by Krista Albertson and Nathan Perkins
Cinematography by Aaron Fussner and Nathan Perkins
Sarai De La Rosa as Emily
Tobin Brewer as James
Jazmine Cooper as Sarah
Special Thanks To
Evan E. Hewitt
Oklahoma Wesleyan University