Barry Nash brings stage persona to screen as Bob Birdnow

While actor Barry Nash has coached many a television personality to sound good on film, it wasn’t until he took his portrayal of a character he portrayed on stage to screen that he ever had to use his thespian skills in front of a camera. Now his starring turn in Bob Birdnow’s Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self has enjoyed a solid response in film festivals around the country. Sarasota audiences get the chance to see the work at the Sarasota Film Festival on Monday.The 80-minute film was adapted from a one-man stage show developed by Eric Steele. Nash originated the title role, but the stage version in fact only was produced a handful of times before industry pros encouraged the story be filmed. The screen version of Bob Birdnow was shot primarily in a Dallas hotel in the fall of 2012.

“It’s unusual in that the movie is based on a monologue,” Nash explains.

Originally produced by the Kitchen Dog Theatre Company, the story is about a man hired as a motivational speaker who ends up forgetting his notes for a speech one day and has to wing the presentation. In the process, he ends up revealing more about himself than he bargained for.

It’s evident from the start that Birdnow has a story to tell as he walks on stage with a limp and a missing arm. He ends up sharing details of the plane crash that left him in his condition.

Nash and the film have won accolades so far, labeled by Indiewire critics as one of the best undistributed films to come out in 2013 (incidentally that label may soon be obsolete as filmmakers are already in talks for distribution and could soon release the film to small theaters in the New York market). Nash himself picked up an acting award at a festival in Mississippi.

Sarasota audiences who caught a Sunday, April 6, screening got to see Nash himself at the Q&A afterward. Incidentally, he avoids introducing the film so that audiences are surprised when Nash, who is not an amputee, shows up to talk afterward.

The actor somehow has never been in a film before, and said the work did prove demanding, mostly because it relies so much on Nash as a storyteller rather than using the obvious tricks intrinsic to filmmaking to relate the harrowing tale. “The experience people are having in the show and why it is so compelling, frankly enthralling, is that the story is absolutely captured by watching this man tell the story,” Nash said. “Movies so often resort to other means than the human storyteller.”

Bob Birdow’s Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self screens Monday, April 7, at 4:30pm at the Hollywood 20.

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