“I told myself when I was 18 years old that if I didn’t make my first feature film by 27, I was going to kill myself,” said Bradenton writer/director Thomas Nudi, whose first feature-length film, the semi-autobiographical comedy Monty Comes Back, premieres at the 2016 Sarasota Film Festival. “That sounds dark, but it’s a promise that I wouldn’t let myself down.”
Growing up in Bradenton and attending Florida State University, Nudi’s local ties are strong, but even he admits that he tried to escape, heading to LA to study film at Chapman University and find his star. Growing up in a small town, getting out of Florida was a victory all its own. “I had done something that not a lot of people I knew did,” he said, although he found himself writing more and more about what he knew back home. “I had matured a bit and that’s where the impetus came from.”
The resulting script that would eventually become Monty Comes Back follows an egotistical actor named Monty forced to return to his Florida home after being fired from an acting gig. Hiding his misfortune, Monty opts to lash out at others, with comedic results, instead of facing his own hard questions. Nudi cops to the story being semi-autobiographical. “I write so I can figure something out about myself and come to some conclusion,” he said. “The ultimate hope is that you teach somebody else, but I don’t expect that.”
An almost entirely local production, Nudi estimates 70% was shot on Anna Maria, 25% in Sarasota and the remainder in Bradenton. Though written in LA, Florida seemed like the perfect fit for this slightly off-kilter comedic production. “There’s a certain satirical nature to Florida,” said Nudi. “The island is so much about keeping this natural Florida vibe, but then you have hackneyed novelty seashell art and pink houses and nothing is not interesting.”
But more than the environment, Nudi credits a hard-working and vibrant group of local filmmakers for making the film possible. “It’s nearly 100 people who came together to make this movie,” he said. “All of these people supported me and from the very beginning I’ve had this concept that it’s not my script, it’s our script.” Local producers Vincent Dale (No Real Than You Are) and Trishul Thejasvi (The Sunny Side) of Orensis Films played an integral role, according to Nudi, with Thejasvi doubling as director of photography as well. Another local cinematographer, Juan Sebastian Baron, joined the crew as gaffer and associate producer, creating a who’s who team of Bradenton talent. “Everyone worked towards the film and believed in it,” said Nudi. “It was amazing to see that level of commitment from other artists.”
Starring Brandon Tyler Jones, Deborah Childs, Brad Clark and Jessica Cohen, Monty Comes Back premieres at the Sarasota Film Festival Sat. Apr. 2 at 10am in Theatre 7, with a second showing the following day at 10:45am in the same theater.