Last week’s opening of Nick Wernham ’02’s feature film directorial debut, No Stranger Than Love, was the culmination of an interest in movies that included watching and discussing them over pizza in Upper Canada College’s Film Club.
“At that point I wasn’t dead set on being a filmmaker,” Wernham says. “I wanted to be a novelist.”
Wernham studied English literature and cinema studies at the University of Toronto before dropping out to attend the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, which he describes as an 11-month filmmaking boot camp that gave him the opportunity to experiment and do a lot of work in a short period of time.
“It was a great experience and confirmed for me that filmmaking was absolutely what I wanted to do,” says Wernham, who spent another year in L.A. writing scripts and working as an office production assistant as well as a photographer for a couple of films hat didn’t get off the ground before returning home to Toronto.
His father, securities lawyer and entrepreneur Richard Wernham (who along with his wife made a $6.9-million donation to establish UCC’s Richard Wernham & Julia West Centre for Learning in 2001), had just completed writing the script for a short film called Business Ethics and asked his son to direct it. He used the film, which he describes as “a quirky dark comedy about a man who ran a Ponzi scheme that looks at the dangers of greed and deceit,” as a calling card to try and attract cast members after he was offered the chance to direct No Stranger Than Love.
“It’s odd on a thematic level and it’s odd on a structural level,” Wernham says of his new romantic comedy, which stars Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men), Justin Chatwin (Shameless, War of the Worlds) and Tom Hanks’ son Colin Hanks (Orange County, Fargo).
“So in some ways the mysterious hole that opens up in the heroine’s floor is one of the least odd things about it. While the story kind of presents itself as a film about the nature of love and art and people’s relationships with those things, what I feel the film is actually about is the way in which a person needs to grow and become comfortable with themselves in order to understand what those things mean to them.”
Most of No Stranger Than Love was shot in six weeks in the Greater Toronto Area. That was followed by editing and post-production and the film was completed by the end of September 2014.
Wernham’s younger brother Simon (on the left with Nick in the photo at the top of this article), who followed him to New York Film Academy, acts in No Stranger Than Love. He was also one of the executive producers along with his parents, who partially financed the movie.
“It had a modest budget even by Canadian film standards,” says Wernham, who wouldn’t disclose the exact figure.
No Stranger Than Love appeared in three film festivals before opening in one theatre in Toronto and London, Ont. as well as in 10 theatres in nine major markets in the United States on June 17. It was released through Momentum Pictures, a division of eOne, and Orion Releasing, a division of MGM. The movie also became available through video-on-demand services on June 17.
Wernham has just started casting for a feature-length version of Business Ethics, which is based on his father’s original script with some tweaks that the elder Wernham is involved with. Simon will also be a part of it and West, who moved from a successful law career into interior design, will work as a production designer on the movie. The plan is to begin principal photography in October, and post-production could be completed by next spring.