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An Interview with Sasha Nelson, Writer and Co-Director of A Broken Arrow

by Mike Haberfelner

September 2020

Sasha Nelson on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie A Broken Arrow - in a few words, what is it about?


A Broken Arrow is about a teenage boy who can’t differentiate his delusions from reality.


Now given your young age, how did you even come up with a disturbing story like this, and is any of it based on personal experience?


I have always had an interest in mental health and have probably watched every YouTube video surrounding kids with a mental illness. Once I was watching one on a little girl with schizophrenia. Even though her parents medicated her, the delusions were still bad. That got me thinking, “Well what if there was a mother who didn’t want to medicate her kid? And what if the delusions got violent?” That’s how Arrow was born. I ended up taking an abnormal psychology class to make sure that everything I put in the script could happen to a real person with schizophrenia.


To what extent (if any) could you actually indentify with Arrow, and with his inner turmoil?


A lot of this film is up to the interpretation of the viewer, so I guess anyone could see themselves in any of the characters. For me, personally, I don’t really think that I identify with any of the characters. Some of them I based on other people, but not myself.


Now once you've written the screenplay, how did the project get off the ground?


The screenplay actually took me a few months to write. Once it was finished, we began the casting process. My parents did most of the technical work such as finding camera people and special effects artists. The casting process took about a month. 


Do talk about your movie's approach to the thriller genre!


I wanted the entire movie to make the viewers think “What is really happening and what is in Arrow’s head?” My goal was to make a creepy and unpredictable character. Like in the film and sequel to The Boy, that doll made everyone wonder not only if the doll was possessed, but it was also just extra creepy, even if it’s an inanimate object… kinda. I wanted a human version of that doll for Arrow. 


What can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?


The actors and actresses that we cast all were so amazing. When it comes to my directional approach, for the most part I let them do their own thing. Occasionally I would go and explain what was happening in someone's head, especially Arrow, and motives and all that, but even though the majority of the cast was young, they were extremely talented.


You've co-directed A Broken Arrow with your father Joshua Nelson [Joshua Nelson interview - click here] - so what was the collaboration between the two of you on set like? And would you ever consider making another movie with your dad? ;)


It was really cool to work with my dad on set. We collaborated on some parts, such as casting, and then other parts we split up. On set, my dad worked closely with our DP while I was working more with the cast. I would love to do a movie with my dad again!


Do talk about your cast, and why exactly these people? And as writer/co-director, how much of a say did you have/demand in the casting process?


We used Backstage and Casting Networks for this film. In total we got over 900 submissions for all of the roles. With the submissions, they often came with a headshot and an acting reel. Out of the 900 submissions, we sent about 350 the sides to read. The people that we called for callbacks were those who stood out, and for Ivy, Dax, and Delilah, could also be natural. We had 2 kids come back for the role of Arrow, and 5 for the role of Dax. The girls just read for both parts. What we did was we had them in groups read the opening scene. We did this to get a feel for the chemistry between them all, and for Arrow, to see the less creepy side of him. Ultimately I had the final say, and it was quite obvious to me who I wanted the cast to be. We emailed them about an hour after the callback. They are not only so talented, but everyone got along so well on set, and I think that really showed in the final movie.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


We shot this film during Covid, so EVERYTHING had to be shot outside in 1 day. For the therapy scenes, we put a couch next to some windows and put some plants around it. We then tried to get those scenes to look like they were inside even though they weren’t. We had made a schedule prior to filming, so everything ran pretty smoothly. And although we were on crunch time, everyone had time to just sit and talk at times, so it wasn’t stressful at all. Everyone had fun and was happy to be there, which really made it possible to get everything done perfectly.


The $64-question of course, where can A Broken Arrow be seen?


Currently, we are submitting the film to film festivals around the country. We haven’t heard anything yet since this is a relatively new project, but fingers crossed!


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of A Broken Arrow?


The movie was finished less than 2 weeks ago. You are actually the first to review, thank you! But for the few that have seen it so far, there has been positive feedback.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Nothing currently in the works, but I would love to make another film soon.


As far as I know, A Broken Arrow is your first film, right? So what got you into making movies, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


My dad has made films for as long as I can remember, and I have written some scripts in the past. This is my first script that I wrote and liked enough to want to go through with the filming. As for training, I’ve really got nothing. I took 1 week long online class the week before filming, but nothing not really could have prepared me for the real deal.


Filmmakers, writers, whoever else who inspire you?


One filmmaker who inspires me is M. Night Shyamalan. He always has an unexpected twist at the end of the films. I also took inspiration from The Sixth Sense for A Broken Arrow.


Your favourite movies?


My favorite movie is It from 2017. I love how you really feel for all the characters. There is also a really great storyline and coming-of-age story within the threads of a horror film about a demon clown. For the most part, I like movies where you don’t know what happens next. That’s why in my movie’s ending, I made it so that nobody could really know if Arrow actually killed his friends or not. By putting in that last shot of his friends staring at him, it makes everything the viewer was sure about not make sense anymore.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


Personally, I hate movies with predictability. I like to be wondering what’s going to happen next. I want the gears in my head to be turning the entire time. I also really hate movies that take a great book and ruin it. One of the worst I’ve seen was A Monster Calls. The book was so impactful, and the movie was just CGI and bad acting.


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Thanks for the interview!


And thank you so very much for taking the time to support our film!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


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directed by
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written by
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