Shawn Christensen

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Shawn Christensen
Born Poughkeepsie, New York, United States
Alma mater Pratt Institute
Occupation Screenwriter, film director, singer-songwriter, actor, painter
Years active 2000–present
Notable work Abduction, Enter Nowhere, Curfew, Before I Disappear, Sidney Hall
Musical career
Genres
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • lead guitar
  • rhythm guitar
Labels RCA Records
Associated acts Stellastarr

Shawn Christensen is an American screenwriter, film director, singer-songwriter, actor and painter. After graduating from Pratt Institute with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration and graphic design in 2000, he began his career as an illustrator, commissioning depictions of rock musicians. Christensen also focused on his musical career, as the frontman of the band Stellastarr, which became his full-time profession by 2003, when they signed with RCA Records. Throughout Christensen's nine-year tenure with Stellastarr, the band released three albums, including Stellastarr (2003), Harmonies for the Haunted (2005) and Civilized (2009). Following the release of the third album, the band went on unofficial, indefinite hiatus.

Concurrent with the middle stages of his musical career, Christensen focused on screenwriting. His first adapted screenplay was Abduction (2011), an action-thriller film about a young man who uncovers a conspiracy surrounding his own lineage. Given a wide release by Lionsgate Films, Abduction opened to highly critical reviews. Released shortly after was Enter Nowhere (2011), a psychological thriller film Christensen co-wrote about a group of individuals brought together at a cabin in the woods, where they find themselves stranded.

Following the disappointing productions based around his screenplays, Christensen rebooted his career as a filmmaker by writing, directing and starring in the short film Curfew (2012), a drama about a suicidal uncle who watches over his precocious niece for an evening. At the 85th Academy Awards, Curfew won Best Live Action Short Film. In 2014, Christensen released Before I Disappear, his feature length directorial debut based on Curfew. His second feature, Sidney Hall, a drama film about the three stages of the life of a young novelist, was released at 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Early life[edit]

Shawn Christensen was born and raised in Poughkeepsie, New York, United States. Christensen's father was an engineer and his mother was a librarian, with him being their only child.[1][2] Christensen's first experience and inspiration with film occurred when he watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) with his father, after which he began developing flip books.[1] His favorite pictures were from the 1970s, including Chinatown (1974), Nashville (1975), Taxi Driver (1976), Network (1976) and Manhattan (1979). However, Christensen professed The Seventh Seal (1957) to be the most influential film that would inspire his eventual career in filmmaking.[3]

After graduating from high school, Christensen enrolled at Pratt Institute, where he pursued a degree in graphic design and illustration.[4] While at Pratt, Christensen filled his weekends with acting classes, where he befriended the younger Paul Wesley, who was sixteen at the time.[5] Throughout his time studying, Christensen was the lead vocalist and lead guitar in a hobbyist band called Ghistor, composed of himself, bassist Amanda Tannen and drummer Arthur Kremer. After Christensen graduated from Pratt with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration and graphic design, the band disbanded.[3][6] As his first venture in his post-college career, Christensen produced and sold abstract-realistic paintings generally themed around prominent rock music figures. He was commissioned for clients including the journals New York Metropolis and The Village Voice.[7]

Career[edit]

Christensen performing in Mexico City, Mexico in April 2008

Stellastarr (2000-2009)[edit]

In March 2000, Christensen reunited with Tannen, Kremer and the new addition of Michael Jurin- who took up the lead guitar position while Christensen switched to rhythm guitar- to form the indie rock band Stellastarr, (stylized as "stellastarr*).[8] On July 3, 2000, the band had their debut performance with their all-original songs composed by Christensen at Luna Lounge on Manhattan's Lower East Side.[9] Over the next three years, the band gradually rose in prominence in New York City, with notable headlining performances at venues like Mercury Lounge and Bowery Ballroom. In May 2003, Stellastarr signed with RCA Records, allowing Christensen and the other band members to focus on music as their careers, though Christensen continued to receive art commissions.[10] Under the RCA label, Stellastarr released an eponymous album in September 2003, which featured two standout singles, "Jenny" and "My Coco",[11] that were featured in Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam and MVP Baseball 2004, respectively.[12][13]

Stellastarr released Harmonies for the Haunted, their second and final album under RCA, on September 13, 2005. The album received mixed reviews, with critics citing it as being a generally inferior rendition of new wave music.[14] Additionally, the lyrics of the songs from the album were considered too personal and introverted around Christensen, which was a subject of contention for both proponents and critics of Harmonies for the Haunted.[15] However, Christensen's progression as a singer since the debut album was praised, with his tone being noted for having matured and become more consistent beyond his shifting between falsetto and baritone vocal registers.[16] After a four-year hiatus, Stellastarr released their third and final album, Civilized, with their personal imprint label Bloated Wife Records, on July 7, 2009. Though the album received generally mixed reviews, it was praised for being well-produced. Christensen's vocal performance was praised, with his range noted for being able to competently deliver deep bellows and high falsettos.[15] Following the release of Civilized, Stellastarr unofficially went on indefinite hiatus.[8]

While Stellastarr was on the Hot Fuss Tour alongside The Killers throughout the United States in 2004, Christensen collaborated with his friend Jason Dolan on a feature length spec script for a drama called Sidney Hall, which shared with Paul Wesley, who subsequently presented it to William Morris Endeavor, which signed both Christensen and Dolan.[17][18] Christensen and Dolan would further collaborate on several other spec scripts during the mid-2000s, including a psychological thriller called Enter Nowhere.[19] Christensen independently penned several other screenplays, including one for an Alfred Hitchcock-inspired thriller called Abduction and a science-fiction drama called The Karma Coalition. Both the screenplays for Sidney Hall and The Karma Coalition were sold in 2008, with the former being acquired by Scott Free Productions and the latter being acquired by Warner Bros. for $1.5 million, making it one of the biggest spec script sales of the year.[20]

Filmmaking (2009-present)[edit]

On February 10, 2010, Christensen's screenplay for Abduction was solicited to a number of studios, with actor Taylor Lautner attached to star. By the beginning of the next work day, two studios had already begun bidding on the project, which continued on for a week, until Lionsgate Films won the bidding war for nearly $1 million.[21] Lionsgate hired writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff to rewrite the screenplay and the film began production the following July.[22] Over the winter holidays of 2010, film producer Jack Heller contacted Christensen and Dolan about adapting their unproduced screenplay for Enter Nowhere, to which they convinced him to direct it himself, with them serving as executive producers.[19] In September 2011, Enter Nowhere was acquired by Lionsgate for a direct-to-DVD release, prior to its premiere at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival the following month.[23] Abduction had a wide release on September 23, 2011, to extremely critical reviews.[24]

Disillusioned from having his screenplays retrofitted and adapted by studios that did not share his creative perspective, Christensen resolved to reboot his filmmaking career and focus on directing his own works. He promptly wrote a screenplay in 2011 for a short film for him to direct and co-star in called Curfew, about a suicidal uncle taking care of his precocious niece for his overburdened sister. Christensen cast Fátima Ptacek as his co-star and utilizing crew members from his previous short called Brink (2011), shot Curfew over the course of a week.[3] Two days prior to shooting a poignant dance scene, negotiations with the artists behind the dance's song fell through, resulting in the cast members dancing to the original song, while Christensen would independently compose an original single to replace it called "Sophia So Far".[25] For two weeks, editor Evan Henke edited Curfew, before Christensen took over and sporadically edited the film on his MacBook Pro in his living room throughout the remainder of 2011.[26] Curfew premiered at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival on January 28, 2012 and was followed up by critical acclaim, numerous festival screenings and awards for Christensen's acting, directing and writing.[27] At the 85th Academy Awards, Curfew won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film.[28]

Prior to Curfew's mainstream success, Paul Wesley took an interest in the short film's intellectual property and together with Christensen and his creative partner, Damon Russell, collaborated to develop a feature-length adaptation.[17] The then-untitled adaptation cast Wesley, as well as Emmy Rossum and Ron Perlman, to the principal cast that included Christensen and Ptacek.[29] The film began principal photography on a shoestring budget in mid-summer of 2013 and continued for nineteen days.[5] The film, revealed to be titled Before I Disappear, premiered at South by Southwest on March 10, 2014 and won the audience award for Best Narrative Feature.[30] Before I Disappear went on to have a successful festival run, with distinctions such as an official selection at the 71st Venice International Film Festival, though the critical reception was not as positive as Curfew's, with the general consensus being that the content not in the short was not as substantive.[31] IFC Films was announced to have acquired the North American distribution rights for Before I Disappear in August 2014 and the following November, the film was released on video on demand and given a limited theatrical release.[32]

Per the Writers Guild of America, East Separated Rights, the rights to Sidney Hall, which had not seen active development for five years, reverted to Christensen in 2014.[18] Christensen opted to independently produce Sidney Hall through Jonathan Schwartz's Super Crispy Entertainment banner, as well as his own Fuzzy Logic Pictures banner.[33] Christensen cast Logan Lerman as the titular character, with a supporting cast that included Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Monaghan, Nathan Lane and Margaret Qualley.[34] The film was shot between April and May 2016 and took place between New York and New Mexico. Sidney Hall premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, Utah on January 25, 2017.[35] Sidney Hall was announced to have been acquired for distribution by A24 and DirecTV in April 2017, with DirecTV providing an exclusive 30-day pre-release prior to a theatrical release by A24.[36]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

EPs[edit]

  • Somewhere Across Forever (May 19, 2002 UK; December 2002 US) - Stellastarr

Singles[edit]

  • "Jenny" (September 15, 2003) - Stellastarr
  • "My Coco" (August 3, 2004) - Stellastarr
  • "Sweet Troubled Soul" (September 2005 US; February 27, 2006 UK) - Stellastarr
  • "Graffiti Eyes" (April 20, 2009 US) - Stellastarr
  • "Numbers" (December 1, 2009 US) - Stellastarr
  • "Sophia So Far" (April 23, 2013) - Goodnight Radio

Filmography[edit]

Film credits[edit]

Year Title Director Producer Writer Actor Role Notes
2006 Walter King Yes Yes Yes Yes Teddy Short film
2006 Overthrow the Totems Yes Aaron Short film
2006 Missing Girl Yes Chad Short film
2007 Black on Black Yes Short film
2011 Brink Yes Yes Yes Short film, cinematographer, editor
2011 Abduction Yes
2011 Enter Nowhere Yes Yes Performer ("My Coco")
2012 Curfew Yes Yes Yes Richie Short film, editor, performer ("Sophia So Far")
2013 The Bicycle Yes Owner Short film
2013 Grandma's Not a Toaster Yes Yes Arnie Short film
2014 Before I Disappear Yes Yes Yes Yes Richie Editor (uncredited), performer ("Sophia So Far")
2014 Mad as Hell Yes
2016 Cul-de-Sac Yes Yes Yes Father Short film
2017 Sidney Hall Yes Yes Yes

Television credits[edit]

Year Title Director Producer Writer Actor Role Notes
2017 Pecos Yes

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Brown, Emma (March 12, 2014). "Discovery: Shawn Christensen". Interview. Retrieved January 9, 2017. 
  2. ^ O'Malley, Sheila (November 26, 2014). "To Be Okay: An Interview with Shawn Christensen". Movie Mezzanine. Retrieved January 9, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c O'Malley, Sheila (April 25, 2012). "Shawn Christensen on the inspiration and luck that led him to Fatima Ptacek, and 'Curfew'". Politico. Retrieved January 9, 2017. 
  4. ^ Barry, John W. (February 21, 2013). "Awards nod feels 'surreal'". Poughkeepsie Journal. Poughkeepsie, New York. p. 1A. 
  5. ^ a b Benardello, Karen (January 1, 2015). "Interview: Paul Wesley Talks Before I Disappear (Exclusive)". Shockya. Retrieved January 9, 2017. 
  6. ^ Wilson, MacKenzie. "stellastarr*". AllMusic. Retrieved January 9, 2017. 
  7. ^ Simmons, Julie (December 3, 2004). "stellastarr*'s Shawn Christensen Gets Deep On Art and Music". Paste. Retrieved January 9, 2017. 
  8. ^ a b Leas, Ryan (November 19, 2004). "26 Essential Songs From The NYC Rock Resurgence". Stereogum. Retrieved January 14, 2017. 
  9. ^ Fletcher, Tony (May 21, 2005). "Saturday, May 21". Tony Fletcher's iJamming!. Retrieved January 14, 2017. 
  10. ^ Huhn, Mary (March 30, 2004). "RISING STELLASTARR*; DUES-PAYING PUNKS READY FOR CLOSE-UP". New York Post. Manhattan, New York. Retrieved January 14, 2017. 
  11. ^ Lopez, Michael (June 16, 2011). "The Best Bands with Punctuation/Typographical Marks in Their Names". Phoenix New Times. Phoenix, Arizona. Retrieved January 14, 2017. 
  12. ^ Paul, Aubin (November 24, 2006). "Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam includes Descendents, Anti-Flag, Bouncing Souls, Bad Brains, more". Tony Fletcher's iJamming!. Retrieved January 14, 2017. 
  13. ^ Trauman, Steve (May 15, 2004). "On the Verge". Billboard. No. 117. New York City, New York: Prometheus Global Media. p. 59. ISSN 1074-6978. 
  14. ^ Young, Alex (October 31, 2005). "stellastarr*: Harmonies for the Haunted". Pitchfork. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  15. ^ a b Young, Alex (July 9, 2009). "stellastarr* – Civilized". Consequence of Sound. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  16. ^ Thomas, Christen (June 28, 2005). "Harmonies For The Haunted". The Fader. New York City, New York. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  17. ^ a b Radish, Christina (March 12, 2014). "Paul Wesley Talks BEFORE I DISAPPEAR, His First Experience as a Producer, Directing an Episode of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, and More SXSW". Collider.com. Retrieved January 10, 2017. 
  18. ^ a b Reynolds, Matthew Wade (December 24, 2014). "How do you convert an Oscar-winning short into a feature?". Creative Screenwriting Magazine. Retrieved January 10, 2017. 
  19. ^ a b Eggersten, Chris (June 22, 2011). "Interview with ‘Enter Nowhere’ Director Jack Heller!". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved January 10, 2017. 
  20. ^ Kit, Borys (September 10, 2008). "Shawn Christensen sells his "Karma"". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 10, 2017. 
  21. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (February 21, 2010). "Lionsgate Buys Taylor-Attached 'Abduction'". Deadline.com. Retrieved February 6, 2017. 
  22. ^ Fernandez, Jay A. (April 26, 2010). "Writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff re-planning ‘Abduction’". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on April 30, 2010. Retrieved February 6, 2017. 
  23. ^ HitFix (September 9, 2011). "Lionsgate acquires supernatural thriller ‘Enter Nowhere’". Uproxx. Retrieved February 6, 2017. 
  24. ^ The Playlist Staff (April 10, 2014). "20 Best & Worst Films Made From Black List Scripts". IndieWire. Retrieved February 6, 2017. 
  25. ^ Zemler, Emily (April 4, 2013). "Shawn Christensen to Release Song From Oscar-Winning Short Film 'Curfew'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 6, 2017. 
  26. ^ Bergen, Jennifer (February 21, 2013). "How Oscar-nominated Shawn Christensen edited his film on a MacBook Pro". Digital Trends. Retrieved February 6, 2017. 
  27. ^ McCormack, Colin (November 19, 2014). "Filmmaker Interview: SHAWN CHRISTENSEN, writer/director/star of BEFORE I DISAPPEAR". Screen Actors Guild. Retrieved February 6, 2017. 
  28. ^ Olsen, Mark (February 24, 2013). "Oscars 2013: 'Curfew' wins best live-action short film". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. 
  29. ^ Vestal Robson, Shannon (July 21, 2013). "Charlie Hunnam Joins a Heist Movie and More of the Week's Biggest Casting News". PopSugar. Retrieved February 23, 2017. 
  30. ^ Khatchatourian, Maane (March 15, 2014). "SXSW Film Awards: ‘Cesar Chavez,’ ‘Before I Disappear’ Win Audience Prizes". Variety. Retrieved February 25, 2017. 
  31. ^ Rooney, David (August 27, 2014). "'Before I Disappear': Venice Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 25, 2017. 
  32. ^ Kilday, Gregg (August 5, 2014). "IFC Picks Up Shawn Christensen's SXSW-Winning 'Before I Disappear'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 25, 2017. 
  33. ^ Kroll, Justin (April 21, 2016). "Logan Lerman and Elle Fanning to Star in Shawn Christensen’s ‘Sidney Hall’ (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved March 5, 2017. 
  34. ^ Kroll, Justin (April 25, 2016). "Blake Jenner, Margaret Qualley and Tim Blake Nelson Join ‘Sidney Hall’ (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved March 5, 2017. 
  35. ^ Iwasaki, Scott (January 24, 2017). "Filmmaker started writing ‘Sidney Hall’ script with his best friend 10 years ago". Park Record. Park City, Utah. Retrieved March 5, 2017. 
  36. ^ Donnelly, Matt (April 4, 2017). "A24, DirecTV Acquire Logan Lerman Sundance Mystery ‘Sidney Hall’ (Exclusive)". TheWrap. Retrieved April 4, 2017. 

External links[edit]