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Victor Nunez

Victor Nunez

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Deland, Florida, USA Profession: director, editor, director of photography, screenwriter, producer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

An independent filmmaker whose work twice earned the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, Victor Nunez has steered clear of Hollywood and remained fairly anonymous, fusing character and place in his intimate, regional portraits of his native Florida. A founding board member of the Independent Feature Project and the Sundance Film Festival, he received his MFA in film production at UCLA and also briefly attended the American Film Institute before souring on the West Coast and returning to Tallahassee, determined to become a southern filmmaker. He began by directing educational and industrial shorts, then helmed three fictional shorts in the 1970s, establishing his practice of scripting, editing and operating the camera, a modus operandi continued on his features. Both "Taking Care of Mother Baldwin" (1970), about a boy's tentative friendship with a woman neighbor, and "Charly Benson's Return to the Sea" (1972), which followed a returning Vietnam veteran as he attempted to adjust to once familiar people and situations, were original screenplays, filmed in haunting, documentary-like black-and-white. The ambitious and superbly mounted "A Circle in the Fire" (1974), based on a story by Flannery O'Connor, was the...

An independent filmmaker whose work twice earned the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, Victor Nunez has steered clear of Hollywood and remained fairly anonymous, fusing character and place in his intimate, regional portraits of his native Florida. A founding board member of the Independent Feature Project and the Sundance Film Festival, he received his MFA in film production at UCLA and also briefly attended the American Film Institute before souring on the West Coast and returning to Tallahassee, determined to become a southern filmmaker. He began by directing educational and industrial shorts, then helmed three fictional shorts in the 1970s, establishing his practice of scripting, editing and operating the camera, a modus operandi continued on his features. Both "Taking Care of Mother Baldwin" (1970), about a boy's tentative friendship with a woman neighbor, and "Charly Benson's Return to the Sea" (1972), which followed a returning Vietnam veteran as he attempted to adjust to once familiar people and situations, were original screenplays, filmed in haunting, documentary-like black-and-white.

The ambitious and superbly mounted "A Circle in the Fire" (1974), based on a story by Flannery O'Connor, was the first of three successive literary adaptations and also Nunez's first film in color. An almost Hitchcockian aura of dread pervades this gothic tale, seen through the eyes and fears of the three female occupants of a dairy farm, which ultimately goes up in an apocalyptic blaze. He followed with his feature debut (and first Grand Jury Prize winner), "Gal Young 'Un" (1979), adapted from a Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings story, but its central battle between an unhappily widowed Florida farm woman and the young husband who marries her for her money allowed none of the moral shadings of the richer, more resonant O'Connor source material. Shot for the incredibly low figure of $40,000, the film was a remarkable accomplishment, even though the acting was less commanding than the script demanded, convincing the director to use big-name talent his next time out. Five years elapsed before "A Flash of Green" (1984, based on the John D MacDonald novel), starred Ed Harris (in one of his best performances), Richard Jordan (who also produced) and Blair Brown. This fine, offbeat story of a reporter investigating a suspect land-fill development deal in a small Florida coastal town flew against free-wheeling, Reagan-era sensibilities while suffering from overlength and plot redundancies.

After nearly ten years of futile Hollywood pitch meetings, Nunez used an inheritance of $400,000 to finance "Ruby in Paradise" (1993), a touching tale of a young girl's self-discovery after escaping the Tennessee backwoods for the relatively cosmopolitan environs of Panama City, Florida. A hit on the festival circuit, his first original screenplay in two decades garnered the director his second Sundance Grand Jury Prize and introduced Ashley Judd as a promising newcomer. The film's muted look also received praise, thanks to Nunez's decision to show it in Super-16, retaining the grainy character of that format. Though he had an unprecedented budget of nearly $3 million for his next feature, the director still shot (literally as cameraman) "Ulee's Gold" (1997) in Super-16, blowing it up to 35mm for distribution. A richly realized drama about a man reawakening to his family responsibilities, it featured the finest performance of Peter Fonda's career. The premise was nothing to set pulses racing, but its power, like in his previous films, lay in Nunez's ability to find and nurture the mystery of ordinary life. It is this very un-Hollywood fascination with real people that makes him anathema to the commercial establishment, despite his track record of one exquisite film after another.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Spoken Word (2010)
2.
  Ulee's Gold (1997) Director
3.
  Ruby in Paradise (1993) Director
4.
  Flash of Green, A (1984) Director
5.
  Gal Young Un (1979) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 squeeze... (1996) Julio
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Family moved to Peru when Nunez was six months old
1948:
Parents divorced and Nunez returned to US with his mother
:
After living all over Florida, settled in Tallahassee in fifth grade
:
Won American Film Institute fellowship while at UCLA; abandoned mid-term
:
Taught at Florida State University for 1 1/2 years after completing MFA
:
Made educational and industrial films
1970:
Made first film short, the 22-minute, black-and-white "Taking Care of Mother Baldwin"
1974:
First film in color, the 60-minute "A Circle in the Fire", adapted from a story by Flannery O'Connor
1979:
Feature film directorial debut, "Gal Young 'Un", which he also co-produced, adapted (from a Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings story), photographed, and edited; made with help of an NEA grant and funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies
1984:
Used name-actors for the first time in "A Flash of Green"; directed, adapted from the John D MacDonald thriller, edited and served as director of photography; aired on PBS in 1986; received funding from the three sources for his first feature plus the Rockefeller Foundation
1987:
"Gal Young 'Un" aired on PBS
1993:
Enjoyed critical success with "Ruby in Paradise", which he helmed, wrote, edited and served as his own camera operator under director of photography Alex Vaclos; film launched career of Ashley Judd
1996:
Served as director of photography on "Without Evidence", docudrama co-scripted and directed by Gill Dennis, who had served as a script consultant on "A Flash of Green"
1997:
Scored again critically with "Ulee's Gold", starring Peter Fonda in a career-reviving, Oscar-nominated role; wrote, edited and served as camera operator (this time under director of photography Virgil Mirano); filmed like his other features on Super-16, the picture was the Festival Centerpiece Premier at Sundance
2006:
Helmed the drama "Coastlines" (lensed 2001)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

AFI Conservatory: Los Angeles , California -
University of California at Los Angeles: Los Angeles , California -
Antioch College: Yellow Springs , Ohio - 1968
Center For Advanced Film Studies, American Film Institute: - 1971

Notes

"I've always been drawn to the Italian neo-realist manifesto of character, place and story being somehow inexplicably linked. In order for a story in film to reach a level of universality, it has to first reach that level of the specific. It doesn't matter whether it's set on a streeet in Brooklyn or the Gulf Coast. You have to feel and know where that place is". --Victor Nunez quoted in Filmmaker, Fall 1993.

"I'm a great believer in Super-16. Every movie I've ever made has been Super-16. The film stock is getting better. You save so much money." --Nunez in Fimmaker, Fall 1993.

"At the end of the day, when it's all over, I'm probably still gonna find my own can of worms and go fishin' in my own creek." --Nunez in Movieline, July 1997.

"I sort of discovered the desire to become a filmmaker along with both European films and southern fiction. So I said, 'OK, I'll be a southern filmmaker.' It was a romantic, naive notion. An insane process, but there you go. In my own sort of way, I believe that if you live long enough, maybe you finally get to do a little bit of what you hope to do." --Nunez in Daily News, June 15, 1997.

"My first two features were financed by grants, and I had the insecurity of not really believing that what I was doing made sense. I had done it, it had worked, but was it a fluke? I wanted to get real. Richard Jordan (the star of Nunez's 'A Flash of Green') said my problem was I hadn't decided to sleep with the devil. I said I would if I could find him."

Yet Nunez knew a studio would balk at the kind of situation he found essential: "A small, devoted crew with everyone getting involved. I really believed the process, the way a film is made, is incredibly important and I want to control that."

Nunez (who used to joke that his camera would break if he took it across the state line) returned to Florida to shoot 'Ulee's Gold'. "I always go back to what I sort of know, but now that I've gone into the swamps of north Florida, I've gone as deep into Florida as I can. I don't know what I can do there next. Maybe Disney World." --quoted in Los Angeles Times, January 21, 1997.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Cynthia Nunez. Painter.

Family close complete family listing

great-aunt:
Susie B Hodnett. Her $400,000 inheritance helped him film "Ruby in Paradise".
son:
Vincent Nunez. Filmmaker. Born c. 1969; worked as a production assistant on "Without Evidence", a picture on which his father served as director of photography.

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