Film Sneak Peek: The Struggle by Nick Coker

In today's society, there is a bright shiny outlook on college instilled into the youth of Texas. It is a place where you plan the rest of your life with every course you select deciding the next step in your path, and at the same time, it’s all fun parties and the happiest memories of your life. While some of this may be true, there is a more raw and realistic side of the college experience that Nick Coker portrays in his film The Struggle.  

For some, college is where we establish our independence from our parents. For others, it is where we acknowledge and accept our dependence on them. Social media is riddled with storylines that help foster an obsession with success and the unrealistic short term goals of money and luxury that don’t have to be afforded through hard work. I have yet to see a university that offers a Bachelor's in “Luck & Good Timing," and we are missing the journey that takes people into success: hard work, perseverance, and the most expensive of commodities, time. 

There are a lot of pointless statistics out there about how many times a student changes their major or the percentage of people that don’t even go into a career related to their degree.  Why is this happening? Why do so many of us have to rely on financial aid? What can be done to make it better? And, how can we better prepare our today’s youth so that college is the experience they deserve?

“Providing information that allows them to step into higher education instead of diving head first," Coker says, "enriching high school graduates with the value of education, and remind them that it is important to focus on the stuff you enjoy in life” 

Coker addresses several of these issues head on in The Struggle. The combination of thoughtful screenwriting, a soundtrack that connects you even deeper to the emotional aspect of the film, the amazing acting of Mathieu Myrick who plays the primary character, Todd, along with the intelligent directing results in a short film that leaves a long lasting impact.

“If something isn’t going the way you want it to in your life, you have to change it,” Coker says. His follow through was getting accepted into film school. Coming from a family that has a history in the machining industry, he forged his own unique path by pursuing his passion for cinematography. Even though many in his family still don’t understand or can’t relate to the road Coker is on, he is doing something meaningful to himself: following his dreams, and putting his time into something he loves. 

The soundtrack of the film was created by Noah Legrande, who had been involved with the film throughout a 2-year creation process and understood the emotions Coker wanted to evoke. In the same way the music in Stranger Things makes you want to not look away from the TV screen and turn the lights on all at the same time, the musical elements created by LeGrande in The Struggle add another layer to the film that resonates perfectly with the flawless acting of Myrick and compliments the longer takes Nick utilized in the editing of the film. The music was inspired by The Graduate and creates their own unique take on the feeling of being lost that was portrayed in the cult classic. 

A lot of Hollywood movies focus on shorter takes. Even in a slower scene, the camera cuts several times. When longer takes are used correctly, “the audience is more enthralled, more invested. They aren’t being driven and are able to guide themselves allowing for a greater emotional connection," Coker says. 

“There is a lot of power in a long take, and it is important to know how to handle it. Long takes are so powerful, you have to use confident movement - it can’t just be movement to keep the camera moving, it has to be justified. In Lawrence of Arabia, when you see Lawrence find that he is being shipped out, the whole scene of him pondering war, in general, is in one long stagnant take, but the character movement is what keeps you invested. Filmmaker Ozu, of renowned Japanese films like Autumn Afternoon, don’t use camera movement, he lets the movement within the scene garner the audience’s attention. He shows you don’t need to cut the shots the way Hollywood tells you too because people’s attention spans are short, you need to give the audience credit. The audience is a lot smarter than you think.”

As someone who enjoys any typical poorly acted action flick to get out of their head, you can appreciate the responsibility Coker gives the audience to make their own connection. This short film leaves you wanting to see the continued path Todd takes and leaves you wondering what happens next. The Struggle opens the door to conversations that should be happening in an effort to address the many issues within Texas higher education systems and what steps we can take to make college a more life enhancing experience than something you have to remind yourself was, in fact, worth it. 

The Dentonite proudly presents a 24-hour window to watch The Struggle written and directed by Nick Coker. After 24 hours has passed, the short film will be pulled from online viewing (no later than Wednesday, August 17th at noon - but realistically, 24 hours ends tomorrow!). The Struggle debuted at the UNT Media Arts Festival and has also been shown at Granatum Film Fest and Forth Worth Indie Film Showcase.

The Struggle (2016)
written and directed by Nick Coker
cinematography by Holden Foster
produced by Samantha Castro
music by Noah LeGrand
featuring Mathieu Myrick