Undergraduate thesis “The Goodnight Show” heads to Tribeca Film Festival

James Preston Poole

Two teenagers kiss while the world ends behind them — an image that inspired UT radio-television-film undergraduate Charlie Schwan to create his undergraduate thesis, “The Goodnight Show.”

Co-written and directed by Schwan, “The Goodnight Show” is  on a journey extending beyond UT — the film is slated to premier at the 17th annual Tribeca Film Festival. Held in its namesake in Manhattan, Tribeca selected “The Goodnight Show” out of a record 4,754 submissions in the short film category. After learning about the journey that led to the film’s festival acceptance, it’s easy to understand why it was selected.

The film is set in an apocalyptic version of 1978, where an incoming asteroid signals the end of the world. With one chance left to be somebody, teenage Samuel (played by Spencer Flynn) embarks on a quest to lose his virginity that takes him from what he wants to what he needs. 

Schwan started writing the film his junior year for an Intro to Screenwriting course with the central image of an embrace in the face of doomsday fresh in his mind.

“There was something really beautiful and just fascinating about two people sharing a few seconds before they die together and instead of crying or being emotional, just being comfortable with each other,” Schwan said. 

Following some initial drafts, which Schwan said were quite different from the finished product, he brought on a co-writer: 2016 RTF graduate Wyatt Miller. 

“He was the one who really helped me craft this…,” Schwan said. “He (wrote) some of the best lines in this whole movie.”

Schwan said there were challenges in recreating 1978 for the production. 

“When you do a period piece with not a lot of money, you’re calling on a lot of favors and it becomes a whole crew and community effort,” Schwan said. 

A crew of largely UT students, including current RTF third and fourth years Sarah Schneider and Will Conant, helped Schwan overcome difficulties in the production design.

“Definitely the most rewarding part of this film was learning about creating worlds. Not just creating a world for the characters to exist in, but creating a world where dedication results in possibility,” Schneider said. “It’s so important to fight for your story and fight for that feeling that inspired you to create in the first place.”

When director of photography Henry Davis came onboard, he brought with him the intention to make the camera a character as well. 

“We were trying to, like, make it interesting and funny and even have some comedic timing with the camera," Davis said.

Production designer Arri Caviness, conversely, was responsible for much of the 1970s period detail.

“I’d say we leaned more towards style than total accuracy…,” Caviness said. “We really wanted this to scream ‘70s, so I pulled the majority of the patterns and colors and textures from that.”

Even with all these exciting visual elements and stories of collaboration, there was a certain feeling they still want the audience to take with them.

“The most special part about the film for me is that it should be sad,” Conant said. “Everybody dies at the end, but that’s not how you feel when that last frame finishes. You feel movie magic”.