By their own admission, and even though they’re three years apart in age, brothers Evan and Adam Nix — the imaginative forces behind Nix Bros. Films — became movie nerds at roughly the same time.
“That was definitely something we bonded over as kids,” says Evan, the older of the two siblings. “Adam is extraordinarily smart and graduated early, so when we ended up in college together — and without a real focus — I think we fell back on that bond. We had always been creative; we always had a video camera around during high school; we were both in theater.”
So, after falling back on that self-realized movie-nerd bond, the duo suddenly found a focus: film courses at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. They studied and worked, worked and filmed until eventually relocating to Denver and transferring to the Colorado Film School.
“We had jobs,” Evan says, “so we were always only part-time students, but we used school very much as a vehicle to experiment with and make our own stuff.”
One notable college project was called Nothing to Sneeze At, a three-and-a-half-minute video about a man struggling to achoo. Comparing that particular piece with some of the Nix Bros.’ current work might not be entirely fair, but the means by which it was conceived and completed perfectly illustrates what most likely is the pair’s greatest movie-making asset: each other.
“We were in a 16-millimeter course,” explains Adam. “The entire class was divided into two groups that each had to produce a film. But first, everybody had to write a script and the class voted on which two would be made. Then, everybody had to discuss their vision for how to direct those two scripts and the director was picked based on that.”
“I wrote a script that was selected,” Adam continues, “and because we had worked on the idea together, Evan had a clear vision for it, so he was selected to direct it. Essentially, we got to make a Nix Bros. film as a school assignment.”
This, of course, wasn’t the first time the brothers had pooled their personal resources, but it may have been when they truly realized the benefits of doing so.
“I do think we have different strengths,” Evan adds. “Filmmaking is a way for us to play on each other’s strengths while working together on something. We sort of fill creative voids when it comes to making these things. Film is a very collaborative art. You need more than one person.”
And you definitely need people who are willing and capable to bring life to the ideas of the writer and director team.
“One thing that sets us apart from other local filmmakers is that to some extent we associate ourselves more with the comedy scene than the film scene,” says Evan. “We directed the Laugh Track Comedy Festival for two years, which was sort of a hybrid film-comedy event. Stand-up has always been a big focus of ours.”
It makes sense then that the overwhelming majority of the brothers’ oeuvre is made up of humor-filled shorts — and that most of those shorts feature some of Denver’s best local stand up comedians, including Nathan Lund, Kristin Rand, Chris Charpentier and many others.
Still, Evan and Adam are filmmakers, and no matter how closely they associate with their comedy brethren, the simple fact remains that they work in a different medium, with different challenges — and opportunities.
“You don’t go up on stage every night as a filmmaker,” Evan explains. “You sort of have to stay home and be isolated, spend a lot of time in front of your computer. One of the greatest things about Denver’s comedy scene is the sheer number of events, night after night. We don’t have as many. There are two or three really good ones that happen monthly.” Then he pauses and smiles. “But there is the Internet.”
From Denver to the world
There are no Nix Bros. features coming to the movie-megaplex near you, at least not yet, but they are all available on a smaller scale (depending on the size of your computer monitor).
“I don’t want to sound overly melodramatic about this, but what a great time to be living,” Evan says. “We make videos and put them out there and people watch them. We couldn’t have done this 20 years ago.”
The “out there” to which he’s referring includes the brothers’ own website, as well as YouTube, Funny or Die and a couple other stops along the information superhighway. In other words, you’re only a couple clicks away from watching an ill-fated day of packing among friends in Moving Buddies or witnessing the effects of Denver’s recently relaxed marijuana laws from an outsider’s perspective in Mile High — or many more comic gems.
“We can put those on YouTube and get thousands of views,” Evan continues. “You can’t do that with every creative discipline. And it gives you a type of instant feedback on your work, analytical goals that you can track.”
“How many views will Moving Buddies get?” he continues. “It’s a two-minute video, so it’s shorter than most of our stuff. It’s very punchy, self-contained comedy, so you’d think that it would do really well. But it’s had a very slow progression compared to Mile High, which is very topical and six-and-a-half-minutes long. I find it all very fascinating.”
He’s not the only one. The Nix Bros.’ “short romance” titled Love to Hate won Best Film in the 2013 Denver 48 Hour Film Project contest, and in addition to their own originals, Evan and Adam co-created, direct and edit The Grawlix web series — a monthly mockumentary that follows the lives of three local comics — and have overseen a number of music videos, including a few for Total Ghost, the brothers’ faux kraut-synth side project.
Regarding the steady projects and well-earned accolades, Adam says, “Our skills have definitely been heightened since starting out, but I think more than anything, we just work harder now. We’ve gotten to the point where we understand that if we want to have a modicum of success, we have to work our ass off. So we’re constantly doing that.”
As for those aforementioned big screens, that’s the ultimate goal.
“We go out to L.A., we’ve had general meetings,” Evan says. “The city is calling a little bit. But we love Denver, and while I’m not saying we would never move to Hollywood, we’ve got a real cool thing going here.”
So for now, the Nix brothers will simply continue playing off each other’s strengths, fortifying the movie-centric bond that set them on this path in the first place — all to get a good laugh.
This story originally appeared in Confluence Denver here.