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UCLA alums featured in singer St. Vincent’s metafictional film at Sundance

By Kristin Snyder

Feb. 2, 2020 10:30 p.m.

St. Vincent and Carrie Brownstein set out to document their friendship.

What followed was “The Nowhere Inn,” which premiered at Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 25 and creates a metafictional account of Brownstein and St. Vincent constructing a documentary of the musician’s tour. In the film, St. Vincent introduces Brownstein to her musical, if odd, family. Alumna Kaitlin Huwe, who portrays St. Vincent’s sister Molly, said both Brownstein and St. Vincent were encouraging to work with when faced with the unconventional storyline.

“I opened the musical sequence solo, which was pretty nerve-wracking because (St. Vincent) was sitting just steps away,” Huwe said. “I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m singing a St. Vincent song right in front of St. Vincent.’”

Brownstein’s comedic writing and odd script drew director Bill Benz to the project, and he said they ended up shooting the entirety of the film in 15 days. Taking the comedic aspects of the script, Benz said he drew from Nicolas Roeg movies and aimed to mesh the humor with a 1970s thriller atmosphere.

While “The Nowhere Inn” may feel like a documentary, Brownstein said it is an intentionally fictionalized version of their lives. Toward the end of 2017, St. Vincent said she approached Brownstein with the idea to create a tour documentary. The pair initially envisioned short sketches that would stitch together live footage, but she said the project soon morphed into the metafictional film that serves to critique the concept of fame.

“(The film) is also close to home,” St. Vincent said. “There’s a lot of parts that, with the license that fiction gives you, we were able to cut close to some things that are very close to heart.”

[Related: Movie review: Lover or hate her, Taylor Swift controls her own narrative in ‘Miss Americana’]

“The Nowhere Inn” presents the dichotomy between St. Vincent’s real persona and her persona as St. Vincent, offering a peek behind the curtain for fans, said actor Chris Aquilino. Despite the fictionalized narrative, Aquilino said filming a number of scenes on a cramped tour bus provided a level of authentic intimacy.

Such familiarity was also emphasized by the number of UCLA-related people involved in the film, Huwe said. Having first met the film’s casting director, Mark Bennett, while he taught at UCLA, Huwe said she worked with him on and off until “The Nowhere Inn.” Alumnus Nick Molari, who portrays Jake in the film, said it was their time at UCLA that aided both him and Huwe in landing their roles.

“Graduating from UCLA, I didn’t expect the network to work in this manner,” Molari said. “I kind of felt like I was floating out there. This is sort of proof that the Bruins are there for you.”

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Kristin Snyder | Alumna
Snyder was previously the 2019-2020 Arts editor as well as the 2018-2019 Theater | Film | Television editor.
Snyder was previously the 2019-2020 Arts editor as well as the 2018-2019 Theater | Film | Television editor.
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