My name is Nick Oceano and I am a filmmaker.
Though, truth be told, I should probably be in jail right now. And I’m barely exaggerating. Because films literally saved my life.
As a closeted, troubled gay kid growing up in a chaotic house on the wrong side of San Antonio, movies became a much needed escape from the real world. To paraphrase a young Steven Spielberg, movies gave me a vision for what life could be like.
One filled with wonder. Close families. Adventure. Hope.
These certainly weren’t things I found in my crazy, tumultuous home. What I had instead was enough soap-opera drama to make Pedro Almodovar blush.
And though I knew early on I wanted to make movies, it took until my late 20s to take that courageous leap. I first had to wrestle with a few demons during my 20s – “coming out,” getting sober. I flirted with careers as a politician, as a journalist ... even becoming a Christian preacher - all careers that fed my need to connect with others and effect social change, all while doing it with a hint of dramatic flair.
In 2002, I met my first film mentor at a film fest in my hometown. Through his example, I realized I could channel my activist and creative impulses into a career as a filmmaker and use my crazy upbringing as creative fodder to tell stories. I was sold then on this “film thing.” All I had to do was take the leap. And I did.
Which brings me to … Finding Albie Finch. And what exactly is Finding Albie Finch? It’s a comedy. It’s a drama. It’s a redemption story. It’s a bromance.
To me, though, I’m most moved by the story’s underdog elements. Some of my favorite films of the last decade have been what I’ll call “underdog films” - David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Spike Jonze’s Her. Each of these films revolves around a lead who’s an outcast or underdog. Someone who begins their journey in a dark place, but through some other character, finds some light, love or redemption.
And in those terms, Finding Albie Finch is, first and foremost, an underdog tale. The film is, in fact, about two underdogs, “Albie Finch” and “Marcos Lopez,” two guys who are just trying to find their way when we meet them. They just don’t know it yet.
“Albie” is an aging, jaded drunk queen, a once-fiery Stonewall activist/novelist bent on making a difference, but he's now just consumed with the bottle and delusions of grandeur.
Opposite him is “Marcos,” a 20-something, Mexican-American “rebel without a cause” who desperately wants to get his life on track, but who’s thwarted by his own demons.
What’s unique about Finding Albie Finch is that Albie and Marcos are underdogs in their own lives. They’re their own worst enemies, knee-capping themselves at the worst possible moments - and unable to stop.
When the story begins, they’re enemies. It’s “hate at first sight.” And how can it not be? Albie almost drunkenly runs over Marcos with his car. Marcos sees Albie as a “homo” and “The Man.” Albie has racist tendencies. And each thinks the other has it easy in life. Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Deep down, both are very much the same: lonely, broken-hearted ... lost. And both are seeking connection in their own wrong-headed ways. Anywhere. Somewhere.
Eventually, the men get beyond their differences and a real friendship takes root. At first because of mutual pain and loneliness, but soon a true bond develops and the two connect over their love of music, their respect for family, and shared dreams for their futures. And things begin to look up. At least until their respective demons return.
Their unlikely friendship provides each man with a respite from their broken-down lives - and ultimately gives them something even more important ...
And that’s one of the central themes of Finding Albie Finch. Hope. And to me, that’s what the film is about at its core - a story about two underdogs who find hope in each other through a very unexpected friendship. And it is through this friendship, that these two underdogs are potentially able to walk back into their lives more whole.
As men. As friends. Maybe even … as family.