Roughly two years ago, Nashvillian filmmakers — and spouses — Kyler Wilson and Natalie Ruffino Wilson were pumped. They had a project they were ready to film, and it looked like their funding was going to work out. It was going to be Kyler’s first feature as a director.
“And then, you know, 2020 happened,” says Ruffino Wilson.
The couple has done freelance film production work in Nashville for the past decade. He’s a first assistant director and works on lots of commercials. She describes herself as a jack-of-all trades, an actor who’s also done camera operator work, props and more. They did their first short film together for 2018’s 48 Hour Film Project, and had been working toward this feature project for a long time. But with COVID-19 cases spiking and film and television production shut down, the project ground to a halt.
“So we licked our wounds and said, ‘OK, well, do we just wait?’ ” says Ruffino Wilson. They considered holding off until 2021 and seeing if they could shoot their feature then. Instead, they landed on putting together something else entirely. “We said screw it, and we just wrote Best Laid Plans with the concept of — [with] it being a pandemic — keep it a small cast, keep it a small crew, keep it centrally located. Something that we could control, no big events.”
The pair penned a script late in the summer of 2020. By fall, they had gathered up a crew of fellow Nashvillian filmmakers, and they went into production on Oct. 25, 2020 — the couple’s one-year wedding anniversary. With a crew of roughly two dozen people and a very small cast, Kyler and Natalie managed to shoot in eight days total, primarily in a single location. “It was a whirlwind,” says Ruffino Wilson. “We never went over 12 hours [of shooting in a single day]. Our goal was to do 10, which is mainly what we kept to.”
The result is Best Laid Plans, now available to rent via multiple platforms or to purchase on DVD. It’s a home-invasion thriller that lands in roughly the same ballpark as, say, Eli Roth’s Knock Knock or Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. Ruffino Wilson stars as Remy, a housecleaner and single mom who stumbles onto a hostage situation at a client’s home. Longtime local actor and filmmaker Dean Shortland plays the client, and Wilson plays the desperate man who takes him hostage. Aside from a handful of scenes with one or two other performers, that’s pretty much it — a tension-building three-hander that plays out over the course of a lean hour and 23 minutes.
“One of the things that I was really excited about was we got to use a lot of our friends who are professionals in town,” says Ruffino Wilson. “So it was really important since they had signed on to do this with us during the pandemic, that it not be excruciatingly painful for them [laughs].”
Ruffino Wilson is quick to point to director of photography Tim Sutherland — a Steadicam operator with “oodles and oodles” of experience — as key in inspiring other crew members to come on board. Our city’s film production scene is packed with talent, and a lot larger than many Nashvillians likely realize. Ruffino Wilson is grateful she and her husband were able to lean on that community to bring their first feature film to fruition.
“It was just such a great experience,” she says. “Everyone was just at the top of their game in what they were doing at that time. We got to [make the movie] with people who took it seriously and really cared about the art.”