Filmmakers Steven P. Neilson and Jon Lance Bacon didn’t have to look far when scouting locations for their latest production.
They knew the Hayes Barton Café and Dessertery, just down the street from their home in Five Points, was the perfect setting for the blind date scene that’s the backbone of their romantic comedy, “Oh Crappy Day.”
The cafe owners handed them the keys, and for two days they had the run of the place to shoot much of their 18-minute film. For the rest of the scenes, they headed a few miles away, to a townhouse in North Raleigh.
The decision to film in the city is just part of a local focus that Neilson and Bacon pride themselves on. Their two lead actors are locals, and much of the crew came from Raleigh or close by.
The first screening for friends and family took place at the Rialto, a few blocks from the cafe.
In May, they’ll introduce “Oh Crappy Day,” which has been racking up awards on the film festival circuit, to the entire city at the Longleaf Film Festival at the North Carolina Museum of History.
“We are so excited that our home city has acknowledged our work,” said Neilson, 52, the producer at the couple’s company, Dagtype Films.
The museum’s inaugural film festival drew 170 entries from 25 countries. The final slate of films includes three dozen documentaries, narrative features and shorts.
“Oh Crappy Day” tells the story of a young man named Jared who has obsessive compulsive disorder and is headed out on a blind date. The film follows his struggles and how to address them with his date, Katie.
Bacon, writer and director for Dagtype and the film, said he thinks everyone can relate to Jared, who is played by Jordan Estes.
“The point of the film is that everyone has something, like OCD, and it’s OK. You’ll find someone out there who’s right for you,” said Bacon, 52.
Jess Barbour, who plays Katie, said it’s easy to work with Neilson and Bacon.
“They’re so passionate about everything that they do that you can’t help being excited and passionate as well,” she said.
“Oh Crappy Day” had its debut in February at the Siouxland Film Festival in Iowa, picked up the Lou Costello Award for Comedy Short at the 2015 Garden State Film Festival in Atlantic City and screened at the WorldFest-Houston International Film & Video Festival, where it won a Remi Award.
Neilson, who works in the pharmaceutical industry, and Bacon, who holds a doctoral degree in English, said the awards are a delightful surprise.
They set out into the film industry knowing their work might always be a labor of love. The extra bit of recognition is the “cherry on top,” Neilson said.
The two set up their first filmmaking company in 2005. They’ve been a couple since 1994 and know how to balance their personal lives with working together professionally.
Neilson lets Bacon take the lead when it comes to the story; Bacon knows Neilson’s background is an asset when it comes to business decisions.
“It’s a good union because we do have a clear division of labor, but we both are equal partners,” Neilson said.
Their earliest efforts featured as much do-it-yourself as they could handle, everything from carrying the bags to asking actors to jump in and hold microphones.
They learned from their initial endeavors, and by the time they began work on “Oh Crappy Day” in early 2013, they produced a film they knew was their best yet.
They’re pleased to see audiences and critics agree.
And the adventure isn’t over. They’ve been asked to prepare a full-length feature version of “Oh Crappy Day.”
Neilson and Bacon hope it will sell, but if not, they’ve already told the cast and crew what they’ll do: head back to Five Points and make it themselves.
Want to go?
The Longleaf Film Festival on May 1-2 is free and open to the public at the North Carolina Museum of History, 5 E. Edenton St., Raleigh. “Oh Crappy Day” is scheduled to screen at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 2.
Call 919-807-7900 or go to ncmuseumofhistory.org/LFF for more information.