Among the many ways that the Covid-19 pandemic effected the world was our consumption of entertainment at home. Fortunately, this led to the discovery of a large talent pool and a widening in the palette of viewers. For Americans specifically, diversity of stories and storytellers were embraced and sought after. The film Submerged was released in 2020 just as the lockdown began and now just a few short years later has an audience which numbers in the millions. The creative mind behind Submerged, Chinese born filmmaker Zheng “Nathan” Nie, couldn’t be more thrilled about the attention it has received. He remarks, “Knowing that this film brought happiness to many people of the LGBTQ+ community, who had an extra hard time dating during the pandemic, just makes me smile. Even though I’d made films with queer elements, Submerged was the first gay film I made.” In an altruistic gesture, Mr. Zheng posted Submerged on YouTube during the pandemic as a potential diversion for people everywhere. The comment section testifies to the charm of this film by an adoring audience with statements like, “A feel good short film” and “We need more of that.”
While much progress has been made, those involved in the same-sex dating scene deal with far more than heterosexuals when it comes to romance in the United States. Submerged takes an audience into this through the perspective and feelings of Horace (Harrsion Grant of the Primetime Emmy Award–winning series Star Trek: Picard and Primetime Emmy–nominated Series 9–1–1 Lonestar). Tired of the series of one-night-stands which his dating life is made up of, Horace is determined to have a “real date” and connection with Steve (Matthew Bunker) a former “hook up” whom he feels has the potential for actual boyfriend material. There’s an obvious chemistry between these two characters as well as with the actors of this film. The casting decisions were excellent placed. The fact that the cast of this production contains only two characters is never a weak point as the performances are captivating.
Nathan Nie took on an immense set of responsibilities for this film with the goal of delivering its message as he saw it. As writer, director, and cinematographer of Submerged, it was Nathan’s clear and unfiltered vision of the story which is communicated. As the film’s DP, the pool scene stands out as a moment of aesthetic beauty while transitioning from repressed tension to celebrated release. This film’s opening scenes are similarly infused with a controlled desire that always hesitates; a credit to the writing, directing, and acting of Submerged. By taking on these three positions for this production, Nathan’s shorthand manifests a clear emotional tone which gains entry into the world of Horace’s mind and heart. There’s a sense that we understand Horace from the first scene and we are rooting for him to shake off the confinements of his previous relationship woes. There’s a simplicity to Submerged that empowers this connection. Nathan relates, “Being the writer, the director, and the cinematographer at the same time, especially when shooting and directing on set at the same time, was very challenging. As a director, visually, I like to mix very stable, stationary shots with highly intimate and dynamic handheld shots following characters closely. I like the clash between a person’s chaotic headspace and the seemingly quiet and peaceful world surrounding it. Currently, I’m concentrating on a theme in the various projects of different genres I’m developing: intergenerational and intersectional conflicts within Chinese-American communities regarding topics like sexual orientation, LGBTQ issues, and racial discrimination. I feel fortunate to be in a place where the films I create can develop understanding and a sense of community.”