We recently met with filmmaker Justin Nathanson at his second home: on set. It was a quaint setup on a Charleston porch where he was filming a commercial for Roper Hospital. He says his work in commercial film is only possible because of the artistic release he finds when making documentaries, like Charleston, a love letter, which premieres today at the Hippodrome.

Nathanson filmed more than 100 hours of daily life in Charleston, then edited it down to one hour and 15 minutes. “I would go out at all times of the day … as a fly on the wall,” he says. One of his most precious finds was a funeral scene. The film is about honoring life, and with that inclusion, it comes full circle to honor death, Nathanson says. “This might not fit into the picture-book image of what Charleston is, but this is my film and my point of view,” he says.

Because nothing was staged, the film includes a good deal of avant-garde scenes. “I’m always surprised when I point my camera at human nature. I just love it.” He’s always looking to challenge himself as an artist, and this is his chance to do something new and innovative in his work. “I hope this takes me to places I don’t even understand now … It’s going to be beautiful.”

An original score created by Andrew Walker of Entropy Ensemble will be played live at the screening. The music was inspired by “endless discussions about feelings and tempo,” Nathanson says. You can see a video of the process below.

You can find tickets for the screenings here.