NORTH ATTLEBORO - When Nathan Suher started work on his two latest short films, he knew a few names to tap for help.
The director, a former North Attleboro resident, has cultivated a network of regionally based filmmakers and actors over the years. He found them by keeping up on social media, contributing to their projects and mingling at networking events.
Together, Suher and his team shot the two shorts over the course of three weekends.
"They all pretty much donate their time because they believe in the material," he said.
The results will screen Sunday night, Dec. 6, at the Route One Cinema Pub, headlining an evening of homegrown horror cinema that begins at 8 p.m.
The first short, a psychological thriller called "Next/Door," follows a loner obsessed with a woman living in a duplex unit adjacent to his.
After he overhears a fight next door, the man gets to "fulfill his fantasy as he discovers what happened," Suher, 41, said. Suspense builds as the audience tries to figure out what's real and what's happening in the man's mind.
The other is a raunchy riff on tiny creature movies from the 1980s, most notably "Gremlins." Its title, which includes an expletive, refers to "Scary Little" monsters called "fookahs" that terrorize a family during Christmas. The nostalgic trip couples lewd humor with a heartfelt story of a father and son trying to reconnect amidst the beasts' havoc.
The movies, Suher said, cap a run of at least 12 shorts he has directed since 2008. For a rising filmmaker working within tiny budgets, putting out consistent work requires a web of willing volunteer collaborators. He said he has volunteered on many of the crews' own projects, taking years to build a reliable, skilled network.
"You're giving a lot more than you're taking in the beginning," said Suher, who now lives in Rumford, R.I., but is moving to Seekonk at the end of the month.
It's not just the crew. Suher has tapped connections for every piece of the finished product - scripts, equipment, locations and stars.
He first got in touch with the writers of "Next/Door" and "Scary Little (expletive)," Lenny Schwartz and Brian Pickard, through a common circle of fellow filmmakers.
They shot "Scary Little" at a friend of the writer's house in Chepachet, R.I., and a nearby store. Friends of a friend similarly opened their Providence home for "Next/Door." Suher met the lead of that movie, David Kopcych, while they were both working behind the scenes on a Pawtucket-filmed feature called "I Am Monroe?"
Suher works a full-time job at a Weston cable TV station, and the roughly $800 budget for "Next/Door," which runs 17 minutes, came out of his pocket. For the more ambitious "Scary Little," he took to the online fundraising site Indiegogo for the bulk of the $2,500 budget. Most of that went toward the 23-minute film's effects - fake gore and, of course, the puppets for the revolting fookahs, made by Rhode Island designer Margee Wolf.
Suher saw both scripts as a chance to demonstrate his versatility. He previously got attention for a romantic silent throwback called "Right There," so a horror comedy and a Hitchcockian thriller seemed sufficiently disparate.
He's now looking forward to seeing people's reactions to "Next/Door" and "Scary Little." For the former, he said those who have seen it so far have been split on their sympathy for the protagonist.
"Some people think he's a psychopath and some people think he's a childlike figure who doesn't know how to process the world," he said.
The other movie has proved divisive for different reasons. His wife, a middle school guidance counselor, has some concerns about its profane name.
Suher said she told him, "Every time somebody Googles my name, they're going to see I'm married to the guy who made 'Scary Little (expletive).'"
After so many short films, Suher wants to now move on to something bigger. Again working with Schwartz, he's plotting his first feature-length film.
That next step comes with new challenges. He doesn't think he can rely on online fundraising for the tens of thousands of dollars he expects to need, which means meeting with investors. Suher said he's up for the task.
"I feel like I've paid some dues," he said.
Advanced tickets for the screening at Route One Cinema Pub, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m., are $9 and can be purchased through Eventbrite at imfilmworks.com. The bill also features other short films and a silent auction.
ANDREW DOERFLER can be reached at 508-236-0340, at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SCNAttleboro.