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A young man stands in front of his bathroom mirror, brushing his teeth ... when one of his nipples suddenly falls off. That's the start of Nipple, overwhelmingly voted the Loft Cinema's First Friday Shorts third-year winner on May 2, one month after Nipple won the monthly contest. Luke Howard, 25, wrote, directed and starred in the short. The UA graduate says that after a friend died during his senior year of high school, Howard and another friend made a feature-length film about the matter; he calls the film "a disaster," but says he learned "so much"--and decided to pursue filmmaking. Check out the next First Friday Shorts event, hosted by Max Cannon, at 9 p.m., Friday, June 6; view Nipple at padd.com, and contact Howard by e-mail.

When did you make Nipple?

I started filming it four days before the first Friday in March, and I finished at midnight just before the first Friday. Then I realized there was no way I could edit it in time, so the film sat in my camera for a couple of weeks, and I started editing it a couple of weeks before the April First Friday Shorts.

Is it safe to say that the existence of First Friday Shorts spurred you to make Nipple?

Yeah. With the feature film we made, we found that it's hard to get accepted into festivals. ... I felt like it was good to aim for something specific, and the Loft seemed like a pretty interesting exercise. ... I designed the pacing of Nipple around how impatient the audience can be. I was pretty sure Nipple was going to get gonged. I went to the March (First Friday Shorts), and I noticed that a lot of the films were short ... and mine was close to being 10 minutes. I didn't think the audience would be patient enough for any film that long.

How did you come up with the screenplay for Nipple?

I was in a creative-writing course at the UA, and we had to write some nonfiction story about ourselves. I couldn't think of anything interesting. ... The day before the essay was due, I was standing there, brushing my teeth, and I thought: Wouldn't it be funny if my nipple fell off, and I could write about that as my nonfiction essay? So I did.

Wait. You got away with writing a nonfiction essay?

My teacher liked it, although she said it was not necessarily nonfiction, so I argued with her about, well, "What is nonfiction?"

You got existential?

Yeah. She ended up not making me redo it, so I guess "getting existential" helped me. The class seemed to really respond to it, so I toyed around with it... After driving by the Loft, I decided to write the screenplay. So I wrote the screenplay the night before filming.

When the April First Friday came, hundreds of people were about to watch a film of yours in public for the first time.

I was super-nervous. ... I definitely remember shaking when I had to stand up and introduce the film. I was sure that by the three-minute mark, people were going to be shouting, "GONG!"

But that didn't happen--and it ended up winning.

It was a mixture of complete and utter excitement and also kind of a bit of embarrassment. One of the reasons I like writing is that I don't crave attention; I'd rather that someone else get the attention because of something that I wrote.

Not only did you win; the audience demanded to see your nipples.

I am pretty body-conscious. I don't take off my shirt to go swimming. ... And what am I supposed to do when hundreds of people are calling for Max to disrobe me?

How did you hide the nipple that supposedly fell off?

You'd be surprised how hard it is to hide a nipple. No matter what I did, it just kept popping through. Eventually, I figured out a perfect recipe. I found a special bandage for runners that's as thin as cellophane. I put that over (the nipple) and then put on a layer of latex stuff I got at a makeup store. ... I then caked myself with makeup; my whole chest is actually painted. ... My other nipple is actually fake too, because it's twice the size of my real nipple, and I wanted to draw the eye away from the other side.

So, what's next?

I've applied to several screenwriting internships in Los Angeles. ... The Loft gave me confidence that maybe I am not kidding myself--that this is something I could pursue.

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