Nygard at the entrance to the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, India.
March 28, 1962 |
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Early life and work
Roger Nygard was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and grew up along the shores of Lake Minnetonka. His father, Roger Nygard, Sr., was an executive at General Mills in charge of buying the trainloads of grain used to make Wheaties and Cheerios. Nygard graduated from Orono High School, and received a Bachelor of Arts in Speech-Communications from the University of Minnesota in 1984.
Nygard has extensive credits in film and television as a director, writer, producer and editor. He made his foray into the movie world in 1991 when he directed the low budget indie feature, High Strung, starring comedian/actor Steve Oedekerk, Fred Willard, Denise Crosby, and a very young Kirsten Dunst. The tagline reads: "The story of a guy with a few too many hang ups." The movie has achieved cult status.
Lots of television and film directing and editing credits followed like Back to Back, which may be best known for having blown Bobcat Goldthwait to bits. It was during this time he that he was developing a reputation for working on quirky and unique projects. He realized he could combine what intrigued him with his “day job” and so Nygard the documentarian emerged as part of the overall package.
Trekkies was the first project to allow Nygard to explore his interest in human nature; people dressing up as fictional characters and extraterrestrials fascinated him. His partner in the project, Denise Crosby, first pitched Nygard the idea. He said, "I couldn't believe nobody had done it yet, it seemed so obvious." Trekkies has been described as "affectionate, nonjudgmental" (Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety), "terrifying, unsettling" (National Post), depending on who you ask. He also produced and edited a compelling and offbeat look at UFO enthusiasts (which included writer Whitley Streiber, and nuclear-physicist/ufologist Stanton T. Friedman) called Six Days in Roswell. The film was called "...pants-peeing funny!" by Film Threat magazine. The car salesman subculture also fascinated Nygard, and he co-wrote (with Joe Yannetty) and directed the outrageous cult favorite, Suckers. The movie stars Louis Mandylor, Lori Loughlin, and Daniel Benzali as one scary sales manager from hell. Suckers is often used as a training film at car dealerships. The Minneapolis Star Tribune said, "...Roger Nygard's exhilaratingly cynical car salesman film Suckers has the macho punch of a David Mamet drama."
While tackling feature interests like Trekkies 2 and sometimes lending support to a colleague's project as an editor or producer, Nygard has directed or edited for an array of television series like The Mind of the Married Man, The Bernie Mac Show, The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Zoey 101 and Zeke and Luther, as well as directing commercials for such companies as Kia, Boost Mobile, Disney XD, CBS, TBS, and others. For Nygard it comes down to whether a project is intriguing, funny, or challenging.
The Nature of Existence
After exploring the phenomenon of Star Trek fans in the acclaimed documentary Trekkies, Nygard took on The Nature of Existence, traveling the globe to the source of the world's philosophies, religions, and belief systems, interviewing spirituality leaders, scholars, scientists, artists and others.
"I made a list of the eighty-five toughest questions I could think of," said Nygard, "starting with biggest one, 'why do we exist?' and then I began interrogating the widest cross-section of humanity possible." Here are a few more of the questions asked in the movie: What is man's purpose? What started the Universe? Where was God during the Holocaust? What is Truth? Should people have sex before marriage? What is the best way to find happiness? Where is the afterlife? Where are the voices in my head coming from?
Profiled in the film are people like Indian holy man, Ravi Shankar (The Art of Living), who described his job as "dehusking" people: "stress is the husk, which covers the light, the joy within a person." Nygard spoke with Catholic Archbishop D'Ambrosio in Italy, who believed his is the true religion and said, "To believe in Christ is not easy. But it's not impossible."
In England, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said, "Not only do you not need God, it's positively counterproductive if you are trying to understand the nature of Existence."
In Palo Alto, California, Leonard Susskind (co-discovered string theory) explained that modern string theorists are coming to the conclusion that there is not just one Universe, but more likely trillions, if not an infinite number of Universes, all with laws of physics different from ours.
And over 100 others like Harvard psychologist and author Daniel Gilbert (Stumbling on Happiness), film director Irvin Kershner (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back), 7th Grader atheist neighbor of Nygard, Chloe Revery, novelist and Mormon Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game), and Stonehenge Druids Rollo Maughfling and King Arthur Pendragon.
In the media
November 2011, Nygard was awarded the grand prize from the Portland Humanist Film Festival for his movie The Nature of Existence.
Interviewed for the Oh No, Ross and Carrie podcast Sept 2011, Nygard discusses his experience with acupuncture while traveling in China. He states that he is skeptical about anything that can't be measured, saying "how do you measure a life force?" After the release of his movie The Nature of Existence, he reported that people constantly ask about his personal belief in a God. He first asks for a definition of the term, saying people tend to have different meanings for God. He told Ross and Carrie that he is open to the evidence of a supreme being but has not seen it yet.
- Official website
- Trekkies website
- Trekkies 2 website
- Six Days In Roswell website
- The Nature of Existence website
- Roger Nygard at the Internet Movie Database
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