Watch New York Nico’s Hilariously Unpredictable ‘Out of Order’

The Instagram star’s narrative debut is gross-out, feel-good fun. And of course there’s a true story behind it.
Katie Way
Brooklyn, US
Kareem Rahma in New York Nico's short film out of order
Kareem Rahma in New York Nico's ‘Out of Order’

If you live in New York City and have an Instagram account, you already know about Nicolas Heller, aka @newyorknico. The Manhattan native, who has a million followers on Instagram and just shy of 720,000 on TikTok, bills himself as “the unofficial talent scout of New York City,” and rightly so: A single feature on one of his accounts is enough to resuscitate a struggling small business or shoot a local legend into the realm of viral internet fame. (And, like many city natives, he’s a generous sweetheart to boot.) 


But Heller doesn’t just make grade-A, feel-good NYC-centric content. He’s also a director, both on commercial work and, more recently, the first narrative film he’s made since he was a college student. Out of Order—which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in June and is available for streaming exclusively on VICE’s YouTube channel—is an “only in New York!” comedy of errors written by and starring his friend Kareem Rahma. Check out the whole thing below: 

Inspired by a true story (more on that later), the short film follows hapless divorcé Ernie as he tries to make it to his first date post-breakup, only to be thwarted by prickly strangers, a fucked up Citi Bike, and his own digestive system—to name a few of the obstacles he faces on his whacked-out odyssey. Fans of Heller’s Instagram account will recognize familiar faces in roles that are just a notch different from their real-life personas: Uncut Gems fashionista Wayne Diamond is Ernie’s eccentric uncle who loans him a sequin jacket for the hot date; rapper Nems is an irate New Yorker defending his spot on line in a coffee shop; and street golfer Tiger Hood is… pretty much himself, all to bombastic effect.


For more on his zany foray into the realm of fiction, VICE talked to Heller about building a movie around real-life characters, beefing with a landlord on set, and capturing the unique chaos that is running late for something important in Manhattan. 

VICE: So, you’ve obviously mastered the Instagram documentarian thing. What inspired the move back to narrative work?

Nicolas Heller: I've always wanted to do narrative filmmaking. That's what I went to college for, but then I just got sidetracked. Documentaries proved to be a lot cheaper than narrative films, so I kind of went that route. Then last year, I was just like, You know what, I've been wanting to do this for the longest time. No more excuses. I gotta figure it out. So I did some fundraising, and I've been friends with Kareem for a long time, so I chatted with him about collaborating on this. 

And what drew you to this story in particular, besides the fact that it’s funny?

Um, so, it's loosely based on a true story that I experienced.

Oh no! 

I mean, there's been numerous occasions where I've needed to use the bathroom, and, you know, couldn't find a place to go. But my versions of those real stories wouldn't make an interesting film, so I took that idea and mixed it with a real life experience that I had where I got arrested before a first date. 


Oh my God! 

Yeah! And I had to do my time and do my best to make it in time for the date. That's definitely a longer story. Honestly, that was a film that I imagined I would make at some point, because it's when people ask me like, “What's your craziest New York story?” That's kind of my go-to. 

Nick. Sorry, can you tell the whole story? 

I’m gonna give you the truncated version. It was maybe eight years ago, and I was super early for a date. I was just killing time on the Lower East Side by putting stickers up. I had just put out a web series called No Your City, which was kind of like the birth of New York Nico in a way because it was profiling all these New York City street celebrities. I was listening to music, in the zone, and I guess I put one up right in front of a police officer. He just looked at me like I was the biggest idiot in the world. Like, “Why the fuck would you do that?” 

I played dumb. I acted like I didn't know I wasn’t allowed to do that. He made me empty my pockets and found many, many more stickers. If this was today, I can't imagine that they would arrest somebody for that. But it was really shitty timing because I had just been arrested two weeks prior during the Eric Garner protests. So I was really worried that I was going to be in deep shit for something as little as putting a sticker on an ATM machine. 


Oh shit. 

The main thing I was thinking of, other than that was, Oh, no, this girl, I kind of like her. I'm so worried that she's gonna think I'm standing her up. And obviously, they wouldn't let me call her. So I was just hoping that I could get in and out in time for the date. And then, while I was in the holding cell, that's when the meat of the story happens, which I'm not going to get into right now. But it was definitely a pretty, pretty crazy experience. I ended up getting out, like, five minutes before the date, and ran to the date. And everything was good. 

That story obviously sounds very different from Out of Order, but I think it's just the idea that it all takes place in real time, over the course of like an hour or whatever. One guy needs to get to where he's going through a lot of hoops and hurdles.

You did a really good job capturing that frenetic energy—the feeling of, “I'm late, I'm running into all these like crazy ass people, nobody can help me!” What did you do as a director to convey that? 

We're playing with a very short amount of time that someone has before they actually have to use the bathroom, regardless of where they are. So, I wanted the viewer to kind of feel that chaos that Kareem’s character Ernie was feeling. I knew that I wanted it to not have a dull moment at any point—I wanted to pack in 10 or 12 scenes for a 20-minute movie. I kept it moving from scene to scene and introduced character after character, so that it never gets boring. 


How did you pick the “characters” who ended up in the movie?

I put a list together of people who are either friends or people that I've crossed paths with along the journey. I sent it over to Kareem and was like, “Let's create scenarios that would work for these characters.” 

For example, I knew that I wanted Wayne Diamond and Big Time Tommie to be in it, and I knew that I wanted them to be together because they're a very interesting duo. I’d invited them to a barbecue two years ago, and they're very, very different, but very similar at the same time, and they were just arguing the whole time—but, you know, with a lot of love. Once I saw that interaction between the two, I was like, “Oh, I gotta, put them in something together,” and that was the limo scene. 

And then, Matthew Silver, I've known him for almost 10 years now. I've always wanted to put him in something where he plays a super exaggerated version of himself. I think I'd seen a video of him doing a performance piece in a diaper, so I thought it would be funny to have him play this grown baby who has all the answers. 

Did you run into any roadblocks actually shooting the movie? 

It was very run-and-gun, but I come from a background of doing guerrilla music videos. That's how I got started, so I almost feel more comfortable doing it that way than having a huge crew and clients on set, which is more like what I do now with commercials. I appreciate it when I'm allowed to strip down and, yeah, maybe we don't have permission to shoot here, but we make it work. 


The only problem that we ran into was literally the first shot of the shoot. It's the scene with Ken Starrrz, where he's in the apartment building shouting down to Kareem. We shot that in Kareem’s old apartment, and we did not get permission to shoot there. We had some lights up and whatever, and then his landlord came down and was furious—she wanted us to leave. I think Kareem ended up talking to her and offering some money and so we ended up squashing it, but there was a moment where I was just like, Fuck, we should just give up, this movie is not gonna happen, because that’s obviously a terrible way to start.

Good thing you didn’t! Do you have anything else coming down the pipe in this narrative vein? 

Kareem and I are developing a TV show right now, and I’m executive producing something for a friend, Instagram and TikTok personality Morris Cornbread. I'd love to do a feature as well, so I’m keeping an eye out for opportunities there. But I have like a million things going on at once. It’s hard to devote all my time to one thing—I have a bunch of different… What's the term? Bunch of different pots brewing.

Fingers in a bunch of different pots? 

Yeah, that’s it. 

Awesome. OK, last one, because I have to ask—what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen in the city? 


[Laughs] I get asked that question all the time. 

I know. I’m sure. 

I almost don’t have an answer. I see something insane every day. I also have a really shitty memory on top of it! I feel like I should have an answer programmed for this question. OK—it's just like one out of a million crazy things that I saw, but it was New Years, a few years ago. I was on the train really late. There was a guy sleeping, sitting down sleeping, and there was a very drunk guy standing over him. They had no relation. I was watching them the whole ride, because I just felt something bad was gonna happen. And the train stops. And the guy just puked all over the guy who was sitting down. 

Oh God, that’s so gnarly.

Yeah. I got up and left at that point.