The south-east region’s newest talent executive Nicole gives tips on great collaborations, dealing with rejection and much more.
What made you want to work in film?
I grew up in a film-loving family watching classics like E.T (1982), Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Fly Away Home (1996) and Tremors (1990). I knew from a relatively young age that I wanted to somehow combine writing and cinema. I continue to want to work in film because I think it’s one of the most exciting spaces to communicate ideas, push the envelope and connect with people.
If you could recommend one film to an aspiring filmmaker, what would it be?
All filmmakers are different, so it’s hard to pick just one that would speak to everyone across the board, but in terms of a film that proves you can tell a compelling story on a small scale, but with ambition, craft and emotional clarity I’d recommend Andrew Haigh’s Weekend (2011), Carine Adler’s Under the Skin (1997) and Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007).
What are you most excited about for your new role?
The opportunity to work more closely with filmmakers on projects that are meaningful to them and to be able to facilitate getting those films made.
What advice would you give to a filmmaker whose project has been rejected?
If you can, try and compartmentalise your creative writer/director/producer brain from your professional brain and process rejections in the mindset of the latter. If you perceive rejections with your filmmaker hat on, it can be easy to think it’s about you and your self-worth. Whereas if you try to distance yourself a little bit and pretend you’re an agent who got the rejection that then has to deliver the news, how would you frame it? It could become an opportunity to course-correct, to refine the script, to spend more time getting into the weeds with the idea. Allow yourself a day or two to be sad and mad about not having something go your way and then start plotting as to how you’re going to persist and make the project regardless, or how you’re going to use that rejection as fuel.
Also don’t burn your bridges.
Who is a filmmaker that has really inspired you?
Lots for different reasons. Ava DuVernay for starting in her late 30s. So Yong Kim’s poetry. Sarah Polley’s storytelling. Brett Story’s politics. Kenneth Lonergan’s ear for dialogue.
I also don’t think producers get enough credit for crafting a slate that speaks to a creative vision or sensibility, so would highlight the work of Mynette Louie, Emily Morgan, Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly, Sarah Brocklehurst and Christine Vachon and their commitment to representation and the spirit of independent filmmaking.
What would you say is the biggest challenge that emerging filmmakers are facing today?
Breaking into it remains hard and requires a lot of self-motivation and resources (often financial), and then once you have ‘emerged’, sustaining that career is a big challenge. How do you balance the need to make a living with the desire to work on projects you’re truly passionate about? How do you navigate an industry that sometimes demands burnout or fosters an unhealthy relationship to work? I think there are still a lot of practices or conventions within the film industry that need to be interrogated and that do a disservice to the voices we need to hear from most.
What is the key to a great collaboration?
Communication and transparency. Not abusing the trust or the credit you are being given. Being upfront about any mistakes you might have made or any areas of knowledge you might be lacking. Asking for support or patience if you need it. Trying to remember, amid the pressure, that you’re hopefully making a project you love with people you like and that can be rare, so cherish it!
I also think understanding what’s entailed in each aspect of the filmmaking craft can go a long way - whether that means taking an acting or editing class or just being curious, the more you know about each of the jobs required to make a film, the more respect you’ll have for that process.
What makes a perfect pitch?
I don’t know how to describe perfection, but I would encourage enthusiasm, earnestness and specificity. Know your world, know your characters, know your story. Be able to boil it down to one pithy sentence. Be able to answer the questions: Why now? Why you? Why us (with regard to whoever you’re pitching to)?
What’s your favourite line from a film?
“I wish I knew how to quit you.”