Nick Connor (Nicholas Connor) is pursuing dreams that could make me one of the most emerging filmmakers in Britain.
The writer, director and cinematographer is just on the brink of adulthood, and already he's earned the title of being an 'award-winning' filmmaker from Manchester; receiving praises from the likes of director Mark Cousins. Unlike two shorts 'Northern Nights' and 'Think of Me' that beyond the typical cliche of teenager dramas, as they trigger emotion it was his film 'Cotton Wool' got the ball rolling.
To date, he's won the 'Ones To Watch' Award at the Into Film Awards. He's continuously kept himself in contact with the film crew that he's shadowed other film sets. He's introduced actress Katie Quinn, a young upcoming talent that has showcased her acting craft in three of his films.
Despite it being overwhelming, Connor has finally found where his passion is.
In his interview, he gives us the lowdown as to how he got into filming and his new fame a potential new talent for British Cinema. He gives his personal thoughts about the online moving streaming trend and lessons that he's learnt about the film industry in all avenues.
- What factors made you decide that film was a career that you wanted to pursue?
I've watched some amazing cinema at an early age. At 12 I discovered filmmakers like Fellini, Tarkovsky and Bergman which inspired me to explore world cinema/film history. So in many ways, through watching film I knew I wanted to direct - it was instinct to attempt to tell stories and try and create emotion like the filmmakers I was beginning to learn from.
2. We see that you've worked as a miscellaneous crew member on short films such as 'Dead Sea', 'Hamlin' & 'I am Belfast'. Reflect on the experience.
Well, I learned so much from them all. I met some great people who I had admired for so long and have had the honour of working again with on my own films. Especially on the feature ‘I am Belfast’ where I got to shadow the brilliant cinematographer Christopher Doyle and director Mark Cousins, both of which really helped inspire me to get into filmmaking when I first discovered their work.
3. Do you feel working on these types of films that trigger emotion has developed your own execution of filming that you now want to pursue?
Most definitely. Audience emotion is what should drive a film for me personally. If you don't feel some kind of emotion in reaction to a film then it’s not a good one. All my films try to tackle real-life emotion and struggle in some way.
4. Your recent film 'Northern Lights' stars Katie Quinn. Is she the next upcoming Manchurian talent that you highly recommend?
Katie is great and definitely a talent to watch out for, I’ve worked with Katie on three films now and I can say she's got a rare ability to express emotion that’s amazing to work with as a director.
5 a) How does 'Northern Lights' differ from your first short 'Think Of Me’?
The length itself was a huge change, jumping from about 10 minutes to a 55 minute film. The crew was larger and the budget was £12,000, in comparison to ‘Think Of Me’ that had no budget. Also with a longer film, it gives me the ability to play more with the audience, as their relationship to the narrative and characters is far more developed.
b) What was the aim that you wanted to achieve with 'Northern Lights?’
I wanted to make a mature teenage drama that wasn't cliche or overly romantic, but instead told a story that was true to life and relevant to the young people living today. Showing mental health and anxiety was also a huge aim as it is a misunderstood topic often represented in an exaggerated way.
6. Is it true that the films you've released were recorded on an iPhone?
No, my last film ‘Cotton Wool’ was shot on a Red Epic Dragon and ‘Northern Lights’ was shot on a Blackmagic Cinema Camera 2.5k.
7. Two awards in a short space of time...and you're haven't even reached the prime of adulthood yet! We're curious to know the secret behind your success.
I think working hard and not giving up, making failures and learning from them. I really recommend working as smaller roles on features, it makes you understand the industry far more and for me got me the links I needed to build a crew for my own films. I’m also very fortunate to have been funded by Cherwell Productions on my last two projects.
8. You're emerging as a filmmaker to watch from the UK. What challenges and lessons have you learned so far about film production and execution?
I’ve learned how key people and people skills are to the industry, it’s all about who you know and being simply a nice person. Distribution is also a large challenge I'm finding more and more about, especially after the festival circuit. I’ve got a lot still to learn and I hope I never stop learning.
9. How would you describe the film industry in Manchester? As we heard that you recently came down to London to film another project.
Manchester is brilliant, the network is very tight and it’s slowly becoming a better hub for filmmaking. It’s an inspirational city and as some one who has grown up here and made films here, it’s really just as good as London for me.
10. What exclusive would you like to share in regards to your recent trip in London?
I was actually in London for an awards ceremony in Leicester Square rather than a shoot (The Into Film Awards) where I won the ‘Ones to Watch’ award and got to meet some great people like Charles Dance, Barbara Broccoli and Col Needham [Eddie Redmayne, Ruth Wilson and Daniel Craig were also there]. I haven't been on a shoot in London since ‘The Dead Sea’ but I look forward to working there again in the future.
11. With the rise of movie streaming such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, do you think that the public are still urging for original content external from major Hollywood?
I’m personally quite against films going straight to online streaming over a theatrical release. I do believe that people will always be interested in human stories that are fresh and new - not just those told on a studio lot with million pound budgets. Nothing beats a good story, especially one that is being made because it needs to be told rather than made for money. The current discussion of diversity in film I think emphasises this - people want themselves and their local areas to be represented in film. The success of ‘I, Daniel Blake’ was great, not only due to the fact it was made by Ken Loach, but because it showed a working class story that many people can relate to.
My films represent my local area of Oldham in Manchester and the people’s stories who live there. ‘Northern Lights’ for example tells a simple story of a girl who sees her town change around her, from what she once knew as a child. I want to see films from every culture (including Hollywood) and I think film would be very dull without that.
12. How can people keep updated and contact you?
13. To end this interview, we like to provide the following:
a) The top three items needed for a filmmaker to get started. In other words, a starter-kit:
- Other than of course a camera, lens and a story to tell.
Some form of lighting to create a contrast on a subjects face so it looks more cinematic (even an iPhone torch is better than nothing)
Friends to help out (Otherwise you'll be stuck making videos with your dog like I was).
Some good sound equipment, because to me there is nothing worse than bad sound.
b) Your favourite filmmaker that you aspire to be like.
Xavier Dolan probably, he combines realism with some very beautiful cinematic, almost surreal, moments that leave you in awe. He’s one of the one filmmakers who can make me cry. Also Martin Scorsese and Wong Kar-Wai)
c) One interesting fact about yourself.
I went from wanting to be a zookeeper, to a golf professional, to a magician before I found a love for film.