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Christian Nicolson


Tell us a bit about your background.

I studied design and worked in advertising for about 10 years. I became frustrated at work and started to paint at home. It felt good to be doing something for myself and the response (to my relief). I started to sell work and have exhibitions which felt fantastic. Eventually the fine art side of things took over, I left my job and I became a full time artist. Now I paint, make large sculptures, use photography and make large installations as well as film. But it was the the discipline and creative process learned while doing design that has proven immeasurable.

How did you get started with filmmaking?

I started a indie rock band called Goon. I never saw the point letting someone else make our music videos, so I began making them myself. They were often ambitious, usually humorous and always low budget. I then started to do 48 hour films which I did for 8 years running. But I really wanted to make something big. A real movie with a professional crew and a professional finish. Then out of the blue came this movie competition called make my movie. This was open to anyone with a good idea and the winner got to make their film with $100,000. Wow imagine that. So I entered. Before I knew it I was in the final 12, then the final 4, then the final 2. Then they had to choose between a romantic comedy or this crazy epic sci fi. So I came second. At this point we had gained so much public support that I knew we were onto something so I decided I should make it anyway. I applied for government funding, looked for private investors and ran crowd funding campaigns. But none of it worked. Finally I decided to have an art sale instead and amazingly raised enough money to buy a fancy camera and get started. So thats what I did.

What are some of the things your enjoy about filmmaking?

I love the way it pulls together so many creative disciplines. I also enjoy the way it brings together so many like minded people. I have many more friends because of this movie. The whole process is exciting but seeing the finished product is the best.

What are some of the challenges?

I had never acted before which was challenging while directing. It was also difficult running a tight schedule sometimes because people worked for love not money. Budgeting was a constant pain. I often needed more money and it was hard to get. Consequently I had to do most things myself. I had to find creative ways of doing things without any real budget. Realistically for me everything was a challenge. I had never done most of this before. At least certainly not at this scale.

You have a film which will be screening at the Arohanui Film Festival. Tell us a bit more about it. 

This is a low budget epic movie the likes of which you will seldom see on this kind of budget. Although it was designed to look a certain way, it is still ambitious to shoot multi locations, massive sets, a multitude of extras with crazy home made costumes, numerous props and effects. So that’s what we did. It took 5 years of hard labour and a whole lot of love. But I am very satisfied with the result. It’s pretty much just the way I wanted it and people love it. It is about three ordinary guys who go to a sci fi convention and start watching an old b grade sci fi movie. They suddenly get sucked into the movie itself and get trapped in a low budget universe. Everything may look fake like a movie set but it’s real enough and it will kill you if you don’t watch out. Then one of our characters starts to change into a sci fi character and the race is on to find a cure before they all get lost in there forever. This is a crazy adventure of giant lizards, sexy amazons, kooky robots, evil warlords and epic space battles. What more could you want for a b grade sci fi movie?

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Why do you think film festivals are important for film and filmmakers?

I love film festivals but before this I had never been involved in any. They vary a lot though. Some just play your movies and others treat you like a celebrity and run the whole thing like it is a celebration. That’s the way I think they should be. Otherwise the word festival is a bit redundant. For us filmmakers its a chance to get our film out there in a very intimate and connected way. We can test it out and see and feel the audience reactions if we choose to go. They are also a bloody good way of getting accolades to help our cause. The majority of films don’t have a lot of money or stars attached so this is a great way of making up for that. For me having Laurels on my poster and a series of awards has really helped us. It has given me and my movie some credibility. That and a couple of good reviews goes a long way. When I search for a movie I look at the cover. If it has no stars in it but has festival laurels then I think its probably worth watching.

How the the filmmaking landscape changed in New Zealand over the last couple of years?

That’s a question that is a bit hard for me to answer. I have not had time to notice. The film commission has apparently expressed a desire for fun and quirky films which is good. (However have totally ignored mine). Ahem… Hello. Many DVd stores have closed down and things have shifted online. This changes the end goal for most people. I have noticed a lot more independent people making features without funding. I am not alone in my quest. But it may also be that I am more in tune with the scene now where as before I was not.


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