Make the Work You Want to See

Nicola Rose

Introduce yourself! Who are you?
My name is Nicola Rose. Since 2015, I’ve been a filmmaker. I’m at my best and most productive as a director, but I also have a lot of experience as a producer and casting director, both of which I enjoy as well.

Did you always know what you wanted to do as a career?
Not precisely. I wrote screenplays as a kid and I always had a very certain idea of how they should look and sound, but I didn’t equate that with being a director — I wanted to perform. For awhile, later on, I was lucky enough to make a living as a puppeteer. But I also started directing plays in my early twenties and became good at it. Then I got into directing and producing films instead, and I haven’t looked back since.

Were you scared to start the process? 
No. It was a move I needed to make. I knew my puppeteering days were numbered — it takes a crazy amount of energy that I needed to direct elsewhere. I also realized I was in my element as a director, and that I wanted to direct movies specifically. So it was a relief to change course.

What is one thing no one really knows about you?
I am such an open book that there’s probably nothing no one knows about me. But perhaps not everyone knows that my father is a well-known cartoonist, whose two comic strips can be seen here and here.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Probably “Make the work you want to see.” I don’t remember where I first heard it, but it made an impression on me. ” A runner-up would be: “Look for the antitheses and play them.” This was the director John Barton talking, but not to me. He said it to a group of Royal Shakespeare Company actors in the TV series Playing Shakespeare. At any rate, I think I took it to heart. I’m really attracted to opposites and juxtapositions and I never realized until recently how much I use them in my films.

What would you say to 16 year old you?
Right now, you’d rather work with talented people than kind people — if you had to choose only one or the other. In 12 or so years, you’ll realize how godawfully stupid that was and reverse your stance entirely. Of course, you’ll always be hunting for people who are both talented and kind.

Have you ever had anyone doubt you? How did that make you feel?
I have had people doubt me constantly since I was a kid. But I have also had people support, sustain and cheer for me just as constantly. When I was younger, the negative voices drowned out the positive, agitated me and made me fixate on my worth. This still happens occasionally, but it’s unnecessary. These days, I coexist more or less peacefully with both the negative and the positive voices. I have to keep doing what I do, anyway. That’s the only option.

What message do you think every woman should hear?
Don’t subscribe to any societally predetermined notion of what you should be. It will only make you unhappy. And be good to other women. While you’re at it, be good to men. Be good to everybody. (N.B. You may make exceptions for assholes who antagonize you first.)

Do you remember a specific time you overcame adversity?
I dealt with bullying and harassment from ages roughly 12 through 18. I think in the end its most positive effect has been to make me really acutely aware of how I’m treating people.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Don’t take anything seriously, especially not yourself. But — and this isn’t incompatible — strive to do work you can be proud of.

How do you manage your work-life balance?
For me, they’re one and the same. I’m not talking about workaholism, nor of the many odd jobs I do to sustain myself. I’m speaking only of the films I make, which are what I consider my “real” work. They’re the central force that sustains and drives me.

What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
It’s not all on a daily basis, but it comes down to a combination of listening to music, looking at art, spending time with animals, reading books, walking, going to museums, and especially traveling whenever I can.

Do you have a mentor? If so, what did they teach you?
My mentors throughout my life have been my parents. They have demonstrated how to go about your life even when it’s an atypical one. Plus, the ways they think things through are illuminating and rarely predictable.

If you weren’t doing the job you have now, what would you be doing?
I would probably be a child psychologist. Occasionally I say it’s what I will do when I quit filmmaking. But I’m kidding, because I don’t really want to quit. I think the path I’m on is the right one.

nicola rose

Nicola is a filmmaker (director, producer and casting director) in New York City. Her films include Creative Block (2017), In the Land of Moonstones (2018), and Gabrielle (2019), all of which have won awards on the film festival circuit. Nicola just finished shooting her newest film, Biff & Me, about the unlikely friendship between two misfits: a girl geek, whose secret dream is to be in a beauty pageant; and a boy bully, whose secret dream is to be in a beauty pageant.

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