A Candid Interview with Nicole Quinn
– by Heidi Philipsen
Film and Theater Director Nicole Quinn recently joined UPWIFT (Upstate NY Women in Film & TV – a sister of NYWIFT) as a Guest Speaker of their quarterly Reel Women Screening Series at WAMC’s The Linda, in Albany, NY, where they screened her narrative feature “Racing Daylight.”
NYWIFT caught up with her in the filmmaker’s lounge:
1.) HOW DID YOU END UP BECOMING A DIRECTOR?
Necessity. I never found anyone who was as committed as I was to getting my projects made.
2.) WHAT IS YOUR WORK METHODOLOGY AS A DIRECTOR?
I think the director’s job is to be a benign dictator ruling over a country of artists, in the land of ten thousand questions. Someone has to see the big picture and say yes or no. Defend the story, the actors, the characters, the crew, the money, and the producers, with a light hand and a smile if you can muster it.
3.) WHAT ARE THE CONSTRUCTIONS AGAINST WHICH YOU MUST DESPISE WORKING?
I don’t enjoy a set built on a class system. I’m in favor of hiring the most creative people to head their departments, and then letting them do that without a lot of over the shoulder looking. I will only hire the kindest of those creative people, those not prone to tantrums and a “look at me” approach to the work.
4.) WHAT ARE THE BOUNDARIES THAT SERVE YOU AS A STORYTELLER/CREATIVE ARTIST, IF ANY?
I was raised in a theocracy, and by that I mean Catholic school for 12 years, 9 of those in boarding schools run by nuns. I’m of mixed ethnicity, adopted by African American professionals, who chose to be activists. I have sense of social responsibility ingrained, and years of dogma to analyze. This is my box, my baggage.
5.) RACE FORWARD FIFTY YEARS – HOW DO YOU THINK THAT WE, AS A SOCIETY, WOULD LOOK BACK AT THESE TIMES?
I’ve jumped over a million years ahead in “The Gold Stone Girl.”
If you want to know what I think might happen from this trajectory, give the books a read. It took me eight years to formulate those thoughts. I think I’ll leave 50 years to someone else.
6.) WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO MAKE IT A MORE EVEN PLAYING FIELD FOR YOU TO SUSTAINABLY CREATE?
Let’s be real, if women make up only 6% of the history books, as if we weren’t there, or, as if our lives were unimportant to these world events, why should we be surprised that we are underrepresented and objectified elsewhere? We are 51%. Let’s act like it. Stop asking for permission and let’s just make shit happen! That’s what I tell myself.
7.) WHAT IS YOUR NEXT PASSION PROJECT?
I would set out to hire Amma Assante to direct the pilot and cast Zoe Kravitz as Mina and Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Viola Davis or Maggie Smith to play the Night Mare, in this hero’s journey that pushes an anti-feminist dystopia as the norm, and then offers us a way out.
8.) WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE FOR WOMEN IN FILM TODAY?
That we didn’t have to be women in film, but could be just filmmakers. I’ve never liked the modifiers I’ve worn, black actor, woman writer of color over 40, ticking three EEOC boxes at once. Stories are human. Stories that endure are about the large arcs we all share, birth and death, love, lust, and hate. Add in the holy trinity – shame, blame and guilt, and we realize how much we all have in common, even if the costumes and locations are site specific, ethnic.