Hothouse 2013: Meet a Mentor

Time is running out to get involved in Hothouse 2013. With applications closing in a fortnight – Monday 4 March, 2013 – it’s time to get creating!

Need some inspiration for your application? ACMI Hothouse Coordinator, Hermione Merry, caught up with one of this year’s program mentors- director, filmmaker and all round nice guy, Nicholas Verso – to get a rare glimpse into his brilliant mind.

Hermione Merry: Nick when did realise you wanted to become a director and who were your early influences?

Nicholas Verso: When I was 10 I was in a drama production as an actor and the director happened to comment that I had a good idea for how things should be on the stage, so she told me I should pursue that (I wasn’t a great actor either). I realised I was much happier deciding how everything should play out rather than doing the actual playing myself. So I guess that drama teacher was an early influence.

I’d always loved films and I guess the big influences on me were things I watched growing up like 80’s films from Steven Spielberg, or fantasy like the Jim Henson films. I remember they used to play lots of old Hollywood films on TV on Saturday nights when I was growing up, so I saw every Alfred Hitchcock film when I was about 8 and always loved those.

HM: What was the first film that you made? What did you learn from the experience?

NV: The first film I made was an adaptation of Lord of the Flies for a school project. We made a huge fire with gasoline and even had a pig’s head. It was shot at Williamstown Beach in the middle of winter.  I guess I learned not to tell adults what you were up to.

HM: Who has been your most influential mentor during your career so far and why?

NV: I actually always craved a real mentor who would take me under their wing but I never really found one.  Everyone’s too busy!  That said, I have had a lot of people who have given me so much support and guidance over the years who I owe a lot to.  Particularly people like Ann Darrouzet who gave me my first TV directing gig, John Molloy whose support gave me a lot of courage and confidence in my vision and especially lecturers at uni along the way who were always generous with tricks of the trade and career advice.

HM: What is the most challenging thing about directing?

NV: You have to be decisive, have a lot of energy and be calm under pressure.  People are relying on you to make the right decisions in stressful situations for long hours so you really have to be prepared.  You always have to really believe in what you’re doing because you have to inspire a crew that’s often tired, cold, grumpy and have been up since 4am.  So you have to be making something that will get them genuinely exciting and feel that it’s worth it.

HM: How do you build a rapport with your actors?

NV: I listen to them.  If you’re working with experienced actors, they know what works for them and what doesn’t and it’s good to know both.  I ask them tough questions (tough for me as the answer might not be one I want to hear and might make me have to work harder) and really listen to the response.  And I try to create an environment where they feel safe and secure so they can do their work which can often be very vulnerable for them.

HM: What is your favourite thing about directing?

NV: There are so many things.  I love it when a scene isn’t working and you find that one thing you can offer an actor that suddenly makes them light up and the scene turn to gold.  I love seeing the world change through the lens as people transform into something different to what they are.  I love the editing process when you can finally match the images with the right music or sound and it hits you in the heart.  And I love hearing an audience react, whether that be gasping or laughing.  Hopefully not yawning.

If you, like a young aspiring Nick, crave a fabulous mentor for your start in the film industry then Hothouse may just be the answer.

– Hermione Merry, Hothouse Coordinator, ACMI

Hothouse 2013 focuses on narrative filmmaking. Applications are open now and close on Mon 4 March, 2013. Good luck!

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