Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Producer Nadia Bassett

NadiaBassettUnderwritten

Hailing from South Africa, Nadia Bassett married Canadian actor Rick Howland and now lives in Toronto.  With over a decade of experience in running her own event production company TLATSOI (The Long And The Short Of It), her skills translate well in the film industry and Nadia successfully produced her first award winning short, “Underwritten” in 2011.

“Underwritten” was made for the international competition, the 48 Hour Film Project.  As they put it, “A wild and sleepless weekend in which you and a team make a movie - write, shoot, edit and score it - in just 48 hours. On Friday night, you get a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre, all to include in your movie. 48 hours later, the movie must be complete. Then it screens at a local theater the next week.”

Nadia passionately supports the movement to bring PWD (Persons With Disabilities) to the fore in film and television – both behind and in front of the camera.  She believes that stereotyping PWD serves nobody, and she strives to make entertaining and captivating work that present new ways for audiences to think about PWD.  There are wonderfully talented directors, producers, editors, actors, animation artists, etc. that are PWD and anyone who ignores these individuals, is missing a truly special experience – it's a privilege I have had and I cherish. “I want the projects I work on (story, acting and the filmmaking) to be so outstanding that the disability becomes invisible to agents, casting directors, distributors, broadcasters and eventually viewers.  It will be a brave few that support the inclusion of PWD in film and television, but I look forward to sharing the ride with them, one project at a time.”

You can follow Nadia on Twitter @virtuallynormal

What is "Underwritten" about?

In this heartfelt award winning western heist romantic comedy short film, a rich railway owner schools his naive son in insurance when a porter is accidentally kidnapped during a train robbery by an unwitting employee and his persuasive wife. It's a happy ending for all but one.

Th rules and structure of the 48 Hour Film Project meant we had to use four elements provided by the organisers in our film.  It had to be a Western or Musical featuring a character named Chrispian Woods (a Passenger Attendant/Porter) and the mandatory prop was a magnifying glass, and somewhere in the film we had to use the line of dialogue "What's your recommendation?".   Some would think that having to include mandatory elements is too restrictive, but for a competition with a tight turnaround time, it actually provides great boundaries.

Why did you want to do a "48 Hour Film Project"?

For years preceding the making of “Underwritten” Rick and his friends had been talking about making movies, and I had over 15 years of production experience.  So when I arrived in Canada from South Africa, I ambushed them and just signed us up for the competition. It was a “put your money where your mouth is” challenge.

There were many reasons not to do it but I’m a firm believer that in all aspects of life, if you don’t just do it when an opportunity arises, you may never do it and then you have to live with regrets.  We really had nothing to lose except sleep which is overrated anyway.

I also felt strongly that making a film this way would be a make or break experience.  We all thought we wanted to make films and were talented enough to do it, but could we actually?  This competition tests your skills and endurance without the pressure of budget, time and resources so it was an ideal experiment.  And fortunately for us, it was affirming.

What is the independent film scene like where you live?

In Toronto, Canada it’s vibrant! There are many gutsy filmmakers here that are passionate about their art and are finding non-traditional ways to raise funds, rope in friends and get their films made.  I take my hat off to anyone with that drive and resilience.  In South Africa it’s probably even more exciting as even though South African filmmakers face many more challenges, they are able to find ways to and use their initiative to harness the energy of Africa and its peoples to make outstanding films.

What does it feel like when your film wins awards?

It feels really good, and it’s a real motivation for doing more!  I think being recognised by peers and audiences is very important (if not critical) to creative people.  On the other hand, the competitive perfectionist in me cringed at the minor imperfections and although I wanted the overall award and a screening at Cannes, this wasn’t the film that would take us there.  I know that when a film I produce get’s to Cannes, it’ll be the perfect film and the perfect timing.

What's it like to work with Bernie Henry and Stephen Simeon?

Bernie and Stephen are extremely generous and talented people – it was a treat to work with them.

Stephen (our cinematographer) has had many years of experience in photography and also DIY which meant that when he came on board, he naturally built a camera jib right?! Well he did, and it worked – check out the sweet action in our opening shots and the “Oh Boy Pie” scene.  The beautiful lighting in the film was Stephen’s touch, and it has received compliments from professional DOPs.

Bernie (our editor) is a true artist – a musician, an actor, a videographer, a writer and an editor.  Editing is at the tail-end of filmmaking and often carries the most pressure, Bernie handled it, and us, really well even when the power went out and he lost some edits, he regained composure after some choice words, and got straight back on the horse.  It was also great watching him and Anita Beaty work on scoring and editing the film together as they calmly managed to ignore the intensity of the looming deadline.

What's it like working with Rick Howland?

Is that a trick question?   Rick was Underwritten’s co-writer and director and also my husband and best friend.  I knew going in that there were risks to working with family and friends on a project like this, but I honestly believed that we all needed a creative shove and that we were solid enough to withstand the blows.  Rick and I differ which is probably what makes it work so well, he is the vision engine that drives creativity and excites people and I am the analytical risk assessing do-er that makes those sometimes crazy ideas and people all come together.

Rick was really supportive and not a diva at all, he listened and gave input and never took any guidance, suggestions or critique personally.  He worked hard at balancing the director’s vision with the producer’s constraints.

On a personal level, I was impressed by the quality of this film – I thought it would be good, but was really blown away by the quality of the final product.  That success is attributed to everyone involved.

What is the key to a successful "48 Hour Film Project"?

Planning!  I needed to know exactly how the weekend would run so I could plan and put everything in place to make it as enjoyable and stress free as possible which would ultimately give us the best chance of success. My questions were, how long would it take to write a script, what resources would we need, who was available and willing to be on the team, what technical equipment would we need, what risks and challenges would we potentially face, etc.  So the best way was to do some dry runs. We had the production, writing, editing, camera and directing team (i.e. the 4 of us) come together to do a dry run.  We pulled 4 fictitious elements from a hat and wrote a script, did a story board and drafted a props and cast list.  We realised that if we didn’t put deadlines to each element, any delays would have a knock on affect and put the editor under pressure.

We sourced some shooting locations and actors ahead of time and had them on standby so we could craft the script to what we had available.

The dry run exercise was really valuable as we made decisions on roles and responsibilities and those carried through to the actual competition weekend so everyone was clear on their contribution.

In addition to the planning and our talented creative team, the fact that we had access to a phenomenal cast and crew that were so generous with their time, for free, made it that much easier to make the film.

What independent film should everyone see (besides "Underwritten")?

"Sex After Kids" of course.  And follow Jeremy LaLonde on twitter @LaLondeJeremy, he’s a real treat.

Searching For Sugar Man – not only is it a great film with a subject close to my heart, but the fact that they ran out of funds and didn’t give up makes it a must-support film.  Read the amazing story at http://movies.yahoo.com/blogs/2013-oscars/malik-bendjelloul-talks-oscar-nominated-movie-searching-sugar-013547675.html

How was being a producer on "Sex After Kids" different from being a producer on "Underwritten"?

Very different!  My credit on "Sex After Kids" is an “honorary” one – as the film was crowd funded, those that contributed a certain amount were credited as Associate Producer.  Jeremy LaLonde is one of those gutsy filmmakers and supporting his projects is investing in Independent Film as a whole. It’s important for all Indie filmmakers to support one another, there’s plenty of room for everyone in the industry – and the more Canadian filmmakers make it here and internationally, the better for us all.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

I would recommend entering the 48 Hour Film Project to anyone starting out in film, or those of us who need a fresh kick in the pants.  It’s a weekend you will never forget!

I would also like to thank those bloggers and journalists and new media supporters who discuss and promote Indie Film/Filmmakers, it’s sincerely appreciated so keep it up.

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Thank you so much for doing the interview Nadia.  I really appreciate your passion for independent film.