For those of you who came along to our first Kaleido Shorts event, you would have been treated to a stellar line up of local filmmakers, writers, directors and producers showcasing their short films. One of those was talented actor Nicholas Denton who wrote and starred in the award winning short film Rabbit. To celebrate the online release of the film (which you can watch below!), we had a chat with Nicholas about the process, creative collaboration and the next project on the horizon.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey into acting and writing
I am an actor for the most part. Since I was little I have always wanted to be involved in anything creative. When I was 9 I was making wrestling movies with my brother and his friends in our back yard and then started shooting Jackass-style videos around Melbourne… they are terrible and disgusting. I couldn’t be prouder of those videos. I did a bunch of high school plays. Most memorably playing a fish…A supporting role… No lines…
A couple of years ago I started a small production company in Melbourne called Patch Adams Productions with two friends of mine, Arielle Thomas and Ryan Murphy. We did this mainly because we were out of work actors. I had written so many scripts and stories and never knew what to do with them. I had tried getting them produced but a lot of it fell through. In the end, we thought, lets just do it ourselves. I recently heard someone say that the first pieces of work you create will be some of your greatest.
When you have a project you have sat on for a long time, you know it inside our, but you also have no idea what you are getting yourself into. When we first started we make a lot of mistakes because of our naivety. We didn’t know what could go wrong, so nothing frightened us or held us back. You learn quickly what can go wrong, but I’m so glad we didn’t know when we started, or else we wouldn’t have made Rabbit. Ignorance really can be blissful.
What inspired the idea behind the film Rabbit?
I have always been interested in the idea of love, hope and identity. Emotions that flow between these themes and the struggles to find those emotions in certain contexts. For Rabbit, I was just riffing off my life at the time. Not to say that anything in this film has directly happened to me, but I know and have known people who have had these kind of backgrounds and experiences. It seemed to me that the relationships they had with their friends or girlfriends usually struck one of two notes; either they kept themselves shut in or were desperate at times for a parental or guiding figure. I think this film touches on the second. It gives us an insight into the mind of a young man who is desperate for that figure of trust and support. He seems to find this trusting and almost maternal figure in his girlfriend, Katya (played by Emily Wheaton), however along the way he forgets that she is just a teenager like him, a teenager who can’t always find light in some of his darkest secrets.
How important is it for actors to be creating their own projects?
I think it is incredibly important. Really, I am only just properly starting out in this industry. I am not by any means a big name actor or writer, however I do have an idea of what little work there is in this country and how difficult it is to actually be doing what it is you love doing. The truth is, there will never be enough work for the amount of actors out there. Actors are really in this for the love, not for cash and if you want to be doing something better than a Helga’s bread commercial, then you have to make your own work. Cameras are so accessible now, there is crew that want to help on decent projects and actors who are natural story tellers. We have to make our own work, or we will wait hungrily by the phone for a job. If I do that, I will undoubtedly starve. I don’t want to starve.
How key is creative exchange and collaboration in bringing independent projects to life? What was this process like during the filming of Rabbit?
I think collaboration has a lot to do with trust. Trust in the director to honour the writer, trust in the writer to believe in the director’s vision, in the producers to give freedom yet to hold things together, the actors to be selfless and willing, and the rest of the team to be passionate about the work and not to drop the ball. The team behind this film trusted it. Thats why the process was great, I worked with some of the kindest and most passionate people I have ever met. I had never met Matt Richards (director) before we made the film and I now call him a good friend. He is older than I am and has had a lot more experience in this world than I have, yet he still wanted to help young film makers develop great work.
Thom Neal our cinematographer was another person who I hadn’t worked with and I honestly consider him to be one of the finest cinematographers in his field. He is young but gave us his trust. The producers are two of my best friends, and they trusted the script I brought them. It’s a great feeling when people get behind your work and an even better feeling when you can see the excitement on a set where the crew sees good in what they are making.
You’ve just finished working on your new film project Pillars, can you tell us a about this?
We just finished Pillars in late March and that’s in the festival world now. We are gunning for a Melbourne Screening somewhere to get it out there. Pillars is pretty different to Rabbit but carries a similar tone. It’s about a relationship in a small coastal town outside of Sydney where a tragedy occurs on these jumping rocks and really shakes the town. It is mostly about emotional disconnect and complacency but still follows those themes of love, hope and identity.
Any other projects in the works for you we should keep an eye out for?
We are all keeping pretty busy in our own ways, I am doing a play at the end of the year called Jasper Jones here in Melbourne and my co-director Arielle Thomas is off to the States to work on a few things. There are some goodies in the pipe line. I’d keep an eye out next year as the cogs are always in motion.
If you missed the screening of the amazing short film Rabbit at Kaleido Shorts, you can now watch it here:
Director – Matt Richards
Writer – Nicholas Denton
Cinematography – Thom Neal
Editor – Patrick McCabe
Production company – Patch Adams Productions
Starring: Nicholas Denton, Emily Wheaton, Alex Menglet and Trent Heath.
Winner – Mosaic World Film Festival (2015) ‘Best Narrative Film’
Winner – San Francisco International Festival of Short Films (2014) ‘Special Recognition for Direction’
Winner – St Kilda Film Festival (2015) ‘Best Actor – Nicholas Denton’
Winner – FIKE International Short Film Festival (2015) Special Mention ‘Best Actor – Nicholas Denton’
Nominated – St Kilda Film Festival (2015) ‘Best Film’
Nominated – Australian Screen Editors Guild “Ellie” Awards (2014) – ‘Best Editing in a Short Film’