British Director Nathan Camponi on debut film 'Selfie'

Walk into any SU bar and throw a stone. Chances of you hitting a Film and TV student are high and the chances of you interrupting their conversation about Tarantino are even higher. Getting into the movies is damn near everyone’s dream, but sadly they’re all labouring under the significant handicap of not being American. 

The British Film Industry is incredibly difficult to break into, but there are ways. You can intern, you can be a runner, you can go down on anyone wearing a North Face jacket and hope that somehow gets you a job on the Doctor Who 2nd Unit, or you can go in through the wire and get started like many do… in advertising. 

One of those many is Nathan Camponi, a commercial and music video director just about to embark on his first feature film, an indie picture called “Selfie”. Wireless had a little chat with the Yorkshire born boy to find out what the bloody hell was going on…

'Selfie' is my first film, and it's a really dark drama set entirely in one apartment, featuring only one character - a fictional actress, a young celebrity - dealing with a media scandal that has broken all over the social networks about her. Over the course of the film, she tries to work out who leaked it and drives herself mad. It's an 80 minute monologue, with some interesting visual twists. It's actually really fucked up and a bit weird.

Will there be other characters introduced or will your heroine be by herself, ALA Ryan Reynolds in Buried?

She's by herself, the whole movie. It's a one-man show. Or rather, a one-woman show.

Is this based on any celebrity in particular?

No not at all. It's tongue-in-cheek. If you've got a twisted sense of humour, you'll find aspects of it funny. I guess it's about our obsession with celebrity and fame, but it's not really a social commentary... Well, maybe it is in a sort of surreal, fractured way. It's more about how narcissistic and self-obsessed social networking has made us - in particular, young people.

Did you have anyone in mind for the part when you wrote it?

No I didn't, but that's a bit strange for me because I'm a pretty visual person, and I have to see things to get my head around them. When I write, I always imagine famous faces playing the parts, but with this one, I wanted to keep the character quite pure. I also didn't want to get fixed on a particular 'big' actress because I knew the way I was going to make the movie meant that I'd never be able to cast them.

What made you interested in this as a subject for your first film?

Well, I wanted to make my first film really small and cheap. So I said to myself that I was only going to cast one person, and use one location. Then I realised that another film I'd been working on about social networking would be much more interesting if it was set in one room, to contrast with the vastness of an online social network. So I put the two together, and suddenly I had something intriguing. Psychology interests me, human behaviour interests me, and there's no bigger shift in both of those things than the effect social networking has on the people growing up today.

Do you prefer writing or directing?

They're two completely different things. I don't find writing particularly easy - it's not something that comes naturally to me, despite me thinking that's what I wanted to do throughout my teens. Directing is much more my thing, because it's about putting lots of different pieces of a huge puzzle together. I also love design and colour and lighting and architecture and if I direct, I get to interact with those things on a daily basis.

You're originally a commercial director. How did you get into that?

Advertising is in my blood. My dad works in the industry - although a different section of it - so it was a natural progression. I had to work really hard though - you still have to prove yourself. So I made tea, tidied shelves, photocopied, faxed, answered phones and generally ran around for a production company for a long time, then I stepped up and directed my first ad when I was 23.

Did you study film at Uni then/Where did you study?

I did. Leeds Metropolitan University. Film and TV production. I have a very complicated opinion about my experience there. I met great people, a few of whom I'm still close to. But I found the whole experience to be quite negative. There was never a can-do attitude. So, I just started making tea for a film production company, and gradually went to uni less and less. I learned more in six months making tea for directors and producers than I did in 3 years at uni.

Did you find it helpful having a degree when it came to breaking into the industry?

No. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do one. In hindsight, I should have done something like history or art, or psychology. I didn't learn one single thing about filmmaking on my film course, so I'd say do a degree in a subject that interests you and broadens your mind, then shoot films in your spare time.

Any advice for people wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Well, Malcome Gladwell's book says that you should rack up 10,000 hours of practice to become a master of something, so I would say just shoot a lot and get really good. There's too many people out there these days that expect to be handed everything on a plate. Work really hard, make tea, shoot, edit, repeat. There's cameras everywhere these days, so just start shooting. I love the iPhone's camera, and I shoot all kinds of stuff on it. It's easy, it's quick and it's pretty good quality. I'd love to shoot something on it for real, actually.

Words by Gazz Wood

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