Writer-Director Nicole Clinton Pursues Her Passion For Filmmaking

Please introduce yourself. What do you do? Why? What do you want people to know about you?

I am an up-and-coming writer-director originally from Cork, Ireland, but whose heart resides in Los Angeles. Currently, I am in the development stages of production on my feature-film directorial debut, Innocence Lost: a subversive coming-of-age drama/stylish erotic-thriller about a timid 21-year-old girl whose profound bond with her thrill-seeking older sister gets her entangled in a world of sex and murder in 1980s Los Angeles that tests the limits of her comfort zone, and their relationship.

After deciding at the age of 14 that I wanted to make films, my vocation was set. I would share my visions and stories with the world through the screen. That said, an unfortunate battle with a perceived lack of opportunity, saw my foray into fashion journalism for a brief spell during my college undergrad years. I was gaining a reputation as an exciting, original (if not unorthodoxly academic) voice in fashion writing, and contributing to boutique fashion publications in London and Dublin.

But after a definitive “feeling” made me refuse the chance to study fashion journalism at the prestigious London College of Fashion not once, but twice, I realized it didn’t feel right because the film was my true art form and I ultimately reverted back to the path I always wanted to be on.

Writing an innovative thesis on “Iconography, Nostalgia and Gender Representation in the Music Videos of Lana Del Rey”, I graduated with an MA in Film and Screen Media from the National University of Ireland in 2018 and began writing, directing, and producing numerous low-budget short films and music videos.

I turned my attention to feature screenwriting for the US market in 2019, fostering a fruitful writing partnership with a friend, Kenneth Kelliher, and building a portfolio of well-received spec scripts for film and television projects.

However, one of my feature scripts, in particular, Innocence Lost, always felt too close, too personal, too precious, to sell to the proverbial highest bidder. Based on a short film I made in 2017 and written as an ode to deep sister relationships like my own, and as an exploration of the female socio-sexual experience, this film is a long-standing passion project for me and a culmination of all of my preoccupations as an artist and as a storyteller. How could I ever just give it away? And so, in the deepest depths of pandemic lockdown, I made the decision I would find a way to make it myself. And here we are.

Tired of waiting around for the figurative gates to be opened, I’m going to make the film happen and am working tirelessly to get the elements in place to bring my vision to life, with an eye to shooting the film in late 2022. A striking statement loaded with the potential to become an iconic cult classic, made by a new generation of undiscovered, innovative young talent it will be a fresh take on the coming-of-age drama.

A tale of love and self-discovery that is unsettling, if not controversial will take the genre to bold new heights for females. And that’s why I want to make it. As a filmmaker, I am interested in emotional and psychological explorations, and stylized aesthetics. Drawing from deeply personal experiences, I am inspired to share stories that open my eyes and make people think.

What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?

I’m an old-soul nostalgia, with the youthful awareness and edginess of my peer millennials. I have a very specific artistic vision, a combination of nostalgic stylization and hard-hitting emotion with a splice of provocative statement to explore the gray areas that people don’t like to think about. I like to ask questions, and not provide any definite answers. Ambiguity and flexibility of interpretation excite me in a way that scares most.

As a fashion journalist, I treated fashion as a serious subject that warrants intellectual discussion and expression as much as possible. I liked to write about fashion in the same way that I would write about art or literature, by examining the techniques and the consequent effects of clothing and style. Similarly, aesthetics carry weight in my films. They will look and feel cool. But the style has to be grounded by heavy substance- otherwise, it’s just fluff.

And in creating that substance, I’m not afraid to get personal or honest. I poor my personality and my experiences into my work, exaggerating and dramatizing intimate feelings into sensationalized stories or characters so as to create dynamic, authentic screen explorations.

Describe THAT moment when you realized you’re doing what you were born to do.

I was on set for my short film “The Muse” in 2017. Sound and audio were particularly important to that project as it was a faux-documentary style film that juxtaposed fictional television interviews from the 1990s with a young model and a fashion photographer to explore their respective memories of their relationship. I had a very specific vision for how I wanted the film to look and sound (the actor’s voices, the rhythm of the dialogue, etc.), as it was a script that I “heard” very clearly when I was writing it.

Onset for the recording of the photographer character’s interview, I closed my eyes and just listened to the interaction being performed and like magic, I saw and felt the movie exactly how I had imagined it. The product aligned perfectly with the vision. It was utterly euphoric. When shooting the other scene, I sat behind the camera as Eimear, my actress, spoke the lines. I leaned in, directing her, soaking it in, engaging, feeling the vibrations of her performance as she showed me the very character I had dreamed of. It was exhilarating, capturing the urgency, feeding each other’s energies.

Being a collaborative artist at work, at the moment with the actor. I had made short films before, but THAT experience was the moment that I realized I was doing what I was born to do. I had experienced a rush, a buzz that can only be created through filmmaking.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to go through and how did you grow through it?

The biggest challenge for me was overcoming the idea that I had to wait for a golden ticket to come in my door for something to happen. I struggled with that perceived lack of control over my life and my career, that I had to submit my fate to competitions and gatekeepers.

Entering contests, applying for positions, cold queries, spending days, weeks, months working on stuff that bore no fruit. Believed that the way I was going to get to do what I wanted to do was by being chosen by someone. I was stressed out, and worn out from coming up with new avenues to try and it was sucking the life, and the hope out of me. And my ultimate epiphany, the moment that changed me, was realizing that it is more than likely never going to happen.

I realized I have to stop thinking about the opportunities that I could win or be granted, and start thinking about the opportunities that I can make happen. Other opportunities will spring from that. Take it step by step. I want to make a feature film. Then I’ll bring it into existence, one piece at a time.

But I don’t lament any of the time before the epiphany lost or wasted, I consider it necessary to learn the lesson that wherever possible, focus on what you can control, make your goal something that you can achieve that’s not left open to chance.

I realized that the people that can help me right now, may not be the people above me, but rather, those on the same level as me, the people who have their skin in the game, who need this as much as you, the people who are going to be the breaking talent of your generation, that you will work with over the next 40-50 years.

Who are the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could elevate your career or business? Why these specific individuals?

1) Margot Robbie – not only is she a phenomenal actor who I’d love to work with, but she is also a prolific producer who champions fresh, female-centric projects under her production company LuckyChap Entertainment.

2) Sam Levinson -I think he is one of the most exciting new voices in film and television today. He makes bold and edgy content that radiates both style and substance and is not afraid to take risks or get controversial to make a point or make people think harder about what they’re looking at.

3) Zendaya – she is not only superbly talented but intelligent and audacious in her approach to her work. I would love to direct her in a film and collaborate with her as a producer as I admire how involved she is in the projects she chooses.

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Vianka Petines
Vianka Petines
Vianka is a bright, savvy, and capable marketing publicist. She brings a breath of fresh air with a very sound approach to strategy and campaign development. We're excited to have her on the team :)


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