Exclusive interview with Nicholas Zakrajcek – Filmmaker
Bio: ”Nicholas Zakrajcek is a young film writer & director well ahead on his path to be Australia’s next big Hollywood export. At 21, he holds an array of international film awards and titles including the top spot in what is credited as Australia’s biggest short film festival, being the youngest ever to do so.
His career story, however early, has already taken him through the worlds of film, photography, commercial and documentary filmmaking; from gritty guerrilla style projects to some of Hollywood’s biggest studios including Disney, Marvel and Fox. All together, they have landed him on a path to his own groundbreaking feature film which is set to be one of the most talked about of its year.”
NY Glam: Tell us a little about yourself, growing up and your passions.
Cinema has always been the be-all and end-all. It was at an age where kids also wanted to be astronauts and soccer players. It’s been interesting seeing how people’s reactions change over time. It starts off as ‘shoot for the moon’ then ends up somewhere at ‘whats the backup?” These opinions don’t usually persist.
NY Glam: Did you have any specific influences growing up that lead you towards the film industry?
Tarantino is often at the top of my influences list; not as much because of his films specifically but more so in his philosophy and methodology of writing and filmmaking. Just hearing him talk about his films and others makes you realise how little you’ve been connecting to other people before that moment.
NY Glam: What are you currently working on?
‘Wish You Were Here’ is a feature film that captures the feeling and monument of the finale of a long-running TV show. This film will be my feature debut. The script was written over three years and involved way too many months locked away in an apartment with blacked out windows and no connection to the real world in any capacity.
NY Glam: What were your main responsibilities on this film?
‘Wish You Were Here’ is an auteur-style film meaning my job won’t be strict to a single role. I’ll have a level of influence over every part of the film – in the same way that Scorsese and Fincher do – creating a style of film where you don’t need to see the credits to know who made it. It’s the difference between just having a job on some film and having the film be yours – all the greats work in this style. Of course with the balance of still having people do the job that they were hired to do and are knowledgeable about.
NY Glam: What was the most important thing for this movie to achieve from a narrative and character standpoint?
Simplified, the mission of the first two acts of this story is to bond the audience and characters as greatly as possible. It runs into some interesting situations as people bond most intensively in a real-time, contained single-location scenario but the relationships that have any ‘weight’ are formed over many years and over many places. With these two requirements for this bond being polar opposites, it encourages some creative problem solving. e.g. to deal with a location needing to be a contained, single location but also be a multitude of different locations we set the film on an island – it achieves the containment but also allows for an expanse of locations.
NY Glam: What makes a film interesting for you? What are three qualities that you look for in a movie?
Moments make movies. As does a feeling of newness and the experience of having expectations then having them defied; not the kind of expectations where you consciously decide what is coming, but the type where you didn’t realize you had an expectation until they are defied. The combination of these three things, in addition to the expected level of story and characters, are what will keep the audience enthralled.
NY Glam: What are you most proud of? Describe your biggest accomplishment to date?
Winning what is credited as Australia’s biggest short film festival is probably the greatest quantifiable achievement but, in terms of being most proud, I think it’s looking back on early short films and seeing the kinds of things you were doing at such a young age.
NY Glam: As a screenwriter, what is the most important aspect of building a character?
Specifically for this film, a major piece of the main characters group that is crucial to the ‘extreme’ ending is making their friendship genuine. It wasn’t until I was looking at all my references and influences for this lead group and saw that none of them were based on other films. The vast majority of this list was real-life friend groups in addition to a few TV show friend groups. There are existing friend groups in movies but they never feel like they could be friends in real life; there’s no chemistry and the film loses as lot because of this. That’s one of the most important aspects of building these characters; it’s crucial to the story. There is also a lot of benefit to this because it us such a rarity in film so its power potency is at its greatest and every moment will have a feeling of nuance to it that will engage the audience throughout the film.
NY Glam: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Storytelling; evoking emotions and creating experiences, is my ambition.
NY Glam: Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re super excited about?
Wish You Were Here is ready for the next stage. The short film version that I’ve written is to give people an idea of what this project is about – much like what Damien Chazelle did with Whiplash – so the plan is to go to Sundance and garner the attention needed to go through to this next stage.