Nicholas Eriksson is an award-winning Director of Photography based in UK. Nick has delivered a wide range of projects for numerous clients, working on projects throughout the UK and Europe, North America, Africa, the Middle East, India, and Asia, where he was based in Hong Kong.
Nicholas Eriksson directed the short film “Ellston Bay”, written by Edward Carter, produced by Tristan Loraine, starring: John Rhys-Davies, Richard Kovacs, and Christina Hardy. Ellston Bay screened at the International Filmmaker Festival of New York, which took place at Kaufman Astoria Studios in New York. “Ellston Bay” received “Best Cinematography” Nomination at IFFNY.
Hollywood Insider Interview with Director Nicholas Eriksson
Hollywood World: First of all, congratulations to the “Ellston Bay” team for receiving the IFFNY Grand Jury Prize “Best Cinematography” Nomination in New York. How did you feel at the time when you found out?
Nicholas Eriksson: Thank you. Receiving IFFNY’s Grand Jury Prize Nomination for Best Cinematography was a great surprise and one which I did not anticipate, especially given the quality of the competition. The greatest feeling was not for myself, but for being able to share the good news with the cast and crew who worked so hard on the project. It is also testament to originating on film and 35mm VistaVision that beautiful images can be created on these glorious formats from the Hollywood Golden Age.
Hollywood World: What was the most significant decision in shooting your current film?
Nicholas Eriksson: The most significant decision I made in creating Ellston Bay was my commitment to ensure the project would be completed, and that I wouldn’t be swayed off course from my ambitions, whatever challenges we faced. Creating a film project of any size is a great challenge, especially when working with tight budgetary constraints. I made this process more difficult for myself than it needed to be, partly by insisting on shooting on 35mm VistaVision and also by integrating both filming on water, and underwater photography into the shoot. I am very pleased I did however. I feel that being on the edge of your comfort zone (and sometimes in unknown territory) is a good place to be and inspires everyone to find solutions to problems. I am not so interested in creating something that’s too technically easy to achieve, I want to push myself.
Hollywood World: What part of the script/story best stood out for you and why?
Nicholas Eriksson: The script for Ellston Bay was something of a labour of love for Edward Carter and I. We worked very hard to ensure that we were treading the fine line between being too prescriptive and being too ‘on the nose’ with our exposition. I feel our greatest achievement is that we retained an eerie sense of mystery throughout, without any moments that break that mood. This is easier said than done of course, but we did our utmost to ensure that we were capturing the spirit of R.H Barlow and H.P. Lovecraft’s work on ‘The Night Ocean’ (1936).
Hollywood World: Without giving it away, tell us a little bit more about the characters and the lead actors.
Nicholas Eriksson: Ellston Bay features a male protagonist, known in the original screenplay simply as ‘Keir’ (played by Richard Kovacs). Keir is long estranged from his father and has decided to reach out and attempt to re-connect before the opportunity passes. On his arrival in the seaside town he grew up in, his father’s house is empty and there is no sign of recent activity. Concerned for his father’s welfare, he engages the town policeman (Gareth Lawrence) and a neighbour (Christina Hardy) for any guidance as to his father’s whereabouts. To his surprise, these characters seem indifferent to Keir’s plight, and encourage him to enjoy his surroundings, and that his father will ‘turn up soon’. This response leads Keir to begin investigations of his own, and ultimately take him on the same fateful path that befell his father before him.
Working with Richard, Christina, Gareth and John Rhys-Davies (in a key supporting role) was an exciting experience for me. My decision to work with all these talents was driven primarily by their engagement with the original screenplay, and whether we were on the same page creatively. I had seen examples of their work beforehand, and so, for me, it was more a question of whether we would connect in the context of a collaborative relationship on-set. I greatly enjoyed the process of working with actors, and it is certainly something I would like to do again in the near future, as I found it a very liberating and rewarding experience.
Hollywood World: How do you bring this story to life while staying true to your vision as director?
Nicholas Eriksson: I think the key to being a successful filmmaker is understanding how to compromise in as smart and intelligent a way as possible. I also learnt that you should always hold out as long as is humanly possible, before making that compromise as it is much, much later than you would think. The longer you can hold out, the more respect is gained by those who are investing their time and energy into the project, as they can feel that energy and passion behind every decision. There is always a solution to a problem, but it takes patience and creative thinking to reveal what the solution might be in that moment. To borrow a few words from my favourite quote: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence…”
Hollywood World: What excites you about this project?
Nicholas Eriksson: I think what excites me most about Ellston Bay is that I followed through on all the ideas that I thought of as mere pipedreams not a long time ago; Originating on 35mm VistaVision, Shooting on the ocean, Filming on the 007 Underwater Stage at Pinewood Studios, Premiering on Britain’s largest screen. It goes to show that anything is possible if you apply yourself and don’t allow yourself or anyone else dissuade you from your goals.
Hollywood World: What other works are you most proud of?
Nicholas Eriksson: I have had many fruitful collaborations with a number of talented Directors in the past. My first collaboration with James Slater was a particularly memorable experience for me. We shot a music video for the talented group Stealing Sheep, entitled ‘Not Real’. Aesthetically, we were going for a very lo-fi look, almost like a pop video from the 1960’s. To achieve this, we shot on Super 16mm using a converted, handcrank Bolex camera on Fujifilm stock.
I decided to shoot a test as I wasn’t familiar with the camera, and wanted to ensure it worked with no problems. When the lab informed me that the test had come back black, it did not inspire confidence! I quickly realised that I had left an internal shutter closed, so the negative wasn’t receiving any light. Though I had addressed the problem, I didn’t have time to shoot another test, so I travelled up to Liverpool and explained to James that I was confident the camera worked ok, but that there weren’t any guarantees, as we hadn’t seen any footage. We both agreed that it would be wise to shoot on both film and digital at the same time, so that we had a backup if anything went wrong.
When we started shooting, we both became pretty fed up of having to do everything twice. We didn’t like the images the digital camera was giving us, so we just decided to go for it and originate everything on film as we had originally intended. In the end, the shoot went well, and we sent the negative to the lab in London.
We had to wait an entire weekend for news as to whether it was all ok, and thankfully it looked beautiful. We were both thrilled that the camera had performed as we had hoped. A short while later, we learned that we had won Best Music Video at the Raindance Film Festival in London. It was a great feeling, and a fitting end to a particularly nerve-wracking period of principal photography.
Hollywood World: What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?
Nicholas Eriksson: I try to take inspiration from a range of mediums, not just cinema to be honest. A lot of my creative process occurs whilst listening to music. That said, a few films have made a huge impression on me at various stages of my life. From my childhood, ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ for its unexplainable cinematic atmosphere. The opening sequence of that film still inspires me to this day, as it encompasses a kind of ‘cinematic feeling’ that I cannot put into words. It might have something to do with watching that film in a packed theater whilst I was probably a little too young!
As I got older, Richard Kelly’s ‘Donnie Darko’ made a big mark on me, and ultimately led me to discover David Lynch’s work, which I adore. Lynch is such a risk-taker and very inspirational to me.
One film defined my love of Hong Kong Cinema as a teen, Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s ‘Infernal Affairs’. I must have seen that film dozens of times! I was blown away by the crisp, clean, slick cinematography. That single film ultimately got me hooked on some of the best filmmaking that has come out of Hong Kong, and inspired me to move out to the city and work in the industry at the beginning of my career. Meeting Andrew Lau in person was such a special highlight for me. His production company (Basic Pictures) gave me some 35mm short-ends, which I used to shoot the short film ‘Anita’s Day Off’ for Director Su Ching Teh.
My fascination with large-format origination began with my discovery of the IMAX 15/70mm format, and particularly Christopher Nolan’s work on films such as Inception, The Dark Knight, and Interstellar. Other films, such as Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘The Master’ and Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’ reinforced the idea that shooting in these special formats might actually be feasible, even on a budget.
Hollywood World: What do you do to enhance the collaborative process when working with actors, screenwriters, producers and other creative members?
Nicholas Eriksson: I think a fruitful collaboration is about allowing everyone to have a voice and not assuming that your way is the best. Filmmaking, as with any creative endeavour, is highly subjective and there are a thousand ways to do something. Being a good collaborator is about being a good listener and a good communicator. There are situations where this is easier said than done, but it’s important to always be humble and ensure that others feel their input is valued and appreciated.
Hollywood World: What experiences have you learned from in life? How did that change you and your creative process and the way you go about making films?
Nicholas Eriksson: I think I have learnt a great deal during my career, both in work and my personal life. With regards to how it has affected the way I go about making films, I don’t think it has changed my creative process that much, though I do think I am better at making crucial decisions during periods of stress. Filmmaking has the potential to be a very intense experience, as there is frequently a great deal at stake for all involved. I always try my utmost to be a calming influence on-set whatever problem we are facing.
Hollywood World: How do you see your role as a filmmaker?
Nicholas Eriksson: I have a very pragmatic approach to my role as a filmmaker. I do my best to view it as a job and always aspire to do the best I can. I like to turn up on time, work hard, then leave and continue with life and my other interests.
Hollywood World: Which film festivals that you have been part of would you recommend to other filmmakers looking to screen his/her films?
Nicholas Eriksson: There are a huge number of great festivals out there, it can be very difficult to know where to begin. My recommendation to other filmmakers is to try and identify festivals that share the same values or interests as you do. There can frequently be a mismatch between film and festival, which can make the submission process a difficult one. If you have made a genre film, then try to focus your attention on festivals that celebrate that. Otherwise, it will be a losing battle and that can be hard to take when you receive the rejection letters.
Hollywood World: Do filmmakers have any responsibility to culture? What message do you want to convey with your films?
Nicholas Eriksson: I don’t believe that filmmakers have a responsibility to culture. Filmmakers should stimulate thoughts and ideas, and provoke an emotional response with their work. Ultimately, I believe filmmakers should focus their efforts on entertaining their audience first and foremost.
Hollywood World: What other hobbies do you have?
Nicholas Eriksson: I have a wide range of interests outside work. I love music, sports and being outside in the elements whenever I get the opportunity. Much of my creative inspiration comes from life.
Hollywood World: What do you want to be remembered for in life? What valuable lessons have you learned that helped you become the person you are today?
Nicholas Eriksson: I don’t think I have ever answered that question before! I guess I would like to be remembered as a positive person that contributed something special to their life.
Hollywood World: What are your top five principles of success?
Nicholas Eriksson: I have always believed in following through on your ambitions and never giving up. In short, do what you say you are going to do, and don’t make excuses for not achieving your goals.
Hollywood World: What’s next?
Nicholas Eriksson: I am currently about to enter production on a series of commercials. In addition, I also have an exciting prospective project on the horizon, but it is still a little early to reveal further information at this stage.