Fresh Flix: Nida Manzoor

Photo by Anne Oswald

Nida Manzoor is the director of  Arcade, a short film that covers guns, feminism and sci-fi movies — all in less than six minutes. I caught up with Manzoor, whose film screens at Encounters as part of Fresh Flix: Shoot from the Hip.

SH: Can you describe Arcade for us?

NM: The film is about two schoolgirls in a games arcade [who are] playing the shoot-em-up game, and it’s when they start to kind of insult each other and really piss each other off [that] the arcade becomes quite surreal…

SH: You said in the Q&A earlier that the way you fell into filmmaking was by researching the directors that really inspired you. Who would you say are your top three directors and do you think that any of those influences have carried over into the film?

NM: It’s hard to say three because there are so many. I remember the films that first really got me into wanting to make films, like Let In which is a Matthew Cassavettes film, [which contains] themes of youth, angst [and] also has that lighthearted touch. I mean, also something like Donnie Darko which is Richard Kelly’s film. I remember when I heard the Smurf dialogue, [I thought] “That is dialogue!” It’s fun, and interesting and it really shows the way young people banter back and forth… I always find it hard to find filmmakers that do women characters really well, and [Ingmar Bergman and Pedro Almodovar] really nail it.

SH: You studied Politics then decided you wanted to make films. Is there a missing link in that story — is there something that triggered it?

NM: I was actually making films when I was at school, just for fun. I’m from quite a traditional family and they have their ideas of what you should do, so … [filmmaking] never really occurred to me as being an option, because I was in this community where it’s just not [an option]. Until I started dating this guy… he was getting me into these really cool film, you know, some Czech films, and I thought “Wow! This is so cool! I wanna do this!”

SH: You mentioned that you did lots of different things in the film industry (running, working in a production house, etc). What would you say was the time frame between gaining that experience and making your first big project?

NM: I never really thought about it that way. As soon as I had the script, I wanted to make it straight away. You know, I wrote it kind of straight out of uni and I had some experience doing shorts, but really minimal crew. This one, I wanted to better. This is my first one where it wasn’t no budget. It was a small budget; everyone was mucking in, no one was paid. You know, we shot it on [Canon] 5Ds.

SH: How much did you shoot it for?

NM: The total? It was around £800. I was lucky because I was working at Lip Sync, which is a post-house in London, so all the post I could do there. But when it came to getting my DoP, I just emailed her because… I really liked her work, and I saw a short of hers in Rushes (Student Festival in London). I just emailed her saying I have this script, saying I love your work, you’re awesome, would you take a look at it? And the script had won an IdeasTap competition actually, the BBC Writersroom. She’s got experience, she worked on Attack the Block and Moon, and the gaffer had also worked on Attack the Block, so my crew became this super experienced team — I was the least experienced member there! But it’s the best way to learn — working with people who are ahead of you just lifts you up.

SH: Is Encounters the first festival you’ve shown it at?

NM: It’s shown at a small one, but this is the first big festival that I’ve been to with a film, so it’s all very exciting.

SH: What’s been your highlights from the festival so far?

NM: Apart from my [own] film, it was the Roberto Schaefer, the cinematographer who give this awesome, awesome talk. Everyone came out of that talk wanting to make a film. That was great. Events-wise, the BFI launched their network [BFI NET.WORK] and it was like “More funds! More money! More possibilities!”, so that was really good.

SH: That’s amazing for an emerging filmmaker like yourself.

NM: I just had my [business] cards ready! But I really liked it because oftentimes you [worry] that the people behind the BFI or Film London are kind of jaded, but they’re not. They’re genuinely excited, which makes us genuinely excited, so talking to them… everyone was so open.

SH: What’s next for you? Are you touring this film at other festivals? Are you working on another short?

NM: After Arcade I shot two more shorts, which are both in post-production now. I’ve [also] written a feature which is.. in development with a few production companies who are interested in it, which is very exciting.

By Simran Hans