We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicole Clinton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nicole, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I’ve always been artistic with a strong imagination and I’m brave/foolish enough to believe that I can make a career out of it. When I was very young, I wanted to be a fashion designer, and drew clothes and outfits in sketchbooks. But my real artist’s epiphany came when I was around 13 years old and I fell hopelessly in love with the movies. From that point on, films defined my whole being. I was a straight-A student and could have done anything in the world, but all I wanted to do is make films, become part of the movie industry, part of the tradition. I feel like when you do something creative, it’s like living vicariously through something that you may never do or know in real life. You get to channel your true feelings, fantasies, experiences, opinions into characters that are far more interesting than you, or anyone you know, and situations that are far more exciting than you will ever encounter in your reality. In real life, the majority of people are afraid of honesty and going beneath the surface level to show you who they are. As a writer/filmmaker, you can penetrate and explore these things through characters. They can do things you can never do because they’re in a movie- but they do it to pose questions about our ordinary lives and societies. Stories, lines, worlds, dynamics, relationships, visuals, rhythms flow through my mind constantly in response to what I personally watch, hear, experience, and the idea of shaping them into something original, sharing it with others and making an impact on them- whether that’s to make them laugh, cry, think, shock them, or to generally entertain them- absolutely enthralls me.
I also like the way lifestyle and career bleed into each other in creative industries. I enjoy the community spirit and collaborative nature of the work. The bond between fellow artists.
Personally, I get bored of a situation easily and the idea of “forever” terrifies me. So what also draws me to a creative career is the flexibility. I can’t imagine having to do the exact same thing every day for the rest of my life. Being a screenwriter and a filmmaker is so varied and changing and there are so many layers and components to it. You spend a certain amount of time on a project, then you move on to something else- new stories, new characters, new worlds, new collaborators. Even if you’re sitting down at a laptop every day for 9 hours, writing every scene is different, pulling each part of a film into existence is its own thing. And of course, each finished project is unique in itself – and you never know how people (or even you) will respond to it! It’s constant learning, adapting, meeting, and connecting with new people, solving new problems.
I always remember an artist’s quote about pursuing a creative career that I find extremely insightful: “Someone’s got to do it, why not you?” So all pretentious, narcissistic, romantic, and idealistic explanations aside, why not me?
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am an up-and-coming writer-director originally from Cork, Ireland. 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 13 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 me 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 film was my true artform 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 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 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 2018, 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. I am currently trying to raise the finance to make it, 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 that will take the genre to bold new heights for females. And that’s why I’m so excited 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 eyes and make people think. I’m an old-soul nostalgic, 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 excites me in a way that scares most.
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. Believing 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.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, seeing as I’m such an idealistic Hollywood dream fanatic at heart, I would take them around all the tradition-heavy, nostalgic “hallowed ground” spots, inspired by all the places I visited on my first trip to LA.
We’d have to go to the viewpoint for the Hollywood sign from the Griffith Park Observatory on a clear day, perhaps enjoying a coffee on the outside decking of the Observatory café, seeping in the vantage point of the sign as we sip and chat.
We’d check out some movies in the iconic theatres – the El Capitan or TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd and make sure we get in a cult hit in Tarantino’s New Beverly Cinema. (I love how the movie theaters here have vintage style marquees here- these don’t exist in Ireland anymore).
We’d head out to Santa Monica pier for some chill out time, go on a roller-coaster or two before taking in the sunset from the beach. We’d spend a day at The Grove, checking out the farmer’s market, doing a bit of shopping, and making a difficult choice in the Cheesecake Factory (I’ve never seen a dessert menu that extensive). If we want more retail therapy, there’re some second-hand stores in Pasadena that I love that you could lose half a day in- 2nd Street for vintage clothes and The Antique Mall for just about everything else.
For some classic fun, we’d hit Universal Studios and kill the whole day and night, enjoying some thrills and treats (the best and biggest ice-cream dessert I ever had was in the bottom floor of the theme park- it was literally the size of my head), finishing off with some late-night wining and dining in the CityWalk.
We’d indulge in blueberry pancakes for breakfast in the garden patio of the Chateau Marmont at some stage. I’d have to take them to the Musso and Frank Grill for a nice steak, great service and general nostalgic glamour and lore. And I couldn’t let them go home without a cocktail in the infamous Formosa Café in West Hollywood.
People-watching in a city as diverse and dynamic as LA is very engaging so I’d be sure to dabble in that with my guest. It’s always interesting, if not amusing, to stand up high in the Ovation Hollywood complex and watch the assortment of Walk-of-Fame characters do their thing with the tourists…(such a scene with a Darth Vader and Chewbacca even inspired a sequence in “Photoplay”, a spec script my writing partner and I wrote about a hustler female paparazzo!).
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My mother, Pamela, and sister, Hayley, have always been super supportive of me and my creative pursuits and encourage me to keep following this path, no matter how complicated it gets. I value that so much because when you’re chasing a creative or unusual path, there are so many disrespectful and brazen people, only queuing up to tell you you’re wasting your time and you should do something else. My Mom is such a strong and kind person and has always praised and been proud of my artistic side. She is my number one champion and her penchant for fun and eccentricity has shaped who I am today. And Hayley was my very first creative collaborator- playing dolls and make-believe with me since she was able to talk. That best-friendship, those games, and our shared childhood have influenced my work, and my personality, so profoundly. My writing partner and creative collaborator, Kenneth Kelliher, has also been instrumental in my professional journey. His well of creativity, advice, and friendship has helped and guided me through each and every project since we met in 2016 and I am so grateful for his continued support and inspiration.