Whaddaya Got? Nick Catania, Director of Photography
Nick Catania is a filmmaker living and working in New York City. His work is broad and varied; from TV to film, commercial to indie, Nick's enthusiasm reflects the seemingly limitless capacity for storytelling that moving images provide. After studying Television/Film Production at SUNY Fredonia, Nick returned to New York City to begin his career in production. Starting as a production assistant on films and commercials, he worked his way up through the grip, electric, and camera departments. Eventually Nick started shooting both film and video. As digital cinema technology evolved, Nick embraced the DIY ethic that allows artists of all stripes to go from concept to completion with more independence. He began teaming with like-minded friends, directing and shooting his own projects. His latest is The Back Up Singer a short film he directed through his production company, Eclectic Productions, as part of the 48 Hour Film Project.
Tell me about the 48 Hour Film Project. What was it like to put together a short film under such a tight deadline?
It was a challenge, to be sure. The sleep deprivation was tough at this point in my life. It didn’t help that I came down with a bit of a bug right before the filmmaking weekend. I did it because I felt it was time to challenge myself in a different way artistically than I had for some time, and although I am fortunate to work professionally in a field I am interested in, you don’t always get the chance to work in the genres and roles you most enjoy when you’re making sure all the bills are getting paid. So I took the plunge and entered a team into the NYC 48 Hour Film Project. I was fortunate that my creative and business partner in the company we co-own, Eclectic Productions, was up for it as well. We put together a great team of crew and actors that we’ve gotten to know as friends and co-workers over the years of working in NYC. Everybody was very enthusiastic and turned in great work and performances all around, and it showed in the final product. The competition in NY was strong -there are multiple cities and countries that are part of this festival- and there were a lot of great films turned in for the weekend. We were really happy to walk away with awards for screenwriting, actress and supporting actor. I really think the most important thing I did was commit to turning in a film. It was a great experience, but I don’t think I’ll be doing it again in the near future.
What other projects do you have cooking?
On the creative side we have been developing a few TV shows, mostly in the reality genre, but hopefully outside the conventions that are dominating the current model. We just had one picked up and are currently in pre-production with a web distribution channel. The internet is really where TV and to a lesser extent film is going. Right now the attention span is significantly shorter and the budgets much smaller, but as a result the appetite for experimentation among established and emerging brands is much greater than you are seeing anywhere else. It’s currently serving mostly as a launching pad for successful shows to move to cable, but I think more and more you are going to see the profile of some of these web channels grow when a show they are producing is pulling in viewers.
Why did you get into TV and film? What do you like most about it?
I was always more interested in the arts than academics, and in elementary and high school that showed in my grades. So when I continued with higher education there was no question that I wanted to study TV and film, though music was a close second. Once I got into college and got a chance to get my hands on production equipment making media didn’t feel like work or a grind at all. I was having fun putting together projects; doing some things that worked (and many that didn’t) and it never felt like I was laboring to gain knowledge, as opposed to, say, learning the periodic table of the elements. I enjoy the artificial reality the most, translating that two dimensional rectangle the viewer is staring at and making them feel like they had a real, immersive experience.
What would you say to someone just starting out in the business?
That is a tough, really open-ended question. It depends a lot at what point in the person’s life they’re in, what phase of discovery. As far as a broad-strokes answer I would say if you’re interested in the creative end of the business, never stop creating. If you’re lucky enough to be exactly where you want to be professionally, you’re either exceptionally talented or hit the lottery, and actually probably a bit of both. Of course the nature of people generally being what it is, no matter where you are you’ll always be looking for the next thing, and you should embrace that and channel that drive to keep doing something new. One of the biggest regrets I have is that once I started making a living in the TV business I didn’t spend much time working on my own passion projects. After a while some of the jobs I was doing started to feel like work and that feeling carried over to some of my own creative work, so I stopped doing it. That was one of the reasons I jumped in with both feet on the 48 Hour Film Project, it helped me get back to my lost passion for being willing to pull all-nighers just for the sake of seeing the result when the project was done.
Is there a project you've always dreamed of doing?
There are many things I’ve dreamt of that I haven’t even gotten close to accomplishing, and if I get to half of them I’ll be lucky. Right now a lot of the people I worked with on this recent project want to continue putting together narrative work. As an artist success and validation can feel like a drug, and it can be a great motivator but, like any drug, comes with risks and the potential for a painful flameout. The key will be to try to maintain some sense of momentum, without relying on the feel-good factor to keep motivated. Time will tell.
Whaddaya Got? is an intermittent series of interviews featuring people we know who are doing great creative work.