Under the strain of everyday sensory input it can be difficult to remember that you need to sit back and smell the roses every once and a while. The moments when we do are always pleasant. Escaping that little patch of earth you were born on and travelling out into the world to sip beers, kick back and enjoy a sunset over a foreign shore – it’s a great way to appreciate the little things.
If it were possible to take a vacation in colours, then Nima Nabili Rad, the subject of this Q&A, will take you there. The Australian-based freelance director, cinematographer and producer has been garnering a lot of attention for commercial content lately – particularly for his music and fashion videos. His work has the spirit of someone who has taken time out of the daily grind to appreciate the small things. There’s definitely something worldly about his videos; they manage to transport you to an imaginary location, somewhere far away and exciting.
You left Iran as a child. Tell us about that.
We went to a country where human rights were recognised and exercised. Australia was the first choice because some of our relatives were already there.
When you arrived in Australia, what was it like being a refugee?
The government’s treatment of refugees was quite different back then. There was a lot of support and care. Places to live and other services were provided. We got to Australia through proper channels, with a visa etc. I remember it being a great experience despite having come from a war-torn country.
What are your opinions on the current treatment of refugees in Australia at, for example, Manus Island?
I don’t really follow politics but as someone who arrived in this country years ago as an immigrant, I would want to be treated and respected like a human being and nothing less.
How do you think your past has influenced your work and who you are today?
My past has shaped myself and my work immensely. It has given me a lot of perspective and emotional intelligence, which I put into my work. It has toughened me as a person and made me want to take on challenges; to not be fazed by setbacks and failures but rather see them as learning experiences and blessings.
Image Credit: Nima Nabli Rad.
How would you describe your distinctive style?
I’m still exploring what my style is and I don’t think I’ve pinpointed it yet entirely, as I love so many different styles of filmmaking and storytelling. But I’d say if you were to mix Japanese minimalism and French filmmakers’ sensibilities you’d be getting close to what my style is. There is also often a retro feel to most of my work. And every time someone sees Kubrick’s huge influence in my work, it makes my day.
In your travels, is there a place you’ve visited that stands out. Somewhere unexpected that has genuinely surprised you?
I recently spent some time in Cyprus and most of it took me by surprise, especially the incredible mountain regions. Sometimes you expect a place to look a certain way, but I didn’t expect to be so pleasantly surprised by Cyprus’s landscape and people.
How has travel and culture influenced your creative outlook?
I could write a book about that and I actually am. I think the more we travel and meet people from different cultures we get to experience different perspectives on life. Different approaches to living and working. And the constant challenge of having to live in places that are not familiar to us makes a difference. It’s like a giant vault source of creativity that we can tap into. There are so many ideas, inspirations and stories I have absorbed since travelling around the world.
What’s your favourite location to shoot?
Vast open landscapes like deserts and tundras, and giant mid- to late-century building blocks. I’m obsessed with lines and grids and 70s and 80s housing estates.
Do you have a favourite holiday spot?
Italy. Lake Como and the Amalfi coast and the mountains.
When did you know you wanted to be a director?
Even as a child I wanted to direct things and I would, either in my head or by creating things. But it wasn’t until halfway through my university film course that I realised I wanted to direct.
How do you choose your projects?
A number of factors, from the budget to the people I’m working with, but usually the main deciding factor these days is whether it’s something that I would proudly put my name to.
Image Credit: Nima Nabli Rad.
What makes you want to make a music video? Is the budget, the song? The people you’re working with?
The budget is definitely a factor. The song and artist comes next and also the potential it has to be recognised well out there. I usually choose who I work with so that’s not a deciding factor.
What is your ultimate creative goal and vision? What’s your end goal?
I definitely want to make feature films and short creative pieces. Anything where I can express myself fully and without the need to fulfil a client’s vision. Ads are great but they’re not my ultimate goal. They’re a means to get to the ultimate goal. I also love fashion-related films and content.
Who are your favourite established directors?
Top 5: Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Hayao Miyazaki, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg.
Favourite female director?
I have a few. But my favourite film of 2016 was Raw by French-Belgian director Julia Ducournau. An astounding study of sexuality and love, seen from a female perspective, which was so refreshing and memorable.
Guilty pleasure film?
What are you currently working on? Upcoming projects you want to promote?
Unrelated to my film career, I’m writing a self-help book on my travels. A guide to happiness type project. I am hoping to publish it in 2018