Director Nakiah Varcianna on what it means to be a creative

Nakiah Varcianna (Joey) - Scopolamine Still copy

As a creative in any discipline, there’s bound to be a number of trials and tribulations before you get to the top – whether it be rejection, lack of money, or even just life getting in the way – but the important thing is to remember why you started out.

We spoke to Nottingham born, London-based independent screenwriter/director Nakiah Varcianna about about his experiences as a creative; failing drama, staying out of trouble (or getting into it) and why it’s important to be creative…

What does being a creative mean to you?

I feel like I could be answering this question forever as being a creative has so many angles to it. But most importantly, I feel what being a creative means to me is freedom and expression.

As an artist – and I think most will be able to agree with me on this – you having this burning desire inside you to create things, whether it’s film, music, fine art or whatever. But if it gets to a point where you’re unable to create something, for whatever reason it may be; like not having enough money or access to equipment and resources, it gets quite depressing!

Any creative you speak to I can almost guarantee you would say that that restrictions is one of their worst enemies. Which is why when you are able to create what you want, it gives you a feeling of freedom along with the opportunity to express yourself in the way that you wanted to. There’s nothing worse than having an amazing idea in your head and it never makes it out of there.

Why is creativity important?

Creativity is massively important because in this world, on the grand scale of things… you’re either a creator or a consumer; and they both need each other whichever way you look at it.

But speaking as a creator, it’s important to me personally because I feel you have to leave something behind once you leave this world. You have to leave a legacy and a message for the next generations coming through – which is what I’m working towards.

I’m kinda obsessed with this ‘immortality’ thing, because put it like this, imagine living your whole life and once you die you have no trace or evidence that you were even here, except a death certificate and some photos that only your family and friends will see…

“You’re either a creator or a consumer; and they both need each other whichever way you look at it”

In my opinion, that’s too dud! That’s why I have automatic respect for those who are constantly creating things, breaking boundaries and making a name for themselves. It doesn’t even have to be from creative side either – because even things like establishing your own business counts. The point I’m trying to get at, though, is making sure the world knows you were here.

It’s also important because it invites collaboration. As a filmmaker especially, you have to collaborate with a whole bunch of talent to get your film made, it’s not just the actors or your DOP. Obviously, on smaller productions people will take up multiple roles, but nevertheless it still requires a crew of talent that all need to work together collectively to get a project made.

Being a creator not only means creating art, but it also means creating work for yourself and others. I feel privileged in that respect because as a screenwriter and director, I don’t have to depend on people to have scripts for me to direct… I just write my own and then the basis of the work is there, then everything else follows from that in regards to crewing up.

If you could share any message through your work what would it be?

I don’t think there’s a particular message I’d want to share through my work because there’s too many fucked up things going on in the world so sharing one message wouldn’t really be enough – I plan to share many.

But a message I’d definitely like to share is that you can seriously do anything you put your mind to, no matter where you’re coming from. It sounds so cliché, but it’s true. I just wanna be an inspiration to all; not even just those younger than me because sometimes I have conversations with people way older than me and they tell me I’ve inspired them in some way or another.

There’s no better feeling than inspiring someone or being inspired by someone else. It’s hard to stay positive all day everyday because shit happens, but when you’re feeling a little down and you get that little bit of inspiration from someone, or something it’s the best feeling and something I value highly.

But of late I’ve been trying to remind myself of the industry that I’m in, the entertainment industry – so at the same time I don’t think I’ll always create things which have a deep, meaningful message. Sometimes you just gotta provide general entertainment, which is what Scopolamine is… an entertaining, bad boy movie.

How long have you been interested in film and what first spurred it on?

You actually made me think about this one… If I really go back into my memory bank when I was like 11 or 12. I used to spend a lot of time at my grandma’s crib when my mum would go to work.

I’d be the only child there and I’ve always loved music, like on next levels. So I’d just sit there and watch Michael Jackson videos all day everyday. VH1 was the plug for that! But anyway they played his video’s, little documentaries and that and I remember them mentioning him to be the first artist who made short films for music videos in reference to Thriller.

I just remember being in awe of his sheer genius like ‘Michael makes films, too?!’. Anyone who knows me will know that I’m an MJ super-fan and always will be. But yeah, after that when I was like 14 or 15 I really wanted to get into acting. I never had a good relationship with school and towards the end I hardly went, but I was always there for Drama – it was my favourite lesson besides English.

But I ended up failing all my GCSE’s anyway, including Drama, but not because I couldn’t act but because the coursework side let me down. I hate doing academic paperwork, it’s whack. Because I failed Drama, I couldn’t really pursue acting any further like that and in Nottingham, where I’m originally from, acting schools were scarce.

So when I did my GCSE re-sits and passed my English it allowed me to study Media Production at college, which for me was the closest I was gonna get to acting for now. From there it was when I really started to fall in love with film and the actual filmmaking process… I went on to study film production at university and the rest is history I guess.

Tell us about your short film Scopolamine?

My next short film I’m doing is called Scopolamine. It’s a 30-minute drama film with a female lead which I wrote, directed, produced and now currently editing. I’m going to class it as my second short film because it’s the second time I’ve actually worked with a proper crew and cast.

The previous ones were just uni productions that me and my two friends would bang out quickly along with some stupid theme or guideline we had to follow for the module. It’s quite different to my last film, Versus. It’s 15 minutes longer, way more cinematic and it’s something which I’ve been able to put way more time into than Versus as it was actually my graduation film.

I got to actually be behind the camera more this time as I only make a cameo in this one instead of having an actual role which I prefer way more. I wouldn’t even class myself as an actor at all, that’s just me having fun… you’ll see a part of my cameo in the teaser video I put out. The plot, though, is also very different to Versus… like I mentioned earlier, Scopolamine is actually just an entertaining movie with no specific meaning or message.

It’s just Daniela De’ville doing her thing. I really hope the females can identify with her in some way or another when they see it. My actress, Heather Jayne-Elrick put in a sick performance, I have to big her up. But in all honesty I worked with an amazing cast and crew all together for this one. So look out for it when it drops, wherever that may be…

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced?

I wouldn’t say I’ve faced any major obstacles of late. The biggest one I’d say I’ve faced so far was keeping myself out of trouble… back when I was living in Nottingham I was just on the streets with my bros, really, doing dumb stuff. I got arrested in 2010 for robbing someone and I had to do community service for it.

Missed the whole summer of 2011 because of that, AND the feds took some of the hardest pair of Nike’s I’ve ever had. I’m still mad as hell about that. But in all seriousness, I was lucky because getting accepted into uni got me away from all of that… since then I been cool and my life’s took a turn for the better, which I’m very proud of myself for. 

How important is it to have a platform that showcases the work of creatives?

TOO important, man! Way too important, because there’s some talented people out here creating some very dope work and they just don’t have a platform for them to be recognised fully. London alone has some talent in this city that deserves to be on a platform for the whole world to see, so platforms like Mind My Platform is something which creatives actually need. 

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