Nande Walters: Through the Ultraviolet Lens
When did you first get into filmmaking?
NW: I watched a lot of movies when I was growing up because my mom loved watching movies, everything from Pixar to X-Men, and Harry Potter. I also read a lot of young adult fiction, like The Mortal Instruments, everything in the fantasy realm. It led me to want to write my own book series about young people with superpowers. I was 13 when I came up with that idea, and I realized it was harder for me to write in a novel format and it was easier for me to visualize it. I wanted to turn the book idea into a tv show or a film franchise. I thought it was cooler with the cinematography and the set design and all the different aspects that go into it filmmaking. When I realized I wanted to go to college for film, that kinda sparked something in me where I needed to make a portfolio and make something realistic because I couldn’t make a film about people with superpowers. I like making things about myself or that are about teenagers or young adults. My characters are based on myself and the people in my life, so I went from being more into fantasy and now into things that are about real life. Now I’m trying to include magical and surrealist elements into my work.
Did you make your high school films with other people or was it all independent?
NW: I took the only film class at my high school, so for those projects I used my friends as actors. The first film I made outside of class, I came up with the idea in the middle of the night and immediately wrote the 3-page script. It was called Modern Adolescence. Adobe had this screenwriting software called Adobe Story, so that’s where I put all my ideas down from the TV story to short film ideas. I was thankful the software was free, but it doesn’t exist anymore. Having that definitely made it feel more real to have things in the actual screenplay format. I made that film with my friend Zenzelé, her sister Tafara acted in it. That was in 2015 I think. In the spring of my junior year, Zenzelé and I took an online pre-college course with the Academy of Art University. For that class, we had to write a ten-page feature film treatment and it was a really hard class, but I produced something that I was really proud of. I’ve always struggled with writing and not being able to finish things, but in that class, I made something that was pretty finished. Zen and I have honestly been making films ever since. We’ve been best friends since 2nd grade and we both realized we were into filmmaking at the same time so we’re kinda like peas in a pod.
Did you end up making it into a film or just keeping it as a screenplay?
NW: It’s just a screenplay. It is set in outer space in the future, but it is still something that I want to make one day or work around.
Were taking classes around cinematography helpful to realize what is realistic to make, did that dictate what kinda stories you were writing?
NW: I took two film classes during my first semester at Pratt. I realized it was really hard to get actors, so I asked my friends to act for me. This turned into me wanting to film my friends all the time. I had a doppelganger film assignment where I had to film myself. It was really scary for me because I didn’t like filming myself or hearing my own voice. I was so used to being the one behind the camera, not in front of it. But I experimented with a light in my room, with a camera and colored gels. Being able to play with things that I didn’t know how to work was fun. And the point of the film was to show me versus my opposite self, a more confident, “outgoing”, “feminine” version of myself. Which isn’t completely opposite of me, but I was trying to show two extremes in a way. I’m someone who likes doing things by myself, so my own world has always been my inspiration. Even when I was interested in writing fantasy, it was all rooted in my personal experiences and the world around me. Moving to New York and having a somewhat interesting life contributed to my films.
So your film Who Are You Really? captures a very authentic party experience. What was the process for making that like and specific inspiration?
NW: The idea for that actually came about in high school when my friend showed me a screenshot of a Reddit post about some book about how we go about the world perceiving people and being perceived. On TikTok lately, there have been so many videos of people and their existential crises talking about similar things and how we even have different ideas of ourselves. The plot came about from me going to a party with my friends. We entered the apartment and the lights were on, there weren't a lot of people in the room, and I didn’t know anyone there. When we entered, everyone kinda looked at us in the way it happens in my film, so I wanted to capture the awkwardness of the situation. The film was a way of interpreting or understanding the world I was living in. I wanted it to be kinda surreal and colorful, because that’s how I see things. When I’m experiencing life, I like picturing how things would play out in a movie or TV show.
Would you say that each character is a variation of yourself?
NW: For sure, that’s something I’ve been doing since high school. But for this film in particular, it was for a class and there were time constraints. I didn’t come up with character names at first, they were honestly just A, B, C, and D (which was very hard to read aloud in class.) I knew the general character archetypes that I wanted. The main character would be very similar to me who would be very shy and quiet. Then someone else who would be very social on the outside. I wanted another character that was very anxious, and then a stranger. So those were the archetypes I wanted and I based them off of real people in my life. Even the things I’ve written more recently are all little variations of me, but I still add some different characteristics so that they aren’t all the same.
So you said that color is very important, do you have a specific color palette that you gravitate more towards?
NW: My favorite color is lavender, so even some of the posts I’ve been designing for Kickback, I used a purple color palette. The primary colors have always interested me but after going to art school, red, yellow, and blue are so basic now. I don’t think there is a set color scheme for all my work, but I gravitate more towards purple. I like finding colors that go together and contrast, it is just really interesting to me. I also find it important for painting.
So do you also paint?
NW: Yeah, I’ve been painting and drawing since I was a kid. I think when I was in 8th grade, I used to watch a lot of Mark Crilley on youtube where he’d give tutorials on drawing anime-inspired characters. Both my parents are architects, so I always had art supplies. I took art every single art class at my high school, I was that person. So I learned a lot of the technical aspects of art from school and from experimenting on my own. I love painting with watercolors and have dozens of sketchbooks from over the years.
So does having a background in spatial relations help you map out your scenes as well?
NW: I’ve been playing Sims since I was 11 and building in the Sims was something I always enjoyed. So set design is something I have always been interested in, and the placing of objects and furniture goes a long way. Having parents as architects, I basically grew up in Ikea, so thinking about design in that way has just been ingrained in me. I want to work with set design more in the future because so far I’ve been limited to my dorm, home and studios in the film building. Wes Anderson is one of the first directors I really loved, and his way of constructing a set is something that’s really interesting. The set designer of a few of his films actually spoke at Pratt one semester which was so amazing.
Wes Anderson also has beautiful color palettes. So you also started Kickback, how did you start that and what is it?
NW: It’s something that has always been in the back of my mind, but two months ago I decided I was finally going to do it. I was really inspired by this group called Good Fucking Music, mainly NYU kids, that make music. I went to their zoom events and it was really cool hearing people play their songs. I missed that sharing of art, and with classes being online I only got to see the film finals for people that were in my class. I wanted to bring together all the different people that make things, share our experiences, and celebrate the fact that we make things. I put together a film screening because film is my thing. There were really cool films from different people and it was just a wholesome collective experience. I’ve been doing interviews as well to give people a chance to talk about their work and bring everyone together in this really weird time.
So I’ve noticed that there’s been a shift in young adult shows, I think that they have gotten a lot grittier and darker. Did you also see a shift and what your idea of young adult shows?
NW: When I got home this March I started rewatching Euphoria. I thought that there was no way I could still relate shows about teenagers, but of course I do. I still relate to a lot of the things going on even as a 20-year-old, the show’s about a lot of different things. What I think makes it so good is that it is complicated and young people are very complicated. Generally, I feel like our generation is challenging traditions in a way that is needed, socially, and politically. I hate watching tv shows about teenagers that are clearly directed by 50 year olds. I like that people our age are able to take up space in higher positions and create things that are more honest and truthful.
Do you think it isn’t so much about being in high school, but just using the setting of high school because it is easier to have a set confined space?
NW: That’s a good point, ever since going to college I’ve wanted to make things that are more centered around college age people instead of high schoolers. The confined space is a good point because it makes it easier to have things in one space.
Do you have any film ideas at the moment?
NW: I was supposed to be making my junior thesis film this fall, but now I’m taking the semester off and there would’ve been restrictions with the virus and everything so I have no idea what it would look like to be working with actors. My original idea was to write about my 20-year-old self meeting my 14-year-old self. I wanted to explore conversations around mental health and how our bodies change when we get older and how we cope with things differently. “We” as in “I” I guess. I think it’s universal, but ultimately, I wanted it to be more of a letter to myself, but with actors and in NYC. Hopefully I can make it in the future. Whatever I make next I’ll probably act in it myself. I’m finally comfortable being in front of the camera, and what better time to do this than when I’m stuck at home.
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