mini MUFF Profile: Karen Nielsen
“Stop labeling yourself as a female filmmaker. You are a filmmaker who tells great stories just as well as anyone else, so you are a filmmaker.”
This month MUFF is doing something a little different with mini MUFF. Not only do we have SIX short films to show you, but we’ve also expanded our usual local fare to include selections from every corner of Canada! Teaming up with Etheria Film Night for this event, we used our combined programming expertise to find the darkest, creepiest, and bloodiest in Canadian women-directed horror.
Fifth up up: Grace shows a young girl, her dog, and a stranger trying to hold onto their humanity when stranded together in a post apocalyptic world.
Grace had its premiere in November of 2015 and has already screened at over thirteen film festivals, including Blood In The Snow Canadian Film Festival, Morbido Film Festival, Love Your Shorts Film Festival, Vancouver Bad Ass Film Festival, Vancouver International Women in Film Festival, and Dam Short Film Festival, where it won Best Sci-Fi/Horror Film. It was also recently announced that Grace will be released on June 14th as a special feature on the new X-Files (2016) DVD/BluRay set.
Vancouver-based filmmaker Karen Nielsen has produced, written, and directed several projects including the award-winning short drama A Pickle, starring William B. Davis (X-Files) and Brendan Meyer (Mr. Young, The Guest); a sizzle reel for The Comeback with Angelina Pivarnick (Jersey Shore); the documentary A Little T.L.C., about at-risk youth training shelter animals; and a children’s animated TV movie called A Very Fairy Christmas. She has worked in theatrical marketing and publicity, and as a Creative Executive, Field Producer, Associate Producer, Producer’s Assistant, Script Coordinator, and Post-Production Coordinator on numerous TV movies, series, and feature films.
Get to know more about Karen Nielsen and her short film Grace!
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU GOT INVOLVED WITH FILMMAKING.
Karen Nielsen: I’ve been making movies since I was a little girl, having convinced my grade school teacher that I should submit a movie instead of an essay. She agreed and it was awesome. This was way before everyone had video cameras and there were no cell phones, too. So, it was a big deal.
I’m a filmmaker as I think film and TV is the one medium that connects people from all over the world. If there are language or cultural barriers or you just don’t have a lot in common with someone, most people will connect over amazing stories and I love being a part of that connection. I love making people laugh but also letting them know that they aren’t alone. Even though these are only stories with fictional characters, they do come from somewhere… that’s why people relate to them. Movies and TV help people feel connected. As a filmmaker, it helps me feel connected to the world and I love that. It’s also the best way to collaborate with the most random and talented people that you would never normally get to meet. I love that.
TELL US SOMETHING FUN OR INTERESTING ABOUT GRACE.
KN: I wrote the short after getting rejected by another grant. I was about to delve into a pit of despair, but the image of a young girl fighting to stay alive in the apocalypse came into my mind. I felt like I was fighting to stay alive in this industry, so it was great therapy for getting through the emotions of being rejected for the umpteenth time.
While shooting the drone footage of the abandoned ferry the owner of the property started freaking out that the government was going to find them. He was an elderly man with major conspiracy issues. He was a kind man that let us film there for free, but he was a crazy character who kept us on our toes the entire time. He ruined one drone shot and then I had to calm him down while the drone reset and my producer took over listening to his theories.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SOME/ALL OF THE OTHER AMAZING WOMEN IN FILM WHO WORKED ON THIS SHORT?
KN: My producer Rebecca Rees, who was my partner in crime for the entire short. For real, we did some trespassing when location scouting. Couldn’t have made this without her. Then, our amazing star Jena Skodje, who was at the ready every time, never stumbling, no matter how late or how many times we did a take.
TELL US ABOUT WHY YOU ARE A FEMINIST AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO YOUR FILMMAKING.
KN: I’m a feminist because I believe everyone in the world is equal and we all have amazing visions and stories to tell. It’s important to me as a storyteller, as I think everyone is fascinating and deserves respect no matter their gender, sexual orientation, or race. I think the more different someone is than me, the more fascinating they are, as everything is new to me and those are characters I want to learn about and delve into.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WOMEN WORKING IN THE FILM INDUSTRY?
KN: Penny Marshall is an iconic female filmmaker, making great stories that were just great stories. I hate how women are pigeon hold into telling ‘female’ stories, whatever that means. And she proves — as many many women do — that women are funny. Rachel Talalay is also an incredibly talented director who has such a great edginess to her work and is working on some great television series.
PUT TOGETHER YOUR DREAM TEAM (WITH YOU IN ONE OF THE ROLES, OBVS!)
KN: Writer/Director — Me, Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, David Tennant. I have the script and I will make it happen :)
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE ABOUT FILMMAKING YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED? WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WOMEN THINKING ABOUT PURSUING CAREERS IN FILM?
KN: Best advice I received: Get into a story as late as possible and out of the story as soon as possible. Also: you can’t take things personally. Everything and nothing is personal, but you just gotta get over it and move on.
Advice to women: Stop labeling yourself as a female filmmaker. You are a filmmaker who tells great stories just as well as anyone else, so you are a filmmaker. The best action you can take is to support women in film when you are in a position to. That is the only way anything is ever going to change in our industry. Lots of women are too scared to stick their neck out for other women as it was so hard for them to get where they are. If a guy screws up it’s just another guy. If a woman screws up then all of a sudden all women directors (etc.) are terrible. It’s a reality of our industry. I chose to not feel threatened by women, but supported and support them in return.
IF A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE WAS CAST/CREATED, WHO WOULD STAR AS YOU AND WHAT GENRE WOULD IT BE?
KN: Comedy of errors starring Amy Schumer.
WHO IS THE BEST/SUPERIOR BATMAN?
KN: Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Jessica Jones, I mean… the list goes on. Batman is a jaded uptight spoiled rich guy with toys. These women have super powers are smart and kick ass.
WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO JAM?
KN: Madonna and Alanis get me going every time.
RECOMMEND ONE #MUFFAPPROVED FILM FOR OUR BLOG READERS:
KN: Trainwreck (dir. Judd Apatow)
Learn more about Karen and keep with with her future projects on her website.
#miniMUFF is our short film program to celebrate local female talent. We do so by screening a short film before our monthly features and highlighting the filmmaker on our blog. Learn more here. Read past mini MUFF profiles here.