Nikola Vasakova

We spoke to the Girls in Film founder about career highlights, advice for new filmmakers and what's next for her.

Nikola Vasakova by Brian Kanagaki

What’s your connection to the British Council? Any possible future collaborations in thepipeline?
GiF was granted a Sub-saharan Africa Research Grant for our outreach trip to South Africa in order to further our connection to SA creatives and establish ground for future projects. I was also invited by British Council Mauritius to create a 3-day workshop seminar on which I was joined by South African director Jabu Newman. Teaching a workshop in Mauritius, wherethere is a lack of film culture, was incredibly rewarding.

What are you working on right now?
Girls in Film has three main pillars of activities: an international network, a video platform and production. And I have fingers in all those pies! I’m working with our Central European outpost GiF Prague on international co-production projectsand I’d love to set up more GiF hubs around Europe, Americas and Africa this year. We have started publishing two to three new films per week on our site thanks to tireless work of our editor Beatrix Blaise and I’m hoping more people are using our site for reference in finding great work by young female filmmakers. Production-wise, today we’ve finally seen two music video releases that we worked on back in 2018, they are both beautiful work of collective effort and creativity and it’s awesome to see it online - you forget the stress you endured making it! We also have two documentaries that were recently commissioned by Guardian and by Barbican and a short film in production.

What/who originally turned you onto film?
I have to say it was necessity, I finished uni with BA in Magazine Publishing at the time when the industry went through a huge digital revolution and a lot of magazines were closing or firing people. It wasn’t the best time to enter the industry, so I had to think on my feet in terms of what else I might be good at. Production seemed like a natural habitat for me. Consequently, I have found a way back to publishing through it, albeit slightly shifted - I have worked in film departments of VICE, Telegraph and The Economist.

What has been your career high so far?
I feel a lot of career highs are about to happen! Every new year feels like a huge growth, personal and professional. Being selected to speak at SXSW this year might be one of them.

What was your first job in the film industry?
I worked my way up the traditional way and at the very beginning I was running on my friends music videos for free and interning. But my very first paid job was production secretary at a documentary series shot in Ghana across two months. I was the only woman in 20+ crew and the youngest crew member, it was pretty intimidating and full of casual sexism.

If I knew then what I know now…(a key piece of advice you’d give to someone starting off in filmmaking)
If you are starting out as a runner on set, be nice and always keen to help - seems obvious but it never goes unnoticed. Put yourself out there - find who you admire and why and think about ways how you can contribute. I went on a lot of short courses with subsidised funding. I’d go to any free lecture, talk and workshop I could find. Find your wolfpack. Having good people around you that support you and help you along the way is seriously half of the job. Last but not least, watch a lot of films! Immerse yourself in the craft until all your references become scenes from the films. Start a film club, talk about films with other people. It’s fun to be a film nerd. And I guess it’s becoming cool again.

What is your favourite British film? Why?
I’m not good at ‘favourites’ but here are some British filmmakers I admire: Kim Longinotto’s compassionate eye in her documentaries, Andrea Arnold for finding diamonds in the rough, Nicolas Roeg for making me feel an array of emotions with each of his films. His passing really got to me, we lost an incredible mind.

If you could have directed/been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be? Why?
I think even being an extra on Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet looks like lots of fun. That film stayed with me from my 90s Leo crush phase to the present day.

What’s the first film you remember seeing? What was so memorable about it?
I think the most memorable films for those growing up in Czechoslovakia must be the Christmas films, they’re a strong part of our Christmas tradition and a collective cultural heritage. Films likeThree Gifts For Cinderella by Vaclav Vorlicek, The Feather Fairy by Juraj Jakubisko and Russian film Jack Frost by Alexander Rou were all part of our early film experiences. With fierce restrictions from a Communist government, filmmakers found their creative window in ‘safe’ family films, so many of them are real cinematic feasts. I’d recommend watching The Little Mermaid by Karel Kachyna.