We were recently lucky enough to get the opportunity to sit down and chat to Nour Wazzi, an award-winning producer and director who set up her own London-based film production company, Panacea Productions, back in 2008 and is continuing to make big waves on the independent circuit with her work.
Hi Nour, it is really nice to finally sit down and chat with you.
Could you give our readers a little bit of information about yourself and Panacea Productions?
I set up the London-based production company Panacea Productions in 2008 to bring distinctive, compelling and thought-provoking films to a wide audience.
I mainly produce and direct but over the past 18 months I’ve also started co-writing select projects. I’m currently focused on thrillers and science fiction features and TV shows, and I’m always looking for emerging, diverse talent to partner up with locally and internationally.
It sounds like you keep yourself extremely busy!
Is this something you have always wanted to do?
I have always loved film – from birth my mother would put me in front of the TV screen behind a couch to distract me from the sounds of the bombs and bullets outside. I grew up as a film addict and as a result had a vivid imagination and loved telling stories. As a kid I used to direct my friends in little plays we’d perform to our families. At the time I had no idea you could actually do this for a living, and while I wrote short stories in my free time, I grew up believing I’d become a surgeon or biochemist and do something worthy with my life like find a cure for cancer! Little did I know life had other plans for me, and when I moved to London in 2003 everything changed for me. The first time I directed a film, it’s like everything finally made sense. Bringing stories to life brought me to life. I’d finally found my calling.
Wow, it sounds like you were destined to work in this crazy industry.
How did you get into directing movies?
The first time I directed a film was at the New York Film Academy in London. Once I got a taste of it there was no turning back, and everything I did subsequently was in service of developing my directing career. I found that the most efficient way to keep directing was to raise the funds myself and produce my own work. I was lucky that Film London partially funded two of my shorts, which has helped me get my work out there and build my experience as I get into long form.
How did you find setting up your own production company Panacea Productions?
Practically its pretty straightforward in the UK, the hard part is actually making proper money from this business!
Ha, yes money is always the stumbling block with most things.
How chaotic have you found the film making process
There is no doubt that once you get on set there are so many things that are outside your control but I believe that if your script is solid and you are as prepared as can be then you are better positioned to embrace the unexpected and make something even better that you had envisioned.
Does it get easier the more films you do?
As a Director, I only become stronger and more confident to be able to let go and trust my actors and crew. It’s easy to become precious with your material but I think it takes experience to be able to trust your own instincts, to be open to the unexpected and what your team can bring to the table. Filmmaking is a collaboration after all so it’s important to create an atmosphere that encourages it.
I also 1st A.D on the side so that I can get on set as often as I can and learn from other directors. I find that this has really helped me get a better grasp of time and how best to use it – as that’s the one thing you never have enough of!
As a producer, having a track record has certainly made it easier to raise finance but I am now focused on getting my first feature off the ground and the leap from shorts to features is certainly not a straightforward one.
We will be looking forward to that.
What are you most proud of so far with your film career?
I have just co-written, produced and directed a gripping short thriller called ‘Baby Mine’ that I am really proud of. It’s currently in post and I cannot wait to share it with everyone. It stars Alexander Siddig (‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Syriana’, ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, ‘Star Trek DS9’), two time Olivier nominee Rachel Sterling (‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’, ‘The Bletchley Circle’), Alex Ferns (‘Joyeux Noel’) and rising star Grace Taylor (‘Marcella’, ‘You, Me and the Apocalypse’).
I have recently released two of my shorts starring ‘Game of Thrones’ actors free on Vimeo: ‘Up on the Roof’ starring Maisie Williams and ‘Shackled’ starring Emilia Clarke so please check them out if you haven’t already!
Do you have any favorite directors or anyone you try to emulate or take inspiration from?
As a Director my biggest influences are David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and most recently Denis Villeneuve. Fincher in particular has really shaped me as a filmmaker and how I approach visual storytelling. I’m inspired by the way these filmmakers have managed to find the balance of telling challenging, gripping stories that touch you emotionally and are also accessible to a commercial audience.
Are there any actors who you would like the opportunity to work with?
There are sooo many actors I would love to work with; Ben Mendelsohn, Marion Cotillard, Viola Davis, Michael Shannon, Blake Lively, Tom Hardy, Emma Stone, Michael Fassbender, Angela Bassett, Carey Mulligan, Cillian Murphy, Leonardo DiCaprio, Vera Farmiga, Eva Green, Robert DeNiro, Thandie Newton, Michael Sheen, Al Pacino, Alicia Vikander, Scarlett Johansson, Denzel Washington, Andrea Riseborough, Samuel L Jackson, Morgan Freeman, Christian Bale, Jessica Chastain, Eve Hewson, Zoe Saldana, George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Edward Norton, Kerry Washington, Tatiana Maslany, Sean Penn, Elizabeth Olsen, Emily Blunt, Javier Bardem. Benicio Del Toro, Rooney Mara, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kristen Stewart, Mark Ruffalo, Naomi Watts, Ryan Gosling, Mia Wasikowska, Gugu Mbatha-Raw… I could keep going!
Ha, that is a pretty big list, lets hope you can get some of these under your belt over the next few years!
Have you got any upcoming projects you could tell us about?
I’m currently focused on developing the feature version of the thriller ‘Baby Mine’ which draws inspiration from Fincher’s ‘Gone Girl’ and Inarritu’s ’21 Grams’. I’m really excited about it and hope to make it in the next 18 months. Any investors are welcome to get in touch 😉
I’ve just started developing a low budget vampire mystery thriller and have a couple of science fiction projects churning in the background.
We will look forward to those sometime down the line. It sounds you have some very interesting projects coming up.
What are your plans for the future?
To keep finding great stories and emerging talent, and keep on hustling and chugging away to get my features and TV shows out there!
Have you got any advice for people trying to get into the business?
This business is not for the faint-hearted; you have to be passionate and relentlessly determined to succeed. I have been working in the industry for over 10 years and I am still at the start of my career. The right of passage involves a lot of rejections, endless frustration, the willingness to work around the clock and do things you might not really want to do when you first start out. But if you’re up for the challenge then get yourself on as many film sets as you can and learn from people around you. Be enthusiastic, reliable and show initiative and people will work with you again. This is a business that revolves around who you know so go to networking events, festivals, film courses etc. and meet other filmmakers – you never know who you could end up collaborating with. Don’t dwell when things aren’t going your way, keep on doing and moving forward. It will pay off eventually!
Thanks Nour, it is has been great getting the chance to chat with you and we wish you nothing but good luck and success for the future!