He hasn’t watched a lot of documentaries, but filmmaker Nathan Ives definitely knows how to make one.
Congrats on Somewhere in the Middle – it was filmed after The Basement?
It was. I finished The Basement and shortly after my wife and I welcomed our second child into this crazy world. I wanted to do a project that was smaller in scope that I could do in and around changing diapers.
It would seem – but I could be wrong – to be a personal movie. How alike is your story to the tales of the artists in your film?
All of the artists I interviewed have been making a living solely from their art, for the majority of their careers. For me, only about three years was filmmaking my main source of income. If I’m honest, it was a tough three years. A lot of feast or famine, self doubt, and doing some projects that I was just doing because I needed the money. I’ve since gotten married, started another, more stable business, and my wife has a good job. Now any income we have from my film work we use for the kids college fund or to fix up the house. I think I got a taste of what the artists have interviewed have been going through for years.
Did you know all of these artists personally or professionally before the film?
Two I knew professionally and the other three were recommended by friends.
Griffin House I knew professionally. We hired him to write a song for another feature I did, ‘A Christmas In New York.’
Jasika Nicole I worked with on another film.
I’m good friends with Matt Nathanson’s tour manager and he recommended Aaron Tapp, Matt’s guitar player.
Jeff Nishinaka is a friend of the DP I’ve used on this and my last three films.
Dan McCaw is a friend of Jeff Nishinaka’s. I guess really just through word of mouth and a bit of the universe helping me out.
It would seem there’s a few motivations behind the movie – to entertain and enlighten but also to showcase your directing skills on a very different movie to your last. Is that close?
The motivation was definitely to entertain and enlighten. It was also a subject which interested me personally and I felt hadn’t been explored in a doc in this way.
As far as showcasing my directing skills, I guess I never really thought of it that way. While I’m very proud of this project, and really enjoyed the process, I enjoy narrative features more. If someone wanted me to direct another documentary it would have to be a subject I was really passionate about or they’d have to pay me a lot of money (highly unlikely in the doc world, particularly with my on doc credit). 🙂 Because I don’t rely solely on my filmmaking for income, I don’t think that much about marketing myself or broadening my skill set.
In terms of documentary or documentarians, any serve as an inspiration here?
I’m a little embarrassed to say, that I really haven’t watched that many documentaries – particularly in the past two and a half years with two young children. That said, I LOVE rock and roll documentaries and could watch them endlessly. Also, while I don’t put my film in the same universe as ‘Twenty Feet From Stardom,’ I really thought it was fantastic.
Did you yourself learn anything about artists, as a result of making this movie, that you didn’t know before?
Yes, tons. If I had to pick three things, perhaps the biggest revelations for me, they would be these:
- How difficult it is, on so many levels, to be a working artist. From the inconsistent income, to the anxiety of getting that next job, to the self doubt, to the perception of friends, fans, loved ones of what your life is like, to the fear… while there are many benefits, over all, it is a very tough row to hoe.
- How many of the jobs artists take for the money and not because it’s art they love. I think people have this perception that artists are doing ‘their’ art and have control over it, when in fact, they’re often taking direction from someone else, just to pay their mortgage.
- That it seems all working artists can pinpoint a moment in their career when it turned from them being a struggling artist, to being a working artist. Most of the times, these moments are random and due mainly to perseverance.
Somewhere in the Middle is on Amazon 10/15.