Getting to know up and coming writer/director/actor/puppeteer Nicola Rose

Nicola Rose

Sometimes you get to meet someone whom you just know will go on to do great things.  Nicola Rose is one such person.  She is a bilingual, creative force who creates interesting films and web series that will only continue to grow and build a strong base of fans and followers.

We first got to know a little about Nicola Rose when we spoke with her dear dad Brooke McEldowney whom we interviewed regarding his comic strips 9 Chickweed Lane and Pibgorn.

RELATED: Interview with ‘9 Chickweed Lane/Pibgorn’ comics creator Brooke McEldowney

Nicola was born just outside of New York City, but grew up in Florida and Maine.  Creativity was encouraged by her parents.  She went on to study at Columbia University and the Sorbonne in Paris.  She wrote a musical called Aisle Six that is about a cursed supermarket and was performed at San Diego Fringe Festival and off-Broadway at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre in 2013.

Nicola Rose is also a gifted puppeteer who created popular web series Callie and Izzy.  This program is about a woman who is diagnosed with Puppetitis B, a condition that caused a living, horny puppet to grow out of her arm and the adventures they go on together.

Nicola Rose
Nicola Rose and a puppet from "Creative Block"

Her current project is a film called Creative Block.  It is making its way around film festivals.

Nicola Rose spoke with Michelle Tompkins about her life and education, how she got interested in puppetry, why her new film Creative Block is good for anyone who has had some sort of impediment when it comes to coming up with original ideas, the importance on New York Women in Film, what she likes to do for fun and more.

Michelle Tompkins:  Where are you from?

Nicola Rose:  I was born outside NYC, then grew up mostly in Florida and Maine.

MT:  Where do you live now?

NR:  New York City.

MT:  Tell me about your childhood.

NR:  It was very happy. I had grand ambitions of becoming a performer. I was oblivious to most things aside from my own immediate consciousness and a constant desire to eat in restaurants. Also, I understand I was very loud.

MT:  Did you play with film when you were young?

NR:  I never did. I wish I had! Maybe I'd be a DP now.

MT:  Have you always been interested into the arts?

NR:  Yes, only I didn't always realize they were The Arts. But they were what I grew up with.

MT:  How did your dad (9 Chickweed Lane and Pibgorn cartoonist, Brooke McEldowney) influence your work?

NR:  Basically by never failing to have creative ideas for 24+ years. Granted, he has to, because of deadlines. But his inspirations seem so constant and fruitful, that you can't help but marvel at it. It makes you feel you have no choice but to come up with your one little idea.

MT:  Do you have a favorite character or storyline in one of his strips?

Image result for 9 chickweed lane edie

NR:  Yes. My favorite is the Edie Ernst story, a World War II romance which ran in the comic strip from 2009-2010, and which you can buy in book form here.

MT:  What did you study at Columbia and the Sorbonne?

NR:  French at Columbia; theatre and how to find a toilet stall with doors still attached at the Sorbonne.

MT:  Please tell me about Creative Block.

Nicola Rose
Nicola Rose and Paris camerawoman Véronique Doumbé for "Creative Block"

NR:  Creative Block is a short, surreal film, in English and French, about creativity and the loss of it. The two main characters, Claire (played by me) and Thibaut (played by Thomas Vieljeux), are artists in two very different professions whose creative pursuits get blocked in different ways. The story is Claire's quest to reclaim her creativity, how this connects her with Thibaut, and the disappointments and surprises she meets with along the way.

MT:  Where was it filmed?

NR:  In Manhattan, Brooklyn and Paris.

MT:  What led you to make the film in English and French?

NR:  I always heard it that way in my head. There was dialogue I couldn't imagine in French and dialogue I couldn't imagine in English. I always say I think in Franglais anyway.

"Creative Block" was originally a much longer story that got pared down to something short and surreal. Very little of the original dialogue remains, but originally there were 90-odd pages alternating between French and English.

MT:  Is Claire based on yourself?

NR:  Yes, to an extent, but she acts more impulsively. It's only normal; she's in a 15-minute film. And I'm far as I know.

MT:  How do you define “creative depression?”

NR:  A paralysis. Your wheels are spinning but your mind is blank and tired. Depression cancels all your ideas and your life goals, replacing them with an overwhelming sense of incompetence and life goals to browse Facebook on your phone. That's a little facile but it's about right.

But I can only speak from my own experience, and I assume it's different for everyone. I've heard some people actually create BETTER when in a depression. Obviously, those people suck. 😉

MT:  What is the importance of balloons in your film? Balloons typically make people happy.

NR:  Yes. They do. In the film they represent creativity!

MT:  Who do you think would benefit from watching your film?

NR:  Anyone who has ever gone through difficulties with themselves (creative or otherwise) and anyone who has ever seen themselves reflected in somebody else. It’s a broad demographic!

MT:  You have had two screenings so far. When and where were they? What did people say about them?

NR:  They were both in NYC. The reaction was very different from screening to screening. At the first one, people reacted more to the comic moments in the film. At the second, people were more meditative and rapt.

MT:  What is your involvement with New York Women in Film & Television?

NR:  They're a lovely group that offer networking events for women in film in the area. I go whenever I can and I've met colleagues through them and other such organizations.

MT:  You are a puppeteer. How did you get interested in that?

NR:  First by watching the PBS show "Storytime" (which was hosted by a puppet) when I was a kid, then by going to France to study puppetry as an adult. In Paris I met Marion Chesnais, who was the daughter of a well-known Paris puppeteer, Jacques Chesnais. Marion's puppet collection and her stories of touring with her parents' troupe made me want to be a puppeteer.

MT:  Who or what was your first puppet?

NR:  Honestly, I can’t remember! But I do remember trying to recreate Kino, the puppet who hosted “Storytime,” on my grandma’s sewing machine. I still have the result of my efforts, which came out more pillow than puppet, but it was something.

MT:  What is Callie and Izzy?

NR:  My webseries about a young woman with Puppetitis B, a dread disease that makes a puppet — a living puppet — grow out of your arm. No one is immune!

MT:  Where can people see it?

NR:  They can see all 24 episodes (in reverse order, because I’m contrary like that) right here.

MT:  Do you still perform with puppets?

NR:  Yes, frequently!

MT:  Where do you perform?

NR:  Mostly libraries, schools and cultural centers around NYC.

MT:  What are your shows about?

NR:  These days they are mostly variety shows of songs and stories for little kids.

MT:  Do you have a favorite story about a happening at one of your puppet shows?

NR:  I once had a party full of sugar-crazed kids storm the stage, pillage the props and try to pull the eyes off my puppets in France as the parents watched and shared a hearty chuckle. If there was one instance in life that made me hesitant to reproduce, that was it.

MT:  What is Aisle Six?

NR:  A musical about a cursed supermarket that I wrote in 2009, that was then performed at the first San Diego Fringe Festival and off-Broadway at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre in 2013.

MT:  How did you choose which film festivals to enter?

NR:  I selected ones that looked open to a film like Creative Block, or ones located in places I wanted to visit!

MT:  What is the process?

NR:  A streamlined way is to submit your film to multiple festivals through sites called FilmFreeway and WithoutABox.

MT:  Where can people see your film?

NR:  They can't as long as it's in festival consideration (it would disqualify it), but I'll update my site (below) with screenings as they happen.

MT:  Where can people learn more about the film?

MT:  What are your hopes for this film?

NR:  That it'll connect with people who've felt disconnected from themselves in the way the protagonist does. Seeing art (films, books, music) that mirror your experiences is hugely heartening. And I think some of the experiences in this film are pretty universal: feeling lost, seeing the one person on earth who makes you feel found.

MT:  When and where will it be shown again?

NR:  It was selected by the Mindfield Film Festival in Los Angeles and I'll know soon about others!

MT:  What are your favorite movies/tv shows?

NR:  My favorite movies are Moonrise Kingdom, Amélie, L'Iceberg, Rushmore and a short film from Hungary called "Sing." My favorite TV shows are Whose Line is it Anyway, The Simpsons, 800 Words (an Australian program) and All Creatures Great and Small.

MT:  What do you like to do for fun?

NR:  I love to walk around new cities (and those I consider old friends).

MT:  Where is someplace you want to visit, but haven’t been to yet?

NR:  Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.

MT:  Where can people learn more about you?

MT:  What are your professional goals for the future?

NR:  I want to keep making films that are funny and hit people in the heart.

MT:  What are your social media handles?

Instagram: @nicolarosemce

Facebook: @creativeblockfilm

Twitter: @creativebfilm and @nicolarosemce

Learn more about Nicola Rose here.

READERS: How do you get yourself out of a creative block?

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Michelle Tompkins

Michelle Tompkins is an award-winning media, PR and crisis communications professional with more than ten years experience with coverage in virtually every traditional and new media outlet. She is currently a communications and media strategist and writer, as well as the author of College Prowler: Guidebook for Columbia University. She served as the Media Relations Manager for the Girl Scouts of the USA where she managed all media and talking points, created social media strategy, trained executives and donors and served as the organization’s primary spokesperson, participating in daily interviews with local, regional, and national media outlets. She managed the media for the Let Me Know internet safety and Cyberbullying prevention campaign with Microsoft, as well as Girl Scouts’ centennial Year of the Girl To Get Her There celebration in 2012, which yielded more than 800 million earned media impressions. In addition to her extensive media experience, Michelle worked as a talent agent in Los Angeles, California, as well contracting as a digital content developer and her writing has appeared in newspapers and online. She is passionate about television, theater, classic movies, all things food and in-home entertaining. While she has lived and worked in NYC for more than a decade, she is from suburban Sacramento and gets back there often to watch the San Francisco Giants on TV with her family.

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