A couple of months ago I was given the fantastic opportunity of interviewing Nick Nevern, the director, lead actor and writer of low budget, cult indie-movie, Terry. The interview was on behalf of Smell of Napalm and was first published on that website as an exclusive. Nick Nevern was a pleasure to talk with despite being on set at the time; honest, forthcoming and very friendly, I felt like we were having a drink at the pub. Enjoy the interview.
What were your goals when you set out to make Terry?
Oh, fucking hell! [laughs] What were my goals when I set out to make Terry? Just to make something cheap that people could look at in years to come say and say you know, “wow, if that guy made a movie for that little, maybe I can make one as well” you know? I think I wanted to inspire people a little bit, and I also wanted to create a story of where I lived, representing people that I knew.
In the release notes you refer to creating an honest portrayal of characters and situations you grew up with –
Yeah, absolutely man.
Would you say that Terry is in any way autobiographical then, even vaguely?
Um…not really. I was a bit of a wild kid I’m not going to lie, but I was nowhere near a bully or anything like that, like Terry is. Terry’s a bully. If you look at the people he fights in the film and the people he starts on, no-one is like, his size or his…you know, and I wanted to show that as well, do you know what I mean? People are calling this film a gangster film and shit like that. It’s not. It’s not a gangster film, it’s a portrayal about one guy who is just really unhappy with himself. So I wouldn’t say it was autobiographical in anyway, but I do know people like that and I don’t think you can play a character like that convincingly unless you’ve kind of lived that life a little bit.
You obviously have quite a diverse TV career, but in terms of films, this is your first major role – is that something you’ve always aspired to and want to continue doing?
Oh absolutely! It’s funny because I’m on a feature film right now so yeah…if Terry’s the biggest feature film I’ve ever done then this has got to be the second. I’ve done a few before but not massive parts or anything like that so hopefully that’ll change.
What film are you on now?
I’m on a film called Outpost: Black Sun. I’m playing a Special Forces Commando by the name of James Carlisle who’s basically part of a group of six special forces unit, basically fighting against sort of, crazy, nazi types.
Yeah, it’s a bit of a mad one.
Well a few people have asked if I want to do a sequel and it opens itself up to a sequel obviously quite well. But…I do want to do one and I’ve got a great idea for it. I’ve got a great idea for what I would do for the sequel! Obviously I’d make the sequel a bit bigger budget, do you know what I mean, get a better camera out! I’d do it a bit differently. Same style, same documentary style, but it would just look a hell of a lot better. But yeah, there are talks of a sequel. We’ll see how this one does, if this one flops well then there’s no point. If people want to see more then I don’t think Terry’s story is over.
That’s wicked! I’d definitely like to see a sequel.
Well yeah, I’ve got a great idea…we’ll see how the first one turns out. If people like it, and it sells well on the dvd and stuff like that. I mean, I always knew this was a DVD movie. My producer Jason Maza wanted it to go to cinema which it did obviously, but I always knew that the market would be on the DVD.
Were you strongly influenced by films shot in vaguely similar style, Man Bites Dog for example –
Oh, I love Man Bites Dog!
So that’s a parallel you’re happy with?
Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely. It’s not the first time that Terry’s been compared to that in any way. Obviously Man Bites Dog really broke the mould in that style of movie. Obviously you’ve got your Blair Witch Project and stuff like that, and you’ve got your Australian movies like with The Magician which is obviously a documentary style film following a contract killer…these things have been done before I guess. But what I tried to do with Terry is…you see the thing with Man Bites Dog is it’s an amazing, original piece but it just wouldn’t happen in real life, do you know what I mean? So I just tried to making something that might actually – could – happen.
It is cool when it ends and you see that, when you read as if it’s real and you see what happened to them, you’re just like: no way!
Totally man, totally. That’s the thing, a lot of people when they watch the first 20 minutes, half an hour through, a lot of people watch it and go, “what the fuck am I watching here? What is this, seriously? Is this for fucking real mate?” And obviously as it goes on you get that its not real, or maybe you don’t, I mean, a lot of people don’t! But I was heavily influenced by Man Bites Dog and Magician and films like that really. I’ve got to be honest, I’ve got no money! Someone wrote a review about Terry saying it was “low budget for low budget’s sake,” I think it was The Times yeah? The Times wrote, “Terry is low budget for low budget’s sake.” I don’t even know what that means! I made it for £500 because that’s all I had! I wasn’t trying to make like… it’s not like I had a million quid in my pocket and I thought, “I know what I’ll do, I’ll make a film for £500”. I wasn’t thinking like that, you know what I’m saying? Some people just don’t get it. They just don’t get that I was making it because, you know, I had no money. If I had a million pound I would have put a million pound in to it and then it wouldn’t look the same and it wouldn’t have the same effect.
This is your debut feature, has it been easy getting it off the ground, developing it from concept to completion or was it a bit of a struggle? What sort of problems did you encounter?
Basically, I had the idea to do it fucking ages ago. Like it was a different idea back then, it was more of a documentary about a real gangster and then I watched Donal MacIntyre’s film ‘A [Very] British Gangster’ which follows Dominic Noonan around for three years as a gangster in Manchester and I thought, “fucking hell, the geezer’s just taken my idea”, like obviously it was a real thing, but I thought “shit, that’s what I wanted to do”. So then I just sat it on a fucking shelf for ages and then I just thought, I’ll do it, but not about a real person. So then I called my mate Ian Duck who plays Spencer and I said, “listen mate, I wanna do this little thing, do you wanna do it?” and he was like, “yeah”, so then I called Manuel and I went to school with his older sister, I’ve known him for years. Everyone in the film that you see I’ve known for fucking years, absolute donkeys you know? So yeah, I made it and then it was like 2 hours long or something. Then Jason Maza got involved and he cut it down by about 45 minutes, he edited the soundtrack, I don’t know too much about that, so he sorted all that kind of stuff, and then obviously Lionsgate and stuff got involved and it all came together in the end. It was a bit of a struggle getting it to a certain point because no-one wanted to fucking touch it! The distributors have been fantastic, Lionsgate especially, it’s a £500 movie man, and they’ve pulled out all the stops. They’re advertising it well.
To be honest I prefer acting the most. Acting is where I started, it’s my bread and butter. Direction is something I’ve only got in to recently after Terry. I’ve just directed a music video for a guy called Snakey Man, ‘Making Moves’, it’s on YouTube, it’s featuring Noel Clarke, and it’s the actual music video for Terry, so there’s loads of cameos. So yeah, I’ve only done a few things, and I obviously want to do more, but acting is my bread and butter without a doubt.
What would be your advice to any aspiring writers and directors?
You can do it! If I can do it, you can do it! The Times said, and I quote, “The actors showreel is dead. Now all aspiring film makers need to succeed is a camcorder, a few willing mates and a few like, unbusy weekends” or something like that yeah? They were trying to diss me. They were trying to fucking diss me, but it’s true. If you’ve got people around you that want to get involved and do this: go and make your film! It doesn’t matter if it’s on a camcorder or a mobile phone or a 7D or a Red, you know? Make your film man. Don’t be shy, don’t be scared, don’t care what people think man. If you’ve got a story, go tell it.
Lastly, a question on a lighter note – what’s your favourite film?
Oh, what’s my favourite film? Oh man, we were talking about this on set actually. I don’t know, there’s so many.
Alright then, top 3! List a couple.
Obviously I’m a big fan of, you know, your Godfather’s, your Goodfellas, your Scarface’s…but I’m going to tell you, and this is an exclusive now! [laughs] My favourite film…of all time…is…Young Guns. Have you seen it? With Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen and a couple of others, and Young Guns 2 is the first ever movie, I’ve cried since, but it was the first ever movie that made me bawl like a baby man. I watched that, and when the geezer dies in it…man, it was…I haven’t cried so much since Jamie Mitchell died in EastEnders man.
How old were you when you watched that then?!!
[laughs] But anything by Scorsese I’m a big fan. And British films. I love British films. Anything British. Anything British I fucking love. Dead Man’s Shoes, that’s a fucking good one.
Well, thanks very much for your time Nick, and congratulations on a great movie.