Much like his heroes Afred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg, Nick Carlton is a maverick.
A year and a half ago at 18 years old, he created the web series, OzGirl, about a young girl Sadie’s move to Melbourne from the countryside.
The series has since been nominated for many national and international awards, sending him on a career trajectory which is making heads spin.
He believes web series tap into a vast pool of young online viewers, and is expanding his company Dark Heart Productions to take advantage of this international market.
I wanted to know how film artistry and entrepreneurship could possibly meet – given one usually seems to massacre the other. So I met Nick in a featureless courtyard inside the labyrinth of the VCA, to find out how you can dream for a living.
I love Australia, but I grew up most of my life in Singapore and Malaysia, and went to international schools, which meant I spent lots of time with different sorts of people.
OzGirl was at 23-part series, so the biggest project that I have ever taken on. My initial idea was about a hairdresser and I thought I was going to make flogs, like a straight webcam video, but that form is really passé, so we came up with the mockumentary instead.
The whole thing was unscripted dialogue, so we would drive to a location, and we would know, for example, that Megan would have to break up with George, but we would have no idea how to do it. That gave the actors huge creative control.
The point of OzGirl was meant to be uplifting; it’s not an existentialist piece of cinema. It’s meant to be something for young school girls to come home and watch while they are eating their afternoon snack. At the same time, it’s a compelling story; it’s a fish-out-of-the-water story.
A fish out of the water
I needed to be an entrepreneur with OzGirl, because there are so many things that deviate from the norm, such as revenue streams, sponsorship, and social marketing.
The commerce of film is just as important as the art of film, and the two go hand in hand.
OzGirl has simple themes because when you are being innovative in the way you deliver content (on the web), it’s important to deliver a safe story. It’s about diminishing risk. You don’t want to tell a story that is going to alienate a large audience, but I wanted to do something different in the delivery.
In film, Australia has no place on the world stage. There is a tall poppy syndrome and culture, which is enshrined in our mentality, and that’s evident in the films we make.
We have a lot of kitchen sink dramas, and it’s been widely acknowledged that they are depressing, and I think that is intrinsically linked to our culture.
The American approach to business and entrepreneurship is more in line with what I believe. It’s about going out there and making something of yourself.
I feel like when I am talking to people in Australia I need to put a disclaimer out there, because what I am trying to achieve is so far from what’s accepted. In my mind I am trying to achieve a lot more than what is expected for someone so young.
Nick is in the process of finalizing a second series of OzGirl, amongst other projects, and recommends Vertigo or Traffic for getting yourself into the directing mood.