WIFT NZ: How and why did you get into the industry?
NV: I graduated in Bachelor of Magazine Publishing in the most unfortunate time when magazine industry went through a big shift to digital. As graduates we saw our job opportunities dwindle before our eyes as many magazines folded in the course of the year. After few unpaid internships I realised it wasn’t sustainable, so I thought about what I’m good at and where I can transfer it. At the time I thought, I’m very organised! Maybe I could work in production! (I no longer think this is absolutely true after having worked with way more organised production managers than I ever will be).
So I guess I ended up in video production more out of necessity although I always loved film - I just didn’t think I had what it takes to actually get into it. Traditionally, the only way was film school which to me always seemed very elitist.
So around the early 2010s, The VICE magazine just opened their video department and I used to pull pints in their pub Old Blue Last, so I interned there and then did some odd (very low paid) jobs.
And then the wobbly journey of film career started, just working my way up from intern to producer in various production companies and media outlets. I’ve had an amazing time so far and it’s taken me all around the world, it’s been about 10 years and I still feel like there’s still so much more to explore and develop as a producer.
WIFT NZ: What kind of things could you be doing day-to-day?
NV: I kind of wear couple of hats. I have a boutique production company in UK that up until recently I was exec producing but as I want to focus on my work in NZ, I happily passed that baton on. I am also a founder of Girls in Film, which is very similar to WIFT but focuses on new gen / emerging filmmakers from marginalised gender spectrums (ie anyone but boys!). It’s an international network with thousands of members worldwide and offices in London, Prague, Amsterdam and South Africa - hopefully Aotearoa soon too :)
When I’m producing, I’m usually client facing so I usually have few calls with clients and director and then some catch ups with heads of departments. If I’m lucky and budget allows I will have a life-saving production manager by my side and we have a chat about what needs to be done logistics-wise.
For Girls in Film, it can be number of things - for example, currently we are planning our first ever film festival in London in May, so I’m working on programming and preproduction for that.
WIFT NZ: What strengths do you need to do your role?
NV: It definitely is important to be organised but I find that for me personally, I think a good producer needs a very good people skills - ability to communicate clearly, keep everyone involved feel valued and happy with the progress of the project. I think a good degree of creativity is required - people usually think that producing is all about numbers but I get involved in developing the project from the storyboard to postproduction stage and really love the process.
WIFT NZ: What are the things you love about it?
NV: I guess the love for the film. The excitement of finally getting everything lined up and ready to shoot. At the end of the day, producers are filmmakers and film lovers too. If we weren’t, we couldn’t do it because it can be a taxing job.
WIFT NZ: What advice would you give to other women wanting to do the same job?
NV: Networking is very important, but not just in terms of job opportunities from people higher up in the industry. Finding creative partners with whom you can grow can change your life one day.
Nikola Vasakova moved to Auckland, New Zealand in 2020. She is a producer, programmer and founder of Girls in Film, an international network and platform for a new generation of womxn in film with hubs in London, Prague, Amsterdam, South Africa and over 3,000 members worldwide. GiF promotes, connects and elevates emerging female filmmakers through their online video platform, events and production company.
Before launching GiF Production in 2018, Nikola worked for The Telegraph, The Economist, VICE, NTS Radio & Boiler Room among others. Her company GiF Production aims to elevate marginalized voices and works with women and POC filmmakers on shorts, docs, music videos and commercial content. The most recent productions include short docs Kasaragod Boys by Vivek Vadoliya for Barbican and The Breadmaker by Susy Peña for The Guardian as well as list of commercial projects for Adidas, Nike and Lululemon.