Unlocking The Artiste Vault with Nadz Banaag

"It’s a hard feeling to describe when you're behind the lenses and monitor seeing your vision come to life.
It’s euphoric, yet draining at the same time.
I guess it’s kind of like having sex." 
- Nadz Banaag


Meet Nadz Banaag: Sydney based photographer, cinematographer, and director. You may also know him from The Artiste Vault. As part of the rising Aussie creative scene, not only does Nadz have beautiful aesthetics in his work, he has depth and sincerity in it. He can capture the simplest, but most meaningful, fleeting moment that would normally be forgotten, or even missed, in the blink of an eye. Nadz embodies the presence of nostalgia in youth culture through his vision, which garners many admirers worldwide.

WRITTEN CITIZEN snagged some time out of this busy body's schedule to sit down and chat about Jaws and Straya.

WRITTEN CITIZEN: Hey Nadz! Thanks for sitting down and chatting with me. How are you?

NADZ BANAAG: Splendid, Zoe.

WC: Great! So, what's an average day like for you?

NB: It differs. I usually get up early, go for a morning jog, have a sneaky coffee, check the email inbox, then go from there.

WC: How [supportive] have your friends and family been about cinematography?

NB: I haven’t encountered any issues with them, so I guess the family and friends are pretty supportive of my endeavors.

WC: Most abused camera/equipment?

NB: An old Nikon fm2 35mm film camera with a nikkor 50mm ais lens. The thing is built like a German tank. I bring it everywhere; it has accumulated a few dents and scratches from general wear and tear, but it does the trick.

WC: When, how, and why did you get into filming, directing, and photography?

NB: Not sure how old I was specifically, but my earliest childhood memory of movies was when I watched Steven Spielberg’s Jaws with my mum. It scared the shit out of me, but it introduced me to the sensory and perceptual power of cinema. Pretty sure I was around seven or eight [years-old]. I was a bit of a dreamer, a space cadet.
   As for directing, growing up, I played a lot of team sports in my hometown Newcastle, which is two hours north of Sydney. I always liked being a team leader; directing was always a natural thing for me.
   When I moved to Sydney, I was fortunate enough to score some work at a production company whilst studying sound production, then soon after, film school. It all escalated from there.
   And photography, well, that came from pure boredom. I spent the majority of last year writing a script, so photography was a handy escape from being confined in a room with a notepad and pen. It got me out of the house.

WC: What are your favorite types of stories to documents?

NB: I’m into thought provoking dramas with fractured characters. To simplify it: I’m interested in behaviors — not so much the narrative itself.

WC: What was the very first film you made?

NB: A fashion film called ‘Summers Mirage’, about a girl who frolics around in colorful outfits and gets lost in nature. [It was] shot handheld on a shoe string budget.

WC: Tell us your thoughts on Hollywood, as well as the film industry in general.

NB: I think the film industry as a whole is in a healthy state.
   With the advanced progression of camera technology, and Computer Generated Imagery and so forth, the possibilities are endless. Affordable Consumer cameras are now shooting in 4k resolution, which is bloody exciting. And it’s good to see a good mix of independent and studio-funded films shot on digital and traditional film stock.
   As for Hollywood, it’s the motion picture capital of the world. It is what it is.

WC: Would you ever consider breaking into that Hollywood directing life?

NB: It’s the Mecca for most film directors, so I would never count it out as an option.
   Most importantly, if I’m doing what I enjoy whilst continuing to put in the hard work and effort, we’ll see. It’s an exciting prospect. I like where I am at the moment.

WC: We've chatted with mutual film director and photographer Natalie Neal, and we discussed women in the film industry — specifically behind the camera. From a man's point of view, behind the camera as well, how are women treated in the film industry?

NB: I’ve worked with some very talented women on past projects. A good solid example was when I was doing my year at Sydney Film School. We had a large contingent of females — all super talented in their own ways.
   I think females are much more grounded than men; there’s something organic about their mental process. They’re good to be around on set, and they see things from a different perspective. Men can be a bit hazy at times. Maybe it’s a primal thing.
   In a recent production, I worked mostly with females. Women are well respected in the film industry here, and rightly deserved.
Also, a side-note: I was raised by women, so I always take the woman’s side.

WC: The woman is always right, am I right? Ha-ha. 
As for directors, are white males the ultimate preference? Are minorities and women discarded? Any complaints and/or personal run-ins?

NB: I’ve never really thought about it. I think it all comes down to the directors casting process.
   Personally, I’m not a fan of castings. I like to meet with potential talent in social settings, then develop the character in a loose script based on fragments of the talent's personality.
   There’s something off-putting about being in a room full of actors you don’t really know, and are competing for one role. I’d rather just do everything at my own pace — save the “Did I get the part?” casting bullshit. In fact, you should always connect with your talent in order to gain their trust — keep the process organic. I still hang out with a lot of the people with whom I’ve worked.

WC: And that gets me on to how you meet these people: networking. How do you think social media has helped—or hindered—creatives in the photography and film business?

NB: Social media is great. You just have to sift through all the crap floating around. I’ve met some cool people via social networking mediums — like you, Zoe. It’s a handy tool. Props to social media.

WC: Thanks, Nadz! You too. And I completely agree. 
Speaking of social media, I just thought of your really nice feed on Instagram! What is your favorite kind of photography?

NB: I’m into photojournalism. Some of the photos you see in National Geographic are brilliant. I like that stuff.
   Basically, photos that capture life at any significant moment in time. Cartier Bresson, William Klein, and Martin Parr’s work are huge influences.
   I also have soft spot for the work of William Egglestone and the mundane, yet colorful way, he captured the 70’s in Memphis, Tennessee (USA). He makes the simplest things look extraordinary.

WC: On that note, who are your role models? From where do you draw inspiration?

NB: It’s hard to pin point specific role models and inspirations. I’m inspired by a diverse array of things — music, art, personal experiences, films. Even objects I see on the side of the road.
   At the moment I’ve been getting into a lot of modern European cinema. The works of Leos Carax, Gaspar noe, Lars von trier, Michael Haneke, Bruno Dumont to name a few. All geniuses in the art of ‘poetry in motion’, with a sprinkling of transgression just to mess with people's heads.
I go through phases.

WC: Lars von Trier is a genius! And oh, do I ever relate with that phases conundrum. 
So, phases aside, when you're at a creative block, what do you do?

NB: I listen to classical music on vinyl. It really helps sedate the mind numbing process. Also, a solid glass of Jack Daniels doesn’t go wrong.
   A blank mind is a hard thing to get through — you're in a constant battle with your mental self to get results.

WC: Describe to us your style a bit more!

NB: I’m not sure what my style is, to be honest. A friend recently described a script of mine as a 'drug fuck', so maybe it’s within that realm. Couldn’t tell ya.

WC: How has your surrounding environment impacted your 'style', as well as a person and artist? Tell us about the Sydney and Aussie creative scene!

NB: Sydney is a breeding ground for creative talent — I love it. If anything is going to drive you to push yourself further, it’s the people around you. We’re a supportive bunch in Australia, or as we call it here, 'Straya'!

WC: Talking more about you supportive bunch, what have been some of your favorite projects and collaborations?

NB: That’s a tough question. I don’t really reflect on past projects, nor have any personal favorites. Once something’s out there for the world to see, I never really think about it—especially with my video work. I like to live in the present and focus on what’s next.

WC: Okay then, dream projects and collaborations?

NB: Would be stoked to collaborate with Larry Clark. I dig his ‘I-don’t-give-a-fuck’ approach and his fascination with youth culture.

WC: Quickie — digital or film [photography]?

NB: Film photography all the way. Gotta love that sexy grain.

WC: I approve.
So, tell us about the feeling you get when you capture that split second of a pure, unparalleled moment in time [behind the lenses].

NB: Filmmaking is a therapeutic release for me. You spend so much time coming up with ideas and concepts, then you eventually get to the shooting stage. It’s a hard feeling to describe when you're behind the lenses and monitor seeing your vision come to life. It’s euphoric, yet draining at the same time. I guess it’s kind of like having sex.

WC: Forget nymphomania — you have photographomania! 
Alright, Nadz. What's next for you?

NB: Just finishing off a video for my friends at Fashion Grunge, and working on preproduction for an ongoing photo and video series called Girls On Film.
   I'm also working on an experimental film called 'Scruffy Haired Blonde', which I start rehearsing this month.

Check out Nadz's mood board The Artiste Vault here, his diary here, and his videos here. Make sure to also give him a follow on Instagram!

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