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Nicole Gomez Fisher, Director for Sleeping with the Fishes, discusses her process & work


Nicole Gomez Fisher is a writer, director, and producer who lives in Brooklyn, New York. Nicole’s first feature film “Sleeping with the Fishes” which stars Golden Globe winner, Gina Rodriguez, Ana Ortiz, Steven Strait and Priscilla Lopez aired on HBO from 2014-2016.

Nicole Gomez Fisher was nominated for The St. Louis International Film Festival’s New Emerging Director Award, and received the Brooklyn Film Festival award for Best New Director. In 2014, she was named Best Director at the Imagen Awards founded by legendary television producer Norman Lear.

Nicole started out as an actor and stand-up comedian, and was a founding member of the Latina Comedy Tour “The Hot Tamales Live!” produced by Eva Longoria and Kiki Melendez. She wrote and performed a one-woman show, “Mixed” at the New York Underground Film Festival.

Nicole latest directing projects are Queens, a pilot POC written and starring Cindy Chu in which she also produced. The Beauty of Disaster, a short film written by Janet Stilson, which was licensed to a cable channel, and “Getting Out of My Own Way”, a music video for indie recording artist Jennifer Vazquez.

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Orfeh, Nicole Gomez Fisher, and Gina Rodriguez in Sleeping with the Fishes (2013)

Nicole Gomez Fisher is currently gearing up to shoot her second feature, Good Egg, an action-adventure comedy in early 2019.

Why did you get into filmmaking and screenwriting?
Nicole Gomez Fisher: When I began doing stand-up comedy, I quickly found that what fulfilled me more than being on stage was the process of writing. I thoroughly enjoyed storytelling – it became an escape of sorts, an imaginary journey that allowed me to explore and develop rich characters and create the worlds they exist in. I decided to try my hand at writing a feature knowing it was no easy feat, and read every script I could get my hands.

Reading is how I learned structure, pacing, character development etc. Sometimes I would read a script and then watch the film associated with that script to see how the writing translated to the screen. Filmmaking wasn’t something I envisioned doing at first, but once I started the process of financing FISHES everything else fell into place. I knew I wanted to direct, but was so green that I hesitated – until one day my casting directed said, “I can’t think of anyone better to direct a story loosely based on their own life” – and so began my career as a writer/director/producer.

How does an indie filmmaker distribute his/her film?
Nicole Gomez Fisher: Social media is key – it’s definitely not the answer, but it certainly doesn’t hurt when trying to garner attention and begin the process of marketing your film. Building followers allows your “product” to be shared hundreds of times over and get noticed. A notable film festival where buyers are looking is important too.

Queens – conference room

Submit to as many as you can so that you increase your chances of exposure and hopefully get some press in the process. That said, you also need to know your target market. Studying other films within your genre and find out which production companies support that style of film.

Time is money and you don’t want to waste yours or theirs. In the case of FISHES we were fortunate enough to find a sales agent that was willing to do the push for us…but of course that cost money and most indie filmmakers don’t have that stashed away or included in their initial budget.

A sales agent, if good, is worth every dime as long as your vision matches theirs, and as long as you are clear as to what your expectations are when it comes to distribution. Do you just want to stream? Are you expecting a theatrical release? If you’re not able to lock down a sales agent, one can always go to the production company’s website and see if they’re accepting blind submissions.

Many production companies will allow you to submit a logline and synopsis and then they’ll contact you if they’re interested. These days it’s also very feasible to self-distribute. Either way, it’s not easy process, but with patience and perseverance, it’s doable.

At what period in the filmmaking process, does an indie filmmaker need to start planning for distribution?
Nicole Gomez Fisher: It doesn’t hurt to start right out of the gate. Do your research, get some names, email people internally at those distribution companies, and don’t be afraid to ask your other filmmaker friends if they have contacts they can connect you to as well.

Sleeping with the Fishes – Gina Rodriguez & Steven Strait

Indie filmmaking is a model based on zero-budgeting or small budgets. How do I get my film in theatres with such a budget?
Nicole Gomez Fisher: I haven’t had to do this on my own, so it’s hard for me to give a direct answer, but I would go back to saying research, promote, submit your film to festivals, contact sales agents. There are some smaller theaters out there that will allow you to screen for a week or two, but I believe they charge a fee.

How can filmmakers finance their projects?
Nicole Gomez Fisher: There are so many Go Fund-like me pages that you can set up if you’re looking to raise money – friends and family can sometimes help. Submitting your script to well known, reputable competitions and placing in the top 10 definitely helps. But if neither of those routes work for you, you can always do the leg work and look for producers that are in search of optioning scripts.

Getting an independent producer on board is not easy, but if you can find one, they generally have financiers that they’ve worked with in the past who are willing to jump on board. Producers want material that is relevant, material that is comparable to things that are already out there that have been able to bring in numbers at the box office. If the material you submit is marketable and the producer can attach a name talent, that inevitably will bring in money.

Producers are looking – you just have to know where to find them. You can check out groups like Stage 32 where they post which producers are looking for what. Raising money is not easy, it takes time, but if you have a sellable product, they will come looking.

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Nicole Gomez Fisher on h set of Cindy Chu’s Queens

What films have you written?
Nicole Gomez Fisher: I’ve written 3 features. Sleeping with the fishes (2012) Good Egg (2016), Nestor and the Cold War (2018)

What are the films that you have made?

Talk to us about your concept on collaboration?
Nicole Gomez Fisher: I’ve always been taught that you can never stop learning, and that in order to grow you have to be open. Collaboration is all about being open. It allows you to not only learn new things, but to see things from a different perspective. Listening is key to creating something that connects to a wide variety of people – being close minded is foolish and gets you nowhere.

Filmmaking IS collaborating – you’re working with a team made up of crew, cast, producers, editors etc and everyone is going to have a different opinion of what works and if you’re not willing to listen and explore then you’re only limiting yourself and your project. I’m always open to hearing what others think, I may disagree, but I’m willing to try out a new idea if I think it will enhance a scene or a moment without compromising the story.

How do you find the process of filmmaking as an indie filmmaker?
Nicole Gomez Fisher: It’s not easy, but it can be very rewarding. Indie filmmaking is an art unto-itself. You have to be resourceful and flexible. Hiring a strong crew and talented actors can make the process much easier – experience trumps all (no pun intended). It’s fast paced, it’s exhausting at times, but at the end of the day, when you see all your hard work on the big screen, it’s almost as if all the stress, the pressure, the sleepless nights falls to the wayside

Spring Inés Peña, Cindy Chu and Carolina Do in Queens (Dir. by Nicole Gomez Fisher)

Describe your recent work, or film, take us through pre-production production and post production. Marketing too?
Nicole Gomez Fisher: I just completed directing and producing Cindy Chu’s pilot POC, QUEENS. It’s a super timely, quirky show that centers around 3 Asian American girls from all different backgrounds. It’s unique and funny – very much in the vein of INSECURE or GIRLS. Cindy and I met, discussed her script, created mood boards and talked about what her vision for the show would look like.

We then reached out to DPs and crew that we had either worked with before or had gotten through a rec, and starting interviewing until we finally had a team in place. Once we had that done, we posted an ad in Backstage online with our character breakdown and shooting dates. After receiving several submissions for each character, we rented space and held auditions followed by call backs.

We met with
our DP to go over
our shot list
and then set a date
to begin shooting. We shot 3 days, but
as I mentioned earlier, we had to shoot
2 extra days
thereafter for scenes
that we felt
were necessary to complete the story.

Once we wrapped,
we immediately went into editing. Our editor was amazing and truly dedicated. He even helped with some additional pick
up shots. We met with
him after each
cut and eventually got our final
cut. We then
met with our sound
designer and colorist and a few
months later, we had our final product
which we are very proud

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Priscilla Lopez, Ana Ortiz, and Gina Rodriguez in Sleeping with the Fishes (2013)

We’re currently in the process of marketing and have done a hard push on social media. We just finished a branding photoshoot with the 3 leads which we plan on sharing and posting. We’re also submitting to festivals in hopes of getting exposure. I’ve reach out to several contacts to see if they are interested or know of anyone that is looking for a funny, diverse show that they might want to help develop into a full series.

What are your future goals?
Nicole Gomez Fisher: I’m hoping to shoot my second feature, Good Egg, this Spring. I’ve been wanting to get this story up and running for some time, and I think 2019 just might be the time. I’ve also applied to a writer’s program through the WGA that I would love to be a part of. I’ve never been in a writer’s room and one of my dreams would be to be a part of one.

Ideally, I would
love to be to be able to not only
produce and direct
my own work,
but to help others create
and see their dreams come to fruition.

Tell us about what an indie filmmaker needs in filmmaking?
Nicole Gomez Fisher: Patience. Drive. Integrity. Knowledge of the business is so vital! You cannot forget that this is a business first and foremost. Numbers and the bottom line are what’s most important to studios and production companies. Know the market. Do your research. Learn and be open. Making a film is easier these days than it was years ago…there are so many more platforms and so much more content, which is why it’s vital to know where your stories fit within the market.

Briefly write about your career?
Nicole Gomez Fisher: I started off as an actress and then moved into stand up comedy. Stand up was a great way for me to get exposure, but more so, a great way for me to learn about myself and what I could accomplish if I just put my mind to it. I also learned to hone my writing skills. After booking a few television/film gigs here and there, I found myself feeling unfulfilled and that’s when I decided to write more. I wrote and performed a one-woman show for the New York Underground Comedy Festival and from there continued writing FISHES.

FISHES was an exciting time for me. I was so inexperienced and wide-eyed that I allowed everything that came my way, in, and in the process, I learned so much. You can’t be afraid to fail. It’s going to happen. And although I was able to lock a deal with HBO, there were so many hard dips and turns that I had to experience to get to that point…but it sure was rewarding! I can’t say I discovered anyone, but I was thrilled to have Gina Rodriguez join my cast. Working with her, Ana Ortiz, Pricilla Lopez, Steven Strait and Tibor Feldman amongst many, was a true gift. You can learn a lot from your cast, as they can learn from you. They allowed and trusted me as a first time director to run the ship and I can only hope I did them proud.

I discovered along
the way how to manage
a large team
of people, how to manage
my budget, how
to write with
a specific budget in mind. I find that
every project I’ve
worked on has
a different effect
on my career – some have
been amazing and some
not so much, but overall
it’s what I take away
from each that
matters most and truth be told, what I
have taken away is that anything is possible, it’s
just a matter of timing,
luck and preparation.

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The post Nicole Gomez Fisher, Director for Sleeping with the Fishes, discusses her process & work appeared first on indieactivity.


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