Film Editor and Associate Producer of upcoming mini-series Visions of a Vivid Life Elliott Jones chats to Nicole Miners, who plays the show’s mysterious lead Mako.
We love supporting up and coming filmmakers, especially when they’re one of our own like ex-Film Editor Levi Aluede, who demonstrates such passion and perseverance with his approach to independent filmmaking. This time around, he is the Creator/Director/Executive Producer of Visions of a Vivid Life, a mini-series about memories, trauma and addiction, that I’m lucky enough to serve as an Associate Producer on.
As someone with the experience of being on-set and watching the process of creating this series unfold, it seems like a good opportunity to offer some insight into the upcoming series through a discussion with actress Nicole Miners, who takes on the role of the show’s lead, Mako Springer.
Elliott: So Nicole, what was your initial reaction to the story and what made it so appealing to you?
Well, I find sci-fi fascinating, so I was really drawn to the sci-fi elements of the series immediately. What’s interesting about Visions (of a Vivid Life) is that it’s setting and timeframe is a little blurred, so you’re thinking, is it set right now or in some kind of dystopic but weirdly familiar future? The idea of people paying to experience the happy memories of others to cope with trauma seems like it could easily exist in this world, but of course, it doesn’t. So I think there’s that uniqueness to the story that makes you consider our reality but also worry about the future.
Elliott: Certainly. My initial thoughts on the script were that it offered the similar kind of existential dread to Black Mirror, but Visions is obviously less about the technology but more about the characters and the ethical side of experiencing peoples’ memories, which is of course where Mako comes in. What were your first thoughts on the character?
I think the best thing about Mako is the way she comes across, especially when she’s speaking. She has these amazing lines where to the other characters she’s talking in riddles, but of course she knows exactly what she’s talking about. She seems to have this sense of control over every situation, always pointing things in the direction that she wants to go, but you’re never really sure what her motives are or what she’s really thinking, which gives her this aura of mystery and makes her so fun to play.
Elliott: So, Mako is based on a character from a screenplay that Levi had previously written, which is essentially a prequel to the series. Not to give anything away about Mako’s fate in Visions, but would you want to go back to the character in the future?
Haha of course! If Levi will have me back!
Elliott: I’m sure that he will, given how much he clearly clicked with you and the other actors on-set. How did you find him as a director?
What I really enjoyed was the freedom he gave me to get the most out of playing Mako, which was really reassuring because of how much he clearly loves the character. Coming from drama school, where you’re always told to do things in a certain way and it’s all very structured, it was really refreshing to have the chance to do my own thing with my performance, rather than being constantly told what to do.
Elliott: It’s interesting you say that, because Levi certainly comes from a more DIY background with regards to how he approaches filmmaking rather than a formal education. So, do you feel like that was a huge benefit to your experience on-set?
Definitely, because you get the sense his directing comes from a place of passion and care and respect for everyone trying to help him make the project, which is why everyone gets along with him so well. Even when he was giving notes on scenes, he was always open to ideas and made me feel as if I was in control of my own performance, which is always such a confidence boost.
Elliott: Of course he only directed the first two episodes. Episode 3 was directed by Amber Bardell and Episode 4 was directed by Sayna Fardaraghi, what did you enjoy about their different styles of directing?
I loved how organised Amber was. She planned every scene out with so much detail that it was so easy to get the scenes right as quickly as possible, which definitely helped with the time constraints. It’s really reassuring when the director knows exactly what they’re doing and when, because when you’re trying to stay in character you always want to know what you’re doing next, which Amber always did. There was never any uncertainty between scenes. With Sayna, she’s just got such creativity and flair that makes you feel like everything is going to look great, especially because she was the cinematographer as well. She always pushed herself to get the perfect shot and can spot things through a lens that nobody else would even notice, which again fills you with confidence that you’re a part of making something great.
Elliott: At the start of Episode 2, there’s a wonderful dance scene involving Mako. I remember when that was filmed, it was just you and Levi in the room, what was the thought process behind that?
Well Levi gave me the option, whether to have everyone watching or not. Obviously I chose not! I think it was because it’s such an intimate scene and something that Levi was really set on making absolutely perfect, so if it was just the two of us in the room we could capture the mood better. Plus, dancing in front of a room full of people is pretty nerve racking haha!
Elliott: Very understandable, I think I’d have done the same! Was there anything that you really found challenging, a particular scene or piece of dialogue you couldn’t quite wrap your head around?
Funnily enough, the only thing I found myself struggling with was recording the voice-overs. Because it was done a couple of weeks after we’d finished shooting, I had to get back into the character, plus there was nobody around for me to kind of bounce off like you would in a scene with other actors, which was hard. When you’re just saying lines into a microphone it can be a little hard to capture the right tone and voice, even though you’ve already spent such a long time with the character on-set.
Elliott: One of the best things I noticed on-set was the diversity, seeing different backgrounds, races and genders all taking on major roles, which I know is a key focus for Future First, the production company co-founded by Levi. How important was it for you to see that?
It was fantastic! I loved that the character I was playing wasn’t defined by features related to her race or any stereotypical traits, but I was allowed to make the role my own and have my own features define how Mako looked and acted, not just there to fill some quota. There’s definitely been a big focus on this in Hollywood recently but there’s still so much more to be done, so it’s great to see Levi and Future First setting a good example, even as a small company.
Elliott: It’s certainly to be commended! Right last couple of questions. Firstly, what three words would you use to describe Mako?
Oooh, I’d have to say mysterious, intruiging and contagious.
Elliott: Couldn’t agree more, I think you’ve summed her up perfectly there. Finally, if you had to find three ways to describe Visions of a Vivid Life to someone, what would you say?
That it’s thought-provoking, intimate and reminiscent.
Hopefully this interview offers some good insight into what to expect from Visions of a Vivid Life when it releases in its entirety. For now, here’s a preview clip from the series featuring Nicole and the rest of the cast in action: https://twitter.com/VisionsofaVivi1/status/1248551294798888960
Words by Elliott Jones