In addition to sourcing the freshest independent filmmakers across the globe for STALKR, Niko is an innovative director in his own right. Just this past year, his feature film Cotton Mouth screened at the Bend Film Festival in Oregon, and he has plans to release digitally in 2017. A love of film history and the power of visual storytelling guide his work both with STALKR and in his independent creations.
How did you get your start in filmmaking?
I’m a filmmaker based out of LA. I started by making sketch comedy videos with friends in middle school and high school, then attended film school at Columbia College Chicago and really fell in love with experimental film and classic cinema.
Where did the idea of Cotton Mouth come from?
The initial idea for Cotton Mouth came from a lot of late night discussions with my producers, mostly about the changing nature of the internet and its reach into every aspect of our lives. The main character in the film was heavily inspired by Edward Snowden and the debilitating paranoia he must have felt after his discovery.
How did the production come to fruition?
We launched a Kickstarter campaign and reached out to family and friends to fund the film, so it was a truly independent effort. Our budget for the whole film was $17,000 which is very little in the feature film world. We shot at my grandmother’s retirement community, and my mother cooked all the meals, so we had a lot of family and friends pitch in to minimize cost.
Can you talk a bit about the music collaboration on the project?
The music collaboration was complete serendipity. Jimmy Tamborello was a friend of a neighbor, he saw the trailer for the film and was interested. I met with him and spoke about what we had in mind for music. I’ve been a fan of his for many many years, from Dntel to The Postal Service, so it was a dream come true to collaborate with him. This is his first time making music for a film, and I think it’s a great fit, he’s a master of blending emotion with the electronic world, which is what the film is all about.
The film screened in Bend, right? Can you talk about seeing it on the big screen for the first time?
Seeing it on the big screen was definitely cathartic after editing in a basement alone for a couple years. The real joy came from the first laughs I started hearing, that’s when I knew it was connecting, which is really all you want when making a film.
What’s up next for Cotton Mouth?
We have started our next round of festival submissions and will hopefully attend some more screenings. We are planning to self-distribute digitally by the end of this year.
How do you feel that your independent work as a filmmaker has helped you in your current work with STALKR?
My work as a filmmaker has helped me at STALKR by giving me a visual fluency. I’ve learned to recognize well composed images, which helps me track down the right footage from the infinite options we come across. STALKR has also helped me in my filmmaking by exposing me to some of the best filmmaking happening on the internet today, which has really inspired me to push myself further.
What’s up next for you?
I am currently in pre-production on a slasher/horror film. I’ve been hired to make this one, and hopefully after this I will get back to the self-produced art-house world.