Close-Up Catch-Up: An Interview With Pony Nicole Herauf

To celebrate five years of Close-Up Culture, we are welcoming our favourite interviewees back onto the site to see what they’ve been up to.

Pony Nicole Herauf returns to reflect on the last few years and talk about the success of Breaking Up For The Modern Girl.

Hi Pony, welcome back to Close-Up Culture. So much has happened in the world and arts community since we the last spoke in 2019. How do you reflect on your journey over the last few years?

Thank you so much for having me! Always a pleasure to chat with you folks. The whole Covid vibe of the last few years has definitely felt a little “hurry up and wait” in terms of my career. The limitations of creating in a time of hell-fire and Omicron are palpable, but- inspiring? God, what an original thought! Put that on a t-shirt!

In all seriousness, I got to spend a great deal of time alone. I moisturized, moved apartments, ate veggie ramen, and worked hard to take care my most powerful parts (my brain and my butt, duh). I made a goal to read fifty books in a year and I surpassed it. I took myself to the movies every week and consumed culture until I remembered why I loved making it so much. On and off, everything sucked. But my life is filled with with more brilliance than tragedy, so I’m happy to take it in stride.

On the artistic front, I’ve been able to branch out into areas like casting and rehearsal directing (working with Aaron Reis on his new short film DRUH), styling (for brands such as Good for Sunday, and artists like Ikky, and Erez Zobary), story editing (collaborating on Sebastian Back’s feature film debut Verona), working as a cinematic liaison for dance works moving from stage to screen (for pieces made by ROCK BOTTOM MOVEMENT in association with Toronto Dance Theatre, and X University), as well as directing a few music videos (Glutenhead and Fleece).

I’ve really learned the importance of being well versed as a creative. Having even a rudimentary understanding and experience in multiple departments makes you a better, kinder, and more thoughtful director. And it’s fun to realise what you are and are not good at. For example, I am a self proclaimed craft service co-ordinator failure!

The first film you made, Breaking Up For The Modern Girl, is now streaming on CBC Gem. How does it feel to have your work out there in the world?

Overwhelming, and very, very cool. The film premiered on CBC’s televised network and streaming platform on the same day, so I got the chance to watch it live on TV with my dad over the holidays. It was surreal. They cut to commercial afterwards, my dad cried for a moment, and then it was done. A warm and bright little blip. If I told myself at fifteen that CBC would be nationally playing a film that came from my brain, I would have puked!

Because of the pandemic, Breaking Up for the Modern Girl has had an exclusively digital festival run since its premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival. It felt insane to be on a live stream with filmmakers in places like Chattanooga Tennessee, talking about love and sex in cinema all while sitting in my own bedroom. Like, hello, that’s where I have sex! It quelled my nerves to screen the film in private, but I would have loved to sit in audience and hear the reactions as our hero tries to eat her own pussy.

Mattie Driscoll (my best friend, and the star of the film) has been the most incredible person to have alongside during all of it. We got dressed up to watch the movie and participate in virtual talkbacks, drinking plenty of cocktails to celebrate every award and accolade the film received. Mattie was instrumental in the making of the film from start to finish, I’m over the freaking moon to watch it succeed with her. We facetimed right before the CBC premiere and it was a very full conclusion to a great few years.

Photos by Brad Golding

What was the biggest takeaway for you from making your first film?

Confidence. I was absolutely terrified my first day shooting. We shot in my apartment, and suddenly there were twenty crew members hauling in equipment I had never seen, and asking me for opinions on details I didn’t even know I was supposed to have considered. Thankfully, I had been on enough productions as an actor to understand the ebbs and flows of set, and knew the kind of environment I wanted to curate – one of kindness, respect, and creativity.

Film can be a heavily male dominated game. In order to garner the respect of my crew (many film school dudes to be frank), I quickly learned to be collaborative, but firm. Making a movie is the most bonkers experience as an artist. By working as a unit to curate cinematic moments, you’re trusting in your team to personify your vision, and they’re trusting in you to be thoughtful and not a total asshole. I ended every day of our week long shoot proud of myself for standing by my artistic decisions, and standing up for myself in moments of blatant idiocy from young boys (lmao, sorry but…).

The gender-queer and female identifying members of my crew deserve a huge shout out for their work on this project. They continuously built me back up in moments of doubt, and kept me confident when I faltered. I owe them far more than good coffee and vegetarian catering.

Do you have any other upcoming projects or ambitions to share with us?

My first feature is always on my mind! I’ve been working on a full length version of my short “I Wanna Make a Movie, or I Wanna Die Trying” (featured at TIFF Next Wave, Myrtle Beach Film Festival and the Whistler Film Festival) for the last few years and hope to go to camera within the next two! It’s sort of funny, definitely a tragedy, and centres on the pitfalls of being an actor. And a cowboy. You’re gunna love it.

Additionally, I’ve been invited back by my theatre school Alma mater to assistant direct a production in the coming weeks, and I’m so excited to drink coffee and work with a group of young hungry actors on something ferocious. At the end of the day I’m always just happy to be creating and growing. I feel very lucky, and very privileged to have had such a fruitful last few years making dumb shit and I hope those opportunities extend until forever! Cross your fingers for me, and I’ll do the same for you x.

Follow Pony on Instagram

Title image by Brad Golding

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