Monday 7 October 2019

Interview with Nathan Ives - The Director of Somewhere In The Middle

From director Nathan Ives, Somewhere in the Middle explores the lives of five working artists, who aren't household names, but who are making a legitimate living through their art.

Available from October 15 on Amazon, the film examines the joys of being an artist, including the high of one’s work being appreciated, critically acclaimed and, perhaps most importantly, paid for by fans. As a young artist, meeting your idols, from jamming with Bruce Springsteen to ballroom dancing with Antonio Banderas to smoking pot with Willie Nelson, begins to elicit a real “pinch yourself” feeling. Like, “Wow, I’m doing this!”

 The film then shifts to an exploration of art as a business. The struggle of being your own personal assistant, accountant, marketing manager, et cetera – all while simultaneously trying to create the art you love. The absolute craziness of sacrificing a steady income for an unpredictable roller coaster where a big money-making year might be followed by three years of scrapping.

From the outside, many see it as a perfect life; but in reality, it’s a tough job that can often put a strain on one’s social and emotional well-being. “Looking back, I can see how I always chose my career over relationships,” says Griffin. “Relationships are hard. Relationships with artists are borderline impossible.”
 Doubt, fear, excess, anxiety about the future. Somewhere in the Middle takes viewers on a journey through the day-to-day minds of these artists. “My biggest fear is that I’ll never work again.” “I had to come to terms with the fact that I was an alcoholic.” “I’m never satisfied with my work.” “I definitely have regrets about choosing the life of an artist.”

 In the end, these five artists share advice and wisdom with young people who are thinking about following their passions. While it becomes evident that an artist’s life is not for everyone, Dan offers up a succinct bit of encouragement for those with no quit in them: “Get in the fight.”

We speak to director Nathan Ives ahead of the film’s 10/15 release on Amazon.

Tell us about Somewhere in the Middle - -  how long has this been brewing away?

It originated from a conversation I had with Griffin House, one of the artists in the film, a couple of years ago. I’ve been a fan of his for some time and hired him to write a song for a narrative film I did a in 2016, ‘A Christmas In New York.’

Griffin had a show in LA and we were talking afterwards. I made a comment about how I was impressed with his success and longevity. For over twenty years he has both made a respectable living and has been true to his art. He was very humble about it all, but also relayed a story to me which he references in the film.

The story was basically this: Griffin was playing a sold out show at The City Winery in New York, a venue that holds about 300 people. After the show, a couple came up to him and said ‘we just love your music and just know you’re going to make it some day.’

Griffin said some version of this happens at most of his shows. Here’s a guy who has made a legitimate living through his music for two decades, owns a house in Nashville, and supports his family - and people just know he’s going to ‘make it’ some day.

This conversation really got me thinking about what it means to be a ‘succesful’ artist. ‘Somewhere In The Middle’ gave me the opportunity to explore this idea further through the lives of five artists who are living it.
Since the project is smaller in scope than a narrative feature, I was able to get it done relatively quickly.

How did you go about choosing the artists for the movie? 

Griffin was the first one on board, followed by Jasika Nicole who I had worked with on a past film. I’m good friends with Matt Nathanson’s tour manager and he recommended Aaron Tapp, Matt’s guitar player. Jeff Nishinaka is a friend of the DP I’ve used on this and my last three films. Lastly, Dan McCaw is a friend of Jeff Nishinaka’s. I guess really just through word of mouth and a bit of the universe helping me out.

A story in there that you could personally  relate to?

I feel I can relate to a good bit of it. For about three years my sole source of income was writing, directing, and producing. If I’m honest, it was a tough three years. A lot of feast or famine, self doubt, and doing some projects that I was just doing because I needed the money. I’ve since gotten married, started another, more stable business, and my wife has a good job. Now any income we have from my film work we use for the kids college fund or to fix up the house. Getting back to your question, I guess the part I related to most, is the income inconsistency, which when you have a family, is REALLY tough.

Did you find it different directing a doc to directing your usual narrative film?

It’s definitely a smaller adventure as far as crews, budget, and stress. I tackled the writing portion in the same way as the narrative work I’ve done. I put all of my favorite lines/concepts on index cards and built the film on our dining room table. For hours I’d stand there, Earl Gray tea in hand, staring at this mass of index cards laid out in front of me.

Thinking about it, I wouldn’t say, for me, it was not that different. I was still trying to tell an interesting story, that kept the audience entertained, and had a solid theme. I still sat in a dark room for hours on end with Brady, the editor. I still worked with Pat, the composer, on helping the scenes that were dragging, move along with a bit of score. I still did color with Peter at The Garrison. Really, all of the things I do when I’m working on a Narrative feature.

Will audiences know the artists in the movie?

I would be surprised if many people knew these artists. Perhaps the most recognizable would be Jasika Nicole who had a recurring role on ‘Fringe,’ and is currently on ‘The Good Doctor.’

The message of the movie is…

Being a working artist isn’t what most people think - for better and worse. I hope the film will inspire and educate those considering a career in the arts. I also hope that people who are working artists, can watch it, and get that ‘I’m so glad I’m not alone’ feeling.