Spotlight on: Nicole Russin-McFarland

Nicole Russin-McFarland film director composer austin film festival

This weeks spotlight is on film director and film score composer Nicole Russin-McFarland:

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I am a film director and film score composer publishing my work on YouTube and a popular streaming service. I currently have more animated credits and only one live action credit. When I am more established working for studios in the future, I want to direct both animated and live action works.

What made you want to work in film?

I always did when I was younger. When I was slightly older at 13, I loved the movie “Gladiator.” My joy in watching the film showed me I was genuinely interested in film when I was older.

Who/what are your inspirations/influences?

People who either transition out of other careers to be the leaders in the film industry, like Peter Jackson and James Cameron, or people working as successful film score composers thus creating job opportunities for my generation, like James Horner and Hans Zimmer. Art wise, I am a fan of too many filmmakers’ works to count.

What’s your biggest success or achievement so far?

My biggest successes haven’t happened yet. I want to win Academy Awards for filmmaking and film music, a very difficult task. Many say they want Oscars. Hardly anyone gets nominated and fewer win. I want to direct a movie that opens some places in IMAX. A list of goals in my head.

What do you do when you’re not working?

Feed birds. Look at wildlife. Go swimming, if I have access to a swimming pool, with sunscreen of course. Indoor activities like working out at home. I love nothing more than my once per week health workout with weights and some body weight exercises! So peaceful. The beach is amazing, though secretly, because I grew up seeing dark skies and pollution, I love industrial, cold metropolis cities like Manhattan and Chicago. Places where I don’t have to worry about car transportation!

I like to make tea. All kinds of tea. Earl grey is my fav, and authentic chai from India or UK-made but close to Indian style is a close second. The best Earl Grey I have had lately is from Israel. I love watching birds outside as I drink my morning tea.

Eating food at restaurants is a hobby for me. Getting around to restaurants doesn’t always happen enough lately, and it makes the experience all the more exciting.

Reading digital copies of old books. Newer books don’t speak to me. Poetry is awesome. I have “War of the Worlds” on my iPad right now. Binge reading isn’t for me. Reading a chapter whenever I have a moment is. Very relaxing.

What’s next for you?

I am animating two shorts and one feature. The first short is called “The Homework’s Revenge.” I looked at the running time last night for half completed scenes, and it was about 11 minutes. This thing might end up 15 to 20 minutes. Who knows. I wrote that one. The second one, Samantha V. Hutton wrote it, called “Ever Been Ghosted?” Her short film is far shorter. The feature is a short film I am turning into a full length film called “The Eyes of Old Texas.”

What’s the hardest part of your job?

I wouldn’t say hard – time consuming. Making any film of any length takes forever. Animation itself takes longer. The actors finish quickly doing a nice job on schedule. I have to create the rest of the film. People don’t see that. Once I start directing the films I write for studios, I will likely involve a film editor and a sound editor in this process, and an animation team if a cartoon film. I will need to sit down with them in a dark office forever selecting things. Or wait for the animators.

The assumption is that someone makes a movie and collects a massive paycheck. In the beginning, you make films to show studios you are serious. Nobody hires anyone, famous actors included, to make a major studio movie with a $150 million or more budget as a first time director. They want to see you are active promoting your low budget films into at least minor success stories because the studios will want to know you can turn their films they give you lots of money for into billion dollar worldwide hits. I work hard promoting my small films. You don’t stick a film of any length out in the wild expecting studios to show up because you made a movie. Everyone starting out in films mistakenly thinks having a film is enough.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

The remainder of it is absolute fun.

How do you handle criticism or setbacks?

When people spread lies about someone or make fun of someone, it is because they want to feel superior. The meanest people very often are successful in the home as parents raising beautiful families with happy marriages, or they are prominent in their careers. They might be really attractive or talented. And yet, that person feels inadequate. The first step you take is understanding. An example I can share is years ago, a successful woman decades older than me made fun of me in front of her friend. She had no shame in me hearing everything she said. Something had to be wrong with her making fun of a girl who could be her daughter. I was less than half of her age!

What advice would you give to people starting out?

Understand that some people aren’t what they seem. Everyone now says things like, “So and so is so kind to her fans!” because they took a selfie with you. With social media, this now extends to everyone. We are all in the public eye, all of us. People have these curated, lovely images of themselves online rid of all human expression, or fake images of kindness. And you meet them, and they suck as people.

Native New Yorkers, and Midwesterners like me in Chicago, we get loads of famous people living there or coming in, we grow up exposed to celebrities in every profession, and we don’t give a care in the world about someone being on TV because that person is smoking in your face, butting in line in front of you, cursing at you. You see the real them. And when you see tourists from small towns freaking out like someone is a living deity because they cross paths with them outside Rockefeller Center, you question why tourists think less of themselves. Those tourists are quite often bettering humanity in some small way as teachers or volunteering at homeless shelters. The tourists are relevant in some way. And yet, they are screaming for someone famous for being on reality television? As if they aren’t also human beings?

Someone getting drunk and making fun of women on TV to remain relevant is a shame. An anchorwoman resorting to making fun of people for ratings is not worth your time.


You can find out more about Nicole on her website, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


Nicole Russin-McFarland director composer creative interview austin film festival

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