Q&A with Nicholas Graham ’16

By Elizabeth Rodgers
Photo by Mika Santiaguel

Nicholas Graham ’16, who majored in film production while an undergraduate at the University of New Haven, served as art production assistant on the set of the recently released Warner Brothers film "Joker." The film premiered at the 76th Venice International Film Festival on August 31, 2019, where it won the Golden Lion, the festival’s most prestigious award. It was theatrically released in the United States on October 4. Graham is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in cinema directing at Columbia College Chicago in addition to working at a Chicago-based advertising agency as an associate content producer.

Did you always have a passion for film?

Movie nights with my family are some of my favorite memories. But as a kid, you think about the entertainment business and Hollywood and don’t see that there is a real career opportunity there if you dedicate yourself to pursuing it.

Was there anything that surprised you about your experience working as an art production assistant on the set of "Joker"?

It’s interesting how, with just one phone call, everything in your life can change. When I got the offer, I had to immediately make the decision to move from Chicago to New York City for the next six months.

"People think that this is an art-driven field, and ultimately, the final product is about art. But it takes time. You can’t sit around hoping it will happen."Nicholas Graham ’16

Tell us more about how you came across this opportunity.

In the film industry, it’s not only what you know, it’s who you know. I was working in the art department of "Joker" on set as an assistant to the leadman, Tim Metzger. Tim is a fellow University of New Haven alumnus, and I appreciate his wanting to give back by giving me the chance to pursue my dream.

What during your time at the University most inspired you?

Our trip to the 2018 Cannes Film Festival was a defining moment. You’re surrounded by all this flash and flare, and you see the end result of so much hard work. Everyone there was once where I am right now.

What would you tell people looking to break into the film industry?

I would remind them that it is a business. People think that this is an art-driven field, and ultimately, the final product is about art. But it takes time. You can’t sit around hoping it will happen.

I imagine you must have been incredibly excited in advance of the release.

Even though I was such a small part of the film, I still feel like I left my mark. The little things I did, I tried to do creatively. When you see bags of trash on the screen, just know that a lot of thought went into how they’re propped!

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