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On Campus News

An Interview with Nicholas Sailer, Film Student at North Carolina State University

By Megan Harr
posted Oct 4, 2012, 15:52

Nicholas Sailer is a Film Student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. Having written and directed films since his mid-teens, Sailer is currently enrolled in the College of Design. Recently he won Best Picture and Best Director at Campus Moviefest Grande Finale in Hollywood. Sailer is currently finishing post-production on his feature films and directing several other short films in the next few months. Sailer shares his experience in the film industry and offers advice for other film students.

What cameras are you shooting with?
Recently, I most commonly use a Canon T2i, but my most recent short film was shot on a RED camera. I love shooting on the highest quality equipment possible, but in the end, it’s how you use it, and what you use it for that matters the most. I love shooting with DSLR’s because of their flexibility, their mobility, and the speed of use. It is easy to take them onto location or onto a set and get the shots that you need to get.

Could you share a camera movement tip or technique in relation to visual storytelling?
There are so many visual techniques that I like to use in telling a story, it’s hard to choose one. However, one that I employed while shooting my feature film had to do with the composition of a character within the frame. The main character remained on the right side of the frame throughout the entire film. At the turning point in the story, he was framed on the left side, and continued to be until the end of the film. That is a rather simple example, but it shows how even things like framing and composition are key to the story. 

Why did you choose to go into film? Do you feel prepared for a career?
I study film in the sense that I try to apply everything I do and see to the art of visual storytelling. If I see something that is well composed, whether it is a product, a package design, or even a painting, I try to distill the elements and apply them to filmmaking. I chose to go into filmmaking because storytelling is a way of communicating truths about how humanity sees the world, and filmmaking is the best visual way to do that.

I feel prepared for a career because film is not the only thing I study. I feel prepared for a career because I try to move across disciplines and gather the best knowledge from all of them.

 Do you have any advice for new film students?
Have extremely high standards of quality in your work. Don’t accept work that is ‘good enough’. Everyone does work that is ‘good enough’. Cut that out, and do something that is worth the time that people will spend watching it.

Work hard. There are thousands of other students out there that are trying to be filmmakers. What you do with your time will determine if you become what you want to become. Put your time into something that is worthwhile. Every hour that you waste is an hour that you could spend writing a screenplay, reading up on film books, or developing your film career.

Meet people. Work with new people all the time. Work with someone new on every single film shoot. This doesn’t mean you can’t work with some of the same people- but with every new project, bring at least 2 new people on board to work with you. It is the best way to grow.

What is your favorite past project and why? Can you tell us about any upcoming projects and the biggest challenge you are facing?
One of my favorite past projects was my feature film ‘IPSEITY’ ( This project was a massive undertaking, and has spanned almost a year. The preproduction began in October of 2011 with casting calls and auditions, and continues in October of 2012 with ADR and the final stages of post-production. We shot every weekend from January 2012- April 2012, with several weekends of pickup shoots in May. During the summer I logged more than 120 hours of editing, and we are now getting close to wrapping on post-production. It was a massive project, and there were definitely times where I began to realize that it could have been too much to handle.

The next project I am going to work on will be shot in December of 2012, and I will be rejoining my team that made ‘The Strong One’ ( We’ve just begun talks for pre-production, and I can’t wait to start working out more of the details.

The most important challenge to face in any project is finding the right people to work with. Every project should be the right combination of crew and cast, or the project can be miserable.

Where do you look for inspiration?
I look for inspiration mainly when I am trying to develop a story. That is where the filmmaking process begins for me. When I develop a story, I think about things that bother me- problems that make me angry or issues in the world that I think need to change. I also try to think about things that are different, things that I’ve never combined before, elements or characters that wouldn’t normally fit together.

When trying to develop my most recent story, I wrote down random words on paper, cut the words into strips, and put the pieces of paper into a bag. I pulled out two at a time, and challenged myself to come up with a way of combining the two completely random words. This technique didn’t work at all for developing my story, but a week or two later, I stumbled onto my idea when considering about a philosophical issue that I was thinking about.

Overall, combining the unexpected, exploring the things I haven’t seen before, and listening to things I’ve never heard before usually helps me get to a point where my mind is ready to put a good story together. Sometimes it is combining random words, sometimes it is listening to music that I would never listen to.

At such a young age, it is clear that Sailer has a keen perception of what it takes to be successful in the filmmaking business. After he graduates, Sailer may leave North Carolina and relocate to New York or Los Angeles in hopes of finding suitable employment. For more information about any upcoming projects please visit


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