Q&A with Nida Manzoor

Nida Manzoor wrote and directed action-comedy 7.2 through London Calling Plus in 2014. It screened at the BFI London Film Festival and the LA Comedy Festival, and was picked up by Big Talk to be adapted into a TV series.

Tell us about your work/career as a filmmaker before you made a London Calling short.

Before making my short with Film London I was working as a runner in a post house in Soho and as a director's assistant to a TV director. I had made a number of low/no budget shorts which did well on the festival circuit, going to festivals like Encounters Short Film Festival, LSFF and Chicago International Film Festival.

Why did you enter London Calling?

I wanted to make an ambitious short action film which I felt I needed funding for. Also, I wanted to prove I could deliver a film with a budget as a way to help me get closer to making my feature. I was excited to work with the industry expertise of Film London, and to be part of the training scheme and masterclasses that were part of the funding.

Tell us about the short film you made and why you wanted to make it?

My film was an action comedy set in a girls' school about a girl who loses her memory and has to go on a brutal journey of self-discovery. I had never made an action film and was excited by the opportunity to direct fight scenes. This short film was also similar tonally and stylistically to my feature script, so I thought it could be a good example of what to expect from my feature and act as supporting material.

How did the development process help you?

It really helped hone in the script, find out exactly what I wanted to say and make it as the punchy and entertaining as possible.

What was the most important thing you learned through the London Calling process?

I learned that I was capable of leading a sizeable cast and crew. It really helped me develop strong self-belief in my voice and ability as a filmmaker.

Do you have any favourite moments from the shoot?

I loved directing the locker room fight sequence as it's the most bone-crunching of the scenes. It was exhilarating. I also loved directing the scene in the toilets between Mar and Cleo - it's the most characterful and comedic scene in the film. Working with these talented actresses to tease out the comedy was a blast.

What happened after you made the film - what kind of response did you get from the festival scene and industry?

The film had a positive response on the festival scene, premiering at BFI London Film Festival and screening at LA Comedy Festival. The short was later picked up by production company Big Talk to be adapted to a TV series.

How has the whole experience helped you as a filmmaker?

Making 7.2 was a key learning curve in my career. I learned how to manage a large crew and cast, work with execs, and deliver on schedule and budget. It was really my training ground as a filmmaker, moving into the industry proper from making no budget shorts in my own time.

What advice would you give to anyone making a short film?

My advice would be to make the most of the resources you have, be it an interesting location you have a job at, a connection to an interesting person, or anything that you think could give your short film added value and stand out. Really think about what you have that another filmmaker may not. Also, I'd say it's important that your short film represents you as a filmmaker - your voice, your style - and indicates the kind of films you want to make. It should act as a calling card to get you to that next phase.