Out There Cinema is a signature Canada Goose Basecamp event, born out of our longstanding relationship with the film and television industry. For over twenty-five years, we’ve been the unofficial jacket of sets everywhere, keeping crews warm both behind and in front of the camera.
At an Out There Cinema event, guests get to experience not only the thrill of watching a movie in a completely unexpected outdoor location—bundled up, of course, in a Canada Goose parka—they also get to join intimate and interactive conversations with the very talents who brought what they just watched from script to screen.
This December, we brought Out There Cinema to the snow-capped city of Aspen, Colorado. Joining us at the base of Aspen Mountain were members of our Basecamp community (sign up here if you haven’t yet) and filmmaker Nisha Ganatra. Nisha’s been a trailblazer in the industry, directing episodes of some of the decade’s best TV (Girls, The Mindy Project, Mr. Robot, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, to name a few) and receiving an Emmy nomination and Golden Globe for her work on Transparent. And in the final weeks of 2019, ABC Studios announced that they’ve signed Nisha for a two-year overall deal to write, direct and develop projects across all platforms through her own production banner.
Our connection to Nisha and her work goes back to the production of her recent indie feature film, Late Night. (And when we met up again with Nisha for the premiere of Late Night at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, it became one of the biggest headlines of the festival after Amazon Studios bought it in a record-breaking deal.) Starring Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling—who also wrote the film—our parkas were part of the wardrobe kit that kept actors warm between takes. “Everybody was always fighting over these coats! We’re on set for 14, 15 hour days,” says Nisha. “It gets really cold standing around in your costume. It’s something that you take for granted—that being warm helps everybody do their best work.”
For more insights around the production of Late Night and what it takes to be a filmmaker in the ever-changing landscape of Hollywood, we asked fashion and entertainment journalist Fawnia Soo Hoo to join Nisha for a post-screening Q&A. Catch up on their conversation below—and keep your eyes peeled for future Out There Cinema events.
Fawnia Soo Hoo:
Late Night filmed mostly in New York City, which is known to many as an iconic late night talk show city. How did that help with bringing the authenticity of the film’s premise to life?
Because we were in New York—we shot this in New York in 25 days, which was pretty intense!—we had the help of all the late night hosts. We went to Jimmy Fallon and he let us research how their show is made, and Seth Meyers was obviously a big help [as well as] Stephen Colbert. It really increased my respect for late night hosts because you realize they’re doing a show every night, all year long and they don’t take any time off. They’re on a grueling schedule.
We really wanted to make sure Late Night was authentic to how behind the scenes works, how on-camera works. Everything you see the crew do on Tonight with Katherine Newbury [ed. note: Emma Thompson’s character’s late night show] is exactly what happens on Jimmy Fallon’s set, right down to the lighting cues and where the background extras were when we went to a commercial or in between set-up. It was really helpful to be in the city where talk shows are iconic.
There’s also something in common about all these great late night hosts who helped you: the premise of the Katherine character makes a very strong point, because, aside from Joan Rivers who had a short-lived show in 1986, there has never been a woman late night TV talk show host on network television. How did that influence your vision for directing this movie?
Yeah, it’s pretty stunning when you realize that—and when you watch the movie you think, “Why have I never seen this before?” I mean, now we have [A Little Late with host] Lilly Singh, which is amazing. But at the time we shot the film, which was just last year, we had no reference. When Mindy was thinking about the character, she wrote this for Emma Thompson because we thought, “Who in the world could be the first female talk show host?” and we realized we couldn’t really think of anyone but Emma Thompson. She’s such a strong comedic actor and she had been doing, as she said, “boring women and ugly frocks roles” for a very long time. It was a good refresher to remind everybody what a comedic actor she is and how fun she is. And she’s incredibly smart—you just feel like she is this character. She’s the only one who could pull this role off.
And she’s so chic! Which brings up the challenge of designing a wardrobe for a character like hers…
When we were researching the costumes all we had were men [to compare it to] and, you know, most of the [late night hosts] just change their ties, and that’s it! So that was challenging for our budget and our time. But Mitchell Travers, our amazing costume designer, took my initial idea of pantsuits—velvet pantsuits—and made it into this incredible look and iconic expression of Emma’s character in her wardrobe. She’s one of those incredible actors that takes on the wardrobe and makes it part of her character.
I know in the scene where she’s being fired by the network head she had this idea where she’s sort of taking out her earrings… and she only got to taking out one of them so that by the time she’s fired—if you notice it—she only has half of her costume on, so she looks asymmetrical. It’s just one of those subtle moments of what she brings to your film: It’s this beautiful thing where she knows, story-wise, that her character is thrown off balance, so she added all these subtle details.
You’ve mentioned that you worked together during filming on many of these super impactful, subtle details that really subverted ageism—in the [entertainment] industry and society in general.
There were some scenes where Emma said to me, “You know, I wouldn’t be wearing makeup in the night at home.” Of course, it’s Emma Thompson, she’s so beautiful—I would [be watching the scene] and I would say to the makeup artist, “I thought she didn’t want to have makeup in this scene?” and she was like, “That’s her without makeup!” She’s just stunning.
Are we living in a world where we pretend that women’s necks don’t crease when they turn? Can we not add to the beauty myths that are out there and the incredible problems they’re causing for young women trying to live up to an impossible standard?
There was one really standout moment where she helped all of us on set. There was a scene where she turned her head to look behind her to see Ike Barinholtz’s character doing a thing—and when she turned her head, it does that thing all our heads do: we get these creases in our neck. And there was a moment where—there’s a team of people there to say, “Oh, Emma when you turn this way your neck makes a crease and we want to make sure you’re aware of that,” and “Are you okay with that?” and, of course, other films would digitally remove all of that. But Emma Thompson had this beautiful moment where she said, “Are we living in a world where we pretend that women’s necks don’t crease when they turn? Can we not add to the beauty myths that are out there and the incredible problems they’re causing for young women trying to live up to an impossible standard? So let’s just show what real women look like and let’s not do any of that.”
That set the tone for the set and we all really followed it and it’s carried into all of our work now—just questioning constantly, “What are we presenting to the world and how are we contributing to the problem or not contributing to the problem?” …with the goal of absolutely not contributing.
It makes me wonder now what conversations [producers] have had, behind the camera, when a woman turns her head or whatever.
There’s a software program now that people will run their movies through that—almost like an Instagram filter—it will remove any imperfections. Then you’re showing this movie and people think, “Oh that actress. She looks so beautiful and so perfect, I wish I could look like that. Maybe if I buy all these products…” But it’s all just one big lie from the start. Nobody looks like that unless you have the perfect lighting, the perfect lens and then later digitally remove things. It’s kind of a problem. I think that we need to get back to showing what real people look like.
Well obviously this collaborative processed worked, because you directed Emma Thompson to a Golden Globe nomination for this role. Which leads me to asking about the Golden Globes… because again, for another year, there are no women nominated in the directing category. And it’s especially stunning this year, because there’s such exceptional work by female directors—who also directed their leads to Golden Globe nominations. Like yourself, Lulu Wang for The Farewell, Greta Gerwig for Little Women, Alma Har’el for Honey Boy… I could go on.
What are your discussions like with your fellow filmmakers and colleagues about the sort of push and pull struggle that you have to get more recognition? And do awards matter for recognition?
They matter because they are the standard. You know, when I got the Golden Globe for Transparent, it kicked open a whole lot of doors that may not have been open to me otherwise. It’s a weird resume builder, but it happens to be a very public resume builder. I think it definitely helps if you are a woman and you get an Oscar nomination or a Golden Globe nomination—because you’ll have a lot more meetings for opportunities, to have a chance at the bigger budget shows and movies.
For us as audience members, what can we do to create more awareness and enact change, hopefully?
I mean, it’s something I’ve been saying since I started as an independent filmmaker—and Late Night was still an indie film—but it’s kind of a thing when you see smaller movies at the theater. Think of it like voting. I always tell my family and friends, “I know you all really want to go see The Avengers but that’s going to [still be in theatres] next week and probably the week after that.” But if you don’t take the time to go see [a film like] The Farewell, it won’t be screening next week. When you go see films the opening weekend, you’re telling Hollywood: There’s an audience here! We’re interested in these films! Then they take those numbers and say, “Oh look, this many people want to see that. Let’s give money to more filmmakers to make more movies with diverse stories.”
It is kind of like a political act to go to the smaller movie the opening weekend and really support it. And see the big movies too! I love the big movies, I grew up watching all the big movies. But it’s nice to know that you can have both. And if we only see the big movies the little ones just disappear more and more.
I know you have a few exciting projects on the horizon. Any details you can share?
I just finished [shooting Covers,] my first studio film for Universal. And it really felt like this dream. I was like, “Oh, am I really here on a studio lot?” Every step of the way I kept thinking, “When is somebody going to just say, ‘just kidding you gotta go.’” But [doing this film] was, really, my childhood dreams coming true and I didn’t think it was going to happen. So that’s pretty cool.
The movie stars Tracee Ellis Ross, Dakota Johnson, Ice Cube and this amazing new actor, Kelvin Harrison Jr., who’s in a movie called Waves right now. He’s pretty remarkable. It’s a music-driven movie with original music—so it’s a little bit like Late Night in the world of music, where Dakota is the assistant and Tracee plays the big music icon star. And Tracee—who is Diana Ross’s daughter—this film is her first big movie debut. She’s never done a feature film before and it’s also going to be the first time she’s singing in public in front of everybody. So I think that’s pretty high stakes!
That’s also a huge thing for you! Directing such an icon in her first feature! I can’t wait to support it—May 2020! Everyone go buy a ticket, support women filmmakers! Thank you so much for coming tonight, Nisha.
Thank you for having me!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Want to learn more about Canada Goose’s long standing relationship with film and entertainment? Find out more here.