My name is Nicholas Swatz, and I am the Owner and Creative Director of Baby Pomegranate Productions. I have a deep passion for what I do, and it means the world to me that I get to share it with you. So, allow me to bring you in to my world for just a little while.
the close up.
I love a good close up! When you really examine my body of work, you are sure to see a close up in almost everything that I have shot. There is just something about that intimacy. The photographic image is one of the very few opportunities that we get to be that up close and personal with another person. It provides us the opportunity to see every subtlety flowing through the frame to maximize empathy. It is in this moment, when we are looking at a tapping finger, wringing hands, or even an eye that happens to squint the slightest bit, that we experience the rolodex of emotion that the character opposite us is feeling.
It has always sort of baffled me that in a close up, we are forced to empathize. Whether it be a protagonist, a villain, or even just steam rising up off the surface of a piping hot mug of coffee, we are instantly brought into that world. We can feel our stomach in knots as our lead is being dumped, we understand why our villain is being such a dramatic jerk, and we can actually sort of smell that coffee that is just out of reach. It's amazing when you think about it.
I use the ever so famous close up in my work so often because it is a philosophy of mine that as humans, we should all strive to empathize with one another. You don't have to understand someone's plight, necessarily, but you should always always empathize. But how can you do that when you don't have anything to pull on in your life to recognize yourself in their narrative? We can all recognize that little flinch, I think. Everyone is familiar with that stomach-churning moment... and in that, we empathize.
Growing up gay in a small town in the midwest, finding LGBTQ+ representation was like searching for a white cat during a snow storm. Then, where we did have it, it was nothing but tired clichés of cartoonish novelty gays. There are real stories here. Nervousness and angst. Confusion and confrontation. Happiness and heartache. There is so much more than the sassy know-it-all that comes in to save the day by picking out an outfit or judging his gal pal's new man friend. There are stories of coming to terms with your own sexuality. There are narratives that exist in the every day moments like the exchange you might have in a coffee shop on your way to work in the morning.
I think we have all heard the story of the high school football star chasing after little miss cheer captain. We have seen the "boy meets girl" story a thousand times. So, it is important to me that LGBTQ+ youth see themselves represented on screen, too, or at least more than I did. You are a part of this world, and your story deserves to be told.
I cry all the time. That's it. Art represents life, and there is nothing more recognizable than the feeling when you are so overcome with emotion that you simply can't do anything else besides cry. Happy? Cry. Angry? Cry. Sad? For the love of Meryl Streep, sit down and cry. Once those tears begin to flow, there is no longer a need for words.
It is actually one of the things you will hear me say on set most often; "Stop telling me and show me." I am notorious for ripping a script to shreds. The first thing that I do when I receive a new script (and I am including the ones that I write myself) is sit down and cross out any lines that I believe could be illustrated with raw acting and some powerful cinematic images. Chances are about a third of that script will be on the floor before the camera even turns on. Then, again on set... "cut that line, and show me the line with your eyes." I once told one of my actors to simply act the line... with their back turned as they faced away from the camera's eye. I will never forget the look of confusion on their face before they finally decided to just trust me. To this day, people still talk about that single moment of the film as being one of the most relatable moments in the story.
Words are unnecessary. After all, the first films were silent, no?
Oh boy, do I love the moon. I LOVE the moon. This giant rock that just sort of hangs there in the sky seems to dictate so much of what I do; it tells me how to love, it tells me when to cry. It certainly tells me when to sleep. Many times, I find myself staring at this big spooky thing for so long, everything else just turns grey. It fascinates me.
The moon is 238,900 miles away from the earth's surface, but yet, it seems as though it is just out of reach. Like if I were to reach out toward the night sky and stretch my arm just a little bit further, I'd be able to grab it. Then what? Hold it? I don't think so, it looks dusty as hell. When was the last time anyone cleaned that thing?
For me, the moon represents everything that is just out of reach. Perfection. This is something that I think every human deals with. Reaching. I love showing that in my films. (Remember? Show, don't tell.) I love physicalizing this moment of surreal grandeur. Usually, in real life, we don't see this. We keep these secret moments hidden within the confines of our mind and eventually it defeats us. So, I like to get us all to come together and empathize with each other, because we all seem to have this thing in common. Let's reach for the moon together.
Being a creative is one of the best worst things that has ever happened to me. No, that was not a typo. Creativity is a curse, child. A haunting, exhausting, painful, wonderful curse. I would love nothing in the world more than to sit here and lie my face off and tell you how ideas just "come to me", but that is not true. If I am being honest, I go months at a time with not a single idea. Then, all of a sudden, a slight breeze or maybe a bug... (once it was even just that damn steam coming off the top of my coffee) shoot ideas through my head so fast that I couldn't even get them down on paper quick enough.
In the past few months, I have learned to just let that happen. When I get that feeling, that spark... Shonda Rhimes calls it the hum... I just let it happen to me. I close my eyes, and I let weird and nonsensical images, sounds, words and thoughts rush through my head at lighting speed. I gather as much as I can as they fly by, and then when the storm is over, I cry for a second before grabbing my little "life is cool" journal to write them all down. A couple days later, I pour a glass of wine or seven, and I start to draft. Before you know it, I have a script that I absolutely hate. At some point, I'm not sure where, I start to chisel away at something I am in love with, like Michelangelo discovering Pietà in what was once just a big piece of marble. I plan for months, making changes, cutting images out of magazines, collecting paint samples, scouting locations, watching and listening very closely to the people around me to bring a sense of "realism" to the story. All of this is before I even articulate my idea verbally to anyone. Anyone.
"What if they hate it?" "What if they think it's stupid?" There is this look that people tend to get on their face when they don't fully get an idea, and it terrifies me to my very core. I must admit, I used to simply scrap ideas before they ever even got the chance to see the light of day because I was so afraid of that look. I'm much better now, though. Because of passion. I have a passion for what I do that is just undeniable. Without it, there is no point.
My friends, now that you know me a little better, I want to start to do something that I have never done before. I want to take you with me. I want to journey with you behind the screen, and through the lens. I can't promise that I will be able to share every moment with you, but I can tell you that this will be raw, and unlike anything that I have ever done. Come with me while I struggle with my ideas, drink too much wine, and reach for the moon.