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An Interview with Nathan Hill, Star and Director of I, Portrait

by Mike Haberfelner

July 2019

Nathan Hill on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie I, Portrait - in a few words, what is it about?


I, Portrait is a story about a newly married couple that invite an old friend into their house that has ulterior motives to destroy their relationship. Itís inspired by the thrillers of the 90s, movies like Single White Female, Cruel Intentions and Color of Night.


Without wanting to get too personal, is any of your movie based on personal experience? And to what extent could you actually identify with Stephanie's mindset?


When I was a kid I remember a lot of people visiting the house and sometimes overstaying their welcome. My father was a priest so we had a large congregation of people that would visit us, often unannounced and you would just have to grin and bare it. I guess I wanted the Stephanie character to be somewhat like that.


(Other) sources of inspiration when writing I, Portrait?


My co-star Natalie Heslop came up with the original concept and then it just kinda grew from there. Iíve written many scripts in my time, even won a couple of screenwriting awards, so to create the classic three act structure with the typical plot points and red herrings, throw in a cliffhanger and boom weíre there.


For I, Portrait you chose a rather slowburn build-up of suspense - care to elaborate on that?


I remember being really taken back the first time I saw Easy Rider. The ending just seemed to come out of nowhere and shocked the hell outta me. I wanted to emulate that power on screen. I also like From Dusk Till Dawn. Itís like the first half of the movie you think itís a drama, and then it takes you by surprise when the second half turns into full blown horror. I like that.


What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?


I took a more suspenseful approach, kinda like a Polanski film. Keep the drama on the few lead characters (like Death and the Maiden) and build and build up to a shocking climax. A slow burn as you say. I kept everyone in a lock down for the main shooting block, being all inside one house together, I guess I was kinda going for a cabin fever type approach. Watch what happens when people really have had enough, lol.


You also play the male lead in I, Portrait - so do talk about your character, what did you draw upon to bring him to life, and did you write him with yourself in mind from the get-go?


The character of Julian was an interesting one. If you look closely at my list of credits on IMDB youíll see Iíve been playing letter ĎJí characters for the better part of a decade. Itís just trivial and has worked out that way, even when I donít mean it, which is funny because my middle name is John. I see it like the second chapter of my life playing out. Heís a casting agent, same as some of the work I do in real life, so it was easy to emulate. As a metaphor Iíd say heís driving the car, but weíre more so watching the girls riding in the car, aka Carmen and Stephanie. If I get a chance to act in one of my films and itís within proper context then I do it. Itís also easier as I know the material better than anyone else.


Do talk about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?


I actually collected a bunch of talented actors from my own city that Iíd been wanting to work with for a while. It was the perfect opportunity to cast actors like Damon Hunter, to play my best friend. Others such as Gizelle Basiri, whom had been wanting to collaborate for a long time, others like Loraine Fabb who had mentioned the same thing. I also had a little spot planned for Simay Argento which was fun and Kalia Best whom Iíd had my eye on for a while. Theyíre all respected artists in their own right and if I could cast them in the correct role/s then I just did it.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


Because of the nature of the film and thus being a lot of sexualised scenes and whatnot, the lead actresses asked if we could possibly have female crew when shooting those scenes. As I often use a female DOP in this case the wonderful Dia Taylor, I made an executive decision to just hire an ALL female crew for the entire shoot. It worked a treat and I ended up with a film unlike any of my others and I hold testament to this being one of the reasons why. And it worked.


The $64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?


My sales agent/distributor in the USA had the power to get any of my work on most platforms, ie: iTunes, Amazon Prime, etc. so indeed I will be chasing that up pronto! We are aiming for an early Xmas release. Iím also currently working on a special edition DVD for the hardcore fans which has a bunch of goodies including commentaries that will be available to purchase online, so Iím pumped about that.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of I, Portrait?


I just had the cast and crew screening recently and it was a real success. In fact more so than my last one. So Iím really happy about that. Usually the ones who worked on the actual film can be the worst/harshest critics, now I just have to see what the general public think, minus the internet trolls and haters that give you bad reviews even when they havenít even seen the film! Lol!


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Iím the casting director on Cult Girls (Jane Badler) and an associate producer on The Debt Collector (John Brumpton), so they will be the next on the slate to come out. Me personally, will be slating my 10th feature film next up! But my lips are sealed for now about what that subject matter will be about.


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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


My motto for 2019 has been to focus on yourself, donít compare yourself to anyone else and just be YOU. So far itís been challenging. Social media is a beast and as filmmakers we have to cross reference so many different responsibilities now if our movies are to become successful. Most guys I know are burnt out by the time the movie is in the can. But honestly the journey only really begins after the initial screening of the work. Thatís my experience anyway. You have to keep fit and have lots of energy to survive. Throwing in the towel is easy, staying on top of your game is the real challenge. And ignore haters, they have failed in their lives and are suffering from fits of jealousy.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD