Five Things You Didn’t Know about Niki Caro

Niki Caro is all set as the director for the upcoming 2018 version of Mulan. Some misstatements about the new live action film were that there would be no songs scheduled for it. It’s what was understood about what Caro initially said when asked about the music. Social media filled quickly with disappointment. But Caro has clarified her position in subsequent interviews. Though all talks are in the preliminary stages, Caro said that the inclusion of songs are important for fans, and she believes that the classic songs truly make the film great, and she cannot imagine making the live action film without them. This put to rest foaming controversy. After all, the original animated classic won awards for hits songs, and fans have come to love them.

Take a look at the new Mulan 2018 film trailer:

In 2016, Caro spoke with the Directors & Editors Guild of New Zealand. She interviewed with Roseanne Liang, and what she told her and the audience spoke volumes about who Niki Caro is as a person and female film director.

1. Caro never felt that gender was an impediment to her work as a director.

Approximately 4% of Hollywood films are directed by women, and Caro finds that very depressing. She said that she started during a politically correct time, when gender issues were increasingly explored. She started her career with the film “Whalerider”. Though she felt that the themes of girl power often struck her as being a bit old-fashioned, she also was committed to entering the Maori culture, learning about it, and representing it well. The Maori leaders who helped her to understand their culture enabled her to tell their story. She said that she didn’t think much about her own gender-free attitude as a director, but her crew had more specific ideas about that. They were not always as accepting of a woman as a director. It was during that time when she realized how unusual it was to be a woman director, but it was also the time when she decided that she would simply move ahead and do what she does as a director.

2. Caro believes it is a privilege to make a film… not a right.

She encourages new directors and producers to remember that “someone has given” them the money to tell a story. She believes that it’s important to take the opportunity provided and tell the story working with real people in real environments. She says that directors should always have something to offer, and to offer their very best with each film. She said that directors should treat their projects with respect, making sure that the script is ready, that they really believe in the story they are telling, that they understand what deserves being said, and finally being acutely aware of who the audience for the story is. She believes the financial opportunity given is one that should never be squandered.

3. Caro likes telling true stories.

She’s most interested in going into communities and getting to know people. She like encountering people whose lives she must get to know. She goes to experience what it’s like to eat with people, see how they live, and live their experiences. She admits that her own middle-class background in New Zealand has been very privileged, and that is exactly why she must immerse herself in cultures she doesn’t understand. She says that she “doesn’t need to be so clever”, she just needs to work in real locations with real people so that she can hang out and tell their true stories.

4. She loved giving the zoo animals “their rocking-est day in their lives” when filming the Zookeeper’s Wife.

Caro had decided that for her, CGI was not the way for her film. After speaking with her brilliant set designer, she learned that the designer had discovered a wonderful, former park in the Czech Republic which could be created into the perfect historic zoo. Caro made the decision to build the zoo in the park location. The storyline included bombing the zoo, and the animals fleeing into the city. She pondered over what to do about letting the lions and tigers loose. Her animal keeper was an experienced circus hand, and he convinced her that her decision to film real animals loose in the city was correct. But, to keep the city safe, each animal was filmed in contained spaces skillfully created on city streets. The realism which resulted in those series of decisions made all the difference in the film, and Caro was very happy for the film and the zoo animals.

5. Caro has learned to “show no fear” when working with film industry men.

The advice came from a casting director. Caro was just beginning the process of filming North Country. The casting director was a woman who taught Caro how she would gain confidence while working in the film world, which has been traditionally dominated by men. It must have been wise advice, because Caro noted that while in the past she had to fight for films, now she is offered the director’s role for many.


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