Sundance Drama Competition Entry Nanny, a horror story about an immigrant New York domestic worker who saves up to bring her own young son from Senegal, is the feature debut produced by New York-based Nikkia Moulterie. This is his reunion with writer/director Nikyatu Jusu after producing the writer/director’s excellent 2019 short film, suicide in the sun, and it follows a decade-long career producing short films, UPM feature films, and producing commercials and music videos. Below, Moulterie explains how she met and bonded with Jusu, the challenges of producing a feature film during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the advice she would give to new producers entering the field at this difficult historical moment. .
Director: Tell me about the professional journey that led you to produce this film, your first with full producer credit. What professions within and outside the film industry have you had and what professional experience has best prepared you to be a producer?
Mouterie: My experience as a production manager and producer of short films and television finally lent itself to my recent role as a producer of Nanny.
Director: How did you come into contact with Nikyatu Jusu and end up producing his film?
Mouterie: Years ago, Nikyatu and I met through mutual friends and first bonded over similar interests in film. At the time, I was a freelance production manager working part-time at the Walter Reade Theater. We bonded through an interest in the era of Latin cinema – the early years of Alejandro/Guillermo/Alfonso. But we also talked about a New York nanny story when we first met. We have come full circle.
Director: How long did it take to produce the film, and if you could break it down into stages, time periods, what were they?
Mouterie: 2022 marks the fourth year of our journey. In 2019, we decided to fully commit to this story. It just felt like it could be the first feature film we did together. Niky writes big and creates these worlds. And while Nanny is not exactly content, of his work it was the most content. I was invited to the Sundance Producers Lab, and that was it. We continued on their development path and she participated in the Screenwriters + Directors Labs in 2020, which gave us a safe space to polish the script. In parallel, I refined where to shoot and a production plan.
In 2020 we got funding despite the pandemic, then in 2021 we shot it and billed it in post-production. It’s been quite a trip.
Although I don’t recommend our schedule, we did. The key was to have a team ready to race with us.
Director: Have you had any significant or influential mentors or support organizations that have been instrumental in your development as a producer?
Mouterie: The Sundance community is unique. I would say that I was very lucky to have met Anne Lai just before she left the Sundance Institute. She evened the playing field for me.
Anne led the Producers Lab in 2019, and they invited me as an honored member of Mark Silverman. In a world that worships directors, she really put production first, and that was a game-changer for me. Part of the lab is also mentoring, and you’re supposed to submit a wish list of mentors you’d like to be introduced to, and I infamously “succeeded”. Naturally, Anne had none of that. She introduced me to Daniela Taplin Lundberg, and of course that was the last piece of the Nanny puzzle. Daniela took me under her wing and stepped in to produce Nanny with me.
To this day, I still talk to 2019 lab mentors Effie Brown and Karen Chien. And Howard Gertler was like a big brother.
Director: What was the most difficult aspect of producing this film?
Mouterie: Everyone decided to shoot this spring/summer — finding our tribe was very hard. We definitely found our people, but it was quite a process to find our department heads.
Director: What element of the film are you most proud of, or perhaps most excited about, as a producer?
Mouterie: With Nanny, the SFX and VFX were the most exciting for me. Nikyatu is a kind collaborator and really trusted me to dive in and find our VFX and SFX partners. Our film was quite ambitious, so it was essential to find partners who loved the story and wanted to bring it to life. Determine what needed to be practical and captured, versus where the SFX/VFX could take off, was a difficult puzzle that we put together from preparation to release.
And we were lucky. I would warmly recommend Break + Enter and Taking Shape. They really like him for the job and they have appropriated the job in the best way. John Kilshaw was also a fringe proponent, at Framestore.
Director: What surprised or unexpected you during the making of the film?
Mouterie: Much of the production at this budget level supports what needs to be done, from all directions. You lower your head and push. It was hard. I had no idea it would be so isolating.
Director: What are the challenges facing new producers entering the business at this unique historical moment? And what could or should change in the film industry to make production a more sustainable practice?
Mouterie: I would say that given COVID and the very necessary protocols needed to ensure safety, there will be movies that just won’t get made – or that are at great risk in order to get made. Small films will have to bear the costs of security or just wait for us to master this. It is the “firsts” and the “beginnings” that launch careers. Some may never get that chance, which is really heartbreaking.
I wish we could move away from tax refunds and have funds actually available. For many, simply having access to finance makes all the difference.
I also look forward to seeing what the formation of the Union des Producteurs can do.
Director: Finally, what advice would you give to a future new producer who is about to embark on his first production?
Mouterie: Beware of favors, given at leisure – they may turn out to be all that is easy to give and not what you need. And when you build a team around your film, don’t forget to build your own. You will need support.