The key to soft, dream-like video? Filmmaker Nora Nord reveals all…

Nora Nord Videography14 Feb 20247 min read
Screengrabs from Nora Nord's Femme, published by WaterBear in collab with Nikon. Screengrabs for Nikon magazine

To create films that prompt conversations, think about your reason for making the film and the best way to narrate them, says filmmaker and photographer Nora Nord

“A change is coming,” smiles London-based Norwegian creator Nora Nord. “As a filmmaker, my aim is to kickstart conversations and explore themes that I didn’t get to see on screen growing up.” Produced in collaboration with Nikon and hosting platform WaterBear’s As Told By Us series, Nora’s latest short film, Femme, celebrates Queer femme friendship and love. The six-and-half-minute film follows Thea as she journeys into London’s Queer landscape after receiving an unexpected call from her childhood friend May. The new territory feels unwelcoming until Mimi – a liberated fellow Queer femme – sees Thea for who she is and welcomes her to step into her new life with confidence.


After two months of crafting a script with co-writer Beatrix Blaise – “It felt like heavy therapy!” – Nora and her team had ten days to pull together cast, crew and location. Once prepared, she shot for three days straight. Chatting to Nikon Magazine, she reveals her top tips to bringing softness and fantasy to film.

Nora Nord
What’s in my kitbag?
Screengrabs from Nora Nord's Femme, published by WaterBear in collab with Nikon. Screengrabs for Nikon magazine
Unleash the story in you

When Nora submitted her creative idea for filming to WaterBear and Nikon, she knew she was the right person to tell story. “The film is a vignette from a time in my life that was filled with a lot of change, uncertainty and new beginnings,” she explains. “This is an ode to femmes (Queer people who are feminine presenting) and how they showed me different ways to move through the world,” Nora explains. “The script is based on a conversation I shared on social media about being a femme in Queer spaces and not ‘looking Queer enough’. Some people said they had changed their appearance to make life easier. Others shared stories about being barred from Queer spaces because they were assumed to be straight. Almost everyone agreed that femmes are judged on outdated stereotypes.


“It’s also just not a common topic of conversation, because there is a privilege that comes with passing as straight in a world that’s homophobic and transphobic. My film is about not being recognised by a community and finding your own space. I hope it inspires conversations.”

Screengrabs from Nora Nord's Femme, published by WaterBear in collab with Nikon. Screengrabs for Nikon magazine
For a soft ethereal look, use 35mm prime and a matte box

Nora filmed on the Nikon Z 8 and vintage lens NIKKOR-H Auto 50mm f/2 and NIKKOR 35mm f/2.8 AI using a Mount Adapter FTZ II. “The resolution of the mirrorless camera was so sharp, but I wanted to go with vintage glass because it felt more cinematic and softer, more imperfect. We used a matte box to hold the soft mist diffusion filters to give a soft finish,” Nora explains. “We shot almost the entire film using a 35mm prime with some reportage shots on a 50mm. I just love the way the world looks in 35mm. It’s not completely as our eyes see it, but we just get so much information. I don’t really like filmmaking that dictates where I should focus. I like to be able to see where my eye takes me rather than be directly guided. It was also a practical decision as it was quicker to shoot on one lens.”


Top tip: Effects filters are often used to add an extra creative boost to your image and film, whether through an interesting distortion, added colour cast or a nostalgic look. Pro-Mist filters, for example, reduce contrast and bloom out highlights for a softer-looking image. Want a guide to filters? Click here.

Screengrabs from Nora Nord's Femme, published by WaterBear in collab with Nikon. Screengrabs for Nikon magazine
Shoot handheld with aperture wide

“We filmed only a couple of scenes using a tripod, including the flashback montage as I wanted that very still, but the majority of the film was handheld,” explains Nora. “It added to the imperfect look.” She recommends using a Neutral Density filter in bright light when you want to keep the aperture wide (for her that was f/2), especially for the flashback scenes and shooting in 4K, although there were occasions when she wished she had shot in 8K. “Looking back, I would have liked to have used the Z 8’s ability to shoot in 8K. In the short timeframe we had to punch in quite a bit on some shots, because we couldn’t shoot twice, the ability to have 8K would have been amazing.”


Nora’s camera settings:

Frame rate and resolution: 24fps and 4K

Shutter speed: 1/50 (at 24fps)

Aperture: f/2, f/5.6 and f/11 were the most used

ISO: 400

White Balance: true to the colour temperature of the environment

Screengrabs from Nora Nord's Femme, published by WaterBear in collab with Nikon. Screengrabs for Nikon magazine
Prepare for the unexpected

How was it filming the dialogue scenes compared to the scenes without the dialogue? “Stressful!” Nora laughs. “We spent a good amount of time filming Thea and her boyfriend in a café in South London (when she gets a phone call) but in the end a lot of that scene was cut (that scene alone was originally 12 minutes long). That evening, we shot the club scene, but we had to wait until 7pm for the sun to go down as we couldn’t completely block the light out, so in the end we only had 90 minutes to film all the dialogue scenes – all four pages of them!” Nora loved how the actors delivered their lines and how the dialogue added to her desired natural and authentic storytelling.


Make low light your friend

When budget is restricted, you have to think efficiently, says Nora. “With the amount of gear we had to move around, plus the size of the cast, we wanted to shoot in the same location. In the end, one of our locations was my producer Emily’s flat, which was also our base for the sequence where the protagonist Thea wakes up in a new bedroom. I thought to myself, how can I utilise all this space in a savvy way? The good news is that I love shooting in low light and, for the bath scene specifically, we had light coming through the bathroom window, which helped because we wanted it to like look golden and beautiful. Originally, we were just going to shoot in natural light, but it was a grey and boring day, so we added an orange LED light for warmth.”

Behind the Scenes Assets for Nikon magazine 'Nora Nord's interview about her film, Femme.
Behind the Scenes Assets for Nikon magazine 'Nora Nord's interview about her film, Femme.
Animation adds fantasy

“I wanted to work with animation because I feel that sometimes what you can see doesn’t really translate into what you can feel,” Nora explains. “There’s a sense of fantasy and play. It’s quite childlike and there’s a real sense there’s something more beyond eyesight. It was important to keep the animation subtle, so it’s referenced during Thea’s childhood when she’s 12-17 years old.”


Music adds to the ethereal feeling

“I wanted cinematic music to encapsulate the feeling of being on a train and looking out and seeing everything rush past you in an instant,” Nora adds. “Music is so powerful in evoking emotion and that’s why it’s important for me to get it right even in a short film. For Thea, there’s a lot going on and she’s moving through mental spaces – shifting from feeling uncomfortable to feeling more comfortable in her own skin and questioning the spaces in the meantime. I wanted the music to match that.”

Screengrabs from Nora Nord's Femme, published by WaterBear in collab with Nikon. Screengrabs for Nikon magazine
Contrast your colour grade

Post-production editing is vital to elevating your overall film effect. “I wanted the colours to be dull when Thea is in bed at the beginning, to show how uncomfortable she was,” Nora explains. “With the flashbacks, I was really inspired by the photobook Girl Pictures by Justine Kurland – she used lots of primary colours to create this warmth and the feeling of looking back on memories fondly. By contrast, for the club scene, we wanted to use red tube lights to evoke this sexy Queer club and so for the colour grade we stayed true to the colour of the real room.”  


Filmmaking is a collaborative process

“When you’re making the move from photography to filmmaking, the key thing to remember is your team,” says Nora. “It’s a collaborative process, and you cannot do it alone. Nor should you. Managing a team is about problem solving and being respectful and allowing them to be as creative as you allow yourself to be.” Nora’s ultimate top tip? “Allow your creative flow to pour out of you and don’t forget to allow yourself the space and the grace.”



You can watch Femme here.

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