A lifelong fan of movies, Nicholas Woods has also been making and editing movies since the age of 10. After writing and director several short films, as well as working on other projects, Woods has finally created his first feature length movie The Axiom. Wanting to learn more about his background and this film, I was able to interview Woods for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: There isn’t much about you online. So what misinformation about your background would you like to put out into the internet? Are you secretly royalty?
Nicholas Woods: Sadly, I am not secret royalty. Wouldn’t that be nice! I could just finance my own films. No, I am pretty much just a normal guy. I grew up in Arizona making films for most of my adolescence, which is not to necessarily say that they were good ones, cringe. Certainly fun ones however and dark ones, always dark ones. I have been drawn to darker material from a young age, my Grandpa’s office was getting rid of old computers one year, I was about 10 at this time and my older brother helped me order the appropriate parts in order to build a decent computer capable of editing. Once I had that going the sky was the limit, and after that I was a filming machine. I filmed original content, I ripped off my favorite directors, I just filmed and filmed. I look back on those films sometimes, I still have them all. They are ridiculous, but each one taught me something.
Yanes: Growing up, what were some movies you loved watching? Are there any you still enjoy revisiting?
Woods: I probably scared my parents with the material I would gravitate towards at a young age. Films by Scorsese and Tarantino for whatever reason resonated with me when I was little. You could see they were doing something different than the other films kids my age were watching. My Dad showed me films from the 1950’s. We both loved Billy Wilder. My older brother however opened my eyes to newer works. We watched everything from Carpenter to Del Toro. For “The Axiom” these directors were all of great influence. I rewatch all their films every few years. Guillermo Del Toro is probably the only director portraying monsters on a relatable and interesting level these days in feature films. I hope not only to see, but create more of this.
Yanes: You have made a lot of short films. How do you think these small projects have helped you grow as a creator?
Woods: I have a love-hate relationship with short films. I don’t think it was my strongest medium. My short films were too long which is problematic for obvious reasons. I always wanted to tell longer stories, features are where, right now, I feel perfectly content in my story telling. My short films were the perfect place to make my mistakes. That’s why as a director it is so important to make these kinds of films. It’s a pretty well known saying but it still rings true; we learn most from our mistakes, or just the things we wish we had attempted, or tried differently. There is so much to learn when it comes to film-making which is why it is nice to have a practice ground so that with the big opportunities one feels ready to take chances in the places meant for risks, where time is of the essence and there are no re-takes.
Yanes: Your recent movie is The Axiom. What was the inspiration for this story?
Woods: The Axiom was a story I have been day dreaming about for a while. The idea of a portal discovered, and then kept secret, by not just one person but an entire community intrigued me greatly. I let it simmer for years during school until finally I knew I had to write it. As many stories do, it started out very simply and grew into something much greater. I wrote a much larger world, yet wanted ‘The Axiom (2019)’ to be a simple story of a few friends traveling through this epic world with the eventuality of them meeting the fate they do.
Yanes: The Axiom reminded me of some supernatural legends and folklore. Were there any urban legends you were intentionally echoing?
Woods: I looked at a bunch of Nordic and Icelandic mythology. Not because I knew anything about these culture’s mythos beforehand. I found myself dreaming of my own random monsters and creatures and found when I came to research their qualities that parallels could be drawn to these culture’s mythology and stories. The similarities were somewhat vague however still very cool. People have connected imaginations, even the most original idea has probably some unknown ties somewhere. So I took what I imagined, and some interesting parts of real mythology and designed my own creatures.
Yanes: There is some really cool creature design work in The Axiom. How did you go about designing their otherworldly appearance?
Woods: So after imagining these creatures I drew them to the best of my ability. Then I discussed with my make-up artist our options. We had limitations, certainly this can be said for the entire shoot due to our budget, so with the creatures we had to get extra creative. The monster on the movie poster for example; this creature is supposed to be an extension of a human being, but a distorted one, as if something inside it changed over time. So we followed its story. We created the man the monster once was, then looked at the changes a human being may go through if a body-possessing creature of this kind were to take over and what changes would happen to its body. This concept is not dissimilar to the transformation we see with Smeagol in The Lord of the Rings and how The Ring of Power changes his appearance, behavior and mentality as it slowly consumes him over time. Each creature had its own journey into creation, depending on the Axiom or world it came from.
Yanes: You are also The Axiom’s writer and director. While directing the film, were there moments in which you realized the script had to be changed? Specifically, did you come across anything that worked on paper but didn’t quite work in front of a camera?
Woods: Being the writer of a film you are directing certainly has its advantages. I would make little changes almost every day in terms of tweaks to dialogue. Never the story, as that was pretty much set in stone. But as the cast and I worked we learned more about the characters and about each other. There were fun moments between the cast members and the real relationships they were creating that I wanted to steal and put into their dialogue. One morning I woke up before set with this new inspiration for the dialogue for a scene. I wrote it while we were on set, printed it, handed everyone the new pages. They trusted me by then, so everyone rolled with it, and it worked fantastically. You never know when really good inspiration will strike, so you don’t want to hold back when it does.
Yanes: Given that The Axiom has such a cool concept, are there any plans to revisit it?
Woods: Absolutely there are plans to revisit this world. There are four more dimensions left to explore, with four unique worlds that I can’t wait to share. We are going to hold off until we can make it the spectacle an audience deserves, and that means a larger budget. Won’t be long though.
Yanes: When people finish watching The Axiom, what do you hope they take away from it?
Woods: I hope people’s imaginations are fired up about the possibilities of other worlds, and the creatures that could inhabit them. Our universe is still a mystery, and I for one believe many things are possible. What else could be out there? What creatures inhabit these other worlds, and for what ecological purpose. How would they react if we humans accidentally stumbled upon them and the spaces they operate in. More telling, how would we react to them? Would it be a violent, or peaceful meeting. In cinema, I believe we know this answer.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that people can look forward to?
Woods: Coming up I have a new film I am working on getting financed titled The Firelight Festival. It is a horror/ drama about three teenagers who escape a violent kidnapping, and recount the details of the event to help local authorities find those involved, and the other missing children taken from their town’s annual fire festival.