Exclusive Interview with ‘On Hold’ Director Jake Nielsen

What was your inspiration for On Hold?

I wrote the film when I was working at a particularly hellish call centre for a predatory lender. It was originally so I could find an outlet for all the things I hated about the place. Every time something enraging or ridiculous happened, I’d go home and write it up in some way. Eventually, I started to like what I’d done and so I worked into a larger musical.

Why is the title ‘On Hold’?

I like double meanings and it was either that or “Disconnected” and I didn’t want it to sound like a depressing film so “On Hold” won out.

Tell us about the casting process.

We were a very small independent short so we had some auditions through agents and some just completely open. We were lucky enough to get Madeleine Jones to play our protagonist. We got extremely lucky and grabbed a rising star about one millisecond before she would have been way too busy for us. She’s currently starring in “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” in Australia.

What was the funding process for this film?

We were very small, the whole thing was done on a budget of $16,000. The entire cast and crew volunteered their services. Some of the budget came from crowdfunding and my co-writer Matthew Predny and I put in some of our own cash. Our producers also threw some in. It was a real team effort.

Do you think a lot of people would be able to relate to this film? Those who feel like they are stuck at a job they don’t like and want to pursue something else?

I feel if this film is one thing it’s relatable. At least that’s what we’ve been told. The film has some hyper-realistic moments, spliced with over the top musical numbers. Strangely enough, people find the combination relatable. I think cause the scenes mirror a recognisable experience and then the songs represent our emotional response to that experience.

Have you ever been a situation like Gabby?

Yeah, I pretty much just wrote a musical about the exact situation I was in.

Why did you do this short in the form of a musical?

I love working within the musical genre cause it has the ability to shortcut the analytical brain and reach our emotional instincts faster. The themes of the film have their basis in emotions and the way we feel about things. Using the musical genre to explore these is very freeing, it provides a release. Musicals are basically the complete opposite of corporate in every way.

Do you think the film would have still been successful if it wasn’t a short film musical?

I don’t think it would have been as successful. The ideas in the film have been discussed in pop culture in many different ways before, and so using the musical genre to express these specific ideas helps us achieve a unique emotional resonance and nuance in our treatment of the subject matter.

What was your overall goal for this film? Do you feel like you have achieved it?

My co-writer Matthew and I had just had a re-write job fall through and I didn’t want to spend another year not doing something. And so my main goal for this film was to spend 2016 not working in an office, so I’m really happy to have achieved that and made a good film while doing it. All the rest has just been a really great bonus.

What are your upcoming projects?

Matthew Predny and I are working on the music and lyrics for the feature film version of a musical we wrote with Madeline Clouston (Sophie in On Hold) called “Miss Westralia”. It covers the untold true story of Beryl Mills, the first Miss Australia.

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