Nicolas @condevonblatt:on buenos aires, the economy in argentina, his love of new zealand, nz film industry, nz as a 2nd-world country, the beauty of photography, and some simple yet great advice
Nicolas' Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/condevonblatt/
Why did you come to Wellington ?
Coz it’s my place in the world.
I’ve been to different cities and countries all over the world, and this is the place where I feel most comfortable;
and good things just happen, even on the street;
if bad things happen, a good thing follows.
What do you plan to do here?
See if I want to live here.
And see how easy it is to achieve it.
What - if you could - would you like to change about Wellington?
I’d have liquor stores open until midnight. and I’d try to challenge the film and TV industry to make better shit.
They don’t know they’re making shit.
They film something average and they feel it’s like Hollywood.
I’d like everything like stores and bars to just open late.
If it's 10 pm and you’ve hurt something, you can’t get drugs. At least in Argentina, pharmacies, not every single one, but almost everyone, [open for 24 hours].
They could have 2 [pharmacies that open for 24 hours] at least per city here.
You cut yourself with glass, and you have to wait.
What would you not change about Wellington?
Tell me about Argentina.
It’s a very big country but most of the people are in the capital.
Crime [rate] is high, economy is bad,
which makes everyone suspect each other, even in the most simple things.
Like the happiest person has the stress level higher than any country -
I just notice that when I go outside.
What’s the least safe place to go to to in Buenos Aires, then?
It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods.
All the tourists go there.
So eventually all the pickpockets and criminals are there.
The city is alive 24 hours.
If you wanna go to stand-up comedy shows, dancing,
there are 5 spots to do that -
any day of the week.
Half of Buenos Aires is not good to be in.
But after some time you learn to dress and act [in certain ways].
You have to choose to be fearless or scary.
Sometimes, as a guy, I dress like I know people would be scared of me,
but I choose that way:
Acting suspicious [rather] than acting scared.
We tend to think like criminals so we’re one step ahead of them.
For example, I got a job here [on last my trip in 2010] at Burger King.
[Once,] when we finished our shifts, I was asking another Argentinian
[who was also working with me],
“Did you notice there’s no security cameras here?”
And we devised a whole plan to steal everything from the tills,
stealing people’s [pin] numbers...
We knew how to steal the whole place,
because we tend to think like criminals.
So in Argentina, you can’t be sure of anyone anymore.
If you want to ask someone the time, they'll tell you the time,
but they won’t stop walking.
Doesn’t that tell you about a country’s ethics too?
Yeah, people are more honest here.
In Argentina, people obey the law, because they know they’ll be punished.
Here, people do the right thing because they know it’s the right thing.
I heard about this:
[at] one of the Pak ‘n’ Save,
they had automated doors, and they forgot to shut it on a public holiday.
[So] it stayed opened [that day],
and there was no one there.
Some people came in and used the self-checkout
coz noone was there to check [them] out.
What was the first country you went to?
No idea. It was in the 90s.
In my country, [the] president suddenly made peso [the same value as the] U.S. dollar,
and suddenly we had the same economy like the U.S.
And everyone travelled a lot. We felt rich.
We were trying to spend the whole country’s economy.
It lasted 10 years, and we had the biggest economic crisis.
So I remember going to different countries.
I would always go and do what my parents tell me because I was young.
I knew it was different cultures - took me a while to understand things.
Nowadays I think I should go back to all those places to experience them for myself.
[Because] I don't actually think it counts [as real travel experiences for me]:
when I was 8, I went to paris;
when I was 12, I went to the U.S..
I grew up in the 90s.
The first 12 years of my life -
I saw everyone in a very good mood and an economy booming;
and then I experienced different economic crisis.
2001 was the biggest one when the dollar collapsed.
We’d been broke - as a country -
from being a ‘rich” country to being ‘broke’
most of the time and repeat a crisis every 5 years.
The theory is that we have crisis every 10 years
but we have it every 5.
Compare it to the Golden Years,
I know that this is how it’s going to be always.
We have the power to be a very rich country,
we have a lot of natural resources,
and we rank - very high or used to - our universities,
and every person leaves the country to be good somewhere else.
We have all this potential but the country is so corrupt.
When the person finds sth to do for the country, they find obstacles.
It’s sad, but it’s always going to be like this -
unless someone decides to change.
I remember there’s this guy... He was an Argentine.
He made a lot of money, millions.
He wanted to invest in Argentina.
He wanted to improve the trains system.
The government took the 5 million [he gave them],
[but] trains never improved.
He tried to create a business to invest in the country to make it better.
There was this interview of him, [and he said,]
he got asked for a bribe 3 times in the first 5 minutes [of engagement with the other parties].
It’s just difficult - if you have money, you’re bound to lose it.
Corruption is just fucking everywhere.
I’m picturing like the worst case scenario.
[But] you can live and survive and be happy somehow.
It’s not that shitty as they tell you, [it’s] just to make a point.
But being in New Zealand and Wellington,
you see a country works how it should work
and you just fall in love, can’t go back.
First time I went back, I took the taxi everywhere -
I felt unsafe everywhere -
took me 3 months to learn how to walk at night time.
A country can’t satisfy everyone.
When something is close to perfect, every imperfection stands out.
But if you compare it to a wolf country, this [New Zealand] is healthy.
Right now I’m talking to many people I met back then here, [friends from Argentina who travelled in NZ,]
and they’re telling me to send them picture of everything they loved.
So I’m sending pictures all day.
Even my brother’s wife who lives in Amsterdam is asking me for pictures.
She’s been told how magical and beautiful this country this is.
Should the film industry represent New Zealand at all?
No. There is a very small film industry.
I know it feels big for the people here,
but it’s a small country with a small population.
So how would you portray New Zealand to the rest of the world?
As a country that works, that’s full of small-town people
even in big cities - in a way that they are calm, relaxed, safe.
When people ask me in Argentina why in what way do I think [of New Zealand],
I say police officers don’t carry guns [at least when I was last travelling here],
and they understand [what that’s like straightaway].
People are relaxed because there’s nothing to be tense about.
There’s a lot of alcoholism and domestic violence here.
[But] I think, for me, it’s the fact that
there’s no crime here or just a tiny amount compared to my country
and that changes people a lot. And I think
that part of the change is what strikes me the most.
Everyone’s calm and nice
and don’t suspect about anything or anyone.
And that might be just one thing about them -
for me it’s the most important one.
What about Wellington?
Wellington has a lot of art
everywhere of every kind,
a lot of movements, a lot of youth -
which is not everywhere in New Zealand.
Do you think NZ is a really mediocre country?
No, I consider it a second world country.
It’s not quite up there to say the first.
And people don’t consider themselves first.
But everything works.
And that puts them above the 3rd world country.
People know how it should be better so they complain about it.
But things are pretty good here.
What have you learnt from the film crew that you were working with for a while here?
That film schools here are not good.
It could use some improvement, and that
I may have a shot - at staying here because of it.
Filmmakers are good but for their age
they aren’t as good as all the people I’d known.
The film schools - studying films [is a field that] has been booming [in NZ].
So many people go to school for that for many years.
And then you have just a shit load of filmmakers and not a lot of things to film.
There should be a lot of competition.
Film schools here have more an approach to analysing and theories,
and they don’t shoot much they dont get hands on.
It’s a hands-on industry, you need to be on the field and learn the tricks, and realise what movies are about.
A lot of people I talk to - they had just finished film school,
they have no idea what they’ll shoot,
when there’s 6 different positions to shoot things.
For my age, I have a lot more experience than anyone I’ve met here;
[in] Argentina, maybe not so much,
because I started when I was 15.
[So, here,] I could teach.
I could teach 5 years ago.
I could maybe improve film school.
I could, maybe, if I have more contacts,
if I knew more people, get to work in bigger projects.
Because I’d seen TV shows here,
I have seen people promoting themselves on a shoot,
and cameras are just set up -
from the pictures I could spot 10 mistakes;
I'd seen people work and professional people look like students from Argentina on their second year.
They just don’t know.
There are some things that after working for 10 years you just don’t think about coz you know how to do it correctly.
Certain projects - they been working on it for ages,
it’s always about to get shot.
In Argentina, you can apply for funds for short films -
it’s like a contest: 1000 entries, but only a handful get picked.
Here, you can shoot everywhere;
in Argentina, you can just get a few people and shoot it in a day or half a day,
we can do it for 200 dollars because it’s not too much to shoot.
[It’s as if] people consider [filmmaking as] a hobby.
In [the film industry or the medical field in] Argentina, it works like the army:
higher ranks treat lower ranks like shit.
[I know someone] who was a doctor, - he just couldn't take it.
And doctors aren’t the best paid jobs.
He went on to help his uncle selling boats;
nowadays he’s saving a lot of lives with LifeStraw -
he’s the distributor in Argentina,
and distribute it to the hardest parts of the world,
saving far more people than he could’ve.
You never become who you set out to be.
I believe it. I experienced it.
People in Argentina suspect each other that they’re not good people.
You know House M.D.?
He’s an asshole to everyone and proud of it.
I used to be like that.
And what changed you?
The people of New Zealand.
I was an asshole for 10 days and I felt shit coz people are so nice.
In Argentina, if you’re as nice as people here,
you’re stupid and you’re laughed at.
Here, I want to be that person.
And I met a lot of amazing people,
and I figured out I don't wanna be House,
I wanted to help people.
I went through some of the experiences [you know about]
last time [I was travelling here]: lived in a car, faced deportation,
and met some people who without wanting reward just helped me,
just because they knew it was the right thing to do
or they just felt like doing so.
And it was life changing - it changed me a lot.
Now, when I was back in Argentina,
even though I suspected everyone, I had faith.
What do you set out to be now from now on?
I’m the type of person who defines himself by his career.
I know I shouldn’t do, but I wouldn’t know how to describe myself.
I wouldn’t try to make an educator a full-time thing,
I want to do it part-time.
I realise I don’t hate teaching as much as I thought.
And I love learning. But I love filming...
I think I just answered my own question.
What is it about using a camera that’s so attractive to you?
Two sides: for one, I love setting up a mood,
showing someone either a picture or a film,
making someone feel something.
I like that and at the same time I’m a very technical person -
I love knowing how somethings works.
Photography is a mix of those two.
The more you know how to tinker, [the better you are at] creating the mood.
That’s why I don’t like shooting corporate videos and such,
I don't care for that, I wanna tell a story,
I want the viewer to feel something when they see it.
Was it the pictures that grabbed you? Or the feelings?
At first it was the chemicals.
At 15, I wanted to be a photographer.
At 16, a cinematographer.
What got me was working in the lab.
I loved the technical part of the chemicals.
It was a craft but at the same time it was technical,
and I found it really cool.
I actually sucked at everything else.
I didn’t know how to take proper pictures,
I couldn’t frame them properly.
I realised I didn’t have talents.
When I first started to go to photography school,
we would go out - 40 people,
everyone would shoot away on film.
It’s all digital nowadays,
before, you had to think about them and take 50 pictures.
Now you take thousands.
I didn’t know what to shoot, couldn’t see an image.
It took me many years to show people [something, and] they weren’t good.
But after learning all the tricks, the technical side of it,
after mixing all the different tools I started understanding how everything works,
how all the films develop. After a while,
I just had so many tools that I knew how to make something look good.
This day, I don’t think I have talent,
I just have a lot of knowledge on me.
I’m the kid that didn’t have talent but made it through.
I’ve seen people do great things without knowing [the technical details],
they just have a good eye.
I know people who just know aesthetics.
[This is] what I did: writing down mentally
what is it that made it go “Wow!”
Because you can tear it down and analyse anything you do.
Even like having a conversation,
when before, i didn’t know how to talk to girls,
and I sat down and analysed it,
when to be funny, when to start being physical.
You can analyse everything. That’s what I did -
I analysed why something is “Wow!”,
why something did not [have the wow effects],
and then write it down.
I know that if I was doing landscape,
if I was doing wide angle and put it to the nearest ground level,
it’ll have this effect.
You sound like a film teacher
I’m used to it.
Now I have young people [working with me and]
I have no problem in teaching them what I know.
I did have this trauma when I started out,
they put me in the hands of a very experienced gaffer.
He said, “I’ll just give you a simple task.”
And then he turned to the producer and said,
“I want this kid out of here.”
He didn’t give me a chance.
So now when I see a kid,
I’ll try to give them every chance I’ve got.
Did you have good teachers when you first started?
I had several good teachers.
What were they like?
They were very technical but very human.
Film school teachers - they didn’t study how to teach,
they shot a lot and they ended up in a school.
They’re very human, they’re not like,
“Ok, this is a structured teaching.”
One of them cursed a lot, every 5 words.
He was so funny, but he knew so much!
He stopped working, stopped shooting,
but he just knew so much!
And it was important right?
Yah... He taught me... When I met him,
I thought it was just about technicalities of the camera,
and then I knew it’s just putting hearts to it.
He was very funny: everything he said just stuck.
You don’t have to study it twice.
Are Argentinians generally very funny people?
Why is that? Is it because of stress?
Maybe. If we just laugh at our funny situations a lot,
like Norwegians - they’re funny, and drink a lot.
The comedians actually have a funny accent.
Advice to everybody on life :
Most obstacles in life are excuses that you make for yourself.
There’s a saying in Spanish :
El que no arriesga, no gana.
El no ya lo tenes
2nd one is used for guys on women.
Literally, it means:
you already have the no.
If you don't ask her out, it’s the same as if she said no.
The other means, if you don't risk it you don’t win.
Are you a risk taker?
Not as much as I’d like to.
But it’s a good place to take risks [in NZ]. Coz it’s safe.
But I still recommend on LA. At least fail by trying.
“I already have the no.”
Don’t be afraid to be yourself -
I guess that’s cheesy
- even if you feel alone.
In Argentina, I thought I was weird [for] the way I thought about how life should be.
But then when I came here,
I realise everyone thinks the way I used to think.
Even if you’re not with the right people...
To give you a very stupid but simple example:
Everyone in Argentina judges everything.
It’s what I call a Poor Syndrome.
They want to show everyone what they do.
And they judge - clothing, for instance,
I just wear whatever I find.
I don’t know how to combine colors and I don’t care.
I just wear whatever’s comfortable and useful.
And a lot of [the] times people say I look like a hobo
and my clothing has holes on it. Here,
people dress like no one says anything.
There, people judge solely on how they dress.
I don’t know. I always found it weird that kids judge me on that shit.
You’re talking about superficiality.
The poorer the country is, the much more effective it is.
With exception of the U.S..
I haven’t been everywhere in the states,
but I know some people in television,
they love their bling, they love showing off.
And then you got the Indians, who love showing off.
Oh, and Jewish people. Don’t get me started.
Why are Jewish people like that?
They have a lot of money.
They love showing off.
Never lose faith in people.
I didn’t have much in Argentina.
At some point, I lost it here.
Then i gained it back with interest.
Do you think that horrible things happen so that you would regain faith in people?
No, shit happens.
Don’t judge. That’s important.
Difficult, but important.