Film programmer James Nolen has one of the warmest laughs I’ve ever heard. Equal parts jolly and humble, it’s the perfect accessory to the bold, dapper outfits he has become known for around town.
Starting out at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) doing reception coverage, he later found himself in the marketing department, and eventually stepped into the role as junior programmer. That was almost ten years ago, but as he describes it feels like yesterday. ‘I’m still the last person to be appointed in the role, so technically I’m still a junior – I like to maintain a youthful perspective on things.’ And there goes that sensational laugh again.
On average Nolen watches about seven films each week, and despite his wealth of experience – creating film programs for fashion week, children’s programming and Australian Perspectives – he is hesitant to adopt the label ‘expert.’
‘It’s really exciting, you never know everything which is great – the thought of being an ‘expert’ always worries me, it’s an ongoing process of learning’ – James Nolen.
Nolen views his love for the cinema and fashion as the perfect fusion, with costume design influencing fashion and vice-versa. Fashion’s influence on his own day-to-day life is also undeniable – dressing well has a direct link to him feeling well. ‘It does influence my well being, and helps to mentally prepare myself’ says James. ‘I always think, I’m dressed for work, I’m dressed to take on the day, the world, whatever!’
James’ infectious joie de vivre has a way of inspiring boldness and confidence. ‘I always say just go for it’ says James. ‘Things require a leap of faith sometimes, it is about getting out of your comfort zone.’
James Nolen’s Extarordinary Routine
I try and go to the gym three times a week, so on those days I wake up at six o’clock. It does help to give shape to my week because on the other days, I’ll wake up, have some breakfast, meander a little bit and then leave the house.
If I don’t go to the gym I’ll just sleep in – I love sleeping. I often wonder if I were to apply for another job, if I could put sleeping as a skill. I think I could do it as a profession!
For breakfast I usually have Vegemite toast – it’s my lifeline, Vegemite and butter. Real butter, not margarine, it has to be butter. I’m sure it’s not the healthiest breakfast but it keeps me going and it’s quick.
I don’t plan my outfit ahead really, it’s just a quick check of the weather as I am getting ready in the morning. I think I’ve realised now that my shirt choice will influence everything else that I wear. I’m also a bit obsessed with pocket squares at the moment as I have also been trying to incorporate a lot more colour. I used to be obsessed with colourful socks, but now I wear a lot of invisible socks so my ankles are out on show 24/7 these days, rain hail or shine!
I read the paper on the train every morning, I’m old fashioned that way. Sometimes I look around and think, am I the only one on this carriage with a hard copy of The Age? It terrifies me a little bit, but it also terrifies me when I don’t read the paper and I look out the window and see that Melbourne is changing right before me and I didn’t notice that a whole building had been built!
I make a pit stop at Dukes Coffee Roasters. I get a tea, and everyone is always like, ‘how dare you get takeaway tea that is outrageous’, but it’s because a few years ago I used to drink a lot of coffee and there is something habitual about having a hot drink in the morning – and maybe a little snack.
It almost remains a mystery to me what we do as film programmers! But the working day usually starts with that unfortunate trap where you start looking at your emails. Monday morning in particular in the film world you generally look at your box office figures, because you report back to distributors the various takings of the films.
Fashion is one of my areas, but I also look after children’s film programming and Australian Perspectives. We also have all these incidental things that we might be looking at, such as responding to a retrospective. There are always lots of things bubbling away on the stove.
I am like clockwork with lunch, so at twelve I meet one of my brothers who works at ACMI as well, and we have a regular number of haunts that we go to. We have also instituted ‘Wildcard Wednesday’ and ‘Try something new Thursday’ so that we can try something that neither of us have been to before, to see if it is worthy of coming onto the regular roster.
After work there are a lot of events such as screenings and openings which is lovely, so work extends beyond nine-to-five, which has its pluses and minuses, but I think life would be a lot more dull.
I do like to get a coffee after work – it’s part of the winding down process, which I know doesn’t make sense but I am counter-intuitive to everything.
After coffee (and maybe a little sweet treat), I’ll head to David Jones food court where I buy a lot of meat and vegetables. If I miss David Jones I go to Spring Street Grocer. They have really good dips. I was never a dip fan until I discovered their range and I’m now dip addicted! Also their ice cream is great, but I try not to buy that ever because it can be a slippery slope.
I do most of my Instagramming on the way home, it is like my daily constitutional. I try to always have my Olympus camera with me for when I come across funny things that happen in the street.
I’ll get home around eight or nine depending on whether I see a film, so sometimes I’ll get dinner out. I do like cooking but it’s just the time.
When I get home I like to catch up on whatever is happening in the world of television. There is usually a British series I am chipping away at it or Project Runway – or Project Runway Junior, or Project Runway All Stars. I have a lot of time for Project Runway.
My aim for bed is midnight. I definitely need to go to bed earlier, that’s a proper issue, but I seem to survive okay.
“I think sometimes we can forget that the best accessory is a smile. As twee as it sounds, the world reflects back to you what you give out. So there is something about a smile that is almost quite life giving – it can change your whole mood in an instant.”