Pass the Mic Interview Series, ft. Luke de la Nougerede

By Nathan Phan

With the recent release of his documentary “The Passing of the Moment,” we thought it would be perfect to pass the mic to Luke de la Nougerede. Luke, known as “Nougie” to his friends, is a Brighton-based documentary filmmaker who specializes in portrait films. His film “The Passing of the Moment” follows karate sensei, Julia, and her 37-year journey to lead the UK team to the international karate tournament in Japan. 

In our interview with Luke, we asked him to tell us about his journey as a filmmaker and his process filming “The Passing of the Moment.”

*This interview was slightly edited for copyediting purposes. 

Tell us about yourself, where you’re based, and how you first got your start as a documentary filmmaker. 

I’m a filmmaker from Brighton, East Sussex. I’ve had an interest in cameras and technology since I was a young child. My grandfather, John de la Nougerede, always used to have a video camera in his hand and made incredible home movies of me and my cousins whilst we were children. I found the concept of being able to capture a moment in time and watch it over and over again fascinating, and I still do today! I received a video camera for my fourteenth birthday and used to take it with me everywhere, filming skateboarding videos, zombie movies with my friends, and short films. I studied Film Production & Technology at Uni for three years and have worked in the industry since graduating for the past 11 years, with five of those [years] being under my own production company entitled, Nougie.

How would you describe your filmmaking style? 

Our documentary style encompasses a blend of methods from different disciplines. I like to shoot moments in a fly-on-the-wall style with long lenses and natural lighting to allow moments to play out organically, whilst also shooting set up sequences. Everything I shoot I make as cinematic as possible, utilizing interesting foreground to add depth, close ups to capture emotive moments and using slow motion within the climactic karate tournament.

Tell us more about your documentary “The Passing of the Moment.”

“The Passing of the Moment” is a fourteen minute documentary following the journey of lifetime karate sensei, Julia, who has sacrificed everything over the past 37 years to get the UK team to the international karate tournament in Japan. The documentary looks beyond the kicking and punching of karate and delves deeper into Julia’s vision of building a rich community of disciplined and enriched people. She lays bare what it takes to be the best, and what it takes to set aside your own ego for the benefit of the cause.

Why did you decide to make this documentary about Julia and her life in karate?

I have been creating promotional video content for Renshinkan Karate for the best part of a decade, filming karate tournaments, gradings, and practices. Myself and the producer, Tom, made a documentary in 2015 following the karate team to Taiwan to compete in an international tournament. The documentary was an incredible experience, but it also made me aware that there was a deeper story beyond the competition that deserved to be created and shared. Julia’s 37 years of dedication to Renshinkan Karate is a story I wanted to get out to the open. Julia isn’t your standard sports coach, she has dedicated her life to growing the school from nothing to 350 students, and so we decided to base this story around the 2019 Karate tournament in Japan which she was preparing for at the time.

What was it like to work on this documentary for three years?

This has been the longest amount of time I have personally invested in a project. Previous documentaries I have worked on have generally taken between 3-6 months in the edit. If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, this would’ve been finished much earlier as it restricted us from being able to shoot the final shots. With that said, lockdown was also a blessing as it gave me more time and less distractions from other projects. This helped me to craft the edit and ensure all of the best soundbites from the 8 hours worth of interviews were included. It did also drive me a little crazy as the extra time meant I got a little bit carried away with going through all of the shots multiple times!

What were some of the challenges that you faced while making this documentary?

The biggest challenge for us was to get the emotional hook from our contributor, Julia. I have worked with Julia for a long time, and she is a confident spokeswoman for the school, but she generally doesn’t open up about her emotions and feelings very often. I knew that getting the emotion from her would take some time, and so I decided to save filming our master interview until we had built up enough rapport in the interviews. In the first three interviews we did, we just used a sound recorder so that it didn’t overwhelm her. The interview sessions did end up feeling like therapy sessions in a way, and by the third interview, Julia really opened up and was very emotional at the end. This was when I knew we were ready to film our master interview.

The main challenge with the visuals was the Japan tournament day. It was an incredibly long day with a lot to achieve. The main karate tournament in the stadium featured multiple floors where the action happened. Many of the UK competitors were performing at the same time, and so it ended up being potluck with who I could film, as after 5 minutes, many of the competitors I had planned to film had already finished. It certainly was hectic, but I do really enjoy the buzz and chaos of documentary filmmaking!

What advice would you like to give to aspiring filmmakers?

My advice to aspiring filmmakers is to make sure filmmaking is what you want to achieve in life. It’s tough work, long days, anti-social hours, and means spending a lot of time away from home, friends, and family, but there’s no other career like it. For me, it’s one of the most rewarding mediums out there and the ability to share your work and memories with the world is incomparable.

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