Ahead of the premiere of his debut documentary film, “Big Mike Takes Lunch,” we sat down with Nicolas Heller, the man behind the captivating Instagram account @NewYorkNico, which he uses to chronicle the lives of the New York City characters you need to know.
COLIN TUNSTALL: Can you tell us a little about your new film, “Big Mike Takes Lunch,” and how it all came about?
NICOLAS HELLER: Well I’ve been going to Astor Place ever since I was like eight or nine years old to get my haircut, but I never really made friends with any of the staff there. It’s a very intimidating place. It’s very New York. Everyone there is grinding and trying to make their money. So I never became friendly with anybody.
CT: In your video you seem pretty friendly, but maybe that’s because you’ve developed that relationship?
NH: Totally. It’s what you make of it. When I was a kid, I would get my hair cut there and just be on my way, so I never spoke to anybody. But about three years ago, I reached out to them on Instagram and just told them that I’d been getting my haircut there forever and I appreciated their business. So they were like, “Oh come in, we’ll give you a behind the scenes tour of the spot” (laughs).
CT: And that was Mike?
NH: No, this was my current barber, Jeff, who was not my barber at the time. So I went in, Jeff gave me a tour and introduced me to everybody, and sure enough, everyone was super friendly, very funny, and vivacious. He introduced me to Mike, who I just remember as being the grumpy man who greets you when you walk in.