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Lick Auckland, a party aimed at queer women, last lit up our sapphic scene in 2019. Lick has not returned post-pandemic due to the film career of organiser Natalie Zibung taking off, working behind the scenes for the likes of Disney, Marvel, Luscasfilm and Paramount Pictures. After years of us asking, Natalie finally shakes off the shackles of her NDA’s to talk exclusively to YOUR ex.

Last time we spoke with you in YOUR ex, you were gracing Australia and New Zealand with your Lick parties. Since then, you have worked for the likes of Marvel Studios on some of the biggest movie franchises in the world! Please tell us about that journey.

What a pleasure it is to be back in touch! It feels like a lifetime ago. I’ve had a whirlwind journey since starting Lick Auckland. I started working in the industry in early 2002 as a naïve 19-year-old, after moving from Auckland to Melbourne. I remember walking on to the set of Stephen King’s ‘Evil Never Dies’ and falling in love with the magic that was cinema. From there, my career started taking off, and I accepted a job in location management, working on television commercials. I also started a location and production company called ‘The Location Collective’ with a friend in Sydney, which is still running hot to this day. From there, I went on to work on Pacific Rim: Uprising, Thor: Ragnarok.

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After I wrapped on the tv show Preacher half-way through 2019, I took up a job offer to work in London on a few projects, including Netflix’s Master of None and HBO’s His Dark Materials, which all happened right up to the pandemic. The pandemic hit the industry hard, and when the lockdowns happened, I started working for The Walt Disney Studios as part of their Studio Operations team ensuring business continuity for Marvel Studios, which meant getting Marvel shows done as safely as we could according to the Screen Actors Guild’s Return to Work Agreement. My first Marvel project was Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness for 10 months, then moved on to Secret Invasion for 11 months, then two covering manager stints on The Acolyte and Andor Season Two for Lucasfilm, onto Loki Season Two for 10 months, and then straight onto Deadpool & Wolverine for just over a year. Now I’m on Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning (Part Two) for Paramount Pictures.

Were you a Marvel fan before you went to Disney and has the time working on those films/TV shows altered how you view them?

I wasn’t the biggest Marvel fan when I joined Disney! Not for any reason other than that I had just been so busy with work, I was constantly travelling every other week for years and years, so I hardly went to the cinema or watched television (I’ve actually never even owned one!). But I certainly fell in love with the franchise and the work and creativity that goes on behind every show. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has captivated audiences all over the world on an epic scale. I mean, do you remember the effect that Avengers: Endgame had on you the moment you watched the assemble scene? I don’t know any other films that moves you like this franchise can. It’s gonna be nuts in the cinema watching Deadpool & Wolverine for sure!

The Mission: Impossible films are notorious for featuring Tom Cruise doing many of his own stunts. Does that make your role in ‘production safety’ a terrifying prospect?

When it comes to stunts, it doesn’t get bigger than Tom Cruise does it? He is so talented and so good at his craft, it’s ridiculous. I’m learning so much on a film with this level of intensity and skills. Being the biggest movie filming in the world right now, it naturally has some of the best film industry experts in their respective fields. From helicopters to planes and car chases, underwater filming, explosions, weapons, air-to-air filming, drones, never-done-before gimbal work, fight sequences galore – this has it all. I wouldn’t say it’s terrifying, but more exciting. As a department, our role is to guide, advise and manage risk as best and as reasonably practicable.

The Lick parties are sorely missed in Auckland. Will we ever see the return of Lick to our shores?

Never say never! I’d love to bring back Lick and do a reunion party – definitely wouldn’t discount one in the near future. A huge part of me still pains not being able to continue Lick regularly. I put a lot of time, love and energy into taking Lick as far and wide as I could. It’s been in 8 cities across two countries, plus partnerships with the biggest queer parties in Singapore and Los Angeles. I miss Lick sorely!

What are your favourite memories of the Lick parties – particularly the ones you put on in New Zealand?

My absolute favourite memory has to be when I brought Danielle Cormack over to Lick Auckland from Sydney. What a banger of a night that was. I may have had too much of a good time though that night, because I woke up in my hotel room the next morning with nothing but a single lonely sock on my feet and Danielle banging on my door to check if I got back ok.

I had wanted to bring a special guest to NZ for so long. I had already done Ruby Rose around Australia and Singapore, DJ Tigerlily and The Real L Word cast, in negotiations to bring Katherine Moennig (Shane from The L Word) to Australia (which I eventually did), and so it was Auckland’s turn. I had a few friends working on Wentworth who helped connect me with the cast, and the rest is history. I also brought over Kate Jenkinson from Wentworth to Lick Auckland as well as to Lick Christchurch and to Lick Queenstown for its debut.

Even in the world’s largest cities, the queer women’s scene is always so much smaller and tamer than the plentiful and wild offerings for gay men. Why do you think this is?

This very question was what motivated me to start it all!

Of all the cities you have visited and worked in – which one do you think offers the most exciting scene for queer women?

A few years ago, I flew to Barcelona one weekend to catch up with another event producer friend of mine who still runs, to this day, one of the biggest queer Latinx parties in Canada. It was the week of a very big annual lesbian festival; it was massive! We also went to a few smaller queer-owned bars in Eixample and were very pleasantly surprised at how gay-friendly the vibe was in Barcelona. If I had to tell you the event and city where I had the absolute best time, nothing can beat The Dinah in California, which runs every year and has been since 1991. The year I went as a radio show host and event press, I got to meet Mariah Hanson – the brains behind this amazing festival. I also got to meet Uh Huh Her, Chaka Khan, Natasha Beddingfield, Dev and the Cataracs, Salt N Pepa. It is surreal.

Natalie’s work on Deadpool & Wolverine can be seen in cinemas from Thursday 25 July.

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