Every year, countless movies, short films, and productions are shot out in Winton, Queensland. If you have never been or heard of Winton, it is a tiny little remote town in Outback Australia. Winton is home to some amazing scenery that has been featured in films like the Proposition and Mystery Road. Recently, I was able to interview another writer and director who recently shot their upcoming film in Winton – Maia Jorgensen.
Maia is a Canadian born writer and director currently based in Brisbane. She recently completed production of her Australian psychological thriller / drama Solitude. Before this, she has directed an episode of the web series Ain’t it Fun and an incredible outback short film called Shelter. Maia is another Brisbane based creative who is clearly on the rise.
What is Solitude about?
“Solitude is about a co-dependent friendship between two childhood friends that takes a dark turn when old secrets come to the surface. It is a psychological thriller based in Winton that uses the landscape as a third character.”
What inspired you to write Solitude?
“I went on the Winton Outback trip last year. I left the trip knowing I wanted to make a film that showcased the landscape in Winton and the beautiful outback. The core idea came from my own experiences with friendships. I thought it would be interesting to tell a story that shows how toxic platonic relationships can be. You see those toxic relationships between couples on screen so I thought it would be interesting to explore it between friends.”
When you are casting, what do you look for?
“I specifically wanted someone who had experience and training. People who can be good collaborators and really shape these characters and bring them to life. Its also very internal so I wanted actors who could really showcase the subtleties so we can truly understand the subtext. I also wanted people who had really good chemistry because there such close friends.”
Biggest challenges shooting in the Outback?
“We definitely had some problems… Most of the issues that we learned from was how to shoot with the outback sun. I think we got the hang off it by the end of it. When we shot our Proof of Concept, it was overcast but when we were out in Winton, it was a full sun with no clouds. We couldn’t get it too look or feel right. By the second day, we just had to cut shots and shoot within that 3-6pm area. “
“Also, half the crew went up by bus and half drove. Just a really long bus ride together, 21 hours…”
What was the scariest thought going into production?
“The sunlight and also shooting at night was daunting because it gets really really cold. The day would be warm but at night it would drop to like 10 degrees. Even just knowing we only had one shot to do this and there was no room for mistakes. We couldn’t reshoot anything because we only had one chance. Also, the wild animals, shooting on the edge of a cliff, rocky boulders and driving back late at night on the highway.”
With that pressure and stress building, is there anything you do to combat this?
“There was one day specifically where the crew was getting really stressed. We just couldn’t figure out the lighting. So I got all the HODS to meet and we stopped filming. I just reminded everyone that this is an enjoyable experience, and this isn’t going to be the end of the world. We just breathed and came up with a better plan to schedule for the light.”
What are your primary goals with Solitude?
‘We will definitely be doing the festival circuit and in particularly indie Australian film festivals. With my time in Australia, I have fallen in love with Australian filmmaking.”
Why should people pay attention to Solitude?
“This film has a unique perspective on platonic friendships. Just because it isn’t romantic doesn’t mean their can’t be toxic dynamics and tendencies. When you do put all your attention, love and care into one person that can backfire in a way. Also, just the exploration of the outback and landscape. “
Maia’s Writing Process
How many hours a day were you writing during the peak time?
“It was a lot… a lot of time. This might be dramatic but probably between 8-12 hours on planning. When I actually started writing it was probably more like 2 or 3 hours a day. When I sat down and wrote it, it didn’t take that long, it was just the planning.
Is writing a challenge for you or does it come easily?
“I enjoy writing. It was a bit of a challenge for me because I have a lot of experience directing things I haven’t written. This was the first thing I wrote and directed in a while. I am meticulous so I wanted it planned out perfectly.
Do you find yourself getting distracted?
“I can be quite singular focused. If I ever got distracted it would be with the pitch, so always Solitude stuff.”
How did you know the script was finished?
“I think it was a gut instinct. I got to the point where if I made changes it would divert from where I wanted it to go. The screen actually didn’t change that much from March since I planned it out a lot.”
When you draft do you completely restart or have the first draft next to you?
“I like to have it next to me for reference. I start a new document to rewrite but if I ever feel like I get to a block I will start from scratch and not look at the old one until I bring them together.”
How do you put yourself into the characters and story?
“It does come from my own experiences, but they are not necessarily negative. I wanted to showcase a different kind of relationship on screen that I have with my own friends but not in a bad way. That platonic intimacy and co dependency that may not be toxic but does exist. I have had experience with friendships that don’t work out and so I intertwined those negative feelings and those intrusive thoughts. Also, just playing into those deepest insecurities.”
What is your dream project / collaboration / film? (No limitations at all)
“I would love to work with Taika. He is my favourite human in the entire world. I take a lot of inspiration from him as a director and creative. “
As someone who isn’t born in Australia, where do you want to see the Brisbane and Australian film scene move?
“I definitely think its on the rise. As an outsider, its interesting not seeing Brisbane on the international level like Vancouver or Melbourne. Its definitely on the rise and is up and coming. There is still something unique Australian about films that come out of Brisbane and the Gold coast.”
Advice for other indie filmmakers on writing and directing?
“Just trusting yourself and trusting your own experiences and instincts. I feel you can get a lot of criticism but at the end of the day you’re the only one who knows their own mind. For directing, remember to enjoy the experience and knowing that no film is worth your mental health or the crews. Also, just putting in the work to learn your craft and working with your actors.”
“I just love storytelling and entertaining. Also, just being on set and brining a film together. You can only go into film if you are passionate about it. When you are on set, everyone there wants to be there so badly and have worked so hard to be there. “
“A shoutout to my crew. I had an amazing crew and I couldn’t be happier with the people who supported me. Also, my cinematographer Remy Webber, Ash Burgess, Frank Button, Joe Mineham and the town of winton.”