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Shooting a film in outback Australia – an interview with maia jorgensen

Maia Jorgensen on POC

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.”

Mackenzie Curtis as NOA

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?

Maia Jorgensen, Sandro Karayan, Megan Dale, Jarrah Marchio on set

“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. “

Ethan Larkin and Remy Webber

“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?

Anya Suffolk on Set

“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.”

Why filmmaking?

“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. “

The Crew of Solitude in Outback Winton

“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.”

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Film Reviews

An Honest review of Elvis

After what feels like 5 years, Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is finally here. Ever since Tom Hanks got COVID I feel like I have been hearing about this movie once a week. Probably because it was filmed in Australia, but the hype train to this movie felt enormous. Something that is usually quite dangerous for an audience’s expectations. But its finally here and boy is it something. It’s one of those movies I think will really unite audiences because what works works and what doesn’t really does not…

What is structure?

Walking out of the packed cinema, everyone around me had the same core criticism of Elvis – a weird structure and pacing. The opening of this film is some of the most bat shit crazy effects and transitions I have ever seen. Baz gives zero fucks about what everyone else is doing and as usual goes with his gut. In the first 10 minutes, there’s animation, split screens, psychedelics, and a lot of spinning transitions. While this is not for me personally, I did appreciate it. It felt like a refreshing way to open a movie and it didn’t take me long to settle in. And then, it disappears for the rest of the film…

If Elvis maintained this breakneck speed and crazy style, I would have appreciated it much more. Instead, we move into this slow and dragging pace that makes you look at your clock and go “FUCK ME THERES 2 HOURS LEFT?” It’s not that it’s that bad it’s just when you have such a fast-paced opening, you kind of have to keep a little bit of the momentum going. I could not count how many people were checking their phones or going to the toilet after an hour of this. I think it comes down to one key reason.

The writing of Elvis is unique. A scene in this film kind of goes like this – Tom Hanks narrates something big in Elvis’s career happening and then we cut to the consequence of this rather than showing it. But what really damages this is that all these scenes drag on for a very very long time. And while I do appreciate Baz not just showing us all the famous and well-known aspects of Elvis’s life, this structure gets repetitive and brings the story to a halt.  For example, that whole sequence of the Christmas show went for a staggering amount of time. While I know it’s a big part of his career, it just doesn’t fit this movies pacing. I just think that if Baz maintained that fast pace and cut some scenes down, this movie would be a lot more engaging.

Austin fucking Butler

It’s no secret that Austin Butler smashes this performance of Elvis. The voice, the moves, the mannerisms – everything is spot on. To me, it just shows a level of hard work and passion that is so appealing to see on screen and hear about in interviews. Having an actor truly love the role is so addictive and makes the character so believable. On top of this, it never felt like Austin was overdoing it. He never pushed anything to far or begged for the audience’s attention. It just felt like an honest and passionate portrayal of a man that Austin and Baz clearly care about so deeply.

Tom Hanks…

I don’t think its Tom Hank’s fault that his performance in this doesn’t work. Instead, I think it comes down to two key reasons. Firstly, his name. Tom Hanks is just at the level of fame where as soon as he is on screen, it is a challenge for us to suspend of disbelief. Sure, when he plays an American it is easy for the audience to accept his character but let me ask you this. In the last 10 years, are you ever actually watching him and not just thinking that you are watching Tom Hanks on screen? I truly believe he is just so famous and so often typecast that convincing us of these oddball characters has become near impossible.

The second reason is the accent. I think Tom is doing a Dutch/ American accent, but I could not tell. I never settled into it or felt that it was natural for one moment. Its not necessarily terrible it just feels so forced and out of place. 

Australian Actors

The Australian actors in this are incredible. Everyone in this smashes their accent and never made me question it once. As usual, Richard Roxburgh and David Wenham are amazing. They both play characters that feel out of their comfort zone and yet it still feel so natural and effortless. Kodi Smit – McPhee just takes over the screen whenever he is on it. He is on track to being one of Hollywood’s best actors in the next 5 years.

The Ending (Spoilers)

Man, that ending… Few film endings leave you constantly pondering it and replaying that final scene in your head for days. Elvis did just that to me. The film wraps up very quickly and does this beautiful cut to the real Elvis. What is so incredible is that it doesn’t try too hard to wrap things up in a bow or give a positive spin on the Kings life. Instead, it shows his final days for what they truly were. Bleak and miserable. We see his passion for performing but also the darker side of his life so clearly in those final few moments. It leave the audience with this bittersweet taste in their tongue, seeing how easily such an evil man ruined a true artist. Perfect editing, directing, and acting.

Should you watch Elvis?

I do think its worth seeing in the cinema. Just prepare yourself for a rollercoaster… Apart from the slow second act and Tom hanks’, I did enjoy this movie and would recommend.

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Interview

How to get your web series made? – an interview with cheeky moon

I was lucky enough to interview Cheeky Moon’s own Claire Coe and Alastair Craig. The writing, filmmaking and sketch comedy act are based in Brisbane and have seen plenty of success already. They have been featured on Funny or Die, the ABC and film festivals all around the world. But perhaps at the centre of this is their upcoming movie length comedy series IT’S A CULT. As soon as I saw this announcement, I knew an interview with them would be perfect for 44 Clovers. We dove into their upcoming show, the struggles along the way and the teams writing process. Also, becoming viral in a nudist community…

What is IT’S A CULT?

“It’s an 8-part comedy web series with a healthy dose of drama. It begins as an anthology about 4 different vulnerable people – a former master chef contestant turned crook, a writer and a couple struggling with infertility. All these people converge on this self help pseudo-scientific organisation which is run by a literal puppet.” – Alastair

Where did this idea stem from?

“I have always been interested in cults (as a non-cult member). In particular, the stresses of running a cult like the office side of it. Alastair and I met and worked for 6 or 7 years now, and we really wanted to write a narrative together. We both loved PT Anderson and how he made Magnolia, splitting facets of his personality into the work.” – Claire

Biggest struggles and problems of creating a web series by yourself?

“Filming wise, it is getting a lot of busy people into the same space at the same time. I also had just had a new born baby…“– Alastair

“For writing, keeping track of structure, pacing reveals, and especially keeping the balance of drama and comedy was fun but definitely took a lot of time. Also, in production, we were shooting through covid, wearing masks, and socially distancing.” – Claire

What are your goals for releasing It’s a Cult!?

 “Our plan is to put it on YouTube. We explored potentially pay walling, but we realised we just want as many people to see it as possible. We do hope to rent out a cinema and make a large scale event since it is feature length.” – Alastair

What shows, writers or directors were big inspirations going into this project?

“I consumed a lot of West Wing, especially the back end of it. I wanted this Sorkin rhythm to it. Also, Mad Men. Even though I am never in the mood to watch it, I always think, I have never seen a scene like that. It never feels cliché and the trajectory, dialogue and emotions always surprises me.” – Claire

“The main character we were writing had a kind of Fleabag energy to it. It feels like a cliché now but we constantly took that show to heart and compared our show to Fleabag. Phoebe Waller Bridge said that when the audience’s mouths are the widest with laughter cram down the drama. That’s something we definitely took to heart because there is a lot of drama in this series.” – Alastair

Why should audiences pay attention to this web series?

“We hope the strange energy of it is something that compels people. It is a genuinely surprising show. There are comedic episodes, dramatic episodes, experimental episodes. We really hope people are going to enjoy that unpredictability and that ride. And also PUPPETS.” – Alastair

“We also include a lot of our own personal struggles. It’s so worth while to explore our own anxiety and depressions. You just hope people connect to these ideas and feel a bit better.” – Claire

Cheeky Moon’s Writing Process

How many hours a day were writing during the peak period?

“I write everyday personally. And we write together 2-3 times a week.” – Claire

“It took a solid year to get from new parent to a functional writer again.” – Alastair

Do you challenge with keeping focused and how do you combat this?

“Writing together is definitely a huge tonic to this. If one of us isn’t feeling motivated, we can bring it to the other person, and they can find what works. I have been very lucky to have such a talented writing partner that I am accountable to. But if you find the right partner it offsets a lot of the problems of being a solitary writer.” – Alastair

“I’m not good with the internet…” – Claire

How did you know It’s a Cult was finished?

“I probably didn’t when we were writing. I was constantly and constantly revising. Writing was quite intuitive, we really wanted to consider each character as they all go through a lot of grief and heart ache. We just wanted to do right by each character.” – Claire

“We just kept polishing scripts up until we were filming. I do remember when we wrote the final scene, and we could finally put full perspective and context on the characters journeys. The sense of closure on nailing that scene was amazing.” – Alastair

Cheeky Moon went viral in a nudist community. Please explain?

“Actual nudist communities thought that what we did was an example of a healthy message. As a result, they shared it around nudist communities where it gained a following. We also entered into a clothing optional film festival in Texas where it won best nudist film despite being completely censored. It ended up just being a tagline we use for marketing now.” – Alastair

Advice for people wanting to write / perform comedy but are afraid of diving in?

“I think I am a poster child for shy and awkward person who thinks their funny who took the leap into comedy even though I was super anxious socially. But if you think you are funny and if you are at you’re day job and you are not doing it because you are making little videos or cant help but be funny you are probably onto something.” – Claire

“Consuming as much great comedy as possible from as many sources as possible. Armando Iannucci, Shaun Micallef, Mitchell and Webb are all people we keep referring back to for great energy. Just asking what they do and dissecting sketches on a technical level. It’s impossible to not to get something great from asking these questions.” –  Alastair

Where do you think the future the future of film in Brisbane will be and where do you want to see it in 5 years?

“It would be great if it felt like a larger world. There are so many extraordinary people out there and it would nice if they made it to the film industry. Casting far and wide would also be a wonderful thing because there are just so many comedians laying low. I just want it to be bigger and as exciting and unpredictable as possible.” – Alastair

“Definitely more recognition. The crew were super talented and funny, and it would just be nice to see more attendance.” – Claire

Dream project you could work on or get off the ground?

“I have always wanted to reboot the Jurassic Park franchise…” – Claire

“The dream would be for Shaun Micallef to adopt us and put us into his writer’s room as his adult children. “ – Alastair

Any advice you have for filmmakers for getting stuff started and made?

“We live in this age where you can just make it yourself. We have had far less luck with funding bodies or grants or competitions then we have with just putting a little of our money into productions and putting it onto Youtube.” – Alastair

“Its very much a team project. If you meet someone whose taste you admire, just ask them. If they say yes in a committal way, follow it up.

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Jurassic world dominion is not as bad as you think (review)

I honestly had no intention of seeing Jurassic World Dominion. The Jurassic Park franchise is just one of those things I don’t really care about (like a lot of people with Star Wars). The first movie is great but after that, there all pretty much the same aren’t they? On top of this, the film is getting eaten alive by critics (no pun intended). Every reviewer I watch is slandering the film for the same shit. Nevertheless, on a cold Monday night, I filled up my water bottle with a special orange juice (probably impacted the review) and saw Jurassic World. And honestly, its not as bad as everyone is saying.  

I do not understand what critics are expecting going into this film. Citizen Kane with dinosaurs (no stealing this idea)? Jurassic World Dominion is exactly what I expected for a modern blockbuster about dinosaurs living in our world. An overly convoluted plot, good action, dumb one liners, average acting and some pretty rough jokes. It is not a good movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. There are some parts I really did enjoy and a lot I didn’t. Let me explain.

Action versus Plot

The action and set pieces in this movie is underrated. There are some sequences in this film that are really good. They were creative, thrilling and used the dinosaurs in an interesting way.  The motorbike chase with the raptors was exactly what I wanted from this movie. Even that whole criminal underbelly was so visually interesting. It felt like every corner was filled with something new to look at and reminded me of the Moss Cantina in Star Wars. Also, the sequence where Bryce Dallas Howard is escaping from the big dinosaurs is great (they should’ve held on this moment for longer.)

The problem is that it is surrounded by one of the most bland and overcomplicated plots I have seen in a while. I would start zoning out whenever these exposition dumps came up because they just don’t need to be there. A MOVIE ABOUT DINOSAURS DOES NOT NEED A COMPLICATED PLOT!! Hollywood has this obsession with having to justify everything for audiences. People come to these movies for action and dinosaurs. The plot should be super super simple and entirely focus on these two elements (John Wick is a good example).

Inconsistent Actors

Chris Pratt in this film is very disappointing. Maybe it’s the writing or his political beliefs or god knows what but he just isn’t the Pratt we used to see. He has no jokes, charisma or charm that audiences loved from him in Guardians of the Galaxy, Parks and Rec or even the first Jurassic World.  I know he is capable of it so it just doesn’t make sense why his performance and character is so bland and one dimensional.

On the other hand, Jeff Goldblum is fucking incredible. Every line he delivers in this is just funny. Its like no matter what he says it made the audience laugh. He has this delivery that feels so natural and I think its because he improvises most of his lines to suit himself. What’s weird is that he is only utilised in the last act of this film. The whole movie should’ve been written around him! Goldblum should’ve been like Nick Fury – recruiting everyone to try and save the dinosaurs.

Everyone else is solid. Bryce Dallas Howard and Laura Dern are amazing at acting scared and always interesting to watch. The villain of this film is bit of a disappointment. Campbell Scott’s performance is unique and I get that he was going for this bumbling CEO out of his depth but he should have some shade of evil to him. I really liked Dewanda Wise. She felt like an 80s action star just taking over the film with this appealing self-assuredness.

 VFX / Puppets

JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION

The VFX in this movie are incredible. I never once questioned if the dinosaurs were real until the film was over. I think audiences just expect that these days and don’t appreciate how hard that truly is to do. Every dinosaur, every backdrop, every single thing was consistently amazing. Most modern blockbusters have some very dodgy CGI at times (Marvel movies especially) but Jurassic World’s budget was used excellently.

I loved the use of puppets in this movie. While it was clear they were puppets, it is still so entertaining to watch. Seeing how they make them look realistic is mind blowing and more movies should be using as much puppetry as possible. Even if it does look obvious on a digital camera.

Should you see Jurassic World Dominion?

Honestly, unless you love this franchise you could wait until it comes onto streaming. I do think it is worth seeing for the action and Jeff Goldblum alone but there are huge chunks that could put you to sleep. Maybe just bring some special juice and you will be fine.

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Why Netflix’s newest film Spiderhead doesn’t work? (Minor Spoilers)

After Top Gun’s huge opening around the world, director Joseph Kosinski returns with Spiderhead. The sci fi / thriller stars Chris Hemsworth and Miles Teller and was released by Netflix yesterday. Alongside all of the film nerds out there, I was very excited for this, for one key reason – Joseph Kosinski and Miles Teller teaming up again. Unfortunately, Spiderhead is not even on the same playing field as Top Gun. Let me explain.

Pick a Genre

Spiderhead has a couple core problems that I believe if they were fixed, would make this movie very very good. The first one being the weird tone that is trying to be balanced. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick are amazing comedic writers (Deadpool, Zombieland). In this film, they seem intent on inserting jokes as much as possible. Moments of high drama and tension are ruined by weird lines that don’t fit and poor music choices. I truly believe that if Spiderhead kept a simple dramatic / thriller tone it would completely change this film. Lately, every Hollywood movie has this need to be “funny” and “witty” where it doesn’t even work. Creating genre pieces is good and should be done more.  

Chris Hemsworth is good in this. He is solid but not amazing and it is absolutely not his fault. He is playing a standard charismatic / manipulative antagonist. The problem is that I was never afraid of his character. He never felt like a villain and there is so much room for him to be a terrifying two-faced force of evil. Instead, they give us Chris Hemsworth just playing Thor for 2 hours. YAY…. Once again, the writers seem intent on making him funny and charming. Just imagine if in the first 30 minutes he was all fun and games and then slowly we see cracks of this evil and crazy man.

Predictability

As with Top Gun Maverick, Spiderhead is extremely predictable. With Top Gun it doesn’t matter because the action carries it but with Spiderhead, it has nothing keeping me glued to the screen.  There is some twists in this film and while I didn’t necessarily guess all of them, I didn’t care. They happen but don’t really affect the outcome of the movie. More weirder and creepier shit needs to be going on in this film. There is nothing in Spiderhead that is keeping me guessing or intrigued.

Even the shooting and colour grading of this film is generic. It has this boring look where I feel there is so much creative space to explore. The whole complex was even mundane. Kosinski constantly just cuts to these overhead shots of the facility with some pop music on top that gets very tiring very quickly. Maybe it was the studio, but I don’t understand why a simple script like this one does not have a bold and engaging style to it. Missed opportunity.

FRAZIER’S PITCH (Spoilers)

Now its time for a new segment called Frazier’s pitch. I will explain how I wish this film was done. I don’t want to sound like arsehole because I know nothing about filmmaking. This is just what I wish I saw.

First things first, Spiderhead should’ve been a strict sci fi / thriller. As a result, we could have focused more on the program and characters and less on shitty jokes. The whole Spiderhead program should have also had more suspicious activity going on so that the audience is always guessing. Essentially, more creepier clues that Jeff and Rachel slowly uncover. For example, belongings from previous patients, body parts etc etc. The reveals about Jeff and Rachel’s past should have been done earlier on as well because it had this big build up and was very underwhelming. In addition, the whole B6 drug and program needs more of a backstory. But what is most important is the tone and style. If Spiderhead had a unique look and feel to it I guarantee you critics would be raving about it. Instead of feeling like Michael Bay’s the Island, it could have been like Ex Machina. Yes exactly, a big difference.

Should you watch Spiderhead?

I very rarely say this because I enjoy most movies, but you can probably miss this one. It is so bland and formulaic that I don’t think a modern audience will leave being grateful they watched it.

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Something Completely New: The Wolf of Snow Hollow Review

The Wolf of Snow Hollow came out in 2020 (I know I’m late, don’t @ me). It is a comedy / horror / drama directed and written by up-and-coming filmmaker Jim Cummings. The film is about murders in a small town that may or may not be by a werewolf. It is not what I expected in the slightest. I have seen his debut, Thunder Road, and loved it. Thunder Road took over the indie film scene and launched Cummings into the spotlight. As a result, I thought his style and stories would be affected but they are most certainly not, let me explain:

Style, style, style

Cummings has such a unique (you guessed it) style. Going into this film, I had a pretty clear idea the tone and plot it would go for. I was so wrong. The Wolf of Snow Hollow barely dives into the Wolf. It jumps between genres, styles and pacing with no care for what your film schoolteacher told you. It has this chaotic energy that once you settle into is kind of addicting. At one point I verbally said to my self “what the fuck is happening?” But while I said this, I had the fattest smile on my face you have ever seen.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow reminds me a lot of An American Werewolf in London. Oddly enough, not for the Wolf. Instead, it is for the world building. Both movies have these very interesting and unique settings. The characters and environment is so engaging because its not afraid to simply feel like a movie. Essentially, both films don’t strive for realism. They understand the absurdity of the concepts and heavily lean into them. As a result, the audience is more inclined to accept how batshit crazy these worlds are.

Indie Acting

I think a big problem with indie filmmaking is finding talented actors. Not necessarily because of the budget but simply the resources to find people who suit the part. No one in this film is terrible (I genuinely mean that). It’s just that some of the actors don’t really suit the parts. In particular, Robert Foster and Jimmy Tatro. These two are very very good actors. BUT they are kind of built for a specific part. Jimmy for the jock / idiot guy and Robert for a moody / grumpy old man. Now these characters are similar to that but just slightly off. I hate typecasting but it just felt like a weird decision by Cummings. Maybe he wanted to subvert expectations.

Scary or Funny?

The Wolf of Snow Hollow jumps constantly between horror, comedy, and drama. However, it doesn’t really dive into any of these for too long. Essentially, Cummings clearly doesn’t want this to just be one genre of filmmaking. I think this is something that applies to all of his work, and we will see a lot more of as he grows in Hollywood. While this style of writing is not necessarily for me, it is appealing to watch as you are constantly kept on your toes and there is never a dull moment.

The Ending (Spoilers)

Spoilers!! The ending of this film was interesting. It did get me, and I didn’t expect it, but didn’t really feel satisfying. I think this is because there wasn’t enough clues for it or honestly focus on the plot. If this was a dark crime thriller where there’s two detectives searching for a killer who could be a werewolf, this ending would bang. But since this film doesn’t focus much on the crime aspect, it just feels a little underwhelming.

Ultimately, every little complaint I had is simply a consequence of someone with a very specific creative vision. I have so much respect for Jim Cummings because he doesn’t give a fuck what modern audiences, critics, or the box office think. He simply sticks to his path and ignores the rest. Thereby, there is going to be things I don’t enjoy or a lot of audiences like. But I would rather see a real vision that is refreshing than another Hollywood remake.

Should you watch it??

Yes definitely. Just go in expecting something very different and you wont be disappointed.

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How we made an indie horror short film with no budget?

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The Adult Store – An interview with Writer / Director Tahlia Miller

Before I did this interview, I had already heard about Adult Store. It is one of those concepts that almost make you jealous at how clever it is. You can instantly see the potential with this film through one simple line – three friends visit an adult store. I knew I had to get an interview with the writer and director to uncover what the film is about, how the concept came to her and most importantly, her writing process.

Tahlia Miller is the writer and director for the Adult Store. She is a third-year student at Griffith Film School who primarily specialises in Cinematography and Directing. Tahlia is one of those people who has a very deep passion for filmmaking. Somehow, she seems to always be working – whether on set or on her own projects. In third year, Tahlia decided to pitch a grad slate (a short film made through Uni) and it was chosen. This is the story of how she wrote this short and the challenges along the way.

Writer/ Director Tahlia Miller

What is the rough plot summary for Adult Store?

“The Adult store is about three 18-year-olds – Sydney, Bowie, and Dominque. On Sydney’s 18th Birthday, they decide to kick on the night and visit an Adult Store. At the store, they discover more about their relationship with sex, their relationship with each other and their relationship with themselves.”

Sydney, Bowie and Dominque – Played by Hannah Sisson, Ada Lukin, Elke Hinrichsen

Where did this idea build / stem from?

“I enrolled in pre-production development (helps you develop your grad slate) and I hadn’t taken any writing courses before.  Before the first class, the teacher said bring three ideas to the lesson. Now everyone else in the class had one very specific idea but I was suddenly left with none. It was last minute, and I just started writing what if questions. There was this one that was stuck in my head. It was based on my friends who recently moved next to an adult store. Then the question came – what if I went to an adult store and the worst possible things happened?”

Fluffy handcuffs.

What has been your inspiration for this project?

“Sex Education and Sex in the City were big inspirations.”

“I find it hard to pull from specific directors. I instead pull from different parts from a body of work.  I had gone an seen ZOLA, an A24 film for the Brisbane Film Festival. It was beautiful to look at, with the harps and fantastical elements. That became a big inspiration, showing darker themes through the context of a colourful and fantastical adult store.”

“Also, theatre. I recently went to a show about a woman’s frustration about not being able to use a vibrator. It was amazing to see older people and younger people all laughing together. It showed me how comedy can tackle taboo subjects which was a big reinforcing moment for the Adult Store.

Before I knew about the project, I saw you put a question on Instagram asking for people’s experiences with Adult Stores. How did that affect your writing?

On POC Shooting – Tahlia

“I didn’t know it was common for people to go in to an Adult Store. Personally, I was scared off them. Once I put it out there, I realised it was very 50/50. Some had and some hadn’t been to one before. And when I asked what scares you about them, for a lot of woman it was the hyper sexualisation of bodies and also the correlation between violence and sex. All of it was really interesting and I tried to fit it all into each character.”

How is Adult Store different from other indies and short films?

“It was very interesting because I wrote about something that has a lot of stigma attached to it. Everyone around me was tackling period pieces or comedies. There was all these beautiful themes going on but mine sat in this one about sexuality, a queer love story and also taboo subjects about sex.”

“What really makes it different is that I am not using the Adult Store as shock factor. It is its own character and Scarlett – who runs the store – is kind of one with the store. I am comparing it to funhouses, mirror mazes and even the overwhelming feeling of an arcade. The store is the backdrop to these relatable characters who aren’t just used for punch lines.”

Tahlia’s Writing Process

How many hours a day were you writing?

“I would have these erratic nights when assessment was due, and it would just pour out. The first draft was written in 3 days leading up to the assessment. It wasn’t because I left it on the back burner but instead because I was watching films, going to Adult Stores, and talking about it with my friends. These two weeks beforehand I had all these little experiences and without them I wouldn’t have been able to write this script.”

“How did it go writing your script without doing any writing courses or experience in it?

“The imposter syndrome was really hard honestly. I couldn’t compare to the people at Griffith Film School who had spent their time learning how to write. But the writing came from simply getting eyes on it, since I felt so insecure, I simply took everything from all my peers and teachers.”

How did you keep focus for those long stretches?

“I have always loved writing since high school. Focusing for long periods always gets easier for me with the time pressure. I limited the distractions by writing really late when no one is awake to hang out with or chat to. That is genuinely when I feel most creative and reflective. Those quiet spaces are definitely the most creative for me.”

“I am not big on pushing through writer’s block. If its not coming out, its not coming out. I would be so stuck on this thing then I would take a walk and the ideas would come. If you’re not in a creative problem-solving mindset you just get anxious and create doubt. Also, little dance breaks.”

A key thing writers talk about is making your work truthful and putting yourself into the work. How did you do that with the Adult Store?

“I was putting my own experiences into the script. However, the problem came when it was in my head not on the page. My own experiences were not big enough for the screen. It got so bad that with friends I started analysing how they talk. When I was drunk in the valley, I would always be thinking how would I direct this scene, and how I stood.”

“Once I found myself in each of the three characters, whenever I got stuck, I would bring it back to reality and my experiences. When you’re at a crossroads, you can either follow the tropes or what feels right for me. From then on I just started to follow this path instead.”

About Tahlia

Why Filmmaking as a passion and carer?

“I had always known I wanted to go into the arts. I loved drawing and painting ever since I was little. I went to QACI where everyone was creative. I did film as a subject and in class we watched films. I knew then that this was it. All these points converged, and it just made sense. I could pull from art, music, and everything I already loved.”

“My Mum is also a food stylist. She went from editorial to TV Commercials and got into Food styling for feature films. I started as her assistant when I was in Year 11. I was like this is work but I loved it. It wasn’t even work and I chased that feeling of finding the fun in it and the passion.”

What are you most afraid of and nervous for with your film?

“For me, that was Dom’s fantasy. In this scene, she tries on this latex cat suit and went into this porn fantasy. There was this mystery man where they kiss, roll over etc etc. I struggled so much with this scene. A big thing for me was learning about intimacy training for the Adult Store. It’s like a choreographer for intimate scenes so no one walks away offended or triggered. I was at a crossroads where it could be sexual assault or just teenagers being awkward. I wasn’t ready for the darker direction, so I chose the easier path and told the actors to not touch or kiss. So moving forward I re wrote it so it serves the story and is not to challenging for me as a director and the cast.

If you could choose your dream project next year, what would it be?

“I am obsessed with Shannon Murphy and her work. I studied how she mad it in the industry. She nailed her directorial debut because she perfected directing TV. So down the line directing a TV show and sharing it with a bunch of creators.”

Director of Baby Teeth / Killing Eve – Shannon Murphy

Why should people see this film and fund it?

“The big why for me was how cathartic it has been seeing the topics on screen and for my friends as well. Showing people that its okay to talk about these topics and that’s it not weird to think about it.  I also had a lot of teachers say 18-year-old wouldn’t be scared of a sex store. For me, I really wanted to show an audience what it feels like t be 18 and scared of things and yet pretending to not be scared of them.

“For the Go Fund me, it comes back to the beautiful community at Griffith Film School. We know it takes money to make a film and I think it’s really lovely to fund something that you can experience, share and create waves within your community.”

The Crew of the Adult Store Film – All Griffith Uni Students

One of the most fascinating things Tahlia said was that she had never taken any writing courses and still decided to write this script. Most people always feel the need to take lessons, watch courses or spend years “learning how to write.” While these help, they are never going to make your script amazing. It just takes diving in and learning as you go, exactly like Tahlia did. Also, her bravery to write about something so challenging and taboo is very inspiring to me. Make sure you follow this film because it will definitely be picking up awards next festival season.

https://www.instagram.com/adultstore_film

Donate Here its almost at $5000.

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What TV shows are actually worth the hype?

It feels like there are so many big shows coming out right now that I cannot keep up. We got some Ozark, Obi Wan, Stranger Things, The Boys and most importantly Barry. I have been looking forward to most of these shows for a very long time. Maybe it’s just me but when they all come out at once I get this weird FOMO – like I’m missing out on something. So to help out any other people experiencing the same world ending issue here’s my take on which of these shows is slapping and why?

OZARK

Ozark was definitely at the bottom of this list. I loved the first 2 seasons of this show but quickly lost interest at Season 3. Honestly, I have only watched a couple episodes of Season 4 and while it’s definitely good quality it didn’t grip me from that first episode – something I think is very important. Even if shows are slow paced, they should always get you wanting to come back from the beginning (True Detective is a perfect example).

Should you come back to season 4?

Yes, because it’s the last season and you may as well smash it out.

Obi Wan Kenobi (Minor Spoilers)

I may trigger a lot of Star Wars fans here but Obi wan has been the biggest let down of all of these productions (I am writing this before the fourth episode). The show feels like it’s completely filled with running. That is not a metaphor, I have genuinely seen nothing but people chasing each other in these weird closed off environments. Sometimes a character will literally just run into a tree so terribly its funny.

The whole plot of the story is kind of boring as well. I am not interested in Leia as a character (in this show) and thereby the whole story. I really thought they would go a different route with this show, but it just feels like another rushed and generic piece of Star Wars content. Maybe the show will drastically improve over the last three episodes, but it isn’t looking good. In my head, the show should have been a mix of Wake in Fright, John Wick and Terminator. An endless army of bounty hunters chasing Obi Wan through this horrible and disgusting desert. Instead, it just has no style, vision, or moments of dramatic tension.

The fight scene between Darth Vader and Obi Wan was also a letdown. I know it’s meant to be like that because he has no powers, but it was more the writing. How they made Kenobi escape from Vader is some of the dumbest and most cliché writing I have seen in a while. That’s essentially the summary of this show. Writing things in that feel forced just to move the show forward.

Should you watch Obi Wan Kenobi

It pains me to say it but unless you are a die-hard Star Wars fan you could probably skip it. Then again, we are only 3 episodes in.

Stranger Things

Stranger things season 4 is truly incredible. I wont dive into it too much because everyone knows how good it is and I don’t really need to convince anyone but godayum is it slapping. Each episode just draws you in more and more and makes you addicted to these incredible characters. Before this season, I truly thought this show was extremely overrated – good but still overrated. After Season 4 I realised how wrong I was. The Nancy Drew detective aspect of the kids exploring mysteries is just so entertaining to watch. It is exactly what you imagine in your head as kid brought to life on the screen. Also, quick shoutout to Sadie Sink, she is the best actor in this show and should have got way more attention then Millie Bobby Brown. Sadie will be one of the biggest names in Hollywood in the next 5 years and that’s a promise.

Should you watch Season 4?

Fuck yes, go watch it now.  However, I do recommend not binging it and spreading it out. The show is more designed for that.

The Boys

The Boys Season 3 is consistent. And I mean that in a positive sense. It is equally as gory, weird, and gross as the other seasons despite having this much attention on it. After the ending of Season 2, I was kind of confused how much room there was left in the tank. But after finishing episode 2 I could see how much they had to tell. Also, the acting in this show is severely underrated (I think cause it’s a comic book TV Show.) Antony Starr, Karl urban and Jack Quaid are amazing in this show. These roles feel like they are made for them and that is a clear sign of a great performance.

Should you watch Season 3?

Yes absolutely. I think binging this show is a great idea because it does have a slower pace that you may lose interest in.

BARRY

Barry is probably my favourite show of all time so I may be biased. Season 3 came out of nowhere and while I was excited, I definitely wasn’t as hype as I thought I would be (I think bringing people back for another season after 2 years is extremely challenging and not a shows fault at all). But Barry is entirely character driven. As soon as I saw the character development of Barry, I knew this season would be incredible. It is refreshing when you are surprised where writers take a character and that is exactly what they did with Barry. In addition, Anthony Carrigan is one of the best comedic actors currently on screen. He needs to be in more shit because even when he says a simple line it is just funny.

I will write more about Barry in the future because I would like to do a whole video about this amazing show.

Should you watch Season 3 of Barry?

Its Barry. Come on.

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Is Top Gun Maverick overrated?

I watched the first Top Gun movie around 4 months ago. Let’s just say I was disappointed. That first movie has not aged well in the slightest. That 80s nostalgia just doesn’t work for someone who was born in the 21st Century. So going into the sequel, I truly did not give a fuck. My bet was that it would be a blockbuster flop that no one saw. I could not have been more wrong. This film has smashed it both critically and commercially. But is it actually worth the hype? Absolutely, let me explain.

The flying

The flying scenes in Top Gun Maverick is some of the most tense and engaging action I have ever seen. People in my audience were literally on the edge of their seat, grabbing the arm rests for support. One woman was so invested she would jump up and scream every time they almost died. I think there is a very specific reason for this – how real it all feels. Every actor is up there in one of those jets. While they are acting, the performance instantly feels more genuine as there is an element of danger. A good example is Mr Cruise and his stunts. Because you know there real and not CGI you are engaged in the shot.

Joseph Kosinski also does an incredible job at making sure the audience knows what’s happening. What I mean by this is we are instantly shown the mission, the time, and the threats. This is so effective because the audience are placed in the same cock pit as the characters. Kosinski makes you feel the danger of this mission by building it up throughout the whole film. We are constantly shown how impossible it is and then he just keeps adding more problems. From the beginning of the film, that final mission always like this harrowing and daunting task that we as the audience are a part of.

The Acting

You can’t talk about Top Gun without talking about the Top Gun, Mr Thomas Cruise line. Tom Cruise has not acted in a film since 2018 (Mission Impossible). He basically only acts in movies he has complete control over and honestly no complaints here. I think Mr Cruise knows exactly what works for him in this stage of his career. There are specific roles he truly cares about and everything else can fuck off and all. In Maverick, he absolutely smashes it. He has this amazing charismatic cockiness that could be acting or just him being himself. Tomothy just has this ability to make things feel so intense and extreme. He builds up the stakes so much just through a simple stare.

Everyone in this movie is really good. Miles Teller and Glenn Powell especially. Teller doesn’t really speak much but shines in the dramatic moments. Once again, that subtle arrogance of his performance is very appealing. Even the way he walks into a room and looks at his peers. Powell on the other hand, takes the arrogance much further. I know you were meant to hate him but honestly, I never really did. He was this perfect balance between the antagonist but also someone you might just actually know. Essentially his performance never felt too over the top as a villain.

What’s wrong with Top Gun?

Before you start attacking me, there isn’t much wrong with Top Gun Maverick. There is just two little things that bugged me. Firstly, the whole Jennifer Connelly plot. It wasn’t bad it was just kind of forced. I know he needs a love interest but to me Maverick makes more sense as a loner who is completely focused on the NAVY and nothing else. But obviously Hollywood will never do that. Secondly, the ADR feels a little off. This isn’t anyone’s fault cause obviously the actors can’t actually talk up in the jets. But it never feels like they are really speaking to each other up there. Especially in dramatic scenes, they have some line deliveries that are a little rough around the edges.

A perfect reinvention

As every film nerd across the globe is saying right now, Top Gun Maverick is a perfect sequel. Joseph Kosinski, the film’s director, doesn’t just repeat the first one and change it a little bit. Instead, he is clearly inspired by the original but still has his own creative vision. He takes elements from Tony Scott but adds his own eye – especially to the flying scenes. The music, football scene, characters all reflect the original but aren’t just carbon copies.

I will stop bagging on the first one after this trust me. I may be triggering a lot of alpha males above 40 out there but honestly Top Gun 1986 is just not that good. If you look back on it considering the time period, sure its solid. But looking back from 2022, it is tonally weird, sweaty, full of overbearing masculinity, written poorly and kind of boring. Despite this, Joseph Kosinski has managed to find that core that people do love. The tense action, the banter, the characters. He brings all these parts together and adds so much more for ultimately, a much better film.

Ultimately, I just have so much respect for this film. In the age where everything has to be superheroes with a ridiculous amount of CGI, it is so refreshing to see something real and practical. I truly believe that this film will affect action movies for the next 5 years. Hollywood will now start returning to a more practical approach. Top Gun Maverick may be one of the best action movies ever made and it comes down to a directors vision, an incredible crew and amazing practical work.

SHOULD YOU GO TO THE CINEMAS TO SEE THIS?

DEFINITELY. This movie is built for the cinemas, its sound design and scale are perfect for the big screen.

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