I went into this film knowing absolutely nothing. One thing drew me in and that was the flood of positive reviews that were coming out. And honestly, they could not be more accurate. Barbarian is one of the most tense and refreshing horrors I have seen. Its script is tight and keeps you guessing and glued to the screen from the opening shot. While the horror is genuinely scary, what made me love this movie was the mystery. It is such and intriguing plot that drip feeds you information. On top of this, every single performance in Barbarian was amazing especially Bill Skargard and Georgina Campbell. Barbarian may be my favourite film of 2022.
I watched X and Barbarian about a week apart and both made me realise how much of a return quality horror movies are making. X is a perfect blend of 70s style slashers like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and modern high concept horrors. It weaves a subtle core theme of fame and chasing dreams into a gruesome slasher. Also, this film has a very engaging characters that each have their own specific voice and feel. And obviously, Mia Goth is a incredibly talented actress who carries this movie.
When I first watched Nope, I didn’t love it. But after sitting on it for a few days, I realised how incredible it truly was. I think this was a consequence of how different the plot and structure were to what I was expecting. Nope honestly feels like the modern-day Jaws and had some of the most striking visuals in a film I have seen in a long time.
4. Scream (2022)
I loved Scream. Like Top Gun Maverick, it balances that old campy style with a new retelling. Obviously, the story is predictable because it’s part of this franchise, but it was still such an entertaining movie. I think this comes down to the world that is built. It’s filled with completely unrealistic characters that make the dumbest decisions. However, cause the writers create this 90s throwback world, these decisions make sense.
5. Bodies Bodies Bodies
Similar to scream, Bodies Bodies Bodies was just entertaining from the beginning. It didn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table, but it certainly kept me engaged. The plot kept me guessing and I never felt like I knew what was coming. This is an amazing feeling in a movie especially when you trust the director. In addition, the actors were perfectly cast and I am so happy they didn’t just go with big name actors but people who fit the characters. While this movie does drag a little bit, I am definitely glad I saw it.
These are just some of my favourite horros that I have seen this year. There are so many more I need to watch like Sissy, The Black Phone, Men and Pearl.
Nathan Simmons is a Brisbane based filmmaker. He is currently in his second year at University and runs a production company known as Salty Dog Media. Recently, he was the show runner for the horror web series The Pallidura. After watching Episode 4, I was amazed at how well crafted and scary this series is. It will definitely be an amazing horror web series that I am very excited for. Read on for more.
What is the Pallidura?
“It is a story about a couple – Curtis and Jessica – who are celebrating a birthday. An old friend comes to the party with a mysterious painting and once he enters the party Curtis’s life is never the same.”
What was your big inspirations for this project?
“The idea came in a writing workshop we had. The educator said, think of an object in your home and how it can attract a character. I thought about how some people can have a fascination for a painting and some people can have a hatred for it. The story has evolved from a divorce story where one partner hates it and one loves it to where it is now.”
Throughout the whole process, how do you maintain motivation and a good headspace?
“I never had bad feelings. It’s because I love it and I love making films. I really wanted to make the story as good as it can be. We spent like 50 hours writing it in the writer’s room. It was also a learning opportunity to as well because these ideas came from my head and I had to communicate it with 60 other people.
What are your plans for releasing it?
“60 people worked on this so it would be cruel if people didn’t watch it. We are currently looking at what festivals it can go out to. Obviously, there are a lot of horror festivals it would suit. YouTube would probably be the very last place we would stick it. We might even take the idea to screen Queensland. I wouldn’t mind telling the idea again…”
What specific movies or shows inspired the Pallidura?
“The Babadook was a heavy one. I love the allegory of depression and grief. Oculus was another good one as well. The original idea was inspired by The Ring but I have never seen it, I have seen Scary Movie 3 though. I really like Jordan Peele’s movies, I’m on board for everything he does.
Are there any key writers and directors that inspire you?
“I love Tarantino. I was also watching Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul at the time and it’s where I got a lot of visual style from. Big fan of Spielberg but I didn’t use any of his techniques.”
What scares you personally when you watch horror?
“Not knowing. I hate jump scares and don’t find them scary. I just find them really annoying. I saw SPIRAL and that movie pissed me off because they just relied on loud noises. I also watched Dahmer and that had some terrifying moments, especially where the cops let a victim back in.
What is the worst thing people do at the cinemas?
“Fucking talk. Shut the fuck up when you watch a movie! I watched Halloween Kills last year and there was these people who kept talking and saying they didn’t find it scary. I can’t stand in, don’t ask me about the plot.”
Where do you want the Australian film scene to be in 5 years?
“The movies they are making are more aimed at the older target audience. Movies like The Dry and Red Dog are created for that age demographic. I just think there should be movies about a random thing that happens in an Australian city. Like the Matrix was shot in Sydney is a perfect example. Ultimately, they just haven’t hit me as a target audience yet.”
If a film genie came to you with one wish, what would it be?
“I would love to direct a feature. If I was funded, I would love to write, direct and edit a feature and show it in the cinema with my family and friends.”
What’s next for you?
“Salty Dog Media. It’s my new business media company with Chris Radman where we make content for other people and we are open to collaborating with others.”
“Huge thanks to all the students involved in creating the Pallidura. Especially Abbey Rose who helped out as the series coordinator. Everyone should be super proud of what they have done. Can’t wait to show the world what all of us have made.”
When you hear the term “Australian horror” not much usually comes to mind. Maybe Wolf Creek, The Babadook, Rogue and potentially even Picnic at Hanging Rock. And while these films have their merits, I truly believe there is one that constantly flies under the rug. It is a film that I have never stopped talking about since I was 16. A film that Martin Scorsese himself raves about. A film that makes you feel so uneasy and uncomfortable it is almost hard to recommend – Wake in Fright.
Since most people reading this haven’t heard of Wake in Fright, I will give a small recap (I would honestly go watch it first though). Wake in Fright is a horror/ thriller directed by Canadian director Ted Kotcheff. It is about John Grant, an English school teacher living in a small town in 1970s Australia. On the holidays, he attempts to leave the town to visit Sydney. However, he gets stuck in Yabba – a tiny mining town – after gambling and drinking away his money.
Now hearing that may make you think that this film does not belong in the horror genre. But I think that’s exactly what makes it so special. It is not your stereotypical horror story about a killer or monster. Instead, the horror lies in the town, the people, and the situation.
Upon John’s arrival at ‘the Yabba’, it is very clear how much of an influence gambling has over this town. From the two up games to the obsession with the pokies, Kotcheff displays this horrifying hold that gambling has over people. Like a ghost, it possesses this small town and keeps them hooked. And soon enough, it grabs John and takes a complete hold of him. John forgets his ambitions and dreams of making some quick money. But with any gambling addiction, the end is never pretty. John loses all the money he has worked so hard for and can no longer visit his girlfriend.
One of the smartest parts of this movie is the use of climate. In particular, the focus on Australia’s harsh and unforgiving heat. Every scene makes you feel like you are profusely sweating. The sun constantly beating down on our protagonist is draining both on John Grant and us. It effectively makes the audience constantly uncomfortable from the moment this movie starts.
Wake in Fright reveals one of the most fundamental flaws of Australian culture – toxic masculinity. As John starts talking to Jannette, a man around the table says, “he would rather talk to a woman than drink?” Every woman in this movie is either insulted, used for sex, or abused. It reveals to us this dangerous but very realistic misogynistic attitude that exists deep down in Australian culture. A deep-rooted and horrifying perspective of women being inferior.
But perhaps the greatest horror of Wake in Fright is the portrayal of alcoholism. From John’s arrival in Yabba till the end of the film, he is force fed this poison. Declining alcohol in this town is the equivalent of slapping someone in the face. The physical queasiness this had on me was something I don’t often feel in films. It was such an accurate portrayal of the Australian drinking culture that I completely understand why this movie didn’t do well – people don’t want to see the truth. They don’t want to see an outsider expose their country’s biggest faults.
The Yabba is not simply a small outback Australian town. Instead, it is a hell. All these themes display a horrible and dangerous outlook on life. John Grant is trapped in a place that has drained him of any ambitions. A place that has transformed him into what he once hated most. John has been infected with this nihilistic perspective on life. What Kotcheff shows the audience is that this way of life is the horror. These views and substance abuse can lead to a wasted and toxic life, whether you realise it or not.
Over the past three years, Marvel’s track record has not been the best. Out of the last five movies only one stood out for me. While the shows are entertaining, they are formulaic. More and more, I am hearing people bag on this universe even though they once loved it – something that is completely justified. In all honesty, Marvel is just losing its way. It has started to focus on quantity not quality.
But one week ago, I heard about a new movie coming out that would be a 50-minute Halloween special. Instantly, I was intrigued. The idea of Marvel doing something new and refreshing in their slate of films sounded incredible. That film was none other than Michael Giachino’s Werewolf by Night.
If you do not know what this film is about, I will quickly break it down (the marketing for this was rubbish so I’m assuming most of you don’t). Werewolf by Night is a 50-minute horror film set in the MCU directed by composer Michael Giachino. It is about a group of monster hunters who gather to hunt a creature to compete for an ancient relic.
The tone of this movie is incredible. Michael has balanced this campy and fun horror vibe with a little touch of the Marvel formula. While at times it could have dived more into the horror side, I loved the allusion to 50s’ horror movies. The black and white grainy film was an amazing choice and enhanced this call back. Even the slight moments of gore fit this movie perfectly and had me wincing.
One of the core reasons this movie works is the set design and style. Each location in Werewolf by Night is truly haunting. The maze especially is by far the best location Marvel has ever created. It feels like a cheap and tacky horror ride that you are on with the characters. As a result, the whole film is such a stark contrast to the MCU. There is no CGI planets or a greyed out New York. Instead, we are brought back to a classic real-life set.
Even the fight scenes in this film feel new and refreshing. Zoe White (DOP) uses light in this movie to make each fight scene look beautiful. The flashes of bright light keep the audience engaged and glued to the screen. And it doesn’t stop there. The rest of this movie looked gorgeous. Despite some dodgy VFX, Werewolf by Night reminded me how powerful black and white truly is.
The performances in this movie are excellent. Gael Garcia Bernal brings a whole new layer to this type of character I haven’t seen. He is so calming and casual in his role which is a perfect contrast as his character develops. Laura Donnelly was great, but I think her character needed a little more screen time. She didn’t have enough scenes to flesh her backstory and as a result it felt a little flat. On the other hand, Harriet Sanson was amazing. I love when an actor fully commits to being over the top and outlandish and that’s exactly what she did.
Should you watch Werewolf by Night
Yes absolutely. Wait until night, grab some popcorn and watch this film. It is a very fun and entertaining movie that I think is very important for the MCU.
I first heard of Hayden when I was at a filmmaking bootcamp, and someone told me of a short film that was recently made. The film was called “Final Girl” and was about a girl being chased by a killer through the different eras of horror. An incredible idea that instantly made me jealous. Now over a year later, Hayden is in the final stages of creating a revenge horror film called Tommy. After watching this film, I can safely say it has one of the most unique and refreshing styles I have seen in a while. Hearing his passion and love for this project showed me how dedicated he was to filmmaking. Read on for more.
What is Tommy?
“It’s Kill Bill meets Carrie. It’s a 70s style revenge horror about a group of friends who are hunted by someone who they have done wrong. He hunts them down one by one, getting answers about what happened the night before.”
How did this idea come to you?
“I will give you the dark and light version. The dark version is that I thought of this idea about 2-3 years ago. My Mum had passed away when I was about 18. Originally, it was about Tommy going after a group of friends who had something to do with his mother’s death. I wanted to play on the idea of toxic friendships and grief. The idea stemmed from me dealing with the death of my mother and projecting my emotions.
There was also a song I liked called Tommy and there’s an outro where there is a girl screaming an outro. I loved it and combined the two.”
What has been the biggest challenge so far of making an Indie short film?
“The biggest thing for me personally was delegating the tasks to other people and not just doing all the work by myself. I have learnt this year to start trusting other people with my vision. I try to make what I want to do as a filmmaker known to everyone so they can work with me. Also, as a director differentiating your focus towards style and performances. I could have spent more time getting those performances as intense as I wanted them to be.”
When you’re on set is there a specific way you talk with actors?
“Leading up to shoots, I build more of a person relationship with them. I want to make sure they are comfortable with me because there is a big theme of the sexual assault. I am very collaborative in the way that I want the actors to feel like they have written the dialogue. I also like to put more emphasis on their personal experience in their past to come to an agreeance to bring this certain moment to life.”
When you were writing this script, what was your structure and plan writing it?
“The way that I worked through was that I focused on how I wanted each character to die. I had the grand death scene for each character written first and worked backwards from there. It had to feel like a fluid sequence of events.”
I can see your love for horror in Final Girl and Tommy. So who are your favourite horror filmmakers and favourite horror films?
“Tommy is a Giallo inspired film. I love films like Suspiria, it is so over the top with colours and becomes this neon nightmare. Also, Mario Bava was a big horror Giallo director – Blood and Black Lace are amazing. More modern horror directors are Mike Flannagan. He is great at making horrifying sequences without sound. Not necessarily a horror filmmaker but Nicholas Wendig Refn for the Neon Demon which is a stunning horror film. Gaspar Noe is a big influence, I have been watching his films a bunch recently. Before I started writing Tommy as well, I watched I Spit on Your Grave. I would also say Wes Craven as well.
“My favourite movie of all time is Brides Maids. I have watched it 100 times.”
The worst thing that people do in the cinema?
“Take off their shoes and socks and put their feet on the seat. It’s absolutely feral. Put the dogs away we don’t want to see it.”
Where do you want to see the Australian film scene move?
“I love so many old Australian films and TV shows. I just watched the old Heartbreak High. The depiction of Australia was so real back then. We have just had a 20-year gap where we have been a little bit westernised. Our country has so much culture that people just aren’t exploring. We are rapidly modernising everything around us that we are forgetting the stories we need to tell.”
Is there an Australian horror movie that you think needs to be made?
“I would love to do Australian Horror Story. I have actually thought of at least four seasons that could be done and I want to focus on that once I’m finished. Especially the outback and how terrifying it is. Australian Horror Story needs to happen and I’m going to make it happen.”
If a film genie gave you one wish to do anything you want, what would it be?
“I would make a TV show based on Dead by Daylight. One thing it has is their lore. Especially about the characters and the killers. If you made this show it would outweigh all the old horror villains because there is so much depth to these killers.”
What is next for you?
“I am hoping to get into being a first AD to try and get some first-hand experience from directors and on bigger films. Also just writing a heap of shit and hopefully in the next five years I can make another couple of films. Hopefully try to establish Australia as a horror scene. My end goal is to be known as one of the best Australian horror directors.”
“I need to shoutout my entire crew and every other director of all the grad slates. I am so excited to see these new experimental films.”
Make sure to follow Tommy on Instagram and pay attention for it’s festival release!
After years of drama, gossip and rumours Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling is finally here. Before the film was even released, it had been trashed for the performances and plot. This can instantly destroy a movie. Audiences go into the cinema jaded by reviews or potentially don’t even see it. So is Don’t Worry Darling as horrible as everyone says? Is Harry Styles’ performance that atrocious?
Don’t Worry Darling is one of the most beautiful looking films of the year. The cinematographer – Mathew Libatique – creates this pristine and elegant world. Every shot has the perfect light that accentuates this idyllic 1950s’ town. While the constant lens’ flares aren’t for me, I am 100% here for the world that he and Olivia Wilde have created.
Beautiful cinematography needs to be coupled with a well-constructed and tight plot. With a run time of 2 hours and 3 minutes, the audience must be kept engaged from the get-go. Unfortunately, I was not. I just found myself kind of bored in this movie. Scenes drag on for way for too long and once you figure out what’s coming, it just feels kind of bland. I know Olivia tried to include some moments to keep you hooked but they just weren’t enough. Ultimately, the beats of this story feel repetitive and dragged out.
What really failed for me in this movie was the horror. I understand it’s meant to be more psychological than physical, but it felt very flat. I cannot even recall some of the sequences because of how forgettable and repetitive it was. It didn’t feel like any new horror was brought to the table but instead just repeating what has been done in cinema for the last 30 years.
Florence Pugh certifies herself as an incredible actress. She is so talented at being scared that if all she did for the next 10 years was horror I wouldn’t mind. On top of this, Florence delivers some dodgy lines excellently. I truly believe she puts this film on her back and carries it to the finish line.
Now the backlash on Harry Styles’ performance is warranted – it’s not great. He isn’t even that bad it’s just that there are so many other talented actors out there who would have smashed this role. It always feels like he is trying to give an Oscar worthy performance by screaming and yelling a lot when it isn’t warranted and doesn’t make sense. In a movie this high budget and high concept, Harry doesn’t belong.
Everyone else is good. Chris Pine replicates this type of Andrew Tate man in a way that I haven’t seen in a film yet (no spoilers). Olivia Wilde shows off her comic abilities and adds this light-hearted touch to the film. Gemma Chan and Nick Kroll were amazing but just not in it enough. With all of Nick’s talents, he should have been in this film much more.
Before I go into spoilers, I want to highlight the soundtrack. John Powell has created a new and refreshing horror movie sound. Every time it played it made me genuinely remember to write about how good the music was. He has blended breathing, humming and music together to create a chilling horror theme that feels very different to everything being made right now.
The twist in this movie is one of the most predictable and bland pieces of writing I have seen. 15 minutes into this film I had guessed what it was and spent the rest of the film praying it wasn’t that. The problem with Don’t Worry Darling is that the writer and director think they have this Sixth Sense level twist on their hands and spend the whole movie building up to it. But it isn’t. Instead, the audience should have been shown earlier what is going on and the rest of the film should have been her working it out and attempting to escape. Imagine if this film had a similar plot to the Truman Show but really focused on how horrifying and scary this situation is. There could have been stronger ties to abusive relationships and control instead of this washy garbage. There is just so much wasted potential for this high concept idea that really could have been something special.
Should you see it in cinemas?
No, this is definitely a streaming movie. While all the pieces are there, it ultimately just falls flat due to a predictable script. If Harry Styles wasn’t in this film, it would be on Amazon Prime right now.
Mack Struthers is a Brisbane based writer and director in his second year at QUT. Recently, he premiered his web series, Greenlit, at cinemas in Brisbane and Sydney. Mack has spent over a year working tirelessly on this series – writing, organising and funding this show. Read on for more.
Can you just introduce yourself and your roles in film?
“My name is Mack. I have been making films since I saw Interstellar and thought the soundtrack would go really well with some Lego stop motion. I primarily write and direct. As a young creative, I do all the other things so that I can write and direct more. “
What is Greenlit?
“Greenlit is a 6-episode comedy web series created by me and shot in January this year. It follows a team of writers trying to get their series off the ground into production. Over the course of a year, we have been making this series. I think a total of 50 people have been involved.”
What has been the biggest challenge as the creator?
“Being a good leader. I think there is a misconception that directing or creating what you want. I think there is better value in learning to bring the best out of people.”
How did you go about funding a web series?
“We had two primary sources of funding. Bonds’ reach out grant and a QUT grant. Myself and four other people decided we need money for this project and started researching underutilised grants. A lot of organisations want a tax write off for supporting the arts and will only get a couple hundred applications for these grants. If you apply to as much as you can, it is likely you will be able to get some money together.”
What was the biggest thing you learnt from making Greenlit?
“It’s a marathon not a sprint. Realistically, me and 4 others worked every day on this show for at least an hour and sometimes up till 12 hours for a year. Finding the thing that can keep you going and going for a long time is of utmost importance. Another thing I learnt is compromise. Filmmaking is collaborative and restrictive. You will get your best work when you start compromising.”
Do you have a favourite film, writer/ director and show?
“Synecdoche New York or Before Sunrise. Director is Andrei Tarkovsky and Dennis Villeunve. The show is a tie between Bojack Horseman and Mr Robot.
What writers, films and filmmakers inspired Greenlit and you in general?
“The Office, Community and a little bit of Mr Robot in terms of style. Avengers Endgame was also such a fun point of reference because all the tropes are so stupid and cheesy and fun.
Most annoying thing people do in the cinema?
“All the classic ones, being on your phone, talking. But I think the most annoying thing is when people nearby me are trying to be funny. If you are sitting on the couch at home, you can make jokes then.”
“When I saw the new Doctor Strange movie, there was this guy in the line who wouldn’t stop talking to me. During the movie, he was talking to me THE WHOLE MOVIE.”
Where do you want to see the Brisbane and Australian film scene move in the next 5 years?
“I think people forget that what protects the film community the most is legislation. The Australian Writers Guild have been in battle to get all the streaming platforms to invest a percentage of what they make into Australian only content. In my ideal world, some of those things get passed and we stop having Marvel films exclusively and English TV cause the land is cheap. We start getting new Australian content.”
What is next for you?
“I am doing some corporate work which is always interesting… I will try to do a grad slate for QUT. I am currently planning on doing two web series. One will be a play that my friends are doing at the fringe Festival called Call Girls. And I am also not prepared to walk away from Greenlit.”
If a film genie came to you, and gave you one wish, what would it be?
“I think it would be this series I have been writing for over a year now. It is called Come Apart and it’s not a comedy but kind of experimental drama.”
If you are talking sports, Michael Shanks is like a number one draft pick for the Australian Film scene. He is the writer and director of Time Trap, Rebooted and Wizards of Aus, has a YouTube channel with over 200k subscribers and his script – Hotel, Hotel, Hotel, Hotel – recently was selected for the BlackList (that’s a big deal). In the next 5 years, anyone interested in film will know his name (if you don’t already).
I was lucky enough to interview Michael last week. It is undoubtedly, one of the most motivating film conversations I have ever had. His commitment to the craft over the years has made me ready to work harder and excited for the future of Australian films. Read on for more.
EXT. ZOOM – DAY
FRAZIER: So! Before we go into the proper filmmaking stuff, I just want to talk about the something stupid video with Nicole Kidman that you made…
MICHAEL: Oh God. That’s definitely a blast from the past…
FRAZIER: Well when I was 14 there was this big deal with ‘try not to laugh’ challenges and your video was in it. My friends and I had some type of forfeit that if you laughed you would have to get slapped. So your video would always make us crack up.
Is there any small part of you that wants to give up the filmmaking career and return to these types of videos?
MICHAEL: If it gets people slapped then I am happy about it. But no not really. Kind of the opposite. I have always wanted to make the next thing bigger then the last. But that video is like the first thing I ever did that got any attention.
FRAZIER: Well I didn’t know you even made it until like two months ago.
MICHAEL: “I used to get slapped because of it!”
FRAZIER: You started off with the Doomsday Arcade series for the Escapist Magazine, if I’m not mistaken?
MICHAEL: The first thing I made was a pilot for a web series when I was in year 12. I made it for a competition and won. The prize was that your entry was part of a 25-part series that you were paid to make. That was kind of how I jumped into filmmaking.
FRAZIER: Well I watched it the other day.
MICHAEL: Oh God…
FRAZIER: It has got some funny jokes and I was genuinely laughing. It’s got this kind of referential/ parody humour that is woven throughout everything you do. Is that where it started or have you always loved that style of writing.
MICHAEL: I was always into that stuff like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Spike Milligan’s Books and Monty Python. I always loved genre parody. But moving back to the show, I kind of used it to be able to jump into different genres that I loved.
FRAZIER: So after this show you didn’t go to film school?
MICHAEL: No, I think of Doomsday Arcade as my film school. Almost two years of straight shooting, writing and editing.
FRAZIER: I recently dropped out and I was thinking, did you have a period of people constantly telling you to go to film school or any self-doubt? Or did you know this was the path you wanted to take?
MICHAEL: Well since I had it as a job and had to do it, it gave me the confidence to just keep going. I know it sounds pretentious, but I think the best film school was watching films. When I started moving onto proper sets, I didn’t really know what second AC was… but that’s fine! You get told on the day and you work it out.
FRAZIER: Following this, you had Time Trap released after the success of the George Lucas special edition trailer and that short film was only made with a budget of 6k?
MICHAEL: Yeah so that was just self-funded. It was 6k with people lending their time and borrowing a camera and just making it happen. And it was a huge amount of time – months of visual effects and composing. I then had this huge amount of traffic coming to my channel from this Star Wars parody I made. I just released the short film on that same day and it really caught fire. It got a lot of eyeballs on it, especially in LA. It was actually how I got my US reps because the short film went around Los Angeles. I was out there a few weeks later interviewing managers and agents.
FRAZIER: When this crazy period was happening what was your mindset like at the time?
MICHAEL: It was very exciting but I was weirdly hamstrung cause I just had signed onto do the web series the Wizards of Aus. I had these reps saying these are things we could go for but I had to go and spend 45 weeks making this web show.
FRAZIER: So with the Wizards of Aus, I saw something you said that you moved back into your Mum’s house for 36 weeks to edit the VFX straight?
FRAZIER: How do you do that and maintain motivation because I would be drained?
MICHAEL: I do get pretty fixated on things… It’s really satisfying work as a day job. I find it akin to playing a puzzle video game. You have these certain tools to get from point A to point B. I am also just one of those people who is content to just sit in a chair for hours.
FRAZIER: When you are on set and working with comic actors like Aunty Donna, Nick Cody and Guy Pearce, do you like improvising?
MICHAEL: It was a mixture of both. Me and a guy called Nick Issel wrote the show. But when you have guys like Aunty Donna doing funnier stuff it’s pretty sweet. I love the idea of improv but sometimes you can tell they are just improving the whole thing and it feels kind of loose.
FRAZIER: Now onto Rebooted, a short film I have shown my friends and family like 20 times. I understand the budget was only $120,000. But if the budget was bigger, do you think it would have changed the film that much?
MICHAEL: I think probably not. It would have made some quality-of-life stuff easier like bigger offices and larger studios. The only thing that would be different was that because it is a mixture of genuine stop motion and live action, we weren’t able to move the camera in specific three-dimensional ways. If we had a bigger budget we would have been able to do motion control shots. But other than that, it turned out exactly how I wanted it.
FRAZIER: Now just onto your directing style. I have seen a lot of videos where you say you storyboard everything to a tee, is this linked with your love for visual storytelling?
MICHAEL: I just think it would be really hard to come up with that stuff on the day. By really storyboarding everything, I found more cohesion across everything I am trying to do. It’s just a way of me feeling like I have the shot exactly in my head.
FRAZIER: I saw on your Instagram that your script got selected for the Blacklist. Can you just talk about your process in writing an already successful script?
MICHAEL: I am not one of those people who writes a million ideas. I just want to make sure the idea is super unique. But once I have that 3 act structure, I will typically go away and find some AirBnb for like a week and beat out a draft. But I am really slow at editing. For me it’s just really premise heavy, once I find a sweet idea then that’s it.
FRAZIER: I know that the Lord of the Rings BTS, the Simpsons and Edgar Wright were big inspirations but was there any other films or creators that helped you?
MICHAEL: Definitely all of them. But for the last few years I have really been mainlining horror. Recently, I watched Incancation (2022). I was loving it but my girlfriend can’t watch scary movies. She had come out and I was at the end of the movie, watching it through the menu on the third of the screen that’s how scary it was. Horror films just always surprise me. They have a looseness to them and can introduce elements of surrealism without having to build a fantasy realm. Horror films can just be really unique.
FRAZIER: Do you have a current favourite horror director?
MICHAEL: I know these are mainstream choices, but I think Ari Aster is incredible. I think Hereditary is so so so good. It’s the sweet spot for me because it’s unique and I didn’t know where it was going but it was really exciting. Also Jordan Peele. Nope was awesome and I love his ability to make mimetic visuals.
FRAZIER: Now in the opposite direction, what is the most annoying thing people do at the cinema?
MICHAEL: The most annoying experience I had was in Sydney, I was by myself in this small cinema. 30 minutes into the film I hear this foil crinkle and they unwrap two big burritos and it’s just the smelliest food. This old woman several rows in front was looking around smelling… That and obviously just being on your phone.
FRAZIER: The other month I was seeing Doctor Strange 2 and this group of 12-year-old eshays came into the cinema. They were all vaping and all you could see was the vape smoke covering the screen. This guy told the manager and they came in and kicked out the wrong people so we had to get involved and tell the manager who it was… right in the middle of a big set piece.
FRAZIER: Where do you want to see the Australian film scene move in the next 5-10 years?
MICHAEL: I think we need to be making movies that people want to see. I think the movies we are making is ‘the whole small town has a secret’, which is fine but we are just making samey films that appeal to middle aged people. I would love to see us take more genre swings. When I tell my girlfriend a movie to watch and say it’s an Australian film she says “oh an Australian film…”
FRAZIER: I have interviewed a few people now and they all say that same thing.
MICHAEL: I am not saying they are bad, I just think they are a little safe. Maybe because a lot of stuff is based on state and government funding. But it is literally something everyone in the Australian film scene talks about and it never changes so I don’t know what the fuck is up with that.
FRAZIER: I just think doing the Wizards of Aus and Rebooted is the right direction but it’s like why is there not more of that…
MICHAEL: The people I know at Screen Australia are very cool and funny so I just don’t know how it works.
FRAZIER: My last question… what is next for you?
MICHAEL: I want to always feel like the next thing is bigger and better. With that trajectory, hopefully the next things is bigger. Over the last few years, I have been putting my efforts into writing features for people and hopefully that’s the space I can work in.
Make sure to go and check out all of Michael’s work on Youtube because it is honestly some of the best Australian filmmaking I have seen.
George Miller is back with his third film in 10 years. Mad Max, Babe, Happy Feet – all critically and financially successful and yet we rarely see his name pop up in the credits. So something big had to be next for Miller. And that ambitious film was none other than Three Thousand Years of Longing. A film so unique and different that it makes complete sense for Miller to direct. But was this film worth his return to directing? Does it live up to the hype of his previous films?
Three Thousand Years of Longing is a romantic / fantasy film written and directed by George Miller. It sees a lonely scholar – Tilda Swinton – who is granted three wishes by a Djinn (Idris Elba).
Every time you go to the cinemas, you kind of know what you are already going to see. Between trailers and marketing, you have a pretty rough idea of what is coming. I was completely blindsided by this film. Three Thousand Years of Longing shocked me from beginning to end and that is for one core reason – the sound design.
I haven’t seen a movie as precise and careful with its use of music and sound in a long time (probably Mad Max actually). Each scene uses it so sparingly that it makes the audience glued to the world in front of them. Even the transitions between locations use natural sound to make the film flow. But what accentuates this creative choice is the writing.
George Miller and Augusta Gore have replaced music with a script that feels like a song. The dialogue has a perfect rhythm that makes this film flow. You almost forget the lack of music when the words spoken by Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba feel poetic. For a film about storytelling, Miller understands exactly what makes a story work. It is not about the visual elements but instead the spoken word and that is exactly why this narration works so well. And while these effects were striking, they were not what made me love this film. Instead, it was the movies core theme.
The emphasis on the importance of storytelling to humanity is a perfect golden thread and something that means a lot to me. Three Thousand Years of Longing not only reminds the audience on why we need stories to survive but also the different forms they can take. It accomplishes this through roughly 6 separate stories each more intriguing and different then the last. With different themes and messages, they will leave any audience wanting to spend more time in the mind of George Miller.
Like a song however, the film ebbs and flows. It did have moments where I lost interest and was not completely gripped by the story. I think it comes down to the run time. While an hour and 40 minutes is by no means a long film, I do think it could have been cut down. If this film was 15 minutes shorter, the pacing would have been fantastic. When so much time is spent in one location, it is pivotal that the audience is still hooked by the story and especially the actors.
Now I did like the performances of Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba. In fact, I loved them. They both did an excellent job of displaying loneliness and how it affects people in different ways. Also, what stories can mean to people’s lives. Where their performances fell a little flat was in the chemistry. I never felt the love between them. While they bounce off each other well, the sudden turn in the story didn’t make sense for these characters. It felt like a sharp right turn in a direction I didn’t think these George Miller and these actors were going for.
Should you see this film?
Yes absolutely. It is a movie that will sit with you for days on end. Not only is it a completely original story but it is the craft of it that will keep you hooked. However, I do recommend going in expecting a slower pace and a different method to most Hollywood movies.