VOTING OPENS 11/3/2023
VOTING OPENS 11/3/2023
Very few documentaries can really change how you view your life. Sure, you may watch them and think “that’s cool” but it’s near impossible to change someone’s perception on the world around them. Sam and Archie did just that. The Diamond of Sierra Leonne is not just an incredible student film but simply an amazing short film. Abib Kamara Smith’s life story made me so grateful for those around me and so driven to do more with my life. If you haven’t watched it yet, do yourself a favour and click the video below.
Sam Cotton Wong is a freelance photographer and videographer based in Brisbane. Sam specialises in cinematography and music videos. He was the director of this production. Archie Waterson is a writer and producer who is completely dedicated to comedy. He was the producer and writer for this short film.
What is the focus of this documentary?
“The documentary follows the story of Abib Kamara Smith who was originally born in Sierra Leonne. He came to Australia when he was 5 years old. He was adopted into this family called the smiths which had siblings of Archie, Gemma, Isaac, Bailey and Bass and his parents Willie and Anthony. And ultimately the documentary just follows his life from Africa and the struggles along the way.” – Sam
Why did you choose to produce this short film, Archie?
“Being a student, I was over doing stuff that wasn’t meaningful or purposeful to me. Taking on this bigger story gave me a lot more passion and I think that’s why it was important to take this story on. The minute Sam told me about Abib’s story, I was hooked. Just imagining seeing it on screen and telling it to the world.” – Archie
Why did you want to tell Abib’s story Sam?
“I have grown up with him. Knowing him and his story is completely different to everything I have heard and in Australia especially. Abib’s whole past, his upbringing and especially how he is now excelling in life. Also, the focus of don’t let your past define you was the universal idea and everyone can relate to this idea.” – Sam
Can you just talk us through the style and shooting of the short?
“When we met up with Abib, he just remembers having this old vintage TV in Africa. We tried to recreate that old TV vintage look as a memory of him watching it as a kid. Also, the floating photos seen were representing Abib’s memories in his head.” – Sam
“We wanted to put a lot of effort into the cinematography. We didn’t want to let it drag. The story was obviously going to carry itself, but it needed to look just as good as it felt. We shot on Super 8 for it. It had a nostalgic feel and, we just wanted to experiment.” – Archie
What were some core inspirations for this documentary?
“Definitely Colin in Black and White. Especially the projector shots, they were a big influence.” – Sam
“Also, another one was …. We were really inspired by the look and how poetic it was. Just the structure and how intriguing it was.” – Archie
Can you talk me through the name a little?
“When we were originally pitching the project Abib’s from Sierra Leonne and I just sought of put them together since I am a massive Kanye fan. When I was doing background research, I saw they were the biggest exporter of Blood Diamonds. The overall meaning though is that Abib is the diamond coming out of the ground. Also, giving the Kanye fans a little easter egg as well…” – Archie
Biggest challenge of making an indie documentary?
“We had this three-act structure obviously going in that we knew how we wanted to shape it. But, cutting it to a 5–6-minute documentary from a 36 minute was probably the hardest thing.” – Sam
“Abib had so many different stories you could tell in 6 minutes that it made it so difficult for our editor Cooper and Sam to keep it down. Just finding which leads were the strongest and what to go with.” – Archie
What was the most rewarding part of The Diamond of Sierra Leonne?
“Feeling the flame inside of all of us when we were making this thing because it was such a passion project. I felt the happiest I have been years working on this because I knew we were telling this massive story. Also, how good the crew was and how much we cared for Abib’s story. One more thing was the lessons I learnt from Abib as well. The perspective it gives you is second to none. It changed my life and how I look at thing’s day to day.” – Archie
“I remember leaving the interview and just going “Holy fuck.” I knew his story well but it was just so intense. You just look at life a bit different. Also, just watching it on the big screen altogether seeing what we created. We made something special and it’s the best thing I have done.” – Sam
What are your ultimate goals with this project?
“We have sent it to a few festivals, and we are looking to get accepted. Another plan was using it as a proof of concept to create a bigger documentary.” – Archie
“I would love to have a screening with friends and family.” – Sam
Where do you both want to see the Brisbane and Australian film scene move?
“For me, I want to see all of the creative people backing themselves more. Australia wise, I want to see more comedy. I want to one day see an Australian TV comedy show that doesn’t overuse Australian cliches. I want to see Australia being universally funny.” – Archie
“I think we need more up and coming people supporting each other. At the end of the day, that’s the future and we are all going to be working together one day.” – Sam
Dream project to get off the ground or collaboration?
“I would love to work on a proper Hollywood / Marvel set just to see how it runs. Just watching from preproduction to postproduction to see the flow of things and how they operate. Secondly, starting my own production company. Even if it’s just a photography studio with editing suites at the back. Just a place where we can meet and work together as a creative industry.” – Sam
“I would want to make a feature film. Also, just working with certain people. I would love to be in a writer’s room with Larry David. Even just a conversation with someone like Taika Waititi. I find him so inspiring as someone who comes from somewhere like Australia and keeps his exact same style.” – Archie
Anyone you want to shoutout?
“Shoutout Abib and his family. It’s not an easy thing to allow people with cameras into your home. Also, the rest of the crew on the doco. Our soundie Lachlan Womrwelll, editor Cooper Huzing and our director of photography Adam Potts.” – Archie
“Big ups to Archie as well. Just his work ethic and planning it all was crazy.” – Sam
All these incredible black and white photos were shot by Finn Negrello.
Every year, countless movies, short films, and productions are shot out in Winton, Queensland. If you have never been or heard of Winton, it is a tiny little remote town in Outback Australia. Winton is home to some amazing scenery that has been featured in films like the Proposition and Mystery Road. Recently, I was able to interview another writer and director who recently shot their upcoming film in Winton – Maia Jorgensen.
Maia is a Canadian born writer and director currently based in Brisbane. She recently completed production of her Australian psychological thriller / drama Solitude. Before this, she has directed an episode of the web series Ain’t it Fun and an incredible outback short film called Shelter. Maia is another Brisbane based creative who is clearly on the rise.
What is Solitude about?
“Solitude is about a co-dependent friendship between two childhood friends that takes a dark turn when old secrets come to the surface. It is a psychological thriller based in Winton that uses the landscape as a third character.”
What inspired you to write Solitude?
“I went on the Winton Outback trip last year. I left the trip knowing I wanted to make a film that showcased the landscape in Winton and the beautiful outback. The core idea came from my own experiences with friendships. I thought it would be interesting to tell a story that shows how toxic platonic relationships can be. You see those toxic relationships between couples on screen so I thought it would be interesting to explore it between friends.”
When you are casting, what do you look for?
“I specifically wanted someone who had experience and training. People who can be good collaborators and really shape these characters and bring them to life. Its also very internal so I wanted actors who could really showcase the subtleties so we can truly understand the subtext. I also wanted people who had really good chemistry because there such close friends.”
Biggest challenges shooting in the Outback?
“We definitely had some problems… Most of the issues that we learned from was how to shoot with the outback sun. I think we got the hang off it by the end of it. When we shot our Proof of Concept, it was overcast but when we were out in Winton, it was a full sun with no clouds. We couldn’t get it too look or feel right. By the second day, we just had to cut shots and shoot within that 3-6pm area. “
“Also, half the crew went up by bus and half drove. Just a really long bus ride together, 21 hours…”
What was the scariest thought going into production?
“The sunlight and also shooting at night was daunting because it gets really really cold. The day would be warm but at night it would drop to like 10 degrees. Even just knowing we only had one shot to do this and there was no room for mistakes. We couldn’t reshoot anything because we only had one chance. Also, the wild animals, shooting on the edge of a cliff, rocky boulders and driving back late at night on the highway.”
With that pressure and stress building, is there anything you do to combat this?
“There was one day specifically where the crew was getting really stressed. We just couldn’t figure out the lighting. So I got all the HODS to meet and we stopped filming. I just reminded everyone that this is an enjoyable experience, and this isn’t going to be the end of the world. We just breathed and came up with a better plan to schedule for the light.”
What are your primary goals with Solitude?
‘We will definitely be doing the festival circuit and in particularly indie Australian film festivals. With my time in Australia, I have fallen in love with Australian filmmaking.”
Why should people pay attention to Solitude?
“This film has a unique perspective on platonic friendships. Just because it isn’t romantic doesn’t mean their can’t be toxic dynamics and tendencies. When you do put all your attention, love and care into one person that can backfire in a way. Also, just the exploration of the outback and landscape. “
Maia’s Writing Process
How many hours a day were you writing during the peak time?
“It was a lot… a lot of time. This might be dramatic but probably between 8-12 hours on planning. When I actually started writing it was probably more like 2 or 3 hours a day. When I sat down and wrote it, it didn’t take that long, it was just the planning.
Is writing a challenge for you or does it come easily?
“I enjoy writing. It was a bit of a challenge for me because I have a lot of experience directing things I haven’t written. This was the first thing I wrote and directed in a while. I am meticulous so I wanted it planned out perfectly.
Do you find yourself getting distracted?
“I can be quite singular focused. If I ever got distracted it would be with the pitch, so always Solitude stuff.”
How did you know the script was finished?
“I think it was a gut instinct. I got to the point where if I made changes it would divert from where I wanted it to go. The screen actually didn’t change that much from March since I planned it out a lot.”
When you draft do you completely restart or have the first draft next to you?
“I like to have it next to me for reference. I start a new document to rewrite but if I ever feel like I get to a block I will start from scratch and not look at the old one until I bring them together.”
How do you put yourself into the characters and story?
“It does come from my own experiences, but they are not necessarily negative. I wanted to showcase a different kind of relationship on screen that I have with my own friends but not in a bad way. That platonic intimacy and co dependency that may not be toxic but does exist. I have had experience with friendships that don’t work out and so I intertwined those negative feelings and those intrusive thoughts. Also, just playing into those deepest insecurities.”
What is your dream project / collaboration / film? (No limitations at all)
“I would love to work with Taika. He is my favourite human in the entire world. I take a lot of inspiration from him as a director and creative. “
As someone who isn’t born in Australia, where do you want to see the Brisbane and Australian film scene move?
“I definitely think its on the rise. As an outsider, its interesting not seeing Brisbane on the international level like Vancouver or Melbourne. Its definitely on the rise and is up and coming. There is still something unique Australian about films that come out of Brisbane and the Gold coast.”
Advice for other indie filmmakers on writing and directing?
“Just trusting yourself and trusting your own experiences and instincts. I feel you can get a lot of criticism but at the end of the day you’re the only one who knows their own mind. For directing, remember to enjoy the experience and knowing that no film is worth your mental health or the crews. Also, just putting in the work to learn your craft and working with your actors.”
“I just love storytelling and entertaining. Also, just being on set and brining a film together. You can only go into film if you are passionate about it. When you are on set, everyone there wants to be there so badly and have worked so hard to be there. “
“A shoutout to my crew. I had an amazing crew and I couldn’t be happier with the people who supported me. Also, my cinematographer Remy Webber, Ash Burgess, Frank Button, Joe Mineham and the town of winton.”
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A follow-up to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was always a point of discussion and contention within the sci-fi community during the late 80s and 90s. With people wondering what happened to characters like Deckard and Rachael after the final credits rolled? How would Ridley Scott add to the Blade Runner continuity with a sequel? And, whether or not it was necessary at all to make a sequel to the cult classic?
And while the narrative did continue within the novelization version of Blade Runner, penned by K. W. Jeter (which ran for 4 books), a definitive cinematic sequel to Blade Runner would remain in development hell for decades to follow.
It wouldn’t be until director Dennis Villeneuve, notable for his work on Sicario (2014), Arrival (2015) and Dune Part 1 (2021), would enter the project. After a few more years in development, a sequel to Blade Runner, titled Blade Runner 2049 would be released to the public in 2017.
Despite its critical reception from both audiences and critics alike being extremely positive, the film was considered by Warner Bros as a box office failure, only raking in $259.3 million at the box office on a $185 million budget.
However, despite Blade Runner 2049 not being a financial hit. Many filmmakers, including myself, consider the film to be one of the greatest sequels of all time, not only due to its thought-provoking plot, immersive themes and its masterclass in cinematography and visual storytelling. but also, through the film’s respect and consideration of the 1982 original film’s themes and message of; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
This is why many filmmakers consider Blade Runner 2049 to be one of the greatest sequels general moviegoers have never seen before, and here’s why.
Blade Runner 2049’s Plot
The plot of Blade Runner 2049 takes place 30 years after the original. Here, the audience is introduced to K (played by Ryan Gosling). K is a Blade Runner for the LAPD, acting as judge, jury, and executioner for replicants who need to be “retired”. It’s revealed to the audience that K is also a replicant, hunting his own kind so he may stay alive for a few years longer in the post-apocalyptic world of Blade Runner. However, when K discovers that a replicant named Rachael (the same Rachael from the first Blade Runner film) possibly gave birth to a replicant child with Deckard, K’s life and his journey are sent spiralling down the rabbit hole of truth. K is forced to come to terms with the sins of his past and consider whether or not he, himself is a replicant or a human. K’s journey of self-discovery would lead him to meet Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) and the two must band together to find the replicant child before it’s discovered by other replicants and instigates a war between humanity and replicants.
While I don’t want to spoil anything about the film and implore you to watch the movie yourself, it cannot be understated just how impactful the film is when it comes to portraying K’s journey of self-discovery. K is a ruthless, cold, and calculating Blade Runner at the beginning of the film, however, when his journey leads him down a rabbit hole of self-actualization and reality-breaking revelations, we are shown a broken, determined man fixated on nothing but uncovering the truth.
The film’s execution when it comes to the presentation of themes like identity, destiny and what it means to be alive is handled in a way that is not only subtle, but also is the focal driving point of the whole story. Never deviating away in order to service an unnecessary sub-plot. This, in turn, makes the film’s plot feel more focused and sharp, compared to a messy branch of sub-plots that ultimately never go anywhere and serve to only overcomplicate a story of this magnitude and importance.
Blade Runner 2049’s Cinematography
The cinematography of Blade Runner is something that is always been a major selling point for the film and even won the film an Academy Award back in 2018. The film’s cinematographer, Sir Roger Alexander Deakin (notable for The Shawshank Redemption, No Country for Old Men and, 1917) employed a single-camera set-up for the film. While this technique of cinematography is seen today as a relic of old filmmaking, in Blade Runner 2049’s case, this single-camera set-up only serves to straighten the creative vision for the film and strengthen what is ultimately chosen to be shown on screen and to the audience in the films final cut.
Each shot of Blade Runner 2049 feels important, needed, and symbiotic in telling this cohesive story. Every shot feels cold, dark, and dreary to match the films post-apocalyptic, cyberpunk aesthetic. Sir Roger Alexander Deakin uses each frame and shot to tell a story, no space on the screen is wasted or unutilized, which in turn makes the world feel more alive than ever for the audience.
Whether the camera is flying with K through the neon-soaked streets of 2049 Los Angeles, following K through the orange wastelands of future Las Vegas or, the bleak factories of future San Diego. Each shot, scene and cinematic angle has its own unique story, voice, and character. No shot in Blade Runner 2049 is wasted and every second of screen time only serves to further the plot that plays out on film.
Blade Runner 2049’s Voice
As previously touched on in the plot breakdown of the film, Blade Runner 2049’s themes of identity and destiny are given great gravitas throughout the 2-hour and 43-minute runtime of the film. K’s journey of self-discovery and metaphorical rebirth from a ruthless, soulless replicant to a human who feels compassion and pain for the ones he’s lost, feels natural and purposeful by the filmmakers.
The film does an excellent job of giving K’s story ample time to breathe and develop when compared to other Hollywood blockbusters, K’s relationships with his holographic girlfriend JOI, his friendship with Deckard and his battle against fellow replicant / Blade Runner, Luv, all feel natural and fleshed out by the end of the film.
The idea of what it means to be alive is a question that the Blade Runner series was built upon. And this idea of what it means to be alive is epitomized by K’s journey of self-discovery and destiny throughout the film. With Blade Runner 2049’s presentation of a replicant who can feel emotions (K) to its audience, the film openly challenges its audience to reevaluate their ideas and values when it comes to the definition of what it means to be alive/human.
That’s what makes Blade Runner 2049 the greatest sequel you have never seen before.
While Blade Runner 2049 may not have been the box office success many studio executives at Warner Bros were hoping it would be. Blade Runner 2049 in recent years has started to be recognized by filmmakers alike as one of the most impressive pieces of cinema to be released in recent memory. Every second of this film is purposeful and engaging, its cinematography and portrayal of K’s journey is both breathtaking and gorgeous in every way possible, the film showcases just how engaging both Dennis Villeneuve can be as a director and the world of Blade Runner can be when in the right hands.
And while the general movie-going audience wasn’t interested in watching this film back in 2017, I strongly encourage each reader of this article to put Blade Runner 2049 on their watchlist in order to truly experience what they missed out on 6 years ago.
That’s why Blade Runner 2049 is the greatest sequel you have never seen before.
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.
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.”
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?”
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?
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
Donate Here its almost at $5000.