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Interview

The Best Christmas Short Ever – Interview with Writer Tyson Yates

About 4 years ago, I went to the Brisbane Backyard Film Festival. Two films from that night stuck with me that I truly loved and have never stopped talking about. One is Follow that Taxi (I did an interview with Sam Monaghan this year) and the other is It’s Christmas. It is one of the funniest and most original short films I have ever seen and my favourite Christmas short ever. On top of this, it won the audience award at the Brisbane Backyard Film Festival. Before you read this interview, go and watch this film below, it is well worth your time.

Recently, I did an interview with the writer of It’s Christmas – Tyson Yates. Tyson is a Brisbane based writer and director. On top of this project, he has written Lemonade – a comedy web series – and wrote and directed Smashed – a comedy short which won Audience Choice at West End Film Festival. Read on for more.

DP David Aponas and Tyson behind the camera

What inspired the story of It’s Christmas?

“I used to work in journalism, but my number one thing was writing for film. One year I upped and left and do a year of film school. I plopped myself down in Brisbane and did a year at university.”

“The whole idea is just kind of a typical Christmas for me, I am from a small country town in Northern NSW. It was hot, sweaty, there was drama over the prawns. This one was just one of the first scripts that just flowed out of me. I don’t think I struggled to write that one at all. It was just taking tid bits from my family and inserting into the script. And also just who doesn’t love writing genre.”

What was your process writing for this and writing in general?

Kristie and Tyson Yates

“When you are writing you put a lot of pressure on yourself. I think the unspoken thing though is that no one has it right – even some established filmmakers and writers. There has never been this smooth process in writing. But I think the background in media and written journalism really helped the discipline of it. When someone is paying you to write a story you don’t have an option of not feeling it or having mental block – the deadline is 5.”

As someone who writes and directs did you find it hard handing over the It’s Christmas Script?

“I have directed the last couple of things I have done. I released smashed a couple of years ago and that was the first major thing I directed. I just decided to Direct to get it done in the exact way it’s in my head. With It’s Christmas, I must have been a terrible person to have on set because I was following the director around and buzzing around like a fly. I think in the future I will focus less on directing and more on script writing because it’s just a huge commitment.”

Tyson directing actors – Winnie Mzember (middle) and Kyle MacCallion

Are there any specific Christmas movies you love or are inspired by?

“I really love the tone of A Moody Christmas. It spoke so much to me and I think they were aiming for the same thing because it feels like a person experience of an Aussie family. I have had a couple Christmas’s in the cold, and you miss it when you’re not here. I also love genre Christmas movies like Krumpus.”

Were there any general movies that inspired it as well?

“Absolutely Sean of the Dead. Edgar Wright is a perfect example of a filmmaker who can take ridiculous concepts and squeeze sentiment into it.”

Tyson on sound with Nicholas Rowan (sound) and Mellisa Johnson (makeup)

Other Projects

Creating both Smashed and Lemonade, what have you learnt from both projects and would advise filmmakers about starting a web series?

“I am from the school of keep it simple. Everyone does their share house comedy, it’s low stakes. You watch some amazing comedies like Arrested Development and Scrubs, the comedy just comes from the simplicity and characters – something I am still learning. Don’t be discouraged by not nailing something. It was interesting at film school how many people wanted to be at the finish line already. I have resigned myself to the fact that it’s going to take a long time to learn but the best way to do that is to keep it simple.”

As someone who also did one year of film school, I was wondering your opinion on it and if think it’s worthwhile?

On the set of Smashed

“There are two different camps, I guess. I learnt a lot from film school and especially what not to do in a safe situation. You are at the mercy of whoever else happens to be in your cohort. It can be a bit of a scramble to get on top. I didn’t have that problem to much as I had some pretty set goals. There was also good teachers I learnt a lot from. But the reason I left was because the classes and lessons were starting to repeat themselves.”

What is next for you?

“I recently got a job in a production company so any of my film projects just stopped at that point. I had a hiatus for a few years and then recently we jumped back on board with the short stack guys and shot a short film in August. It’s very similar to smashed in that it’s a couple of locations and housemates together. We are just doing the assembly edit now so it’s looking good.”

If someone came to you with one film wish, what would it be?

On the set of It’s Christmas

“I don’t know if I would want to wish my way to the finish line. But me right now I feel I am still finding my way through writing and directing. I would be absolutely horrified to have a world class actor standing in front of me asking what do to. It would be something small like making an indie feature that is well within my means. I would love to have this indie gem of a film that is well regarded. And then I am happy to be sky rocketed into making a Marvel film, substance abuse, not seeing my family – you know, the Hollywood dream.”

Where do you want to see the Australian film scene in 5-10 years?

“I think I have never really put much thought into getting funding. “I guess i believe that a good script will have it’s time and eventually get made. I know people bang on about funding being political, but those people usually have a shit script. I like to believe that a good idea, a good script, will get picked.”

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Film Reviews

Glass Onion Non Spoiler Review: The Best Movie of 2022?

Knives Out was one of the best movies of the last 5 years. It is one of the most entertaining and rewatchable movies I have seen in a long time and will undoubtedly be considered a classic in 10 years. So… the question becomes how do you top this and more importantly is it even possible? Can Rian Johnson improve upon one of the most loved and successful movies of the last 5 years? Truthfully, yes… Read on for more.

(Since this movie is very easy to spoil and I understand how easy it is to ruin it, I will keep it very broad and simple.)

Before I watched this, I was trying to work out what Rian Johnson could do to keep the audience guessing and surprised. As a filmmaker, it is embarrassing for me to admit that I had no ideas. Despite this, Rian creates a new and compelling that story that will keep you glued to the screen from the beginning. It goes in directions I didn’t expect at all and plays upon the traditional narrative perfectly. Rian Johnson knows exactly what the audience is expecting and manipulates it from beginning to end.

One of the best parts about the first Knives Out is the characters. They each feel completely different to the other and are addicting to watch. I truly believe Knives Out A Glass Onion has better characters. Each one is a very clever and refreshing take on the modern celebrity.  But what’s even more important is that they feel like real people. They have multiple layers that are revealed as the movie progresses and while they have flaws, you understand where they are coming from.

On top of this, they are cast perfectly. Everyone in this movie brings these characters to life. With a different cast, this movie is nowhere near as gripping and entertaining. I think lately films just load up on huge casts only to get ticket sales. But with Knives Out 2, it feels like each actor was chosen for the character and not for their level of fame. Cough Cough Amsterdam cough.

Before I move on, I have to talk about Daniel Craig. This character that him and Rian Johnson have created is one of the best movie detectives I have ever seen. He is this weird mix of being an idiot while also a genius that I love. It is a unique and refreshing character that I could truly watch an entire season of. Also, he is just very funny. No matter how simple the line is, he manages to always deliver it perfectly.

While I loved this movie, there was definitely a slump. About halfway through, I just found myself a little bit bored. I think in moments it treats the audience a little stupid and takes too long explaining things. It isn’t terrible it’s more just feels like the run time could be cut down by about 10-15minutes. Also, I think some of the humour doesn’t really work. It occasionally just feels forced and never seemed to get many laughs in the cinema.

One of the most important parts of a murder mystery is the twist. Now in the first Knives Out, the reveal never felt surprising or satisfying to me. In the sequel, I kind of feel the same way. But I think that’s on purpose. There are so many other twists and turns in this movie that the killer or killers doesn’t seem important. Instead, I think Rian Johnson wanted to focus on creating twists as the movie progresses instead of in the last few moments.

Should you watch Knives Out A Glass Onion?

Definitely. This movie is a very entertaining and enjoyable watch that will keep you guessing from the beginning. While the cinema run is over, watch it as soon as it’s out on Netflix so it doesn’t get spoiled for you.

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Interview

The Macfarlane Brothers Interview

Lachlan and Austin Macfarlane are two filmmakers based in Brisbane, Australia. For over 14 years, they have been making sketch comedy shorts with heavy VFX. Now they both work tirelessly on their TikTok and YouTube Chanel – racking up millions of views and even starting viral trends. Read on for more.

You both have been making short films and content for over 10 years, what created this attitude to just make stuff and get it done?

“I started making films just for the fun of doing them when I was like 10. It was just doing things for the fun of it. By the time I got to the end of school it was even more of an incentive to make videos. Also, when you’re at Uni you only make 7-8 things and I feel you want to finish with more than that.” – Lachlan

“I started getting into editing because I was making Marvel trailers. The reason I got into VFX was because I wanted to make Doctor Who intros. It harkens back to us being kids and having lightsabre fights and thinking “wouldn’t it be cool if we could make actual lightsabre fights.” – Austin

Across your careers, you can see how much your VFX has improved. Is this from school, University or just teaching yourself?

“I would say both but mainly self-taught.” – Lachie

“In year 8 and 9, every lunch time I would do a VFX shot. I would shoot it on my laptop, and I would do stuff like shooting a door and it would explode. Another day, my friend punched me and turned into a lunchbox.” – Austin

What’s your process in making these insane TikTok’s and reels you create?

“We will write, shoot, direct, star in, all ourselves. We split up the post tasks because we each have our own strengths. I will usually do the VFX while Lachlan will do the editing.” – Austin

“We will try to film as much as we can on the weekend and then work on it through the week and then get started on the next one straight away. It’s ultimately just about maintaining that repetition.” – Lachlan

“We both have so many ideas but unless it’s something we instantly jump at, we don’t even film it. Our sister is a good judge…. If we show it to her and she laughs it’s probably going to be good…” – Austin

Looking back on film school are you glad you did it or do you wish you did your own thing?

“There are way more people saying don’t do film school than there are saying do it. I would say it depends… When I went to film school, I found it hard to stand out from everyone else. It was difficult, I think at my school you needed a big personality and to be different from everyone. But ultimately it got kind of easier as you get to know people and I found it worthwhile in the end as I got heaps of connections who later got me a job.” – Lachlan

“I think for Uni you get out what you put into it ultimately. I work full time now as a junior online editor and I wouldn’t have got that job if I didn’t go to Uni, and the programs I use at work I learnt from uni.” – Austin

Can you explain the whole Michael Buble story?

“We love him and have loved his Christmas album since we were kids. We made this TikTok where we take him out of the ice for Christmas. I opened my phone the next morning and he had sent us a message on TikTok and commented it. I will ride that high until I die and we are very chuffed about that” – Austin

What filmmakers really inspire you.

“The Daniels definitely. It was very inspiring seeing how they went from small little sketch stuff to features. They are a team of two guys and we have taken a lot of inspiration from their style and we took on that comedic black comedy tone. Also, Edgar Wright and how he shifts your focus so well and so uniquely.” – Lachlan

What are some of your favourite films?

“The World’s End is one of my favourite Edgar Wright films because it has that emotional side. Also, any of Alfred Hitchcock’s films are incredible. Ours are both the same basically as well.” – Lachlan

“Swiss Army Man is my all-time favourite. Parasite, Psycho and the 400 Blows. I love Belfast, Little Women, Whiplash and Star Wars.” – Austin

Where do you want the Australian film scene to move?

“I would like there to be more. I am very new to the industry, but I would love the public to be more into it and proud of it. Also, shows that it doesn’t have to be about Australia.” – Lachlan

“I love how many productions are happening on the Gold Coast.” – Austin

What is next for you guys?

“We are going to make bigger short films. But for now, we are just doing TikTok and YouTube. Next year we are going to try for the Screen Queensland Skip Ahead program.” – Lachlan

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Interview

Polyamorous – An Interview with showrunner Archie Waterson

At the beginning of this year, I interviewed Archie Waterson on a documentary he produced – The Diamond from Sierra Leone. Recently, the short doco was selected into the Heart of Gold Film Festival (a pretty big deal for a filmmaker so young). Once again, Archie is back with a brand new project he has been working tirelessly on. Polyamorous is a mockumentary web-series made in 8 weeks. After watching it once, I instantly went back and watched it again because I was amazed how much him and his team pulled off in such a short amount of time. It is funny, clever and most importantly, original. Read on for more.

Archie Waterson (right) on set with Hunter Smith

What is Polyamorous?

“It is a mockumentary story about 6 people in a polyamorous relationship and the highs and lows they go through trying to be free spirited. It follows the perspective of Mackenzie who is monogamous and is in denial who is following her partner who wants to join a polyamorous relationship to leave her.”

What inspired this story?

Tai Scott, Janice Devarakonda and Matthew Cieslar on set

“I was having a beer with my friend, and he told me he was in the dating game. He went on a tinder date and this girl who he got along well with and she said I’m in a polyamorous relationship. I didn’t know what this was and I kind of got obsessed with it and started watching a ton of documentaries. Through all these shows, I kind of discovered 6 architypes through it.”

What was the writing process and how did you go about it leading a writers’ room?

“The process came from fleshing out the story first. I wrote the character breakdowns, the log line, the pitch and all these characters so I knew who they were and what they would be like in this relationship. I wrote the pilot then I got all my writers and from there, each writer was linked to an episode, and we built this arch for Mackenzie, Jake and Tash and the rest of the relationship.”

How do you the test out the joke /comedy?

Lachlan Wormwell and Archie Waterson on set

“For me, it was weird because I never really wrote for the screen, comedy wise. I feel like if I’m in a social setting I am kind of funny and I make people laugh. I have always wanted to do comedy. What I found is that I try and give to people who I find funny and if they like it, I know I’m onto something.”

What has been the most challenging part of making a web series?

“Overall, it was an intense process we did in 8 weeks. The hardest part for me was finding confidence in myself at the start when I’m pitching it. The stress and anxiety of trying to appease 50 people was challenging. But other than that, it was a very smooth process and I didn’t find too many challenges.”

Are there any other plans to release it other than the festival run?

“Once this all ends, it will be released onto YouTube and Vimeo. I also want to take it to the ABC as a proof of concept to show them.

Do you ever have periods of self and lack of motivation and how do you combat that?

The crew of Polyamorous

“I have in my life. At this point, I feel weirdly motivated and confident which helped in the process. The pressure allowed me to always remain motivated. I feel like the way to get out of these slumps is to reassess why you do it and that creating is a blessing.”

Talking Movies

What movies and shows inspired Polyamorous?

“In terms of style, ‘’What We Do in the Shadows” and “The Office” were two big style guides. “Shameless (US)” for the dynamics between the characters and their chaos.”

What filmmakers do you look up to?

“I love Larry David. I just want to be one of those guys who seems effortless but really cares for the craft. I love Taika Waititi who is this creative inspiration, making stuff from a place similar to where we come from.”

What is the worst thing people do in the cinema?

“People chewing popcorn loudly. Some people are just loud chewers and it’s fucked.”

Tai Scott, Rowan Williams, Archie Waterson and Adelaide Lapere on set

The Future

Where do you want the Australian film scene to move?

“I want comedy to not be Australian cliches. I think people living in urban parts should have a voice because they are just as interesting as people in London and New York. I want there to be a blend where it’s not just tourism but beautiful Australian stories.”

Matthew Cieslar, Bianca Rapp, Janice Devarakonda, Abigal Waugh, Hunter Smith, Chris Nguyen and Archie

What is your one film wish?

“I would love to get coffee with Larry David. I would love to have a job comedy writing for a TV series.”

What is next for you?

“Probably the grad slate next year. Just writing again and getting back into the development phase again.

Anyone you want to shoutout?

“I want to shoutout Amy Lightbody, my producer on the show. She put in so much work and she just made the process super smooth for me.”

All photos taken by Sam Goldsmith and Felix Lovell.

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Interview

The Pallidura – Australia’s next best horror web series

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?

Nathan on set

“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…”

Isabella Lee, Molly Humphries, Bailey Leis on set

TALKING MOVIES

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.

The Babadook

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?

Charlotte Chaffer-Brock, Nathan Simmons and Jude Buxton on set

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.”

The Future

 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.”

All photos taken by Grace Newlands

Sam Cotton Wong and Nathan on set
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Interview

An Australian Revenge Horror – Interview with Hayden Teremoana

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.

Hayden Teremoana on set

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.”

Jordan Stott, Leo Buzac, David Nicolau, Chloe Small

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.”

Chloe Small

TALKING MOVIES

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.”

The Future

Where do you want to see the Australian film scene move?

The Tommy Crew

“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.” 

Jordan Stott as Tommy

Make sure to follow Tommy on Instagram and pay attention for it’s festival release!

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Interview

A Conversation with Writer and Director Michael Shanks

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).

Guy Pearce and Michael Shanks on set of Storm Music Video

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.

INTRODUCTIONS

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!”

Winning Flickerfest for Rebooted

THE PROCESS

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.

The short that launched Michael’s career.

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.

Time Trap

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?

MICHAEL: Yeah…

FRAZIER: How do you do that and maintain motivation because I would be drained?

Michael on set of Wizards of Aus

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?

Rebooted Short Film

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.

Michael on set

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.

TALKING MOVIES

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.

Michael on set

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.

THE FUTURE

FRAZIER: Where do you want to see the Australian film scene move in the next 5-10 years?

Wizards of Aus

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.

Motion capture…

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.

Categories
Interview

Making an Indie Romance – An interview with Charlie Baz

Charlie Baz is a Brisbane based writer, director, and actor. He is a co-creator of a new production company known as 2nd Circle Studios whose focus is on creating work that is story driven. 2nd Circle studio’s film show reels and promotion for people looking to get their work made. Through this, Charlie has written and directed an upcoming romance known as It’s nice to meet you. Talking with Charlie reminded me why I love interviewing creatives – seeing how passionate artists are about their projects. I am extremely excited to dive into this interview because of how enthusiastic Charlie truly is.

Emily Crow, Charlie Baz and Ethan Waters

What is It’s nice to meet you?

“It’s fancy boys’ night and Chris falls in love again. Will she be the one? This story is a classic love story that is very close to my heart. I wrote it from how I have interpreted romance my whole life.”

Where did this idea come from?

“A few years back, I had this very deep crush and fascination with this girl. I kind of based it around what that could look like. It is not a real story, but it came from real feelings.”

Why should people see this film?

Emily Crow and Ethan Waters

“Everyone loves a romance. Even if you don’t, there is something so sweet about watching people fall for each other. It also looks amazing, and I can only thank Jarod, our DOP, for that (Jarod Woods). The music is also stunning as well – written by Natalie Ferris. “

“It’s also short, so it will take you 15 minutes if you watch it twice…”

Biggest challenge of making an indie short film?

“Postproduction. I was editing it and I now know why a director shouldn’t edit their own films. There is so much technicality and obsession with getting everything perfect.”

“All in all, it was just praying that it would work. Just hoping it would translate from script to screen.”

Jarod Woods and Charlie Baz on set

Charlie’s Writing Process

How long was this idea bouncing around in your head?

“Honestly, subconsciously, forever. I started writing this short film in 2020. It was very boring and a clinical romance film. Something that came off that was “is that how I interpret romance?” I just realised the relationship to romance and love in my own life and I think that brought out the feeling that this film brings. “

How long did it take you to sit down and write?

“It was never really done. I could always go back and rewrite it. But probably like 6-7 months of proper rewriting.”

“When I’m drunk and out with friends, I will write on a scrapbook a lot. I will think of a moment, open my notes, and write it. The next day I look at it and think why was this anything.”

How did you put yourself into the script?

“Its quite a raw snapshot of me a year ago. Even when I was directing it, it’s like I was directing something so close to my heart.”

When you are writing, how do you keep focused when writing?

“I kind of don’t…”

“I really enjoy writing and telling stories. I want to do that for a living. I use distraction to help me write. I try and write a page a day. I will then take a break for a few days and when I come back it’s like I was too in it.”

What are the core challenges of writing a romance?

“Making the characters interesting. I look at films like La La Land where both characters are interesting and feel like distinct people with personalities. The struggle is writing an interesting relationship and not interesting characters.”

How has an acting background helped with writing and directing?

“I direct people how I would want to be directed. I came from a place of just talking a lot. From a writing perspective, we were reading so many monologues and scripts. You get a gauge of what you actually like.

What are your final goals with It’s nice to meet you?

Liam Wallis on set

“I think my dream for this film is for people to see it. For me, I want it to work as a proof of voice. I want it to be accepted into festivals but that’s also not the end of the world for me.”

Favourite movie, director, and show?

“My favourite film is easily La La Land. I do love Damien Chazelle. I really really love Bertie Gilbert. He makes lovely short films. My favourite show is Normal People, it’s just a bloody beautiful show that doesn’t need to be recreated or touched.”

If you could choose your dream project to make or be apart of, what would it be?

Bertie Gilbert

“Working with Bertie Gilbert would be amazing. Acting or on crew. I also have this short, long film idea. It’s a story about a band who is on the verge of breaking up. I really want to be able to do that with crowds and mosh pits. Honestly though, just being able to go to work and make cool stuff with my mates, that’s all I need.”

Where do you want to see the Brisbane film scene move in the next 5 years?

“The film scene in Brisbane is pretty good. I would love for more of a community involvement. Its very insular, in its own little section that is pushed off to the side. I would love for more people to get amongst it.”

“With Australian films, a lot of the time it is the same stories. A bushman, small town, someone who needs to belong, a murder etc. It can be interesting – Baby teeth – but I would like to see more films that don’t have an Australian feel to it.”

The crew of It’s nice to meet you

The short film is out this Friday July 15th on the 2nd Circle Studios YouTube Channel. Make sure to like it and share around this incredible project.

Categories
Interview Uncategorized

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. “

Lachlan Margetts 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.”