Nat Kelly is an Australian filmmaker, reporter, and TV presenter. He has made multiple award-winning short films, written and directed a feature film and web series and now works as a reporter and presenter for Behind the News.
As soon as I discovered Nat’s work I was fascinated. At such a young age he has already accomplished so much and still constantly puts out shorts while working as a reporter. Nat is truly an inspiration for indie filmmakers and this conversation made me excited for the future of Australian films.
Where did your filmmaking journey really begin?
“When I was 5 or 6 I was interested in video cameras. Me and my sister had one camcorder which we would use to film and pretend we were newscasters. The whole storytelling side came when I was 10 when I was involving my sisters and friends to make skits.”
How did After Tracy change your filmmaking journey?
“I really appreciate what it did for me at the time and what it meant for me and my friends. It gave us a lot of confidence to go forward and make other things.”
How have you consistently put out so many short films in such a short period of time? (Process)
“Sometimes we want to make a film so bad that we write it that afternoon and shoot it the next day. The ones that take a bit longer have to be done in the holidays.”
We’re Family Now?
Can you run through the process making an indie feature film?
“I was rewriting the film as we were shooting. We were casting as we were going as well (something which is reflected in the costumes). It was all us – me, Thomas, Max, Joseph and my sister. Having such a small crew made us really bond and develop a shorthand. It was a lot of admin cause I knew no one who wanted to produce.”
Most challenging parts of shooting a feature
“The biggest hurdle was writing. My struggle was actually putting pen to paper. Once it was done, it became the on set morale. There is this uphill battle of trying to get your crew on board with your ideas. The pressure is on me to giving them everything they need. But eventually you reach a point where you are getting feedback and collaborating together. It takes the pressure off you and makes the end result better.”
How did selling out a cinema feel?
“It felt validating for us because we had only made short films before. Feature films had always been a bar to reach and once we hit it, it was a bucket list item ticked off.”
Your process writing Fracketty Frack
“It was inspired by the Government in the NT threatening to lift the fracking ban. I put a line of tape across a wall and put beats in between as I think of ideas. We wrote it originally as a feature and they didn’t want a feature so we changed it to a web series. It took me around 4 months to write.”
How did Screen Australia and Screen Territories grant help?
“It was really good. They were very hands off. I only had funding to write the script and not the actual production. It was almost like I had all the control over the production. I only wished it got a bit bigger towards the end since it was a screen Australia project.”
What has making a webs series taught you?
“One key thing it taught me was being okay to rewrite on set. Being close with the writer or being the writer yourself helps make sure you know what is best for the story. Nothing is sacred, you just have to care for the final project.”
Behind the News
What have you learnt from working on an ABC News Program?
“It’s taught me the skill of being okay with repetition. It’s about bringing freshness to it every day and always keeping it entertaining.”
How has running Behind the News helped you with your filmmaking skills?
“It’s ultimately helped me hone my skills every day to being able to make content as quickly as possible. It has given me the confidence to make my own stuff quicker cause I know I can make 5 minutes of content daily.”
4 of your favourite movies?
“The Castle, Hunt for the Wilder People, Hot Fuzz. There’s also one film that I have never told anyone because it is ridiculous. It is Thomas and the Magic Railroad. I think what fascinates me about it is the production woes it had have taught me a lot about filmmaking. The making of it is more interesting than the actual film.”
Who are your biggest filmmaking influences?
“I love everything Working Dog do. I love the way they work; they just make something no matter what. That ethos of lets just do something is something I love. Also, Taika Waititi and Edgar Wright.”
What is your one film wish?
“I would love to be involved with a Wes Anderson film. Especially the Art Department.
If you want to say, what is next for you?
“I really want to make some short films. I would also love to make another longer film for storytelling reasons. It’s more of an event and people sit around together to watch your film.”
Where do you want the Australian film scene to move?
“I would like to see the Australian film industry pivot in a way where there is more of an opportunity for filmmakers to take risks. We have some amazing talent that I would love to see more of.”
When I started interviewing people, I had the singular goal of finding filmmakers who are out there making short films no matter what. Whether it’s shot with their friends or with no budget, I wanted to focus on artists who are extremely passionate about their craft. Felix Lovell embodies this. He has been making quality short films for years, is a very talented photographer and is constantly working on other peoples projects. Now, he is focusing his efforts on a short surreal drama called The Scatterer.
Talking his Upcoming Short Film
What is The Scatterer about?
“The Scatterer follows a professional ash scatterer named Arthur who encounters a mysterious figure in the outback and is tasked with scattering their ashes. Memories start blurring with the present as he seeks answers for unanswerable questions.”
How long has this idea been stuck in your head for?
“I would say September/ August 2022. Looking back on it, I could see a lot of things in my life influencing what I wrote. I wrote it around when my grandpa was dying and also, I wrote the first draft while in hospital with appendicitis. Subconsciously, all these feelings were being put into the script.”
Your process day in and day out writing?
“I have a massive list in my notes app on my phone. Any inspiration, things I have heard people say or things I have seen go into it. My ideas come from looking at that list, finding common themes and collating them into a story.”
“For the writing, I map out a story arc before I start writing on the script. I only write when I am actually feeling inspired since it is a passion project. When I write I also like to act out what I am writing. Whether it be blocking it or talking to myself, it helps me visualise the story a lot more.”
Before shooting starts, what is your biggest concern?
“The first concern was location because it was far away and set in the desert. It’s almost been solved by a lot of research and a cinematographer (Elliot Deem) who suggested Lightning Ridge. Another thing we are struggling with now is casting. We are casting two demographics I am not super connected with but luckily our casting director (Shanay Warren) is helping a lot. It’s also just a blessing to have Eleanor Somerville as the producer because she just has this ability to get things moving.”
Kudzu, Somnium, Malingee have such a specific style and tone, is there a filmmaker you are inspired by?
“David Lynch is my number one. Also, Yorgos Lanthimos even though my films don’t reflect the tone of his. I love any filmmaker who is bold enough to do something that might not make any sense immediately but it sticks with you. I also love Robert Eggers, Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky.”
4 of your favourite films?
“Eraserhead is my number one all-time favourite film. You love it or you hate it. Also, Stalker, the Lighthouse, and the Killing of a Sacred Deer.”
Talking the Future
Where do you want the Australian film scene to move?
“It’s great having these classic Australian stories like The Dressmaker but having films that are willing to experiment and do something different is important. I was lucky enough to work on Angus Kirby’s new film. He isn’t afraid to do something that doesn’t fit the standard Australian drama structure. Good examples of this are Nitram and Babyteeth.”
What is your one film wish?
“I want Lynch to release one more film. I think he has one more project in him. I really hope he doesn’t die. Actually, maybe that’s my wish, to keep David Lynch alive.”
What film are you most looking forward to in 2023?
“Beau is Afraid I am very excited for. In terms of someone pushing boundaries, Ari Aster is constantly doing just that. It just looks crazy and I’m here for it.”
Make sure to go and watch Felix’s short films on his Youtube Channel and follow The Scatterer on Instagram. If you believe in this project as much as I do make sure to donate to their Go Fund me here
Josh Allan is a Brisbane based writer and director. Recently, he released a short film called 2:32AM which has won multiple awards and screened at countless festivals. It is truly an incredible short-film about human connection and finding your place in the world. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to grab an interview with Josh. Read on for our conversation about his short film, movies and his future.
What is 2:32Am about?
“It’s a short film about two lonely strangers learning to find that deeper connection that they’re both missing. Titus is this sort of rough around the edges, charismatic character that has an internal conflict he needs to address. Whereas Caleb is more of that reclusive Uni student who hasn’t made close friends.”
What was your process writing this short film?
“I find writing challenging. My process is kind of all over the place. It starts with messy feelings or ideas that I will start to write into a script. I have also learnt to integrate feedback a lot. My main process is trusting my intuition while also reaching out for help.”
What were the biggest challenges of creating an indie film and how you overcame them?
“I found that on set we had a limited time to shoot. It was difficult trying to work to a schedule while trying to preserve the quality. What I am always learning is to trust yourself, the material and the people around you. Trust amid the stress is key.”
How do you run your set?
“To me a lot of problems that you need to solve during production start in pre-production. I like to have in depth discussions before I get on set. Most of the tension on set comes from a lack of creative alignment. If someone is stressed or angry I just try and see it from their perspective.”
How you battle lack of motivation?
“The thing that helps me is if I am stuck on one project, I jump onto another temporarily. I am a filmmaker and I also do music, so I swap between them.”
What filmmakers inspire you
“Richard Linklater. I find the way he wrote stuff – from a very personal / semi-autobiographical place – very interesting. Rather than having an overt plot, conversation becomes the plot. In interviews for the Before Trilogy, he was saying the connection is cinematic enough.”
“Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. While they don’t influence my style, they inspired me to make films.”
Can you list four of your favourite movies?
“Manchester by the Sea I really like because my Dad and I connect through it. Short Term 12 I could watch that movie forever. One that has stuck with me and ignited something within was Whiplash. It showed me that a story based in the real world can be more anxiety inducing than a horror. Also, Kramer vs Kramer I clicked with it because my parents got divorced when I was that age.”
What’s next for you?
“I am one of the producers of an up-and-coming indie film studio. We have been making some micro short films and we have a drama/ thrill coming out called Sparring. It’s like a Whiplash style psychological thriller about a military guy being interrogated by a dictatorial figure.”
Where do you want Australian movies to move?
“Truthfully, I am not that wired into the Australian film industry and the trends. For me, I don’t feel much pressure to try and represent the whole country. It’s fine for filmmakers to make something that doesn’t have to be distinctively Australian. Also, I think filmmakers worry too much about what the market wants and appealing to a demographic.”
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.
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?
“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.”
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.”
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?
“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?
“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.”
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
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.
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?
“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?
“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?
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
Nathan Simmons is a Brisbane based filmmaker. He is currently in his second year at University and runs a production company known as Salty Dog Media. Recently, he was the show runner for the horror web series The Pallidura. After watching Episode 4, I was amazed at how well crafted and scary this series is. It will definitely be an amazing horror web series that I am very excited for. Read on for more.
What is the Pallidura?
“It is a story about a couple – Curtis and Jessica – who are celebrating a birthday. An old friend comes to the party with a mysterious painting and once he enters the party Curtis’s life is never the same.”
What was your big inspirations for this project?
“The idea came in a writing workshop we had. The educator said, think of an object in your home and how it can attract a character. I thought about how some people can have a fascination for a painting and some people can have a hatred for it. The story has evolved from a divorce story where one partner hates it and one loves it to where it is now.”
Throughout the whole process, how do you maintain motivation and a good headspace?
“I never had bad feelings. It’s because I love it and I love making films. I really wanted to make the story as good as it can be. We spent like 50 hours writing it in the writer’s room. It was also a learning opportunity to as well because these ideas came from my head and I had to communicate it with 60 other people.
What are your plans for releasing it?
“60 people worked on this so it would be cruel if people didn’t watch it. We are currently looking at what festivals it can go out to. Obviously, there are a lot of horror festivals it would suit. YouTube would probably be the very last place we would stick it. We might even take the idea to screen Queensland. I wouldn’t mind telling the idea again…”
What specific movies or shows inspired the Pallidura?
“The Babadook was a heavy one. I love the allegory of depression and grief. Oculus was another good one as well. The original idea was inspired by The Ring but I have never seen it, I have seen Scary Movie 3 though. I really like Jordan Peele’s movies, I’m on board for everything he does.
Are there any key writers and directors that inspire you?
“I love Tarantino. I was also watching Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul at the time and it’s where I got a lot of visual style from. Big fan of Spielberg but I didn’t use any of his techniques.”
What scares you personally when you watch horror?
“Not knowing. I hate jump scares and don’t find them scary. I just find them really annoying. I saw SPIRAL and that movie pissed me off because they just relied on loud noises. I also watched Dahmer and that had some terrifying moments, especially where the cops let a victim back in.
What is the worst thing people do at the cinemas?
“Fucking talk. Shut the fuck up when you watch a movie! I watched Halloween Kills last year and there was these people who kept talking and saying they didn’t find it scary. I can’t stand in, don’t ask me about the plot.”
Where do you want the Australian film scene to be in 5 years?
“The movies they are making are more aimed at the older target audience. Movies like The Dry and Red Dog are created for that age demographic. I just think there should be movies about a random thing that happens in an Australian city. Like the Matrix was shot in Sydney is a perfect example. Ultimately, they just haven’t hit me as a target audience yet.”
If a film genie came to you with one wish, what would it be?
“I would love to direct a feature. If I was funded, I would love to write, direct and edit a feature and show it in the cinema with my family and friends.”
What’s next for you?
“Salty Dog Media. It’s my new business media company with Chris Radman where we make content for other people and we are open to collaborating with others.”
“Huge thanks to all the students involved in creating the Pallidura. Especially Abbey Rose who helped out as the series coordinator. Everyone should be super proud of what they have done. Can’t wait to show the world what all of us have made.”
Mack Struthers is a Brisbane based writer and director in his second year at QUT. Recently, he premiered his web series, Greenlit, at cinemas in Brisbane and Sydney. Mack has spent over a year working tirelessly on this series – writing, organising and funding this show. Read on for more.
Can you just introduce yourself and your roles in film?
“My name is Mack. I have been making films since I saw Interstellar and thought the soundtrack would go really well with some Lego stop motion. I primarily write and direct. As a young creative, I do all the other things so that I can write and direct more. “
What is Greenlit?
“Greenlit is a 6-episode comedy web series created by me and shot in January this year. It follows a team of writers trying to get their series off the ground into production. Over the course of a year, we have been making this series. I think a total of 50 people have been involved.”
What has been the biggest challenge as the creator?
“Being a good leader. I think there is a misconception that directing or creating what you want. I think there is better value in learning to bring the best out of people.”
How did you go about funding a web series?
“We had two primary sources of funding. Bonds’ reach out grant and a QUT grant. Myself and four other people decided we need money for this project and started researching underutilised grants. A lot of organisations want a tax write off for supporting the arts and will only get a couple hundred applications for these grants. If you apply to as much as you can, it is likely you will be able to get some money together.”
What was the biggest thing you learnt from making Greenlit?
“It’s a marathon not a sprint. Realistically, me and 4 others worked every day on this show for at least an hour and sometimes up till 12 hours for a year. Finding the thing that can keep you going and going for a long time is of utmost importance. Another thing I learnt is compromise. Filmmaking is collaborative and restrictive. You will get your best work when you start compromising.”
Do you have a favourite film, writer/ director and show?
“Synecdoche New York or Before Sunrise. Director is Andrei Tarkovsky and Dennis Villeunve. The show is a tie between Bojack Horseman and Mr Robot.
What writers, films and filmmakers inspired Greenlit and you in general?
“The Office, Community and a little bit of Mr Robot in terms of style. Avengers Endgame was also such a fun point of reference because all the tropes are so stupid and cheesy and fun.
Most annoying thing people do in the cinema?
“All the classic ones, being on your phone, talking. But I think the most annoying thing is when people nearby me are trying to be funny. If you are sitting on the couch at home, you can make jokes then.”
“When I saw the new Doctor Strange movie, there was this guy in the line who wouldn’t stop talking to me. During the movie, he was talking to me THE WHOLE MOVIE.”
Where do you want to see the Brisbane and Australian film scene move in the next 5 years?
“I think people forget that what protects the film community the most is legislation. The Australian Writers Guild have been in battle to get all the streaming platforms to invest a percentage of what they make into Australian only content. In my ideal world, some of those things get passed and we stop having Marvel films exclusively and English TV cause the land is cheap. We start getting new Australian content.”
What is next for you?
“I am doing some corporate work which is always interesting… I will try to do a grad slate for QUT. I am currently planning on doing two web series. One will be a play that my friends are doing at the fringe Festival called Call Girls. And I am also not prepared to walk away from Greenlit.”
If a film genie came to you, and gave you one wish, what would it be?
“I think it would be this series I have been writing for over a year now. It is called Come Apart and it’s not a comedy but kind of experimental drama.”
If you are talking sports, Michael Shanks is like a number one draft pick for the Australian Film scene. He is the writer and director of Time Trap, Rebooted and Wizards of Aus, has a YouTube channel with over 200k subscribers and his script – Hotel, Hotel, Hotel, Hotel – recently was selected for the BlackList (that’s a big deal). In the next 5 years, anyone interested in film will know his name (if you don’t already).
I was lucky enough to interview Michael last week. It is undoubtedly, one of the most motivating film conversations I have ever had. His commitment to the craft over the years has made me ready to work harder and excited for the future of Australian films. Read on for more.
EXT. ZOOM – DAY
FRAZIER: So! Before we go into the proper filmmaking stuff, I just want to talk about the something stupid video with Nicole Kidman that you made…
MICHAEL: Oh God. That’s definitely a blast from the past…
FRAZIER: Well when I was 14 there was this big deal with ‘try not to laugh’ challenges and your video was in it. My friends and I had some type of forfeit that if you laughed you would have to get slapped. So your video would always make us crack up.
Is there any small part of you that wants to give up the filmmaking career and return to these types of videos?
MICHAEL: If it gets people slapped then I am happy about it. But no not really. Kind of the opposite. I have always wanted to make the next thing bigger then the last. But that video is like the first thing I ever did that got any attention.
FRAZIER: Well I didn’t know you even made it until like two months ago.
MICHAEL: “I used to get slapped because of it!”
FRAZIER: You started off with the Doomsday Arcade series for the Escapist Magazine, if I’m not mistaken?
MICHAEL: The first thing I made was a pilot for a web series when I was in year 12. I made it for a competition and won. The prize was that your entry was part of a 25-part series that you were paid to make. That was kind of how I jumped into filmmaking.
FRAZIER: Well I watched it the other day.
MICHAEL: Oh God…
FRAZIER: It has got some funny jokes and I was genuinely laughing. It’s got this kind of referential/ parody humour that is woven throughout everything you do. Is that where it started or have you always loved that style of writing.
MICHAEL: I was always into that stuff like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Spike Milligan’s Books and Monty Python. I always loved genre parody. But moving back to the show, I kind of used it to be able to jump into different genres that I loved.
FRAZIER: So after this show you didn’t go to film school?
MICHAEL: No, I think of Doomsday Arcade as my film school. Almost two years of straight shooting, writing and editing.
FRAZIER: I recently dropped out and I was thinking, did you have a period of people constantly telling you to go to film school or any self-doubt? Or did you know this was the path you wanted to take?
MICHAEL: Well since I had it as a job and had to do it, it gave me the confidence to just keep going. I know it sounds pretentious, but I think the best film school was watching films. When I started moving onto proper sets, I didn’t really know what second AC was… but that’s fine! You get told on the day and you work it out.
FRAZIER: Following this, you had Time Trap released after the success of the George Lucas special edition trailer and that short film was only made with a budget of 6k?
MICHAEL: Yeah so that was just self-funded. It was 6k with people lending their time and borrowing a camera and just making it happen. And it was a huge amount of time – months of visual effects and composing. I then had this huge amount of traffic coming to my channel from this Star Wars parody I made. I just released the short film on that same day and it really caught fire. It got a lot of eyeballs on it, especially in LA. It was actually how I got my US reps because the short film went around Los Angeles. I was out there a few weeks later interviewing managers and agents.
FRAZIER: When this crazy period was happening what was your mindset like at the time?
MICHAEL: It was very exciting but I was weirdly hamstrung cause I just had signed onto do the web series the Wizards of Aus. I had these reps saying these are things we could go for but I had to go and spend 45 weeks making this web show.
FRAZIER: So with the Wizards of Aus, I saw something you said that you moved back into your Mum’s house for 36 weeks to edit the VFX straight?
FRAZIER: How do you do that and maintain motivation because I would be drained?
MICHAEL: I do get pretty fixated on things… It’s really satisfying work as a day job. I find it akin to playing a puzzle video game. You have these certain tools to get from point A to point B. I am also just one of those people who is content to just sit in a chair for hours.
FRAZIER: When you are on set and working with comic actors like Aunty Donna, Nick Cody and Guy Pearce, do you like improvising?
MICHAEL: It was a mixture of both. Me and a guy called Nick Issel wrote the show. But when you have guys like Aunty Donna doing funnier stuff it’s pretty sweet. I love the idea of improv but sometimes you can tell they are just improving the whole thing and it feels kind of loose.
FRAZIER: Now onto Rebooted, a short film I have shown my friends and family like 20 times. I understand the budget was only $120,000. But if the budget was bigger, do you think it would have changed the film that much?
MICHAEL: I think probably not. It would have made some quality-of-life stuff easier like bigger offices and larger studios. The only thing that would be different was that because it is a mixture of genuine stop motion and live action, we weren’t able to move the camera in specific three-dimensional ways. If we had a bigger budget we would have been able to do motion control shots. But other than that, it turned out exactly how I wanted it.
FRAZIER: Now just onto your directing style. I have seen a lot of videos where you say you storyboard everything to a tee, is this linked with your love for visual storytelling?
MICHAEL: I just think it would be really hard to come up with that stuff on the day. By really storyboarding everything, I found more cohesion across everything I am trying to do. It’s just a way of me feeling like I have the shot exactly in my head.
FRAZIER: I saw on your Instagram that your script got selected for the Blacklist. Can you just talk about your process in writing an already successful script?
MICHAEL: I am not one of those people who writes a million ideas. I just want to make sure the idea is super unique. But once I have that 3 act structure, I will typically go away and find some AirBnb for like a week and beat out a draft. But I am really slow at editing. For me it’s just really premise heavy, once I find a sweet idea then that’s it.
FRAZIER: I know that the Lord of the Rings BTS, the Simpsons and Edgar Wright were big inspirations but was there any other films or creators that helped you?
MICHAEL: Definitely all of them. But for the last few years I have really been mainlining horror. Recently, I watched Incancation (2022). I was loving it but my girlfriend can’t watch scary movies. She had come out and I was at the end of the movie, watching it through the menu on the third of the screen that’s how scary it was. Horror films just always surprise me. They have a looseness to them and can introduce elements of surrealism without having to build a fantasy realm. Horror films can just be really unique.
FRAZIER: Do you have a current favourite horror director?
MICHAEL: I know these are mainstream choices, but I think Ari Aster is incredible. I think Hereditary is so so so good. It’s the sweet spot for me because it’s unique and I didn’t know where it was going but it was really exciting. Also Jordan Peele. Nope was awesome and I love his ability to make mimetic visuals.
FRAZIER: Now in the opposite direction, what is the most annoying thing people do at the cinema?
MICHAEL: The most annoying experience I had was in Sydney, I was by myself in this small cinema. 30 minutes into the film I hear this foil crinkle and they unwrap two big burritos and it’s just the smelliest food. This old woman several rows in front was looking around smelling… That and obviously just being on your phone.
FRAZIER: The other month I was seeing Doctor Strange 2 and this group of 12-year-old eshays came into the cinema. They were all vaping and all you could see was the vape smoke covering the screen. This guy told the manager and they came in and kicked out the wrong people so we had to get involved and tell the manager who it was… right in the middle of a big set piece.
FRAZIER: Where do you want to see the Australian film scene move in the next 5-10 years?
MICHAEL: I think we need to be making movies that people want to see. I think the movies we are making is ‘the whole small town has a secret’, which is fine but we are just making samey films that appeal to middle aged people. I would love to see us take more genre swings. When I tell my girlfriend a movie to watch and say it’s an Australian film she says “oh an Australian film…”
FRAZIER: I have interviewed a few people now and they all say that same thing.
MICHAEL: I am not saying they are bad, I just think they are a little safe. Maybe because a lot of stuff is based on state and government funding. But it is literally something everyone in the Australian film scene talks about and it never changes so I don’t know what the fuck is up with that.
FRAZIER: I just think doing the Wizards of Aus and Rebooted is the right direction but it’s like why is there not more of that…
MICHAEL: The people I know at Screen Australia are very cool and funny so I just don’t know how it works.
FRAZIER: My last question… what is next for you?
MICHAEL: I want to always feel like the next thing is bigger and better. With that trajectory, hopefully the next things is bigger. Over the last few years, I have been putting my efforts into writing features for people and hopefully that’s the space I can work in.
Make sure to go and check out all of Michael’s work on Youtube because it is honestly some of the best Australian filmmaking I have seen.
Seth Griffiths-Kemp is a writer and director based in Brisbane. He is currently finishing his third year at Griffith Film School where he is working tirelessly on his grad slate film – Schrodingers. After talking with Seth for a while, it made me so excited to see this film. The concept is so unique and refreshing that I cannot wait to see how he puts it all together. Read on for more.
What is Schrodingers about?
“Schrodingers is about an incompatible couple – Rosie and Roland – who match on a dating app. They go on a date, and it is not what they hoped it would be. Before they call it quits, they come across this bar called Schrodigners and they decide to have one final drink. Little do they know; each drink shows them visions of the future…”
How did this idea come to you?
“In came to me last September. I kind of delved into this world of the bar and what if you could see your future with a drink. It feels like a trope of so many rom coms where they share a montage together of their perfect future. So I thought what if that’s tangible and if it’s something that neither character wants.”
“When I came to Callum Styles (my producer) we really interrogated this idea and it spiralled into all these different things like the existential feelings young people have, struggles with connection, gamification of dating. All these ideas just blossomed once we dived into these characters.
How did directing and writing a web series (Ain’t it Fun) help you with this film?
“Taylor Ring came to me with this incredible idea and I was immediately on board. We were lucky enough to be greenlit and the moment we were greenlit, we bought like 30-40 other people on board. The most important lesson I learned was the value of collaboration and how important that is. The writers’ room filled with so many different ideas we weren’t even considering. It all created this great cohesion and collaboration. Being open to scrutiny allows you to get to the best possible point of your idea.”
During shooting, what was the biggest challenge to overcome?
“Practically, it was the stuff out of control. Whether that was actors or crew not being available or the weather, because we got rained out on the first day… All that stuff is really challenging, and you just got to suck it up and find a solution.”
“After that, it was how taxing it was mentally and emotionally. I hit my low point at least 5 times this year. I just realised I had to power through my inner critic regardless of if I’m satisfied.”
What is the biggest challenge of making an indie short film?
“The financing wasn’t the biggest challenge, but it was taxing on the wallet. It was a constant stream that was going into this. Location cost, outside equipment and catering…”
So far, what has been the most rewarding part of Schrodingers?
“It has been seeing these lines of dialogue and images in my head brought to life. The chills when everything is done and set up is really affecting. Especially when it’s something where people are like you can’t do this. Proving people wrong is one of my favourite feelings in the world. We have our VFX artist (Lachie Margetts) and he sent me some edits he did last night and it blew my mind. I am just so excited for people to see those moments and the talent behind this.”
Favourite writer, director, show and movie?
“I feel like the favourite movie question is death sentence to any film person. I will say that my favourite creative is Donald Glover. He is someone I look up to who is this renaissance man. Going off that, my favourite TV Show now is Atlanta. Season 3 was just ridiculous.
What films, directors and creatives inspired Schrodingers?
“Definitely La La Land. It is just such a comfort movie for me. Also, 500 Days of Summer. Those very classic rom coms with a twist. But the biggest inspiration came out after we finished writing – Everything Everywhere All at Once.
What is next for you?
“Honestly, I am just happy to go with the flow on a lot of things. I have got a bunch of things. I want to write again and do a music video soon.”
Where do you want to see the Brisbane film scene move in the next 5 years?
“I am hopeful because all the Griffith Grad slate films are so unique. If the Australian film scene is going to be as creative, risky and diverse as these 11 projects then we are going to be in good hands. For the Australian environment, just more risk. I feel like when I see an Australian film I always know it’s an Australian film. The people who are coming up now I think are going to break that mould and make it more about the stories and less about the environment.”
If a genie came to you with one film wish, what would it be?
“They would all be adaptations of things. I would love to see a good take on Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction. Also, there’s this one novel called State Highway One. I would love to see that made because it’s set in New Zealand as well. And just a Nightwing Movie…”
Make sure to follow Seth’s career as he moves into the film scene and especially Schrodinger’s at festivals near you.