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.
A little over a year ago, I went to the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival held in Winton. All the films were genuinely solid, but one really stood out – PAUSE. Written and directed by Jacquelyn Auger, the short film was incredible. It felt so real and authentic I almost forgot I was watching an indie film. Ever since then, I knew I wanted to do an interview with Jacquie and after finally calling her on zoom, I am glad I did. I learnt so much more about the challenges of women in the industry, what Jacquie has faced and a new perception on commercial success. Read on for more.
EXT. BRISBANE – ZOOM – Day
FRAZIER: So can you just kind of introduce yourself and your role in film?
JACQUIE: My name is JACQUELYNN AUGER. I am 22. I finished my degree in 2020. Since then, I have gone on to write and direct. I am now working as a video editor. But writing and directing is my passion.
FRAZIER: Now just moving into PAUSE. Just a rough log line for what it is and what’s it about?
JACQUIE: Rosie comes home from leaving a small town – Winton. She returns for her grandma’s funeral after being away for three years and ghosting her past lover – Jamie. It’s just a love story, plain and simple.
FRAZIER: So how long has this idea been bouncing around in your head for?
JACQUIE: The previous year I went out to Winton as part of the Alumni trip to Winton before the students went out. It started off as a comedy about Romeo and Juliet in the Outback with two opposing pubs. It just wasn’t going anywhere, no one was taking reigns on writing it. I just stemmed it off that because the comedy wasn’t really working.
JACQUIE: I just had a lot of inspiration from past relationships. My community, being a queer person, especially a female/female presenting peoples, we don’t really see ourselves represented properly. Our love stories are usually very sexualised for the male gaze or straight gaze.
FRAZIER: So when did pre-production actually start?
JACQUIE: We went out (to Winton) in September 2020 and we filmed two things, came back started writing it and then went back in June in 2021. So it was like 6 months of pre-production. It was meant to be that everyone who was on the previous film was meant to go onto the next thing, but no one really stuck around. I then brought Kate Boylan-Ascione on board who is an amazing producer. And then she believed in the idea and Ash Burgess also believed in it and it kind of kicked off.
FRAZIER: So how long did it take you to write from beginning to end?
JACQUIE: It took a lot of rewrites… Just because I wanted to make it as authentic as I could. There was a lot of stress about not letting it be a film that doesn’t represent my community properly. I just wanted young queer people to look at this film and think “this is what it is actually like.” A lot of it came from talking with my actresses. I wanted to cast queer actresses.
JACQUIE: When we finished wrapping PAUSE, I didn’t care about the product anymore. What it did for other people and the crew was incredible. I made it so that every person could say a suggestion, I just wanted everyone to walk away being like “there’s a piece of me in it.”
FRAZIER: So your goal was bigger than film festivals? More about the emotion behind the shooting and story?
JACQUIE: Yeah I just wanted to make my community proud and speak to people who haven’t been represented properly.
FRAZIER: When you are writing – cause some people find it challenging and some find it really easy – do you find yourself getting distracted or are you locked in from the beginning?
JACQUIE: When I have an idea, I can sit there for hours and flesh it out. Through Uni and High School, I have found writing scripts quite easy.
FRAZIER: So when you were making it, what was the most challenging part of making an indie short? Whether that be financing, organising, writing, etc.
JACQUIE: I think the hardest part was believing in myself. My last production before that was the Chocolate Bar. It didn’t exceed my expectation of myself. I went into a pretty shit self-loathing hole from that. I didn’t think I was cut out for writing it. Also, my goal of representing my community was a big “holy fuck.”
JACQUIE: I think the best part of the whole thing was choosing my crew. For the subject off what we were doing, I wanted to provide female identifying people to do it. Majority of our crew were female which is awesome. It’s just hard being a woman in film…
FRAZEIR: Do you want to go into that a bit more or just leave it?
JACQUIE: Me working in the industry, I just felt uncomfortable. There’s a lot of older crews that work on film sets. You kind of get caught between “should I say something to stand up for myself or am I going to ruin my chances of making it.” I feel like we are constantly in that battle being women on set. Surely, it’s getting better, but that’s why I have been discouraged to go down the industry path because I didn’t really have the best experience the first time around.
FRAZIER: Do you have any plans to go back to the industry later?
JACQUIE: If it leads me there then definitely. Since I have this job, it is nice having an income especially coming out of an arts degree. At Film school, they never really talk about commercial work as a success. When I was at film school – it could’ve changed – it just felt like there was only one way to get to success. I just don’t think it’s selling our or giving up doing this kind of work.
FRAZIER: That is so true looking back on it. I only did a year… but it was never about commercial work.
FRAZIER: I always ask this question, so it must be done. Who is your favourite director and what is your favourite show and movie?
JACQUIE: I don’t have a favourite director… My favourite sitcom is How I Met your mother and New Girl. My favourite movie is Rocky Horror Picture Show. Honourable mentions are Normal People…
FRAZIER: Yeah, I love normal people, just rewatched it again.
JACQUIE: Oh and Fleabag.
FRAZIER: Of course, of course.
FRAZIER: This one is hard, and I always give people a while to think about it, but where do you want to see the Brisbane film scene move in the next five years.
FRAZIER: Yep ahaha
JACQUIE: In Brisbane and Australia, I want to see more high production Australian stories to be told. I feel like there is a lot of overseas productions coming over and using our beautiful landscapes. We just need more Australian stories.
FRAZIER: Another hard one, but what is next for you?
JACQUIE: I got this editing job at the moment. I remember talking to Ash about how really good writers and directors are also really good editors. I definitely want to get back to writing and directing again. I want to create content. Maybe a music video.
FRAZIER: Just my last question, if someone came to you and they were like you can make your dream project to make or person to work with, what or who would it be?
JACQUIE: Oh my good… I think it would be the next sitcom. I would love love love to write the next big comedy sitcom.
FRAZIER: So like the next Australian sitcom?
JACQUIE: Yeah like Please Like Me. That’s one of my favourite TV shows.
If you have been to any film festival in Brisbane, you will have seen Sam Monaghan’s face. AISLE 4, Follow that Taxi, It’s Christmas, Heist, Copperpillar, A Werewolf in Byron Bay – these are some of the many short films and web series Sam as acted in. On top of this, he is in Cheeky Moon’s upcoming web series It’s a Cult, is one third of HIRED GOONS and has been in Thor Ragnorak and Aquaman. Please do yourself a favour and watch some of these shorts at the bottom of this article.
Recently, I had the pleasure to go over to Sam’s house and have a chat. We dived into his career, his goals, all about film and in particular, the Australian film scene. It was one of the best conversations about this chaotic industry I have ever had. What was so refreshing was that Sam didn’t bullshit me. Unlike a lot of people in this industry, he told me how challenging this life truly is. But ultimately, Sam’s passion for film was always there. While it may have dipped, the love always came back stronger than ever. Read on for more.
A Brief Introduction
FRAZIER: Can you just introduce who you are and your many roles.
SAM: I feel like I am introducing myself from Hitchikers Guide – resident of planet earth…
I consider myself first and foremost a creative person. I love to act, enjoy writing and have done a whole bunch of other roles so I can do those things (producing, directing).
FRAZIER: So you produce to act essentially?
SAM: There’s not a lot of opportunities to act in Brisbane so you got to make your own work. You get to have a lot of fun and write some stupid roles like Half man half caterpillar.
FRAZIER: What is hired goons – for people who don’t know?
SAM: Hired Goons is a film production company. It was started before I joined by Pearce Hoskinson and Tim Goodwin who are very amazing creatives themselves. They started it in 2017 and the goal was to do corporate work to fund creative work. I joined in 2018/2019 just when their growth hit so I will say it’s a correlation not a causation. We used all that money – much to my wife’s dismay – to make stupid comedy films.
FRAZIER: So, you had a career before film?
SAM: I left well-paying jobs to come do this. My wife didn’t marry into that when we were dating. I kind of just got fatter and more creative. But she’s highly supportive.
Sam’s Film Journey
SAM: I will kind of tell you the journey I have been on if you like?
FRAZIER: Yeah absolutely.
SAM: Back in 2014, my Mum had a big car accident. She was in a coma for about 4 months and in hospital for a year and a bit. I was doing this job I didn’t really care for. I thought “oh man, you could really die tomorrow.” Pretty cliché, but it was a wakeup call. I knew I wanted to do film and came in super bright eyed, and bushy tailed to the industry.
SAM: I was like 25 and all the other 25-year-olds were so jaded from auditioning for so long. I kept thinking “what are you guys upset about you get to do this!” Because of that, I had this energy at the start and was booking stuff. They were just sitting there waiting for the phone to ring and I was like “go make stuff.” I went through all that until I was jaded like them and burnt out…
SAM: Since then, I am now taking a long-term approach to my film and creative work. I have met some of the most creatively talented people who have been doing this work for 30-40 years and they are still striving. While it doesn’t sound inspirational or like any of the self-help books you read, the reality is that some of the most talented people never make a sustainable career out of their creativity. My goal is to have a fulfilling life while working on my creative outlets.
FRAZIER: Your comedic timing in your body of work is excellent and so noticeably good. But has it improved over time or were you always like that?
SAM: I haven’t done any formal training. I did one semester of film at university when I first went. I think I have always had a natural inclination for timing and comedy. I used it in my family when I was growing up to diffuse a lot of tension which made me good at it. Weaponised comedy has been my approach to life outside of film. I use it to disarm people, test people, charm people.
FRAZIER: Can you dive into the Follow that Taxi feature film?
SAM: So Follow that Taxi, Peirce wrote into a feature film. We were lined up to shoot that in March. We raised an exceptional amount of money. You think, it’s just two people talking in a taxi and I then I read it and it was probably one of the best screenplays I have ever read. It was full of heart, hilarious, good rhythm, we cast it and produced it. And then, covid…. We looked at rescheduling it but we never knew when it was ending.
FRAZIER: What separates a good director versus a shit one for you in terms of talking with actors?
SAM: I think the very first thing you should do as a director, particularly if you have written it, is let go of your ideas. As soon as you get there, you got to let it go and see what they bring. It could be so much better then what you were thinking. Never direct an actor before they have done a take as well. And always let me improvise. You can cut it out later but you just got to let me get it out of my system.
FRAZIER: On that note, what separates a big Hollywood set versus an indie film. Excluding the money and budget?
SAM: I think it’s the same with any big business, the bigger you get the more care you lose. When you are an indie, you can be very nimble and adaptive. I was an extra on Thor Ragnarök. It was a weird experience. We were there for 6-8 weeks everyday which is unheard of.
FRAZIER: 6-8 weeks as an extra!?!
SAM: We were reshooting these group scenes constantly. I just think there’s more opportunities when you have more resources but having two much resource can limit your creativity.
FRAZIER: When you are first reading a script, what do you look for?
SAM: I want to see that someone understands plot, makes sense, the characters have real motivations. It’s not just meandering for no reason. On the other side, if it’s a sketch it just needs to be fuckin funny man. It must make me laugh and think that’s funny.
SAM: I have written a short that I am going to direct and put together in the next few months. It is absurd. It’s one of my favourite scripts because of how dumb it is. It is such a waste of people’s time.
FRAZIER: Is that how you are going to get them in? “It’s a waste of your time”
SAM: Well… it’s about an oom-pah Loompa who gets diagnosed with diabetes. It’s just tragic and straight. There’s a lot of puns in the first scene but it’s just funny because it’s so sad. I even had a friend graciously make me an entire miniature oompah Loompa set out of paper Mache. She took a year and a half to do it..
FRAZIER: Holy fuck.
SAM: Yeah, it was a crazy amount of work, but it looks sick.
FRAZIER: So, it’s got to win an oscar now.
SAM: Yep… I am also in a couple of short films coming up. I just did It’s a Cult with Cheeky Moon.
FRAZIER: Oh yeah, I recently did an interview with them. Can you talk about working on that set with Alastair and Claire a little?
SAM: Alastair and Claire are two of the most incredible people I have ever met. That’s it, that’s all I have to say… Nah, it was such a delight because I came from being exhausted and burnt out from film work. It’s a Cult came, and it was so refreshing. It is just beautiful. It’s heartfelt and funny. I got to be a bit straighter and more serious.
FRAZIER: I was talking to Cheeky Moon about your comedy skills, and they were saying how incredible you were as a dramatic actor. Especially some really challenging scenes.
SAM: Well that’s what I found so exciting about it because I had been stuck in Comedy for so long. My character in this show had real feelings. I got to focus on the moment and being a part of something so moving.
FRAZIER: In terms of working with directors, who is your dream person to work with or project to get off the ground?
SAM: To start with, I would make the Follow that Taxi Feature film because that was such a blow and I need that closure. I would love to work with Ricky Gervais and Robin Williams I would die to work with. I would have to now as well. What is the right answer though?
FRAZIER: Fuck it’s a hard question aye.
SAM: Yeah told you ya prick.
FRAZIER: Probably Edgar Wright though…
SAM: Oh fuck yeah that’s definitely the right answer. Hot Fuzz is probably my favourite comedy as well.
FRAZIER: Or Martin McDonagh. He is my favourite writer.
SAM: Oh my god of course! Best writer for sure.
The Brisbane Film Scene
FRAZIER: This is always a challenging one, but where do you want to see the Brisbane film scene move. Even if you just change it or just progress it.
SAM: A long time ago, I was passionate about it. I always thought, I am going to change this place. Hired Goons goals was to showcase the talent here. Now that I am old and jaded, I don’t give a fuck about Brisbane.
FRAZIER: Hahahaha. See I am like you were before you were jaded.
SAM: You will get their kid, you are just a boy… But I would still love to see it grow and expand. If I ever do get traditionally successful, I will never forget Brisbane. I would love to come back and do indie projects.
Make sure to go check out Sam’s short films below. Whether he is acting, directing or producing, they are truly some of the most entertaining and hilarious productions I have ever seen.
Very few documentaries can really change how you view your life. Sure, you may watch them and think “that’s cool” but it’s near impossible to change someone’s perception on the world around them. Sam and Archie did just that. The Diamond of Sierra Leonne is not just an incredible student film but simply an amazing short film. Abib Kamara Smith’s life story made me so grateful for those around me and so driven to do more with my life. If you haven’t watched it yet, do yourself a favour and click the video below.
Sam Cotton Wong is a freelance photographer and videographer based in Brisbane. Sam specialises in cinematography and music videos. He was the director of this production. Archie Waterson is a writer and producer who is completely dedicated to comedy. He was the producer and writer for this short film.
What is the focus of this documentary?
“The documentary follows the story of Abib Kamara Smith who was originally born in Sierra Leonne. He came to Australia when he was 5 years old. He was adopted into this family called the smiths which had siblings of Archie, Gemma, Isaac, Bailey and Bass and his parents Willie and Anthony. And ultimately the documentary just follows his life from Africa and the struggles along the way.” – Sam
Why did you choose to produce this short film, Archie?
“Being a student, I was over doing stuff that wasn’t meaningful or purposeful to me. Taking on this bigger story gave me a lot more passion and I think that’s why it was important to take this story on. The minute Sam told me about Abib’s story, I was hooked. Just imagining seeing it on screen and telling it to the world.” – Archie
Why did you want to tell Abib’s story Sam?
“I have grown up with him. Knowing him and his story is completely different to everything I have heard and in Australia especially. Abib’s whole past, his upbringing and especially how he is now excelling in life. Also, the focus of don’t let your past define you was the universal idea and everyone can relate to this idea.” – Sam
Can you just talk us through the style and shooting of the short?
“When we met up with Abib, he just remembers having this old vintage TV in Africa. We tried to recreate that old TV vintage look as a memory of him watching it as a kid. Also, the floating photos seen were representing Abib’s memories in his head.” – Sam
“We wanted to put a lot of effort into the cinematography. We didn’t want to let it drag. The story was obviously going to carry itself, but it needed to look just as good as it felt. We shot on Super 8 for it. It had a nostalgic feel and, we just wanted to experiment.” – Archie
What were some core inspirations for this documentary?
“Definitely Colin in Black and White. Especially the projector shots, they were a big influence.” – Sam
“Also, another one was …. We were really inspired by the look and how poetic it was. Just the structure and how intriguing it was.” – Archie
Can you talk me through the name a little?
“When we were originally pitching the project Abib’s from Sierra Leonne and I just sought of put them together since I am a massive Kanye fan. When I was doing background research, I saw they were the biggest exporter of Blood Diamonds. The overall meaning though is that Abib is the diamond coming out of the ground. Also, giving the Kanye fans a little easter egg as well…” – Archie
Biggest challenge of making an indie documentary?
“We had this three-act structure obviously going in that we knew how we wanted to shape it. But, cutting it to a 5–6-minute documentary from a 36 minute was probably the hardest thing.” – Sam
“Abib had so many different stories you could tell in 6 minutes that it made it so difficult for our editor Cooper and Sam to keep it down. Just finding which leads were the strongest and what to go with.” – Archie
What was the most rewarding part of The Diamond of Sierra Leonne?
“Feeling the flame inside of all of us when we were making this thing because it was such a passion project. I felt the happiest I have been years working on this because I knew we were telling this massive story. Also, how good the crew was and how much we cared for Abib’s story. One more thing was the lessons I learnt from Abib as well. The perspective it gives you is second to none. It changed my life and how I look at thing’s day to day.” – Archie
“I remember leaving the interview and just going “Holy fuck.” I knew his story well but it was just so intense. You just look at life a bit different. Also, just watching it on the big screen altogether seeing what we created. We made something special and it’s the best thing I have done.” – Sam
What are your ultimate goals with this project?
“We have sent it to a few festivals, and we are looking to get accepted. Another plan was using it as a proof of concept to create a bigger documentary.” – Archie
“I would love to have a screening with friends and family.” – Sam
Where do you both want to see the Brisbane and Australian film scene move?
“For me, I want to see all of the creative people backing themselves more. Australia wise, I want to see more comedy. I want to one day see an Australian TV comedy show that doesn’t overuse Australian cliches. I want to see Australia being universally funny.” – Archie
“I think we need more up and coming people supporting each other. At the end of the day, that’s the future and we are all going to be working together one day.” – Sam
Dream project to get off the ground or collaboration?
“I would love to work on a proper Hollywood / Marvel set just to see how it runs. Just watching from preproduction to postproduction to see the flow of things and how they operate. Secondly, starting my own production company. Even if it’s just a photography studio with editing suites at the back. Just a place where we can meet and work together as a creative industry.” – Sam
“I would want to make a feature film. Also, just working with certain people. I would love to be in a writer’s room with Larry David. Even just a conversation with someone like Taika Waititi. I find him so inspiring as someone who comes from somewhere like Australia and keeps his exact same style.” – Archie
Anyone you want to shoutout?
“Shoutout Abib and his family. It’s not an easy thing to allow people with cameras into your home. Also, the rest of the crew on the doco. Our soundie Lachlan Womrwelll, editor Cooper Huzing and our director of photography Adam Potts.” – Archie
“Big ups to Archie as well. Just his work ethic and planning it all was crazy.” – Sam
All these incredible black and white photos were shot by Finn Negrello.
I truly believe comedy is the most challenging film category. Sure, horror and drama can be hard, but nothing is as complicated as making someone laugh. Whenever someone says they are comedy writers or producers, I have instant respect for them. Ben Rohan and Carmelo Keating are another pair who have jumped headfirst into this challenge. After speaking with them, I can see their passion for comedy and more specifically their love for their upcoming short film Otter and Fox.
Ben Rohan is the writer and director of Otter and Fox while Carmelo Keating is the producer. Both are currently working tirelessly on pick ups and reshoots.
What is Otter and Fox?
“Otter and Fox is a 15 minute short film about two robbers in the middle of the biggest heist in Brisbane’s history. They have robbed 9 luxury stores in a row and want to celebrate by robbing some snacks at a grocery store. At the store, they run into a kid named Zane and from their chaos ensues.” -Ben
Where did this idea first pop into your head?
“I typically get inspired by the name first… The idea was the name Otter and Fox and then the robbery part came after.” – Ben
Melo, why did you choose Otter and Fox to produce?
“I got to hear Otter and Fox right from the conceptual phase and its pitch. I just thought “that’s just Ben on a page, it’s brilliant and hilarious.” I actually also pitched my own idea and I slowly saw it got deleted on Teams. But straight away I knew I wanted to be on Otter and Fox. It was always a project I supported and always loved. – Carmelo
When you are casting Ben, what do you look for in actors?
“The main things we looked for were people who could take directions but were also really good at improv. Being a comedy, they had to be good off the cuff. When people did it differently or added their own twist it just made them standout.” – Ben
What have been the biggest challenges of making an indie comedy?
“The film takes place in a supermarket. We looked into independent supermarkets. All in all, I contacted 30 supermarkets across Brisbane and only one replied. They almost dipped out and we had to get them back on board.” – Melo
“One of the biggest challenges was probably getting the script right. Once you start writing, you see that people don’t get it or the plot holes start opening up. Rewriting jokes and trying to get jokes in is sooo tricky. You want it to be funny but you don’t want it to be cheesy.” – Ben
So far, what has been the most rewarding part of Otter and Fox?
“Hands down the actual filming process. Finally getting on set and working with everyone with such an awesome crew was amazing. There were tears but they were always good tears followed by laughter… I hope.” – Ben
“Getting the team photo after an exhausting week. Seeing our crew still smiling and being happy it pointed me back to that first night where I got attached to it.” – Melo
Ben’s Writing Process
“75% of the time my script writing process is not writing a script. I suck at sitting down and doing something. I have fun doing it but I just won’t. Just verbally vomiting as much as you can to keep the story going. Even if you don’t think something is going to work, just keep going with it, finish it and then edit it. The more you write the more you come up with” – Ben
Melo’s Producing Process
“I had to try and allow myself to take momentary breaks. If it’s just go go go you will burn out. Always prioritising your mental health first but if you are having a breather, it’s got to be a productive one. “ – Melo
What are your ultimate goals with this short film?
“I would love to do the festival circuit. But I just want to show as many people as possible. I am so proud of this project and I will be just pushing it into my family and friends faces. This is why I couldn’t hang out with you for the last 12 months. Also, I would LOVE to do a cinema screening. Just to see it on a big screen would be so fun.” – Ben
What are your dream projects to get off the ground or collaboration?
“I once pitched this project called the Death of Cinema. It’s about this 40 year old washed up cinema manager who has lost his love for the job he is in. His autistic nephew who he has been separated from him comes to start working for him. I wanted it to explore the meaningfulness of the cinema as being one of the only places where people can go and share the same experience no matter who you are.” – Melo
“My brain keeps going back to Survivor. I love the idea of watching it, making it, the twists, voting each other out, even the craziness of it. Being a producer on that or even reality TV in general. Starting my own reality show would be fun.” – Ben
Favourite movies and director?
“My favourite movie is Mr Bean’s Holiday. It’s up there with Over the Hedge and the Little Rascals. There’s just something so stupid about them and how nostalgic they really are. Taika Waititi – I love Hunt for the Wilder People and Boy. Also, Sam Raimi cause he directed Spiderman 3. Also, Edgar Wright.” – Ben
“I do adore Spielberg because he was at the forefront as one of the handful of directors who made sci-fi what it is and some of the best war films. But Adam Mckay is one of my favourite directors – Vice, Step Brothers, Anchorman. My favourite films are Star Wars, the Great Escape, Blackkklansman.” – Melo
Where do you both want to see the Brisbane Film scene move?
“I really like the Brisbane scene but since I am at the beginning of my journey, I want to see more beginner filmmakers getting into it. You honestly don’t need a budget to make a film and I think that’s something we need to push. I feel like the community is pretty small and I want to see it expand.” – Ben
“Breaking down the stigma of making a bad project. You have got to make a bad film so you can learn from it. I don’t think I made a bad film but I made an ambitious film. It was ultimately a learning experience. I would love to break down the stigma – don’t hide from your films or be embarrassed about it.” – Melo
Anything else you want to shoutout or promote?
“Keep an eye out for the names Carmelo Keating and Benjamin Rohan attached to it. Also, the Griffith Film School Chronicle, go check that out.” – Melo
“I want to shout out the actors Bridget Freem, Mark Hill. As a director, they have made it so fantastic, they are super funny and easy to work with. They make each other laugh and even the crew laugh. Also, the moment Chris fell over…” – Ben / Melo
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.
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?
“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.”
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?
“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?
“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 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.
I was lucky enough to interview Cheeky Moon’s own Claire Coe and Alastair Craig. The writing, filmmaking and sketch comedy act are based in Brisbane and have seen plenty of success already. They have been featured on Funny or Die, the ABC and film festivals all around the world. But perhaps at the centre of this is their upcoming movie length comedy series IT’S A CULT. As soon as I saw this announcement, I knew an interview with them would be perfect for 44 Clovers. We dove into their upcoming show, the struggles along the way and the teams writing process. Also, becoming viral in a nudist community…
What is IT’S A CULT?
“It’s an 8-part comedy web series with a healthy dose of drama. It begins as an anthology about 4 different vulnerable people – a former master chef contestant turned crook, a writer and a couple struggling with infertility. All these people converge on this self help pseudo-scientific organisation which is run by a literal puppet.” – Alastair
Where did this idea stem from?
“I have always been interested in cults (as a non-cult member). In particular, the stresses of running a cult like the office side of it. Alastair and I met and worked for 6 or 7 years now, and we really wanted to write a narrative together. We both loved PT Anderson and how he made Magnolia, splitting facets of his personality into the work.” – Claire
Biggest struggles and problems of creating a web series by yourself?
“Filming wise, it is getting a lot of busy people into the same space at the same time. I also had just had a new born baby…“– Alastair
“For writing, keeping track of structure, pacing reveals, and especially keeping the balance of drama and comedy was fun but definitely took a lot of time. Also, in production, we were shooting through covid, wearing masks, and socially distancing.” – Claire
What are your goals for releasing It’s a Cult!?
“Our plan is to put it on YouTube. We explored potentially pay walling, but we realised we just want as many people to see it as possible. We do hope to rent out a cinema and make a large scale event since it is feature length.” – Alastair
What shows, writers or directors were big inspirations going into this project?
“I consumed a lot of West Wing, especially the back end of it. I wanted this Sorkin rhythm to it. Also, Mad Men. Even though I am never in the mood to watch it, I always think, I have never seen a scene like that. It never feels cliché and the trajectory, dialogue and emotions always surprises me.” – Claire
“The main character we were writing had a kind of Fleabag energy to it. It feels like a cliché now but we constantly took that show to heart and compared our show to Fleabag. Phoebe Waller Bridge said that when the audience’s mouths are the widest with laughter cram down the drama. That’s something we definitely took to heart because there is a lot of drama in this series.” – Alastair
Why should audiences pay attention to this web series?
“We hope the strange energy of it is something that compels people. It is a genuinely surprising show. There are comedic episodes, dramatic episodes, experimental episodes. We really hope people are going to enjoy that unpredictability and that ride. And also PUPPETS.” – Alastair
“We also include a lot of our own personal struggles. It’s so worth while to explore our own anxiety and depressions. You just hope people connect to these ideas and feel a bit better.” – Claire
Cheeky Moon’s Writing Process
How many hours a day were writing during the peak period?
“I write everyday personally. And we write together 2-3 times a week.” – Claire
“It took a solid year to get from new parent to a functional writer again.” – Alastair
Do you challenge with keeping focused and how do you combat this?
“Writing together is definitely a huge tonic to this. If one of us isn’t feeling motivated, we can bring it to the other person, and they can find what works. I have been very lucky to have such a talented writing partner that I am accountable to. But if you find the right partner it offsets a lot of the problems of being a solitary writer.” – Alastair
“I’m not good with the internet…” – Claire
How did you know It’s a Cult was finished?
“I probably didn’t when we were writing. I was constantly and constantly revising. Writing was quite intuitive, we really wanted to consider each character as they all go through a lot of grief and heart ache. We just wanted to do right by each character.” – Claire
“We just kept polishing scripts up until we were filming. I do remember when we wrote the final scene, and we could finally put full perspective and context on the characters journeys. The sense of closure on nailing that scene was amazing.” – Alastair
Cheeky Moon went viral in a nudist community. Please explain?
“Actual nudist communities thought that what we did was an example of a healthy message. As a result, they shared it around nudist communities where it gained a following. We also entered into a clothing optional film festival in Texas where it won best nudist film despite being completely censored. It ended up just being a tagline we use for marketing now.” – Alastair
Advice for people wanting to write / perform comedy but are afraid of diving in?
“I think I am a poster child for shy and awkward person who thinks their funny who took the leap into comedy even though I was super anxious socially. But if you think you are funny and if you are at you’re day job and you are not doing it because you are making little videos or cant help but be funny you are probably onto something.” – Claire
“Consuming as much great comedy as possible from as many sources as possible. Armando Iannucci, Shaun Micallef, Mitchell and Webb are all people we keep referring back to for great energy. Just asking what they do and dissecting sketches on a technical level. It’s impossible to not to get something great from asking these questions.” – Alastair
Where do you think the future the future of film in Brisbane will be and where do you want to see it in 5 years?
“It would be great if it felt like a larger world. There are so many extraordinary people out there and it would nice if they made it to the film industry. Casting far and wide would also be a wonderful thing because there are just so many comedians laying low. I just want it to be bigger and as exciting and unpredictable as possible.” – Alastair
“Definitely more recognition. The crew were super talented and funny, and it would just be nice to see more attendance.” – Claire
Dream project you could work on or get off the ground?
“I have always wanted to reboot the Jurassic Park franchise…” – Claire
“The dream would be for Shaun Micallef to adopt us and put us into his writer’s room as his adult children. “ – Alastair
Any advice you have for filmmakers for getting stuff started and made?
“We live in this age where you can just make it yourself. We have had far less luck with funding bodies or grants or competitions then we have with just putting a little of our money into productions and putting it onto Youtube.” – Alastair
“Its very much a team project. If you meet someone whose taste you admire, just ask them. If they say yes in a committal way, follow it up.
Before I did this interview, I had already heard about Adult Store. It is one of those concepts that almost make you jealous at how clever it is. You can instantly see the potential with this film through one simple line – three friends visit an adult store. I knew I had to get an interview with the writer and director to uncover what the film is about, how the concept came to her and most importantly, her writing process.
Tahlia Miller is the writer and director for the Adult Store. She is a third-year student at Griffith Film School who primarily specialises in Cinematography and Directing. Tahlia is one of those people who has a very deep passion for filmmaking. Somehow, she seems to always be working – whether on set or on her own projects. In third year, Tahlia decided to pitch a grad slate (a short film made through Uni) and it was chosen. This is the story of how she wrote this short and the challenges along the way.
What is the rough plot summary for Adult Store?
“The Adult store is about three 18-year-olds – Sydney, Bowie, and Dominque. On Sydney’s 18th Birthday, they decide to kick on the night and visit an Adult Store. At the store, they discover more about their relationship with sex, their relationship with each other and their relationship with themselves.”
Where did this idea build / stem from?
“I enrolled in pre-production development (helps you develop your grad slate) and I hadn’t taken any writing courses before. Before the first class, the teacher said bring three ideas to the lesson. Now everyone else in the class had one very specific idea but I was suddenly left with none. It was last minute, and I just started writing what if questions. There was this one that was stuck in my head. It was based on my friends who recently moved next to an adult store. Then the question came – what if I went to an adult store and the worst possible things happened?”
What has been your inspiration for this project?
“Sex Education and Sex in the City were big inspirations.”
“I find it hard to pull from specific directors. I instead pull from different parts from a body of work. I had gone an seen ZOLA, an A24 film for the Brisbane Film Festival. It was beautiful to look at, with the harps and fantastical elements. That became a big inspiration, showing darker themes through the context of a colourful and fantastical adult store.”
“Also, theatre. I recently went to a show about a woman’s frustration about not being able to use a vibrator. It was amazing to see older people and younger people all laughing together. It showed me how comedy can tackle taboo subjects which was a big reinforcing moment for the Adult Store.”
Before I knew about the project, I saw you put a question on Instagram asking for people’s experiences with Adult Stores. How did that affect your writing?
“I didn’t know it was common for people to go in to an Adult Store. Personally, I was scared off them. Once I put it out there, I realised it was very 50/50. Some had and some hadn’t been to one before. And when I asked what scares you about them, for a lot of woman it was the hyper sexualisation of bodies and also the correlation between violence and sex. All of it was really interesting and I tried to fit it all into each character.”
How is Adult Store different from other indies and short films?
“It was very interesting because I wrote about something that has a lot of stigma attached to it. Everyone around me was tackling period pieces or comedies. There was all these beautiful themes going on but mine sat in this one about sexuality, a queer love story and also taboo subjects about sex.”
“What really makes it different is that I am not using the Adult Store as shock factor. It is its own character and Scarlett – who runs the store – is kind of one with the store. I am comparing it to funhouses, mirror mazes and even the overwhelming feeling of an arcade. The store is the backdrop to these relatable characters who aren’t just used for punch lines.”
Tahlia’s Writing Process
How many hours a day were you writing?
“I would have these erratic nights when assessment was due, and it would just pour out. The first draft was written in 3 days leading up to the assessment. It wasn’t because I left it on the back burner but instead because I was watching films, going to Adult Stores, and talking about it with my friends. These two weeks beforehand I had all these little experiences and without them I wouldn’t have been able to write this script.”
“How did it go writing your script without doing any writing courses or experience in it?
“The imposter syndrome was really hard honestly. I couldn’t compare to the people at Griffith Film School who had spent their time learning how to write. But the writing came from simply getting eyes on it, since I felt so insecure, I simply took everything from all my peers and teachers.”
How did you keep focus for those long stretches?
“I have always loved writing since high school. Focusing for long periods always gets easier for me with the time pressure. I limited the distractions by writing really late when no one is awake to hang out with or chat to. That is genuinely when I feel most creative and reflective. Those quiet spaces are definitely the most creative for me.”
“I am not big on pushing through writer’s block. If its not coming out, its not coming out. I would be so stuck on this thing then I would take a walk and the ideas would come. If you’re not in a creative problem-solving mindset you just get anxious and create doubt. Also, little dance breaks.”
A key thing writers talk about is making your work truthful and putting yourself into the work. How did you do that with the Adult Store?
“I was putting my own experiences into the script. However, the problem came when it was in my head not on the page. My own experiences were not big enough for the screen. It got so bad that with friends I started analysing how they talk. When I was drunk in the valley, I would always be thinking how would I direct this scene, and how I stood.”
“Once I found myself in each of the three characters, whenever I got stuck, I would bring it back to reality and my experiences. When you’re at a crossroads, you can either follow the tropes or what feels right for me. From then on I just started to follow this path instead.”
Why Filmmaking as a passion and carer?
“I had always known I wanted to go into the arts. I loved drawing and painting ever since I was little. I went to QACI where everyone was creative. I did film as a subject and in class we watched films. I knew then that this was it. All these points converged, and it just made sense. I could pull from art, music, and everything I already loved.”
“My Mum is also a food stylist. She went from editorial to TV Commercials and got into Food styling for feature films. I started as her assistant when I was in Year 11. I was like this is work but I loved it. It wasn’t even work and I chased that feeling of finding the fun in it and the passion.”
What are you most afraid of and nervous for with your film?
“For me, that was Dom’s fantasy. In this scene, she tries on this latex cat suit and went into this porn fantasy. There was this mystery man where they kiss, roll over etc etc. I struggled so much with this scene. A big thing for me was learning about intimacy training for the Adult Store. It’s like a choreographer for intimate scenes so no one walks away offended or triggered. I was at a crossroads where it could be sexual assault or just teenagers being awkward. I wasn’t ready for the darker direction, so I chose the easier path and told the actors to not touch or kiss. So moving forward I re wrote it so it serves the story and is not to challenging for me as a director and the cast.
If you could choose your dream project next year, what would it be?
“I am obsessed with Shannon Murphy and her work. I studied how she mad it in the industry. She nailed her directorial debut because she perfected directing TV. So down the line directing a TV show and sharing it with a bunch of creators.”
Why should people see this film and fund it?
“The big why for me was how cathartic it has been seeing the topics on screen and for my friends as well. Showing people that its okay to talk about these topics and that’s it not weird to think about it. I also had a lot of teachers say 18-year-old wouldn’t be scared of a sex store. For me, I really wanted to show an audience what it feels like t be 18 and scared of things and yet pretending to not be scared of them.
“For the Go Fund me, it comes back to the beautiful community at Griffith Film School. We know it takes money to make a film and I think it’s really lovely to fund something that you can experience, share and create waves within your community.”
One of the most fascinating things Tahlia said was that she had never taken any writing courses and still decided to write this script. Most people always feel the need to take lessons, watch courses or spend years “learning how to write.” While these help, they are never going to make your script amazing. It just takes diving in and learning as you go, exactly like Tahlia did. Also, her bravery to write about something so challenging and taboo is very inspiring to me. Make sure you follow this film because it will definitely be picking up awards next festival season.