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Interview

A Conversation with Sam Monaghan

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.

The Hired Goons team

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.

Sam Monaghan and Gabriel Stolz in It’s Christmas

The Process

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.

What’s next?

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..

Sam Monaghan on A Werewolf in Australia

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?

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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.