Perth-based filmmaker David Vincent-Smith knows what kind of filmmaker he wants to be. He knows the path that he needs to take to strengthen his filmmaking skills. And most importantly, he knows how to tell a story.
His new short film, Good Night, is screening at Flickerfest around Australia, and tells the story of a sound engineer (Clarence Ryan) who accepts a late-night recording job from a desperate woman (Caroline Brazier). Instead of spending the night with his family, he becomes affected by the recording the woman wants to make. It’s a powerful, immersive eight-minute short film that comes from a place of respect and admiration for parents.
David’s point of view about filmmaking is complete, and in this deep dive discussion, he talks about what set him on his storytelling journey. It’s clear that telling stories is a personal endeavour for David, and as such, the connection with his empathetic side helps bring forward the beauty of compassion in Good Night.
Over the below interview, David explores what it means to be part of the Perth filmmaking community, what the Australian film school is, the difference between short films and features, and more.
I didn’t want to become a filmmaker initially, because I didn’t think it was a job you could get. I mean, I watched movies because I like stories, and then the credits will come up. I had never travelled internationally, and all these people’s names – it just seemed like this thing in Hollywood – they were making movies, and it seems so foreign, the idea that you could possibly have a job doing that. So when I was younger, I was mostly reading books. And I wanted to be a writer and was writing stories and was encouraged by teachers. I spent most of my time reading novels, and my game was to become an author. I wrote a novel when I was eighteen and, it’s terrible – an examination into my own mental health and probably more a journal than anything. But that was a very important stepping stone in realising I could start and complete a large thing, which is the difficulty in writing feature scripts.
When I was a teenager, I started watching probably more obscure films, just looking for stuff that was more interesting and challenging, which is probably reflective of the kind of books I was starting to read. And then I went to university to study stuff to get some kind of job to provide to become an author. I couldn’t stay in that class and I consecutively failed units and was a terrible student because I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And then I literally just enrolled in some random film course at TAFE to pass the time while I went and studied psychology, and then I was failing that, because I was a terrible student, and I wasn’t really rocking up. And then I had an amazing lecturer and he was like, “I think you have something to say, I think you’re not doing the right thing.” And he rented out a camera under his name, gave it to me and he said, “If you go and make a short film with this, I’ll think about letting you pass this semester.”
And then by being given the power and by editing myself and being able to make all those choices in the edit suite. And right then that just lit the fire and my brain went, “Oh my God, wait a minute. Filmmaking is storytelling in a visual medium.” Suddenly the translation just happened, “It’s not that I want to be an author, I want to be a storyteller.” And at that same moment, I’d actually been doing a lot of storytelling, writing and performing music. I represented WA nationally and internationally as a poet in competition. So I’d actually been doing all this storytelling. And then I was just in.
I put this huge amount of pressure on myself and I was like, “You’re so behind. Everyone’s been doing all this stuff with filmmaking.” I mean, I was only nineteen or twenty. But I felt like I was a million miles behind. And even now, to this day, I still run my own film school every night. I have books and I study and I have to do this research, and I run this program to try and just build this education.
I never really thought of being a filmmaker because I’d never really imagined I could. I think probably now in this day and age, it’s easier for kids to dream of being filmmakers, because obviously the technology is there. I didn’t have smartphones when I was a teenager. And you can see Australian filmmakers and TV shows, it just seems more like a realistic thing as opposed to people [who go] “Oh, are you going to study film? What the hell are you going to do with that degree?”
I think that was the same kind of thing that I felt when I was going to uni. My intention was to do something in film and I quickly realised that – granted I was in the same class that Aaron McCann was. So when you’re in the same kind of class as Aaron, and you’re like, “This guy knows what he’s doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. I can write about it much better.” And so you find your path. And when it clicks, it clicks, and it feels so good when it clicks. What was it like for you when you had that kind of light bulb moment?
It was great, because then I burned every bridge I had, and went so aggressively down that pathway. I started to get incredibly honest with myself, because I was like, “Right, I’m a bartender in Northbridge. And I want to be a film director with films in Cannes.” I’m a pretty realistic person, “Okay, so what I actually need to do is map the pathway from how you go from there, to there. Right. What is my education? TAFE in Western Australia.” I don’t have an issue with TAFE. I think it’s really good. But do I have the edge to be competitive on a world stage?
I always compare filmmaking [to] the Olympics, like it’s not even good enough to get into the Olympic team. It’s not even good enough to get into the final. If you don’t place in the medal, your film’s probably not even going to get a release or going to profit. So, I started going, “Okay, I need to train like an athlete. And I need to get to that level.”
I went on Google after a few years asked, “Who is the best directing tutor in the world?” I fully did that. Found Judith Weston, and you know, everyone was like, “Judith Weston’s the best.” Every director, whether it’s Taika [Waititi] or Ava DuVernay or Steve McQueen and all these people. I found their website, emailed and said, “How do I study?” Her husband got back and said, “We’re running this course.” And I just saved all my bar money, went to LA, and there were nine students in my class.
Three had won best commercial at Cannes, the other was the editor for Universal Studios and cut all Will Ferrell’s films, and the other was the DOP from Parks and Recs, and I was like from TAFE and I was like “Holy shit, this is where I need to be.” I went back to Perth with a lot more confidence. She really demystified the directing process.
I think a lot of people kind of treat directing like it’s black Magic art. You go into a room and write. It’s like no, no, no. There is a series of things that you can actually do to help actors create a good job. And there are a series of things you can do to prepare for a movie. And I think a lot of people don’t often know what I’m teaching. They don’t actually know what that is, and what is a bible that you’re building that’s going to help you articulate your own voice and what’s unique about this film as opposed to just where the camera is going to go. Well, why is the camera going to go there? How does it support theme, character, and all that sort of stuff?
The moment that I made that decision to take it seriously, I’ve never looked back. There are definitely times where… I watch all my friends buy their houses and get married and have kids. I’m not twenty anymore. I’m closer to forty than twenty. But I know that in my heart, I’m so happy. And I don’t regret that and I feel so good about what I’m doing. And I’ve always landed on my feet somehow magically. When you care and you put in the hours and you actually take it seriously, it just happens. Cutting all those short films that no one’s ever seen – there are so many things I’ve made that people have never seen. I’ve got four hundred private videos of all kinds of things I’ve shot.
But that launched me into getting editing work. I did assembly editing on Rams. I got to see all the rushes coming and cutting scenes for that film, and all those things were just random. The well pays you back in a way.
And Perth is its own safety net. The film scene here in Perth is really supportive.
What does it mean to be a Perth filmmaker? What does it mean to be part of that kind of community?
Perth filmmaking is amazing. Everyone champions everyone, because you’re all on the same team which is Perth filmmaking. It’s like being in the same sports team. I remember thinking about when someone said to me “What’s going to happen if you lose West Coast?” Because I was up against literally my one of my really good friends Zoe who I had been sharing an office with, and we had been writing our films together that were about to go into competition. And yeah, sure, it would have been a little bit disappointing and disheartening.
But at the same time, she would have probably hired my DOP and half my friends so they would have jobs. So you can’t really be that disappointed that okay yes, my friend got to make their first feature film and hired all my friends. That’s a good thing, you know? You want them to do well.
So being a filmmaker in Perth, you definitely feel super, super supported. And I’ve never really felt like there’s been a barrier to me speaking to people. I’ve always been able to communicate with people and always felt like they actually have wanted to listen and have wanted to help me. And I think it’s very different to some of my experiences in America where I was at a pitching round table.
We had these producers who were really successful producers – like they’d had about five films at Sundance – and there were six or seven writer-directors around the table. Everyone had like half an hour to just do their thing. And I was like “Oh, how’s it going?” being really nice and polite, and I was waiting for my turn to speak. I’m like “I’m never going to speak, these people just dominate.” And then I realised that one of these people had a link to an Australian film, and they had actually been an EP on Buoyancy.
This is the value of doing your research.
And I said, “I saw you were on Buoyancy.” And the guy was like “Oh yeah.’ And these two directors from LA were trying to pitch female-driven horror and was like “Have you seen The Babadook? You’ve all got to see Babadook.” And I said, “Oh yeah, the producer of The Babadook is on top of our film as our mentor.” You’d never seen so many people on the table go “Oh, right.”
And I’m like, “You know, now that I have something to offer you…”, whereas I just wanted to chat to you because we’re all filmmakers. And I think that is that real intent to sell and intent to be somebody. You don’t really get that in Perth as much. That’s what I like about it. I’m just happy to chat to people about film. Because I like film and you like film and that’s kind of all it needs to be.
What are you watching when you’re doing your own film classes for yourself? What are you progressing through? Do you sit down and go, “I’ve got to go through the Varda Criterion set this week, so I can learn her style”, that kind of thing?
It’s really awesome. What I’ve got is I have textbooks that I read. At the moment I’m trying to rework and educate myself back through semiotics and meaning and signs and signifiers. Because as directors, everything is a choice, and all the things that we can pack meaning into a frame. So I’m reworking my way through all the theories and all the sort of philosophers. And at the moment, it’s all going back to early Eisenstein stuff and Russian montage, and the debate between Russian film schools of theory and American film school theory. It sounds kind of weird and abstract, and does it have a purpose? Well, yes, it does.
You then start to think about the choices that you’re making. So usually I’ll pick a subject or an a concept like ellipsis, for example, which I really love in cinema. And so then I’ll go through films that use that really well, like A Man Escaped or Cold War, and all these films that really are confident and make really bold strong cuts, and it’s like, you catch up. You do. I’ll deep dive and then I’ll consider what are the opportunities that my film maybe presents to have that? Or what are the movies where action doesn’t occur on a frame? I usually try and deep dive on different ideas. And then as I’m doing it, what I’m trying to do is kind of roar up my brain and keep it really kind of open to the muse to come and go, “I think this is a good choice for your film.”
I’ll give you an example with my feature. One of the things I was really interested in was point of view. With point of view, I was really clear, and it’s been hard, but I feel like it’s going to be worth it. I want this film to always be from the point of view of my character and what does point of view mean? Is it just what the person can see? Is it what they can see inside their mind? I’m seeing you here, but then inside my head, I might have a random flash of a frame and it’s showing actually what point of view looks like.
I went through this whole thing. I’ve got a few wild – what you might think is a normal Australian kind of dark drama has scenes that like, why is the traffic light now a strobe light, and she’s seeing visions of herself dancing on – you know, what I mean? That to me is actually how you experience life. So walking that line of view, and so those scenes wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t done that deep dive on what does point of view in a film mean?
I look at different things and then I write my own essays. What happens when a film doesn’t have a soundtrack? What does that do to a scene, you know? And so all those kinds of things keep my brain away from the idea – I think this is the danger that directors make – is they decide what the movie is, and it’s cut before they’ve shot a frame. Close their eyes. What you want to do is you want to be so open that when you arrive on set, you’ve got all this preparation, all this plans, everything’s done. And then in 3d, in real life, you’re like “Oh my god, look over here. The sun just happens to be doing this one moment. Let’s go do that.” Steve McQueen refers to that as catching butterflies. You’re walking around with a net, you’re waiting for those moments. And for me, if I could just get three or four of those in a film, I’ll be really happy. And that to me is the real greatest thing about being on set is you’re there and you have all this material. You’re so present, you’re almost inside the scene. And that’s the thing that I love about that. I guess doing all that research is about giving my ability to see deeper into the moment of the opportunities that exist rather than maybe making the obvious choice, which I think is what I’m trying to always avoid.
You’re talking about European film school, you’re talking about American film school, what does the Australian film school mean to you?
Australian film school is like there’s a world and a land that is kind of this untamed beast that people kind of live in. I think lots of Australian films are about wrestling with who you are, your identity within this sort of continent, and the continent is such a kind of very vast world of ocean, beaches versus rural remote versus desert. And so for me, they’re all kind of the ingredients to like strip back and get to what it means to be a human or who you are, and its place in the world.
When you watch these great Australian films, often – whether it’s a Mad Max, whether you go all the way to the presence of Cargo and The Rover – they always seem to be this opportunity to dig into the person and who we are as people, what we believe, and why we do what we do. Tracks is a really good example of that. “I’m just going to walk across the desert,” but then it becomes such a human – I mean, that’s one of my favorite Australian films I’ve seen.
It’s great, isn’t it?
You know, Samson and Delilah is such a small crew, singular voice of a person. I went to the premiere of that in Perth and I was just like, “This is so – this is like unbelievable.” So you know, it’s different. And that’s what I like about Australian cinema – it’s a combat between our place in the world and the land and the history of Australia. You know, and how do you find a puzzle of ninety minutes or 120 minutes that does that? And that’s the real frame that you have to sort of make that portrait of Australia.
I love that you mentioned identity, because that is kind of the main thing [in] watching Good Night that sticks out to me – the identity of being a parent. What does it mean to be a parent? How do you manage that very heavy thing, that very monumental title of being a parent? How does that play out in your life, and we see it in this dual way which is so – I was really impressed by this. I found it quite moving, but also very uplifting as well in some capacity. What did the identity of being a parent mean to you?
It’s huge. I don’t know how much know about my backstory, but I have fifteen siblings, foster siblings. The transformational power of love is the kind of biggest thing in my storytelling. How hard can something get but how [powerfully] can a single act of kindness change someone’s life? I watched my mom take kids – and I’m talking about the some of the most traumatised children this state has. When one of my brothers came to live with me, he was mute and he’s got his mental disability and all these problems. As a kid, I was like, “I can’t even see how this guy’s gonna go to school, let alone have a job or anything.”
He graduated high school. He’s got a job now. He’s the one of most inspiring people in my whole life, you know. My oldest sister who’s actually just come back from Melbourne, thank God – you know, she’s from Jamaica. And that obviously had quite an interesting impact upon myself, which is why I have such a weird hip hop kind of American cultural influence in my life. Growing up, in my sister’s bedroom rapping Wu Tang when you’re ten is probably not the conventional Western white lifestyle.
Being a parent, to me, is the opportunity to set up someone for life and shape them. I watched kids who had never had a birthday, never believed in Santa Claus because Santa never came, you know? They all lined up at birthdays, “I want a turn blowing out the candle, I want a turn blowing out the candle.” Everyone’s lined up in the house to have a turn because they never had that. I’ve got twelve sisters. Watching them flourish, knowing as kids that – and some of them were teenagers – really thinking like, “Fuck, life – this is not going to work out for me” – having that attitude and watching that change, that to me is actually what parenting is.
People can make kids, it’s just biology. But it’s actually the ability to raise someone and help them navigate life. It’s very important, which is why I think so many of my films and short films actually have parental themes. Before we had this Zoom, I spent two hours with my script editor working on a sci-fi script which is about a man looking for her daughter who ends up inheriting a surrogate daughter, and she transforms her trauma. That’s the whole plot, and that’s a parenting plot. It’s an incredibly powerful thing. And also parents – they’re interesting people. You think they have all the answers, and then you get older and you’re like, “They’re just winging it as well.” You know? I think that’s one of the big revelations everyone has in life. Parents don’t necessarily know they’re doing, and they’re only doing what their parents taught them.
I think that’s the thing which I find is really fascinating as well is that we all have those moments in our lives where we suddenly realise that parents don’t have their shit together or they don’t know everything. For some people, that comes early. For some people, it comes later. And I think that what I like about Good Night is that the guy here is very much like – he is going through those realisations. And whether that’s a pointed thing or not, I get that feeling that at the end of that night, things are starting to come into place and he understands, “This is what I need to do as a parent.”
“This is what I need to do as being the best person for my kid.” I thought it was really wonderful and powerful. For this, do you start off with the idea that it’s going to be a short film? Or did you start off with a larger idea and then cut it down?
This idea I’ve had so long. Actually, I’ll tell you the origin of it. Years and years ago, my brother was in Year One, I would have been probably in Year Seven. Someone in his class had a brain tumour and died. She would have been like five or six. I remember my mum telling me at the funeral she read this good night bedtime story that they’d created that they’d always read when the coffin disappeared. That story just killed me. I was like twelve when I heard that. That’s always stood in my mind as such a powerful moment of humanity and this distilled love.
Years and years pass, and I’m making short films and many things, and then about four or five years ago, I thought, “I could just make this film where this thing happens in a recording studio.” And I had this idea, because it’s such a simple concept, you know. By then I had made enough short films – ones that had worked, ones that hadn’t worked – to kind of understand what I think a good festival short film is and a simple, clean, pitchable, articulate concept. Every time I said to someone, “I got an idea” – Oh that’s good.” They got it, you know?
I was like, “That’s great, I should make this thing. I’m not gonna make this thing, I don’t have time.” I need to get out of short film jail and try and get into the feature world. And I just never made it. And then it never made sense to make it. And then COVID happened and I hate not filmmaking. I think when you’re a director, it’s really easy to just be in development and actually not directing. And I’m really fortunate that I get to do lots of different directing things. It keeps the muscles really prepared.
But COVID – you couldn’t do anything. And then I was like, “I just need to get some actors in a room and do some directing, even if just with a mobile phone.” Because I was looking for ‘what is the most simple idea that I could execute that won’t be exploitative of people’s time and it’s not going to cost a fortune?’. It’s actually not a priority in my life right now to be making a short film, but I just want to practise directing.
And so I literally just opened up this thing (taps on table like a keyboard), “We’re making this short film.” We were going to make it for a competition, I think, for the Rode Mic competition or whatever. And it was gonna be a three-minute film. And then when we got in the edit, I was like, “Oh actually, let’s not do that. Let’s make it into more of an exercise and actually make it into a better short film.”
So, a concept that I had in my mind that as I continued to go to more and more film festivals, I was like, “This feels like a good short film idea.” It’s not a feature film. It’s just a good, small pitchable thing. People always liked it when I said it. And then I just got hungry to do filmmaking. And then I was like, “Who are some of my friends that I’ve always wanted to make things with but just never been able to do it?” And I was like, oh Kate [Separovich], I’ve always wanted to make a film with her. We’ve always done stuff. We’ve developed features, but we’ve just never had the time.” And I was like, “Let’s just do it.” And we just did it.
Great. She’s a really good friend of mine. Me, her, and Emma Fletcher the production designer – we have like our own little chat on Messenger and we’re always championing each other most days. “What are you doing today?” “That’s crazy.” Sharing our accomplishments. Emma and Kate were people that I didn’t know that well, initially. I’d worked on a production with Kate many years ago, but they just became friends and they always seems like more established than me, especially Emma. But now they’re just very close people to me.
Working with Kate was great because I really respect her work and her capacity as a producer, and she really respects me. “I trust what you’re doing, I know you’re busy. It’ll be what it will be. And we’ll all just have fun.” And the main emphasis was just like, “Let’s not kill ourselves”, because a short film can grow into a huge epic scale production, depending on what you’re doing. I said, “Let’s just make it simple, have fun. People need to come and go literally on the day. As long as we have enough people to make it work, like let’s do that.” And she got it. We just have fun. That to me is also important, because sometimes people forget that. Filmmaking should be enjoyable, it shouldn’t just be this process of whipping yourself to move forward. So yeah, I love working with Kate.
People expect to see some blood and sweat and tears on screen. And it’s like, no, it doesn’t need to be that hard.
There’s enough. Every morning when I wake up writing scripts, like there’s enough there. The less I can avoid onset, the better. That’s why I write such simple stuff in single locations, because I just want to spend the time filmmaking and not worrying about problem-solving. When I’m filmmaking, I don’t even like to remind myself I’m on a film set. I try to have as minimal gear as possible in front of my face, I try to be as close to the action. I don’t even like saying “Action cut.” Everything is fake. And so the more simple and distilled down, the better we can just be in a moment with some characters and the more opportunity we have to explore.
You’re talking about short film jail. What does that mean? You make a short film, you put all this effort into it, it goes off to a festival, and then it kind of disappears, and it becomes an entry on IMDb and people go “Where do I watch this? How do I find it?” What does that mean as a filmmaker?
I guess short film jail is like… – it’s not even my term, it’s Zoe [Pepper]’s term. As soon as she said it, I was like, “That’s the best thing I’ve ever heard.” Obviously, you start making short films when you’re in film school, which is good. You’re learning drama. And then I guess it’s the process of how many short films and how long are you making short films until you make your first feature.
It’s a weird concept, because for different people, someone might make a grad film that wins some award and then boom, you’re on making a feature. And someone else might make ten short films that do nothing at festivals, and don’t even play at festivals. And then they get a feature because they wrote a really good script. It becomes a battle because it’s hard to make a short film. It’s actually a lot of work. And you don’t want to be continually trying to lay on people and borrow and ask for favours and things.
For me, I really enjoy short filmmaking because I feel less like I’m in short filmmaking jail in the sense of it’s always an opportunity to learn. I think it’s about the perspective that you go into short filmmaking with. If it’s just “I’ve got to make a film, and this is finally going to be the one that gets into the festival that finally launches my career,” I think that’s probably not the best career strategy. At one point, a ten-minute film will unlock my career. Yes, and also maybe a really good screenplay will unlock your career. Or any other things – meeting someone on the bus is one model.
I think probably the way to get out of short film jail is, in a way, to also not treat short film jail like short film jail. I treat it like going to the gym. I’m a director, I don’t want to get on set on my first feature film and suddenly be learning all these incredibly basic things that I probably could have learned if I just made a couple more short films. I’m going to learn a hell of a lot. But at the same time, I guess here’s the part of short film jail – a feature is a different beast. I need that challenge and that lesson and I need the humbling of trying to do the feature filmmaking to start that part of the feature film jail or whatever it is in terms of that learning process. So I feel like I’ve arrived at that point where the challenge that I’m looking for in my career is in long form now.
For me, I love short films. I think that they don’t get the respect that they deserve. And there is something that is kind of changing in the short film world at the moment where, as you’re saying, they’re almost like this testing ground where people can establish their career and create a calling card and make features and then that’s it. They never turned back to shorts ever again.
But then I look at like Yorgos Lanthimos (Nimic), I look at Jonathan Glazer (The Fall), I look at Nash Edgerton (Shark), Pedro Almodovar (The Human Voice), all of these feature filmmakers who have established feature film careers, and then over the past few years, they’ve turned back to doing short films. Nash Edgerton, in particular, has done his series of three animal short films which are just great, and they’re done in between the features that he’s done. Do you see that there could be that kind of relationship where short term to features are fluid?
I think there’s two things. One is, sometimes a story is a short film. The Nash Edgerton films are a perfect example. Not as a feature, but they’re a great example of what is the container that a short film story can hold? In terms of depth, you want the story to be incredibly simple so the characters and the themes can be deeper. You don’t want to try and compress a feature film into a short. So sometimes you might have an idea and you’re like, “This is a hella good short,” and you might just be driven.
For me, I need to go through the process of wrestling with the thematics of this story as much as not just to make the film, but just for me to make sense of whatever it is the film’s about, because it’s a part of my understanding of the world. I think the bigger thing that probably is the roadblock to it is the market of the effort versus reward. It’s time-consuming, it costs you money more than you’ll gain. And after a while, I can see it being people being like, “Well, I could go and do this thing. But what is the positives of it versus the negative?”
So maybe there’s more positives now that you’ve got YouTube and other places where people are subscribed to short film channels. But I think the market outside film festivals maybe a few years ago probably limited the value of actually making short films beyond trying to use it to help your career. But now that I guess there’s a diverse way of getting that stuff out to an audience – like I saw that Park Chan-wook iPhone film the other day.
How would people have watched that twenty years ago if he made that short film? I don’t think anyone would be maybe watching except at a random festival, but now I’m sure millions of people will probably watch that on YouTube. That’s probably changed and given this whole new life to short filmmaking.
Also people are busy and the ability to consume something that is actually fit for that size I think is okay. Short film is well within its right its own art form. And it is its own art form because it isn’t actually a feature film. And I think the danger of both is sometimes people try to make a feature film a short. And some people try and make a short a feature, there’s not enough story to translate to a feature. With Good Night, it’s eight minutes long. That’s how it felt it needed to be. People can dwell and think about what that means in thematics after it rolls, and I don’t need to then expand upon the characters and the universe for that to happen, if that makes sense.
It does. I look at a film like Good Night and the emotional resonance of that will stick around much in the same way that something like An Elephant Sitting Still will, and that’s four hours long, and the emotional resonance of that carries because of the power of the film. They’re both powerful in different ways because they both contain their own kind of energy, their own themes in the way that they’re supposed to, which really helps quite a lot. I always look at Twin Peaks (Season Three) and how that was considered one of the best films of the year. If that can be considered a film, then why aren’t we talking about short films in the same capacity? Why aren’t we putting them as being like some of the best films of the year? Because again, they are some of the best films of the year that are out there. And I’m just grateful that they’re opening up the ability for audiences to be able to watch them, as you’re saying, on YouTube on social media and things like that. The accessibility is changing for them.
Well, look at Flickerfest and WA MadeFilm Festival. They’re always sold out.
It’s great, isn’t it?
Flickerfest is so popular. And when I go to Flickerfest, it’s not like going to a traditional film festival where it’s like, “Oh, there are all the filmmakers I know.” Most of people I don’t even know, they’re general punters because they know that they’re going to get these ten different bite-size slices of life, and it’s got that reputation. If you want evidence for the value of short films at a good short film program, it’s a really good experience. What a short film program offers you that I guess a feature can’t unless a feature was compressed of short films is a journey around the world into different emotional experiences. That’s unique, you know, that’s actually very unique. And that’s probably the power of a short film program.
Where do you see the future of Australian film going? I’m excited by filmmakers like you who are out there who are really investing in the art of filmmaking, in the art of storytelling, and wanting to tell great Australian stories and do it from a place of community. I’m excited to see what you create going forward. The future is bright. And yet, turning to the mainstream media, and they’ll often go, “Ah, you know, the future of Australian cinema is bleak. Nobody’s going to watch Australian films.”
My phone call to my producer this morning (was) about a market for us. Where is it going to go? I like the debate of art versus economics and all those sorts of things. And I think one exciting thing is that we are entering a world of niche platforms. And so, depending upon the kind of Australian film you make, you might not be held hostage to a certain pathway and a certain place to get your film to an audience.
I think the world is opening up and the people we’ve been speaking to about my film – you know, we’ve been talking to people in Europe and all these kind of people who make these kind of interesting films. The expectation I had of where these films could go and what they could do is quite… I was quite surprised at all the different places that exist in the world and how the market is evolving. And I think it’s just about, as a filmmaker, being responsible and understanding the kind of films you’re making, and obviously not asking… I’m not going to go to Screen Australia and say, “Give me $20 million.” They’re not going to give anyone that to make a Tarkovsky like film.
It’s about recognising what you’re doing. Does the market want it? But also understanding that the market is really exciting now. And what that means is that Australia is going to be able to produce way more diverse films. I mean, we’ve already started that process far better in the last few years. But I think what you’re going to see is there will be an encouragement from the market to keep doing that, because they’re going to start finding more and more homes for these movies.
As an Australian filmmaker, I think the ability to really back what you want to be doing and believing what you want to be doing, you’ll find a method and you’ll find at home in a world of the internet and the world of niche platforms. It’s just a game changer, really. It’s exciting because… you can talk about short filmmaking. There are people you just watch and you’re like, “If I had a million, if I had lots of money, I would love to just give this person the money to make a feature just to watch it. If I could afford for it to not make a return, just for the pleasure of seeing what their feature film would look like.”
And I think now with the democratisation of equipment, there’s this kind of exciting meeting of new interesting voices from different backgrounds, accessibility to equipment and resources, a supportive community – like Western Australia – and different places to market that film. If you put it into that perspective, it’s actually kind of exciting. I’m excited to see what’s gonna happen. I can think of so many filmmakers just here that have got crazy good ideas. My producer’s just got funding to write her first feature, and it’s this wild period witch film. It’s such a cool interesting story. I’m helping her write that and that’s awesome. It’s so awesome that Scream has come out and we’re back in this period lesbian witchcraft film. And that’s exciting.
It is exciting, especially because like years ago, that would be unheard of. You know, they would look at that and go, who’s the audience? Where is this going? And now it’s clear. Just before chatting to you, I was speaking to Toby Poser whose new film Hellbender launches on Shudder in a couple of days. And, she basically has this place somewhere in America, and it’s her and her family who are making films, and they’re doing it all together, speaking of community, and they’re just kind of creating these genre films that are out there. And there’s a place for them to go. Shudder is a place for them to go, there is an audience for these kinds of things.
It’s exciting to see that happening. It’s exciting to see all this bustling. I always speak in a very selfish tone, because, while I love what I get to do, I get to talk to filmmakers like yourself and all these great minds and stuff, I do it because I love having these discussions. And it’s a bit of a selfish thing where I get to go, “Great, look at what I’ve just learned.” And then I go, “Ah, it’s even better because I get to share it with people and get them excited.” But I know what’s coming and I know the talent that’s in WA filmmakers, and not just WA filmmakers, of course Australian filmmakers. But there’s that pride of WA. I love seeing WA on film.
You just have to look at how well Australian films are doing internationally over the last few years. And, you know, Jess (Parker) who is producing my film was working in Sydney a couple of years ago on a film called You Won’t Be Alone. Smashed it at Sundance.
So excited. I can’t wait to see that.
When you get the Screen Australia reports and it’s (shows) what’s playing at Berlin or Cannes, we’re very highly represented really for what our film world in Australia is. Australia’s kind of a small continent that in terms of arts has this like this capacity. And I think COVID has shown that. Whatever the obstacles, the arts are so important that we just have to make the story, whatever the cost, because the storytelling is just so important, and it ends up internationally doing so well as a result of that because the Australian industry wills itself into existence. Whatever doomsayers say… it can’t end. That’s the thing.
It’s not going to end. If someone said, “it’s all over, all the funding bodies are shut down”, someone’s gonna make a movie still. They’re gonna find a way to make it happen.
They’ll make a documentary about it.
“Look at this. It’s all gone.” And then that’ll inspire people.
That’s exactly right.
I’m excited to see the rest of the shorts at Flickerfest. I’m excited to see what’s going on at WA Made.
Amazing. I was so impressed with them. I met with Jasmine the other day and I was just “You’re killing it.” It just shows you the capacity and the hunger and how much filmmaking is happening, you know? And that has grown strength to strength. If you think about it, it’s still in its infancy really. It’s not that old at all. And you can imagine what that would be on its tenth anniversary.
They’ve already sold-out sessions, it’s exciting. There’s an appetite for this kind of stuff. And coming back to the audience, when WA Made opened two years ago and it’s like I know who the WA filmmakers are and you look in the audience and it’s not just WA filmmakers. There’s just regular people who are like “Oh yeah, I want to see Perth on screen.”
That’s right. That’s the best thing. I guess the pleasure of going overseas when your film was playing, hands down, my best experience was in Austin which is just the best film festival ever and just being in a room knowing no one. All these people are there to watch a short film, and they’re just like chatting to you about their thoughts on your short film. And you’re like, “This is awesome. This is so cool.”
And they don’t look at you as like being Australian or different. They look at you like you’re just a filmmaker with the stories to tell.
People will come up to me and be like, “Here’s my business card.” I’m like, “No, no, no. I got nothing to offer you. You got to offer me something. If I had a dollar in my pocket, it’s going into first probably my fridge and then to my own films.” I mean, yeah, Cinefest is also a good one. I guess focusing on Flickerfest because it’s probably what this is for. But the idea that a random person will make the choice to take their money to see a whole bunch of Australian short films on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night is really cool. Like that’s really cool.
You know, you’re making that choice over Spiderman. You know, that’s pretty awesome.
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