Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Audiard #1 - Fuck Them Back

"Every time you make a film these days, it's a political gesture, like it or not. Every director must be conscious of the power of this tool we're using. It's a very shocking tool, cinema, and you have to ask yourself what you're using it for....

...Being in charge of a film is political. It's an industrial power. I don't mean political like Gillo Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers or Costa-Gavras's Z, although that is of course an admirable purpose. But even if you're making a film with special effects in which men turn into, I don't know, helicopters or butterflies or some shit,  you have to think: what will my movie be used for? Cinema is used to sell other stuff, be it toys or popcorn or whatever. So if they're trying to fuck you one way, you have to find a way to fuck them back."

Final Days

Final day on "Small Mercies" today, sound mixing with Mr Robert Mackenzie after a blissful day grading with Mr Daniel Stonehouse of Crayon.

Final days on "Galore" as the final visual and FX tweaks and fiddles are inserted in the film which has been mixed and graded and caressed in every imaginable way. Both "Small Mercies" and "Galore" must be almost finished as they announced both films on the MIFF website here and here which is kinda exciting and kinda freaking soon!


Final days before the first break in some time. Off to a few places where the vitamin D falls from the sky like densely packed lintballs and where sand gathers between your sandals and socks like the memory of a forgotten dream of dermabrasion. I've packed a bag already with my old 35mm Nikon, a few changes of jocks and a handful of books. Bliss.


So what did Amalfitano's students learn? They learned to recite aloud. They memorised two or three poems they loved most in order to remember them and recite them at the proper times: funerals, weddings, moments of solitude. They learned that a book was a labyrinth and a desert. That there was nothing more important than ceaseless reading and traveling, perhaps one and the same thing. That when books were read, writers were released from the souls of stones, which is where they went to live after they died, and they moved into the souls of readers as if into a soft prison cell, a cell that later swelled or burst. That all writing systems are frauds. That true poetry resides between the abyss and misfortune and that the grand highway of selfless acts, of the elegance of eyes and the fate of Marcabrú, passes near its abode. That the main lesson of literature was courage, a rare courage like a stone well in the middle of a lake district, like a whirlwind and a mirror. That reading wasn't more comfortable than writing. That by reading one learned to question and remember. That memory was love.
 'Woes of the True Policeman'/'Los sinsabores del verdadero policía'
Roberto Bolaño

Favourites #4

My newest visual crush is Margaret Durow. I discovered her work through her colour photography on If You Leave. But, given that I'm slowly dying from oversaturation of images - grading films, editing, shooting, snapping crappy phone shots over drunken nights, the constant flood of instagram, bad films and shitty web feeds - these black and white dreams - all stillness and romance and threat and invitation - are the perfect antidote.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


A few weeks back Chrissy Amphlett passed away. That sucks. She was awesome. The positive spin on her death is that a lot of people filled a lot of column inches, blogs and webpages talking about precisely how awesome she was; how inspiring and kick ass and feisty; all beautiful things as far as I'm concerned. There were evidently a lot of broken hearts with her passing. But her passing reminded me of another kind of heartache. It reminded me that my first date was to a Divinyls concert in the shitty Canberra entertainment centre. I'd asked a private school girl that I was madly in love with. Her name, spelled backwards, was my computer password. I thought she was amazing and, because she was a private school girl I also thought she must be a different kind of special. She wore a uniform to school! She seemed to bear with her some kind of air of romanticised sophistication and grace and wealth that, thankfully, I stopped caring about very soon after I passed fifteen years of age (to be honest I kinda flipped to the other end of the scale). Anyway, I remember waiting at that shitty entertainment centre, Chrissy Amphlett about to take the stage, nervous as hell, knots in my stomach, not sure what my fucked up teenage body was crying out for, and, as the foyer emptied and I looked down at the grubby carpet and my shuffling anxious jordans, and the space stopped smelling like cigarettes and booze and people and starting smelling like wet dog, I began realising that, shit, I had been stood up. She wasn't coming to the concert with me. No date. I barely knew what the idea of being stood up meant, but the humiliation was keen and cutting. I would be watching Chrissy stomp and sex around on stage on my own. And damn, it hurt,  it really hurt. But, I looked down at the carpet, shuffled some more, and I looked at the empty foyer and thought, 'fuck it' and  I went into the auditorium anyway. I stood in that half empty auditorium (no Canberra concert was ever full) shuffling awkwardly and feeling the heat of other people who hadn't been stood up or who knew a few more things about girls and romance and dates and love and sex and disappointment and pain. And, then, as now, I decided to just bury how I felt in the sensation of the moment. To just enjoy the fucking concert and to not let it hurt. And that night was as sweet as bush honey for that sudden decision. The lights were brighter, Chrissy was louder and messier and more loveable, the sweat smelled sweeter and the cold night air outside was sharper and darker. So, many, many thanks and RIP, Chrissy Amphlett... you created a sorry-assed romantic with a keen little knife edge. And I don't regret that for a second.


Spent the last week in South Arnhem land working on a new project. So much aching beauty. So much to show. But for now, after a handful of days filming and breaking already broken bodies, just some sweet hoops from Wugularr, a hundred kilometres from Katherine.

Idea Has Been Done Before

Script development can be pretty hellish at times and never more so than when you're on the receiving end of hastily written feedback... This script report from the early 1900s circulated by Essanay films (best known for Chaplin films) suggests not a lot has changed.

Friday, May 17, 2013


"One Must Combat 
Vague Ideas With 
Precise Images"

Galore Post Script #3 - Gifts

Getting to make a film in itself is a gift. It's possible to convince yourself that you've earned it after a long period of slugging it out with investors and redrafts and doubters and hardship. But when you have a cast and crew assembled around you, all working to help you realise those ideas and images sketched out in your brain long ago, you quickly realise that being able to helm a film is the greatest gift. And hidden inside that gift are an endless parade of more, not the least of which are the people you get to share it all with. But in the making of Galore, there were more gifts. So fucking many gifts. Here are a few that come to mind from the recent months of production and post production (in no particular order).

“Crying all the time had made her more beautiful. Grief will do that sometimes. Not for me. Loretta had left months ago and I still looked like hell.”
I love the short stories of Junot Díaz. I read Drown when it was first published in Australia and, to be honest, it blew my mind at just the right time. I've gone on to read just about all of his published words, essays, novels, stories. But Drown was a heartstarter for me in its combination of casual lyricism, emotional asskicks and the way it loped between lofty ideas and the casual desires and dreams we tangle with at street level. So, I wanted one of the characters in the film of Galore to give the book as a gift to one of the others. 
“It would have broken my heart if it hadn't been so damn familiar. I guess I'd gotten numb to that sort of thing. I had heart-leather like walruses got blubber.” 
Somehow it felt right. The worlds are a thousand miles apart but something inside his perfect words is the everyday lyricism we've been striving for in the film. So we wrote to him to see if that was cool. His gift was a casual fuck yeah and a breezy warm wish for it all, casually noting that one of his first stories was about a bushfire in Australia; one of the central images of our flick. What greater gift can you get from someone you admire from afar and whose words have given you so much. Fuck yeah.
“They sounded a lot like me and my old girlfriend Loretta, but I swore to myself that I would stop thinking about her ass, even though every Cleopatra-looking Latina in the city made me stop and wish she would come back to me.” 

An old friend of mine Darren Richmond is a crazy great graphic designer, artist and backyard tattooist. We've worked together for a while now on a number of projects but we don't get to cross paths enough. In Galore, he designed all of the beautiful note books in Galore and his images and words helped to inspire Danny's approach to the world. I don't know how he channeled the 17 year old aspiring artist, romantic and skater but he fucking killed it. The book itself has become this incredible cherished object for me since the end of the shoot and, fuccck, I have to make sure I never lose it!


One of our central characters 'Laura', played by Lily Sullivan, writes obsessively in her journal. To help with her character, she filled the journal with thoughts and notes and favourite song lyrics and quotes. Between takes, she would often go and scribble something new. In the madness of shooting, I rarely had time to look at the notebook and the things that she had written. But hidden in those pages was a surprising insight into the character and the world of the film. So many of these pages were a gift in ways they glanced light back onto the things we were hoping to capture. I've already featured a photo of my favourite page on the blog... but here it is again:


I've ranted about her before but I love the words, work and design of Portuguese artist Rita Gomes AKA Wasted Rita. Partly, the reason I love her work is out of gratitude because...

...but mostly I love her work because it's full of fire and lyricism and wisdom in the most simple, distilled forms. She prints her shit on t-shirts and posters and walls and it always feels epic and resonant and funny and hectic. So, it was a kinda amazing gift that she agreed to let us put her work on some of the T-shirts worn by one of the characters in the film - Danny, played by Toby Wallace  (who is certain to take over the acting world at some point very soon). Due to the intimate way the film was shot, you don't often get to see her work, but I fucking love that it's there...


Some of the stories that are passed to us are gifts, others are burdens. We have to know which is which… Sometimes it is difficult to know the difference between the two. One makes us feel a lightness that can make us love and laugh and invite others into our worlds. The other drags us down and makes us twisted dirtbags with bitter thoughts and broken hearts. Both offer themselves to us in the beginning with infinite possibility but we don't know the paths they offer up to us. The stories we get told when we're trying to tell our own are the true gifts. This happened too many times to count while making Galore. People whose houses we used, actors connecting with their roles, crew members killing time, passersby trying to make conversation. Bigger, stranger, more complex stories than the one we were murdering ourselves trying to bring to the screen.


What better gift than being able to include one of your favourite songs by one of your favourite bands in a heartbreaker scene in your flick? Hope you get to see the flick at some point so can you hear it...


Every frame should have a heartbeat. One moment that pulses through it and activates it. When that happens, those accidents - a flutter of an eyelid, a hesitation, a breeze kicking up, an accidental flare of the sun against the lens, a stutter, a passing car, a dog bark, a bird that wheels and dives through the sky - form the pulse of the film. They make a moment live within the frame and, then, when edited, the rhythms of those pulses forms the heartbeat of the film as a whole. We had a lot of those on Galore. On a couple of occasions, when we needed to evoke a blustering heat, the wind kicked up or a gust of dry earth scurried past. When a character was taut with emotion, some intrusion or other would interrupt the tension of the frame. These moments became so tied into performance that it seemed like a couple of our actors could control the elements (which wouldn't have surprised me) so that, on the moment that an emotional beat hit hard, the wind wrestled with their fringe or disturbed a tree behind them. These accidents - pure chance offered up as some kind of orchestrated environmental bliss - are the purest gifts to the achingly slow mechanics of filmmaking.

Galore Post Script #2 - Things that suck

People in the film world can be accused of taking themselves way too fucking serious. Here's a few gentle reminders that that attitude kinda sucks and all the best know how to stay playful...

Picasso dressed as Popeye:

Gauguin playing harmonium with his pants off:

Monroe as a water fountain.

Connery as a bride.

Galore Post Script #1 - Darkness

Delayed post... forgot to put this up a couple of weeks back. My brain is broken.

I arrived late in Sydney last night. This morning we walked into the sound mixing stage at Deluxe for two weeks of mixing 'Galore'. And, for the first time in months, my mind seemed clear enough to write some new words. This massive, beautiful dark space allowed some of the tangles of thought - looped around the block of mind totally filled with all the layers of making 'Galore' - to clear out for the first in months.

These past months have been like a process of distillation. I have no doubt there may have been infinite things to reflect on here while shooting, cutting and finishing 'Galore'. There have been all the anticipated highs and lows and battles and dances and moments of levity and transcendence and glimmers of agony and bliss and terror. But, because all the constituent elements were poured into the distillery months ago, I've felt like I couldn't add anything new to the mix. No new thoughts, new writing, new reflections. No space to step back or think or critique. Just constantly bubbling away with those same elements, refining and purifying.

Here, hopefully is the point all that returns again.

So, here's what happened. Over a summer that was scorching everyone outside, we sat in a dark room, surrounded by whirring, straining fans, sweating our arses off, moving swiftly towards a fine cut. Every now and then, there would be a moment to run to the pool, or sit at the bowls club and clean up a few beers, or catch up on elusive sleep. But mostly it was a density of Galore world emotion and images. For the most part, it was bliss. There were lessons learnt and experiences traversed that are for another time and place, there were some insane challenges; but the final film is closer to what we set out to achieve than I ever thought would be possible. That alone, whatever happens, has to be a beautiful thing, ey?

Original compositions were scored, existing music was licensed, foley was created, dense layers of sound and atmosphere were created. Shots went to FX and were moulded into entirely new images.

At the same time, family life continued on. Things fell apart and were placed back together. Long nights got longer the more self destructive and exhausted we all got. There were salsa parties and sleazy nights in the usual bars, music festivals and afternoons on the hot concrete of the Fitzroy pool. There were feasts whenever an actor came to town, or when we were all feeling a particularly strong yearning. There was a shitload of wine, denial and madness.

And that, I suppose, is post production in an independent film. Don't know how my internal organs are coping or whether my family are all that keen on me anymore or whether I'll work in this town again (does anyone?)... but we did honour what we set out to achieve and, hopefully, stayed true to the ideas that so many people put so many long months and so much blood, sweat and tears into realising.

Fuck, it looks nice to see it on the vast screen of the mixing stage while I sit here and write and try not to say dumb things while they work. Rob Mackenzie, who is mixing our little flick sits in front of me. He's most recently come off sound editing Wong Kar Wai's 'The Grandmaster' so his halo is glowing in my eyes. And the ever incredible Emma Bortignon, Galore's sound designer, who has spent weeks and weeks creating a rich complex design, sits alongside me, so I know all will be fine, just fine.

And in the back corner, lingering in the dark are the composers, my oldest, shadiest collaborators, Christopher O'Young and Flynn Wheeler who have written music that seems to have come from the page.

So all, again, surrounded by the hum, surge and shatter of the sonic world of the film, feels for a while, perfect. Perfect.