Cannes Film Festival
Short Film Corner 2021
Following the unexpected arrival of a troubled sibling, Jim and Greta's quiet life, suddenly descends into a nightmare.
Hi Alan, thanks for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping during these very strange Covid times?
Hi, firstly thanks your interest in my film and I hope you and your readers are all well and staying safe. I’ve been OK, as weird as this sounds it’s been getting easier for me the longer this pandemic is going on. I went through at first shock, then wanting everything to go back to the way it was before, then acceptance of the reality and getting on with my life and finding happiness within this altered structure.
Has this time offered you any new creative opportunities?
We had some long lockdowns here in Melbourne, so there were plenty of opportunities for me to work on post production for Family Circle and I was also able to develop some ideas I had into script form. I shot my 2019 short film Wild Will by myself in the kitchen of my apartment and many of my films tend to use little to no cast and crew, so I felt that I had a model in place to make another short film during lockdown if I wanted, which was a nice feeling. But in the end, I just focused on getting Family Circle where I felt it needed to be, and developing my screenplay ideas.
Congratulations on having Family Circle part of this year’s Short Film Corner, how does it feel to be able to present your film at a physical film festival?
After last year, I think it’s awesome that Cannes is able to go ahead this year as physical event and I hope that this year’s festival is both a safe and successful event. Cannes are running a hybrid 2021 festival, which is live screenings and premieres and also some online events. This was the same model that was used at this year’s St Kilda Film Festival where Family Circle had its recent world premiere. I quite liked it to be honest, you could attend some of the films in a live setting whilst also catch up on many market and industry forums for the festival online. Who knows, maybe it’s a festival model that might remain post Covid.
Do nerves still set in ahead of a film festival like Cannes?
A little. Being in the Short Film Corner, my film is presented in the Cannes Festival marketplace, so although the film does not screen in any premiere or red-carpet event, I would still like the film to be well received. I think due to the fact that Family Circle is just starting its festival run and I’m not quite sure where the audience opinion sits, it does make you a bit more anxious for the film to do OK, sort of like your child’s first day at school.
What as the inspiration behind Family Circle?
I happened to hear that brilliant Fleetwood Mac song The Chain one afternoon and it got me thinking about adverse learned behaviours, that can get passed down through the generations of a family. I started to see this conditioning like an unwanted inheritance, where everyone in the family gets left a bit, but often some get a bigger slice than others. So, I took a hold of that concept and the films narrative developed from there.
"But then you get a day when something magic appears out of nowhere and you feel on top of the world, a breakthrough in an edit, a selection, a job, a call, you just never know."
Have you always had a passion for directing?
No, not really, art school sort of changed everything for me. I’ve always been a passionate lover of cinema, as my 1000 plus home DVD collection would attest, but I always remained in awe of film directors from a distance and just focused on performing. I then developed a passion for painting and I completed a three year fine art degree at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2006. It was only after I left art school that I began to experiment with making my own films and it really grew from there. Filmmaking just felt right and clicked in me, like the perfect amalgamation of both my performance and fine art skills.
Now you can be reflective what advice would you offer a fellow filmmaker?
Just to stick at it. Keep going, keep developing your style. Often as an independent filmmaker there are so many rejections and setbacks, that you often want to give up and it takes a lot of toughness to hang in there. But then you get a day when something magic appears out of nowhere and you feel on top of the world, a breakthrough in an edit, a selection, a job, a call, you just never know. It has a habit of doing this if you stick at it long enough.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your film?
I haven’t offered up everything within the narrative of this film and have kept the distinction between the dream state and reality somewhat ambiguous. I love it when an audience can take away alternate views on a film’s narrative, leading to a healthy post screening discussion and debate. I also really hope that the film resonates with the audience on an emotional level. Good stories always need to do that.
When you are writing a screenplay how close do you like to keep to it when you are shooting, do you allow yourself / your actors much flexibility?
It’s an organic process, so I don’t carry any hard and fast rules, but I’m always open to any suggestions an actor offers up for their dialogue and often naturally on the day little bits and pieces come out that aren’t on the page. Sometimes these spontaneous changes are gold. So far, the actors I’ve worked with on my films seem to have clicked with most of the dialogue I’ve written. So, to date we have to have stuck pretty close to script.
What was the most challenging scene for you to film?
Any scene, where I am completely alone shooting myself with no crew is always challenging. The bathroom scenes in Family Circle were shot by me completely solo, so I would have to say they were the most challenging. The sequence at the beginning of the film in the bathroom where I am covered in blood, was a mess!! The chocolate sauce and maple syrup blood mix I made was so damn sticky and got stuck all over the camera!!
Looking back is there anything you would do differently on this film?
Definitely, I am always looking back at my films wishing I had done this or that differently and I have heard many other filmmakers talk about this feeling of discontentment post completion. I don’t feel I have ever been more challenged with these feelings on a finished film, than I was with Family Circle and it went through so many different edits to get to the point it is at. Part of me feels this is a natural reaction, as I sense I am pushing boundaries with this project, that I have not explored before. Perhaps the biggest struggle I had, was the sense of stillness that prevails throughout the film, it made me uncomfortable. During post production I found myself wishing we had shot more scenes with movement and energy, perhaps some handheld stuff. But then again, I also think maybe this lack of movement is exactly what the film needed to create a specific building of tension and to move the camera would have dissipated that tension.
How much does your background as an actor help to inform your approach to directing/writing your films?
It helps a lot with directing fellow actors, I feel very comfortable around them, and like any group or profession, it’s tribal, you share a language. It’s a massive plus when working on my films. When writing I always play the roles I am writing in my head, regardless of their age, sex, background etc. This is one of the really fun things for me with writing, I can perform all these amazing characters without leaving my keyboard. So, I guess my performance skills are healthily engaged as a writer as well.