Asian Film Festival Barcelona 2021
OFFICIAL PANORAMA SECTION
I Met A Girl
6th November, 18:00h
Luke Eve is an award-winning filmmaker and graduate of the Australian Film Television and Radio School. Since 2005 his award-winning shorts have played multiple film festivals around the world gaining great notices for his unique style. Eve's latest film I MET A GIRL is about an aspiring musician who embarks on an epic, cross-country journey to find the woman of his dreams - who may be all in his head.
Hi Luke thank you for talking to TNC, how are you held up during these very strange times?
Hey, thanks for having me. Yeah, I’m doing ok. It’s been the weirdest year of my life. As I’m sure it has for everyone.
Has this time offered you any creative inspiration?
Well … I came to Spain in March to get married to my fiancé Maria but we had to cancel the wedding two days out from the big day due to the pandemic. We were then forced into a very strict lockdown with my mum – who had flown all the way from Australia for the wedding. So, the three of us suddenly found ourselves living together for three months. During that time I decided it would be a great idea to make a series about it while we were still in lockdown. Maria is an actress and writer and I’m a director and writer so the three of us shot a drama series together called CANCELLED using only a mobile phone. And it has weirdly now been viewed over 2 million times on Facebook. So yeah, it’s been a strange year but I’ve also been quite inspired at the same time.
I’m still in Spain but have spent most of the summer by the beach so it’s been exactly what I needed after such a crazy start to the year. I’m feeling quite invigorated actually – I have a number of new ideas and scripts floating around in my head.
Congratulations on the US release of I Met a Girl, do nerves ever set in when a new project is being released?
Thank you. And yes definitely. Especially now with social media – people are so critical you know. I think people lose sight of the fact that art is created by people who set out with only the best of intentions. But it’s so easy now just to watch something and rate it and be so harsh about it. But on the flip side I love the instant gratification of releasing work online because you get an immediate response. Thankfully the reviews, especially from fans, have been really glowing. It’s been lovely seeing and hearing the response.
It’s funny, I was more nervous about the release of my little series CANCELLED to be honest because with that project I was in front of the camera for the first time as well. Whereas I’m normally just behind it as a director. So I was really exposed and worried about how people would react.
And that’s the crux of it really – when you release something you are baring your soul really. Projects are very personal, so any feedback or response is hard not to take personally.
"The script changed a lot over those five years but all of these elements remained consistent."
You have an amazing cast, how did you go about casting for this film, had you had certain actors in mind already?
Glen and Adam and myself all thought that Brenton Thwaites would be the perfect Devon. So we approached him about three years ago by sending him the script. He and I were both in Australia at the time so I jumped on a flight to meet with him and we just clicked. We ended up having lunch, I met his family, it was just a lovely first meeting. He loved the script and I loved his ideas and enthusiasm for the character so we attached him formally and then built the rest of the cast around him as his role is so crucial. I had seen Lily in a number of things and thought she was amazing and would work really well opposite Brenton for the key role of Lucy.
So again we sent the script and she loved it, I met with her, and she came on board about a year out. We then engaged Stevie and Kirsty from McGregor Casting who I had worked with numerous times and they helped us search and hold auditions for the remaining cast. Devon’s brother Nick was the next most crucial role. Joel did a lovely audition and so I really wanted to meet him. He blew me away when we met. He is so dedicated to his craft and he had done so much research and reading about schizophrenia and being a carer. And I thought he had all the qualities of a loving and caring older brother. Then we cast Zahra Newman as Nick’s wife. Zahra is so warm and funny but is such a straight shooter that she was perfect as Olivia as she is the only family member that is realistic about Devon’s condition. She is dropping truth bombs all over the place and we needed to hear those words from somebody that is loving but tough.
So we got lucky. But it took a lot of hard work and planning and thinking to build the right cast.
Can you tell me a little bit about I Met a Girl, how did this film come about?
Adam Dolman, the producer and I, had gone to film school together many years ago. After we graduated he was keen for me to meet his twin brother, Glen, a writer, thinking that we would get along and possibly find a project to create together. We met and realised we shared the same sensibilities and loved the same films etc. He had a project that we started working on almost immediately. And we did so for five years and then it stumbled at the final hurdle. It was a tough blow but we enjoyed our collaboration so we talked about another project. Glen had one that he had written many years earlier about a young man with schizophrenia that was inspired by his own childhood friend and it seemed like the perfect fit for us all. In the meantime, I was working on a couple of short form series about mental health, Low Life and High Life. I invited Glen and Adam to help out on High Life so that we could strengthen our collaboration. Luckily for us the series was a huge hit and it paved the way for getting I Met A Girl off the ground. So after 10 years of toiling away, the planets finally aligned and we got to film I Met A Girl.
What was it about Glen Dolman's screenplay that interested you so much as a director?
There were many things. I’m obviously very interested in mental illness and I loved the story arc that love doesn’t conquer all. That people have to take responsibility for their own shit. I also loved the magical realism elements as well as the authentic moments of struggling with a mental illness. But deep down I’m a sucker for romance so it was the Devon and Lucy love story that got me first and foremost. The script changed a lot over those five years but all of these elements remained consistent.
Are you flexible with a screenplay or do you prefer to stick to what has been written?
The process of getting a film made takes many years of both script development and financing etc so by the time you start filming the script has already had years of intense work spent on it. So it’s pretty well developed. But then actors come on board, and locations get chosen, and things organically change again. So in pre-production I like to keep it pretty flexible but when I’m on set I like to try and stick with the script as much as possible. I’m not a huge improv guy. Having said that you need to stay open to the possibility of magic on set. Little things happen all the time that can make the story and the film better so I’m always open to trying things if we have the time.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
I grew up on a farm and there wasn’t much else to do so I became pretty obsessed with TV and film. My brother and I used to be able to recite entire comedies. We loved Monty Python and Leslie Nielson movies. And then I started discovering “cinema” you know – seventies movies and European art house stuff and I dove in. But I never thought it would be what I would do for a living. It didn’t seem like an option. I studied hard, got good grades and then went to law school. And then I moved to the UK and I realised that life was this amazing thing - that it could be whatever you wanted it to be. To a degree. So I thought “fuck this” … I put law on hold and I started studying photography. I worked a shitty job and backpacked around Europe for four years all the while taking millions of photos. I then headed back to Australia and did a degree in Visual Communication – photography and design. From there, I started working as a photographer and I began photographing local bands and then offering to do their music videos. Music videos then lead to short films and commercials and film school etc … It was a longish road to be honest.
Do you have a favourite line from I Met a Girl that?
That’s a good question. There’s a few but my favourite is probably spoken from Devon’s psychiatrist – “The only person that can save you, is you."
How much has your background as a photographer influenced your film work?
A lot. Inevitably. I like my work to be cinematic. I wish it was more so but timing and schedules challenge you. But I’ve always tried to make my work visual and visceral. It’s important to the cinema experience I feel. I love composition and lighting but the thing I enjoy the most these days is playing with colour. And that definitely stems from my photography I think. I remember years ago I used to go to a local dark room to process my own black and white film and prints. I loved it. But then when I started studying photography formally in Australia our school had a colour dark room and suddenly my inspiration and focus shifted from say someone like Henri Cartier Bresson to Joel Meyerowitz and I think that has continued to this day. I love that colour changes the composition and overall mood of a photograph. And so I try to play with that as much as possible these days with costuming and production design and lighting all working with one another in the frame. I’m not a big story-boarder because I hate being locked into shots when blocking and filming but I always do a shot list to help prepare. To help me feel like I understand what the scene is about and what shots are important. Then on the day, it often goes out the window.
As an award-winning filmmaker has your approach and style of your films evolved since your debut?
Definitely. My earlier work was very concerned with the visuals probably because that was what I was comfortable with and I didn’t really know how to talk to actors properly. Now, working with actors is my favourite thing about filmmaking. Often in pre I’ll work really closely with the cinematographer and then leave it to them once we are on set. Of course, I’ll always look through the camera or give feedback through the monitor about the way the scene looks but my primary focus will be the story and the actors. That never used to be the case. Also, now I like using handheld a lot more and getting in close and personal with the actors. When we made Cancelled I had to shoot and direct and act in it so I learned a tonne! It’s amazing how you keep learning and discovering.
Do you think filmmakers should push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?
Always. Otherwise we go stale. I think it’s the job of any artist to try and evolve and to comment not only on our society but our own medium. To push the boundaries of what storytelling can be. It’s why I like floating between short form series, television, commercials, features – they all offer different ways to create and consume a story.
Are there any tips or words of wisdom you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
It’s such a cliché … but just make stuff. Get together with like minded friends and make stuff. Learn how to work with actors and move the camera and edit. It doesn’t matter if your earlier films are shit – just do them. You’ll learn each time. Oh, and watch a tonne of films. Learn about film language and then you can break the rules.
And finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from I Met a Girl?
Hope. And empathy. We all have our own shit going on and it’s good for us to think about that and to try and understand each other. Kindness and empathy have been lost of late and it would be nice if we can dream that they can still occur. Life can be really beautiful if we let it.