Stuart McBratneywith Kian West
I HAVE TO ADMIT: I HAVEN’T HAD MANY OPPORTUNITIES TO SPEAK ABOUT OR WITH A FILM PRODUCER BEFORE – I JUST DON’T GET TO MOVE IN THOSE CIRCLES, I GUESS. SO WHEN THE OPPORTUNITY AROSE TO CHAT WITH LOCAL FILMMAKER STUART MCBRATNEY ABOUT HIS (NEARLY) FINISHED FILM, I JUMPED AT IT. WE SAT DOWN AT THE RAD LITTLE CAFÉ INU IN CARRINGTON ONE BITTERLY COLD AND WET MORNING TO CHAT ALL THINGS INSPIRATION AND FILM.
So, the obvious question – well, maybe not obvious, but I always enjoy this one. How would you describe yourself?
How do I describe myself? Hmmm, I don’t know… I guess I like to keep busy. Ever since I was a little kid – maybe not a movie like it is now – [but] even as a six-year-old, I was always trying to invent something. Maybe a gun that when you pulled the trigger it said ‘Bang’, all made out of cardboard, stuff like that. When I was 11 I made a pop-up book, which I guess ties in with the movie [I’m making], ‘cause it involves pop-up cards.
Yeah, for some reason I have always wanted to keep busy – maybe I should cut down on the coffee, but I can’t just sit there and watch TV, like [other] people can just sit there and veg out. I can’t seem to just sit there and do that. If there is a particular movie that I want to watch, I’ve heard it is really good, I might sit there – but in terms of spending my time, I like to just make stuff, [whether] it’s music or movies…
With filmmaking, there are so many elements – I make music and I do drawings and have stories, and film just seems to pull that all together. So, anyways, I’m not sure if that answers the question of ‘how do I describe myself’! I don’t know.
It always does! The interesting part is how people think about that question, because everyone has a different way of approaching it. Now, you sort of touched on it – is film just an element to your creativity?
Well, I started making films when I was 11; I made my first proper scripted, edited short film when I was 14. Those first three years were just mucking around – they were little mini-movies, but they were never like, ‘Here is my written script and here are my characters and here is my shoot schedule’, you know, ‘we’re shooting on Saturday to do scene 10’, that kind of stuff.
So, about the filmmaking… I started doing music when I was really little – I played the keyboard. Well, technically, it was the organ: the left foot doing the bass, left hand doing the bass keys, with the right hand and the right foot doing the volume. I looked like some sort of marionette puppet. Little kid with a big organ (that sounded bad)! [Laughs]
That was when I was really little. I didn’t really enjoy it, but my parents said it was really important, but I was the only child they said that to, anyways, so I gave up. I hated it, even though I’d spent like four years doing it [and] was at a level where I could play reasonably well. Then, at age 14, I discovered the guitar and no one had to force me to or coax me to do it at all. I just woke up and played the guitar all day and went to sleep.
[I] kept playing and playing and writing my own stuff, bits of music for my film. From that point onwards it was always a bit of a – not quite a competition, but I was always interested which one was going to pan out for me the best: music or the film, music or the film. So I just kept working on both.
I’m sure that if I’d only had one – committed to just music, put all my energy into music, or put all my energy into film without going off and doing albums in Berlin and stuff – maybe I’d be in a different place right now. But anyway, recently I made the decision I’m going to concentrate on film, because film involves music.
For anyone who hasn’t watched the intro about your film ‘Pop-up’, how would you describe it?
‘Pop-up’ is a comedy drama about three strangers whose lives intersect due to a random event. It’s structured like a triptych – that is, three separate stories. So you have story A and story B and story C, then there is one event that happens right smack-bam in the middle of each of those three stories, so it’s seen from three different perspectives.
The three stories are: [first], an unemployed man who’s raising a daughter by himself, and he finds a digital camera and it has one photo of a woman’s face; he is instantly smitten and decides he’s going to track her down. The second story is about a Romanian immigrant who decides she is going to make pop-up cards for everyone that she knows and hand-deliver them as a way of overcoming a heartbreak. The third story is about a theatre director who gets a scathing review from a critic, so he decides to hunt him down and kill him. So they are the three stories, and they intersect in an unexpected way.
[The film] was made here in Newcastle – well, 80% here in Newcastle. Some of the scenes were shot in the ocean baths, Newcastle Beach, the old Bacchus building, Fernleigh tunnel, Tuff-n Up Boxing, Newcastle Theatre Company, the CBD… All sorts of recognisable shots. The other 20% was shot in Transylvania, in Romania – the character from Romania, that’s where she is from.
And you’re having the premiere here?
We aren’t calling it a premiere. [But] yes, it’s about 99% confirmed to be at Tower Cinemas on August the 19th.
Our chat with Stuart was huge – way too long for this little print mag, so catch a full-length version on our website. – this is where we left it off in print but below is the rest…
Assuming that all goes ahead, yeah, what it is, is a chance for all the people that made the film to get together and watch it. Some people’s involvement was 2 years ago and it was just something they did one afternoon, where as other people it has just been their entire life. The only person for whom this is all consuming, is me, there is no one else that has been driving it on a full time basis. There are plenty of people that have been helping here and there. I couldn’t have done, couldn’t have made this movie without so many people, in the credits there will be something like 250 peoples names that have helped to make this movie work many hands make slightly less crushing work so yeah, basically From that it goes off. At the moment I’m looking into an event theatrical distribution model instead of palming it off to a distributor make it seen there is Netflix, people can watch whatever they want from the comfort of their home.
To get them out of the house, the only thing getting people out of their house is a big budget flick. I can’t compete against that.
What I can offer is a personal question and answer session, an introduction and so my plan is to do what a few other film makers have done successfully recently, with smaller films, which is to basically go on tour with it, [like] go to Gundawindy. I go and present the film maybe even present some little behind-the-scenes video as part of the package They all get a night out.
Much different to what you’d get if you went to the movies normally, a connection with the film maker, and if some of the actors happen to be available near-by I have some of them in Brisbane, if they were around, do a bit of a tour around, treat it like Cinema used to be back in the really olden days, a travelling roadshow.
You’ve mentioned a few people you are basing this off other people, do you think this is the way the whole creative industry is having to re-evolve such as the current film making industry?
People are saying TV is the new film, it’s all about the big HBO shows and stuff like that and yeah, I guess the thing is I could evolve in that direction but then that means I have to make 5hrs of screen time instead of 1 and a half and it also means I have to make TV and I really just love movies some people just love movies, I don’t want to go and do something just because the market dictates that, maybe if I was passionate about making a TV show then I’d do it, but it’s not really what I really feel like doing, it doesn’t appeal to me as much as movies, I just love movies, I’ve loved movies since I was a kid and I, certain TV shows I’ve gotten into but I’ve never wanted their poster on my wall, I love movies and I love reading about directors and the film making process, that’s why I’m doing this PhD on film production as well because I love reading about it and studying as well, but in terms of the answer to your question, I think any artist has to adapt there will always be new technology or new trends that come about so perhaps the demand for their work is no longer there I mean, look at the airline industry it has adapted to the internet pretty well, I wouldn’t think of going in to a shop to talk to a human being to book a flight to Brisbane, in the same way the internet has changed film, people are consuming films in different ways and no longer does it need to just be on your laptop or your computer, you can connect it to your big screen at home and get your Netflix account happening and suddenly you can watch a massive amount of stuff from your own couch, you don’t need to move.
So to get people to physically get off their couch, without gigantic dinosaurs and exploding space ships you’ve got to offer them something different.
An opportunity to give people a new experience when I was in San Francisco a couple of years ago I was lucky enough to see Kevin Smith do this very thing, he decided to self release his own film ‘Red State’ and he did this exact thing, he would do these introductions and then these Q&A sessions after the film, it was great!
Obviously a very well known Director, especially in cult and film making circles, but he had a packed house. It would be more challenging for me to pack out the house, but that is fine, you know If I made a film and then I can use the same resourcefulness to get it seen. It’s just a way of adapting I guess.
You talked just before about enjoying reading about what people are doing, are there particular people, especially where you draw inspiration from?
I’m doing a PhD in Ultra Low Budget film production.
So the film that I am making is now part of my, considered my creative work, you can do a PhD just by writing a thesis, or you can do a creative work and then do a thesis on top of that slightly shorter thesis So that means on top of making the film I’m also researching the how, in America an Ultra Low Budget, even $5 million could be considered low budget, but here obviously that would be a pretty big budget for an Aussie film, and pretty much anywhere else in the world really, if you had $5 million for a movie that is considered pretty big, but so Ultra Low Budget are the ones that are made basically on the smell of an old rag, like famously, ‘Clerks’ by Kevin Smith, ‘High’ by Darren Oranovski, ‘El Mariarchi’, ‘Slacker’ these are the sorts of films, ultra low budget, there are obviously thousands of films that have been made.
Better yet, attend the big red carpet cast, crew and supporter screening of ‘Pop-up’ on August 19th [UPDATE: Now OCTOBER 4th] at King Street’s Tower Cinemas. Grab tickets by visiting eventbrite.com.au and searching for ‘Pop-up’.