film

The Travelling Film Festival Is Coming to Newcastle by Brooke Tunbridge

The Travelling Film Festival (TFF), Australia's longest running travelling film festival is heading to Newcastle this month. The festival showcases Australian and international features, documentaries and short films.  The festival will be in Newcastle from the 22nd- 24th June 2018.

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Why you should shoot your next video in Newcastle, by Tyzek by Newcastle Discovered

Worldwide artists usually only feature Australia in their music videos if they’re looking for some dry, desolate, desert scenery. But as all of us Australians, and especially us Novocastrians know; This is not a giant desert continent… Some of the time.

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Sophie Mathisen. A true one woman wonder and a film called Drama by Laura Kebby by Laura Kebby

“I think we met on Skype once?”, the opening line of the trailer from, what I know will be, a fantastic independent film called Drama. True to script I organised a Sunday afternoon Skype date to chat with writer, director and star of the film (is there anything this girl can’t do?) Sophie Mathisen to find out about her Newy grass roots, pressure on location and appreciation for a wonderful fresh take on what romance and connection really means. Spoiler alert, I definitely walked away from the interview just thinking who run the world? Girls. 

So who is Sophie Mathisen? In short; a passionately vibrant actor/writer/director/producer/extraordinaire, who, even through a dodgy Skype connection, lights and fills a room with infectious energy, constantly propelled forward by an unparalleled enthusiasm and zest for life. Our conversation begins with a warm and wonderful “hello mate, how are you?”, as if I were meeting Sophie in the beer garden at the Lass. I realised immediately, we would indeed get along just fine. Although born in the UK, Sophie proudly proclaims “Newy is really where I grew up” and it seems Newcastle can take a fair chunk of the credit for Sophie’s involvement in the art scene. “I was pretty heavily involved with Tantrum theatre, that was kind of really my start. I also did some Young People’s Theatre (YPT) when I was in primary school as well but I got into Tantrum pretty hardcore. Lachlan Philpott who was running it at the time I was about 16 or 17 was such an important influence for me and it was a really supportive environment when I was there.” The vibe of the Newcastle Arts scene as a whole, also left a dramatic impact upon the creative, with Sophie pledging her support for the overarching community. “I think that Newcastle has a really healthy engagement with the arts and I think there’s a really strong investment in youth culture particularly… it’s had a really big impact for me”.

From this wonderful local community stemmed literally a world of opportunity for Sophie, with her craft keeping her on her toes moving her through most of the east coast of Australia until finally returning to the UK to study her Masters at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. It was here where the notion of organic inspiration really surfaced as a priority for Sophie.  “I didn’t go to you know a ‘traditional’ film school and I’m so about people who didn’t come from that background. There’s enough people that go through that kind of received inspiration and being in an environment where everyone is making films, it’s so much easier to make films that way, when you’re surrounded by so many other people engaging in the craft… But with me, I was doing my second Masters in screen performance. I was surrounded by a bunch of Actors, some of which were really vain”, says Sophie laughing. “I just wanted to go out and make my own film and they were just like well we’re just going to sit here and wait to be cast in Game of Thrones”.

Ever the ambitious creative, whilst in the final phase of her Masters, Sophie began forging her own path to success and the film maker really took a huge bite out of the ambitious apple. “We when got charged with doing our final thesis, you have to make a short alongside that. About three or four months in, I said to my course coordinator ‘is there any way you would let me do a feature?’”. Unsurprisingly, due to being smack band in the middle of an extremely intense period of study, her requests were, albeit initially, brushed off by course officials. Ever the optimist Sophie, as she puts it “locked myself in a house over Christmas and wrote a script in ten days… I just said, I’m just going to sit here and write”. And write she did.  

But where did the idea come from?  With a true autobiographical aspect, the initial creative burst came from a fairly traditional source. A really (really) bad breakup. “I got pretty brutally dumped… I think actors in particular have this trait where they will create mini dramas to kind of live out their own lives and dramatically escalate the situation, I was kind of like that as well… I mean, in my very early 20’s thinking ‘yeah I’ve got my life sewn up because hey I’m with a guy, look at me being all adult’… but then… it ended. And suddenly I was back in Newy, working at Grind thinking, how did this happen?”. Although laughing about her clear quarter life crisis now, I can completely relate to a certain feeling of almost hopeless abandon, lost in an abyss of scary possibility. But it wasn’t this relationship that really spurred the script behind Drama. “My longest relationship has been with my best friend Russ who is a gay man and we’ve been friends for close to 15 years… We kind of complement each other in a way that’s very intimate… (writing Drama) I knew that I wanted to do something about that relationship… I wanted to write something that was more of a love letter to Russ.” Elaborating, Sophie starts commenting about what we have all thought at one point or another. “We’ve been fed this diet of rom-coms and the notion that everything ends after everyone’s happy, that’s where I kind of thought my life was going until my realisation of oh, wait nah that’s right, I’m still in my early 20’s and it’s all heaps messy and I have no idea what I’m doing… How do I figure this out?”. And there you have it, the creative catalyst that became Drama was born. 

Keen to get the idea from the page to screen Sophie discussed the final processes. “I sent through the script to François Vincentelli, the guy that plays Philippe in the film. He’s quite a well-known French actor I guess he’s kind of the Rodger Corser of France really.” It was gesture along with a combination of pure adrenalin, a Jack Torrance approach to writing, perfect timing and the sheer gusto and determination from Sophie that Drama began to spring from the page and into production. Continuing she reveals, “I just got on a train and met François in Paris and he goes, ‘I’ve got eight days, can you shoot it in eight days and I was like… oh yeah sure I can shoot all of your parts in eight days, I’ll see you in August!... Then he just kind of got on his scooter and rode away and I was just like… I don’t know what to do now!” Sophie reminisces through wild hand gestures, shock, awe and her jaw to the floor.  “Then it hit me, oh my God, how do I do this in eight days?”  

The team behind the film it seems, were truly magnificent, and a testament to the independent film industry. As well as including a whole bunch of really talented Novocastrians, Drama was also a family affair, with Sophie’s sister Dom, working as a producer on the film. This sense of connectedness was clearly imperative on set, especially with Sophie taking on a myriad of roles both in front and behind the camera. Sophie’s credits for Drama alone include actor, writer, director and producer, like I said, is there anything this girl cannot do?!

Watching the trailer and hearing more about the storyline and projection from Sophie, there’s a real distinction with Drama that really sets the film apart from any pre-misconceptions an audience may have about the genre. There’s a true tenderness and connected necessity surrounding the plutonic relationship and despite other intertwining romantic plotlines, the true focus remains on the importance of feeling supported, loved and I guess metaphorically, home. Set and shot on location in Paris, (a subtle commentary on the overwhelming foreign feeling after a significant relationship ends), the film itself is cinematically beautiful, and so far removed from the (fiercely) independent nature of the production.   

So where can you see this wonderful film, a question that I know by now you’re all asking yourselves! That my friend is up to you. Drama is being released via a ‘day-and-date’ release model in combination with a company called Fan-force. Luckily for Novocastrians, there’s a super special screening happening at Event Cinemas in town but... With the Fan-force model ticket quotas have to be met in order for the screening to go ahead. So like Captain Planet says, the power is yours! All tickets need to be purchased prior to 10:00am on Friday the 7th of November (that’s only a mere five days away!). All the information is listed on the film’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/afilmcalleddrama/) but, if you’re like me and just cannot wait to even finish this article before securing your spot this link (https://fan-force.com/films/drama/) will take you directly to the box office to secure your spot for the exclusive screening on the 17th of November!!

As Novocastrians, we’ve rallied together before, the earthquake in 1989, the famous games putting our town on the map in 1997 and 2001, and now this… The chance to rally behind a truly wonderful creative is really what our town is all about. So what are you waiting for!? Buy your tickets! And help make our town a part of something truly wonderful.

 

Find out more here: http://www.afilmcalleddrama.com/

Buy tickets here: https://fan-force.com/films/drama/

PLACES WE LOVE: SAWTOOTH STUDIOS by Kian West

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SAWTOOTH1Quietly hidden in Tighes Hill sits the most amazing Studio. Why you ask is this place so amazing? The analogue, people driven approach to recording in a digital age. Not to say they don't have all the modern bells and whistles you should expect from a recording studio, but they have heart and soul. Sawtooth is the ying to Burst Media Studios yang, complementing each other perfectly, Sawtooth is the audio production and rehearsal spaces and Burst conveniently have White Screens and Green Screens for film in these same locations. You could come in week-to-week to jam or stop by for a Album recording and stay to produce that first single video.   SAWTOOTH3 Place: Sawtooth Studios Address: 8/6 Revelation Close, Tighes Hill NSW Hours: See here - www.sawtoothstudios.com.au

Why We Love it: Well, we do work in their awesome shared office space, so we might be a little biased, but we Love Sawtooth because of the people that run it. Their genuine interest in what comes through the studios and passion to assist any creative to produce a 10/10 result no matter what it is or how long it takes. SAWTOOTH2

Stuart McBratney by Kian West

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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.

Stuart McBratney

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’.

60 Seconds with...The Production Hub by Kian West

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The Production Hub

With Olivia & Gavin

By Kian West

SOMETIMES YOU GET THOSE PHONE CALLS THAT TELL YOU, YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK! WE GOT A CALL FROM THE CREW AT THE PRODUCTION HUB AND IT FELT JUST LIKE THAT, A COUPLE OF RAD PEOPLE IN NEWCASTLE DOING RAD THINGS LIKE SETTING UP A CREATIVE HUB FOR THEMSELVES AND OTHERS TO WORK TOGETHER AND LEARN. HERE IS THEIR STORY…Good Eye Deer in TPH

 

The Production hub is more than just a co-working space, some might say it is a love story, a romance intertwined with the city of Newcastle, Olivia or Gavin, would you care to tell us this story?

 

G: Olivia and I met at a party, swapped numbers and over time started to develop a film project. Through that we realised a common love for film and people. What struck me about her was that she was a beautiful, talented woman who really cared and treated people she filmed with such respect and honour. Regardless of who they were. That struck a chord with me. We both wanted to tell stories that would be inspiring and challenging, things progressed quickly. I bribed her to move to Newcastle with me by offering her a job at my company Good Eye Deer.

 

The business business grew quickly, Good Eye Deer was on trajectory and Olivia came along at the perfect time. We love telling stories and have the same values, so it was a perfect team.

 

The Production Hub idea came about when we were working in awesome collaborate shared office. We really enjoyed the cross fertilisation experience by being in a space with others doing exciting things. But had a vision of our own. Our vision was to create a space where facilities encouraged creativity.

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We love Newcastle and all it has to offer creatively. We saw that while there were lots of great initiatives in Newcastle there was nothing that was production focussed. We wanted to create a place where people can come together to share ideas, encourage new ways of doing things and doing business. The Production Hub is not just about creative people coming together, it’s about business’ thinking and working creatively.

 

We saw lots of cool offices around, but nowhere to do the work of planning and developing. Our most important room is the Workshop where we build ideas. Everything in The Hub is purpose built (like our films) with both form and function in mind. They look good but to work well too.

On opening night someone said to Olivia ‘Today is a part of history for Newcastle. The Production Hub is a part of a new Newcastle.’ That meant a lot to us.

 

 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and what you were doing before The Production Hub?

 

O: I have been making films since 2006. When I joined Gavin at Good Eye Deer we were working at another co working facility – The Roost. The Roost was a way to introduce ourselves to Newcastle and find our feet. Since joining forces the business was expanding, we really needed an office to facilitate our growth and also show visually what our brand is about. We designed The Pro Hub so that everything you see is a Good Eye Deer.

 

G: 4 years ago I was working in a home office doing great work (well that’s what my clients told me). It was getting to a stage with Good Eye Deer where the company was getting too big for just one man. I needed to bring someone else onto the team, but they had to be the right person…that was when I met Olivia.

 

So What exactly is The Production Hub? What happens there and who should come and check it out?

 

O: It’s Newcastle’s premier co-working space. It’s an awesome space, an office of the future. A place to hold seminars, annual meetings or rent a desk. It’s beautiful.

 

Companies who are looking for new ways to relate to their clients and their staff can come hire our space. We hire out or Meeting or Workshop/Seminar room to companies who are looking to step outside their square and reach new ideas. It’s the perfect palace to come for a day with your team to see how to do things differently. Our 9m white board wall is great to write on while the ideas flow. We encourage any group/company to come utilize our space.

 

G: We then created The Pro Hub, with the intention to express our uniqueness and individuality as a business. It doesn’t matter how good your home office is, it will reflect on your image. Like a meal, if a meal is served that is delicious and not presented well, it will not be accepted well. Just as a bad quality meal presented well – will be. I don’t agree with that but I live within that reality. We feel The Pro Hub represents us. A friend walked into the space when it was finished and said ‘Ah now I see you in a whole new light’ it was like he could see us finally.

 

We are looking forward to others joining us and doing things together. Not just creative’s , but all businesses from all fields.

 

We are all about collaborating. We are not competing with anyone; there is more than enough work out there. If we work together can achieve remarkable things and put Newcastle on the map - not just nationally but internationally.

 

 

 

 

Where can people find you?

 TPH-desks

4 Crown Street

Level 1 / Suite 3

Crown Street Newcastle.

Linkedin - The Production Hub Newcastle

https://www.facebook.com/theproductionhubnewcastletwitter

INSTA - theproductionhubnewcastle

www.theproductionhub.com.au

Twitter - @TheProHub

 

 

 

You are both obviously highly creative and passionate about what you do, can you pinpoint a moment this began or maybe when you started taking it all seriously?

 

O: I started taking it all seriously when I saw Good Eye Deer come to life. When Lions Australia requested three national TVCs that really allowed me to step up as a Producer. To have such a huge project, and them all be different creative concepts was big. I got a buzz when I saw the quality of what we produced, that was when I really could see the power of what Gavin and I could produce.

 

G: The transition from craftsmen to businessman took place after going to a local seminar by local business coach Matt Linnert??? I think it was called ‘Doing Business with Intention’. It was then I realised that regardless of whether I wanted to acknowledge it or not, as a craftsmen I have to be a businessman as well.

Matt said ‘some people to be leaders other people just lead’. I decided at that point that we just needed to move forward with what we do and see who was interested. There were things that weren’t here in Newcastle that we wanted, rather than complaining about it why not step up like so many others and do and make it happen? I see so many people in Newcastle stepping up doing amazing things, there was a hole to fill so we stepped up and made it happen. The Production Hub was born.

 

Why do you love Newcastle?

 

O: I love that if you are creative there is enough room for you experiment and try new things. There’s not so much noise and distraction so you can focus on yourself and creativity and what you really value. In Melbourne I was very distracted, there was so much going on that I was always caught up in.

 

G: I like the pace of life and the fact that it’s a place of contrast. I love the fact I can walk to work; I don’t have to sit in hours of traffic everyday. And there is so much natural beauty, but its also contrasted by the reality of what that lifestyle requires we produce (like coal).

 

Is there anything else Novocastrians should know?

TPH-balls

O: They should know us and we should know them. Because we genuinely want to know all the interesting things that are happening in town. We want to know there is a lawyer that also tap dances (Ben Read Industry Legal – rents a desk at The Pro Hub). The cool thing about Newcastle is that its big enough to have all these different talents, but small enough for us to all know each other.

 

G: You only have one life so follow your dreams. It comes at a price but what is the price of not doing that? Whatever you dream there are people out there to help you achieve it, all it takes is for you to reach out and ask for that help.

60 seconds with - HAMISH DOWNIE by Kian West

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hdr_00212_normalHAMISH DOWNIE IS A NOVOCASTRIAN DOING BIG THINGS OVERSEAS. OVER THE PACIFIC OCEAN IN FACT (SORT OF). HAMISH IS A TOKYO-BASED AUSTRALIAN FILM-MAKER CURRENTLY GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS OF PROMOTING HIS NEWEST FILM, AN AMERICAN PIANO. WE CAUGHT UP WITH THE ARTIST TO GET THE LOWDOWN ON HIS TIME IN NEWCASTLE, TOKYO, AND THE FUTURE.  

Why did you move to Tokyo? In 2004, I had almost got a development deal with one of the Australian TV Networks for an Animated TV series I had created. But, when that didn’t go through, I decided to try my luck in the world’s second-largest Animation market. I came very close to getting a deal here in Japan too, but that also fell through. Ironically, my big break came back in Australia when I got the chance to make a music video for Robyn Loau (the former lead singer of “Girlfriend”), and through that experience I got to meet Paul, who directed “An American Piano”. How do you feel about Newcastle now? Growing up, I thought Newcastle was just a backwater mining town, and to a large degree it was. But, since leaving Newcastle I’ve really learnt to appreciate all the many wonderful opportunities in Newcastle that I just took for granted. In Tokyo, I really miss places like Showcase Cinema and the Regal. Margaret (owner of the Showcase - RIP) was such a tough old bird, but she was so passionate about film (and about yelling at ratty kids for not treating her cinema with respect). Back when I was unemployed, I used to go there on cheap Tuesday every week to watch a different film that she’d put on, and once she’d noticed that I was a regular, she let me into her little circle to talk about film. However, my time in her inner circle was short lived, as I expressed an opinion that she didn’t agree with. Bruce was much kinder, but just as passionate about film, especially Widow’s Peak and Wallace and Grommet. So many of the films that influenced me to become a filmmaker, I watched there. Like the Three Colours Trilogy. I just can’t thank him, and his choc-tops enough. I’m so glad that someone has decided to re-open the cinema.1782364_10152066347299613_1994855113_o I also learnt from Janet, Charles Jordan and others at the Ron Hartree Art School. When I was there it was a kind of bohemian paradise, filled with talented artists willing to share their skills with us young kids. I also spent a long time learning traditional Chinese watercolour from a Chinese-Australian woman, who had studied under the Emperor’s official artist, and had escaped communism to come to Australia. I learnt so much from her, like how to be a working artist, and how to be disciplined with your work (although I wasn’t very disciplined at the time). She also taught me that I should marry a Chinese woman (because they will stay beautiful - like her) and that Chinese men were like Bamboo, “they bend, but do not break”. She certainly taught us all strictly, but fairly. And I wouldn’t be living in Asia now if it wasn’t for her. How long have you been making films for? I’ve been a professional filmmaker for about three years now, starting out co-directing the music video for Robyn Loau’s single Never Let You Down with Paul Leeming. However, I’ve been writing on and off for most of my life. The first thing I ever wrote was around age 6 or 7, when my sister was given a school assignment to write and draw a children’s book. I loved the book she made so much. Well, you know how kids always want to do whatever their older siblings are doing, I then attempted to write my own children’s book. And so I caught the writing bug... What is the film about? An American Piano is the true story of a young Japanese girl who played the piano for Allied POWs interned in Japan during WW2. I became interested in the story while researching a feature script I was writing on a similar subject. There are a lot of stories, even now, that are yet to be told about WW2. My Grandfather was a naval officer in Japan and was at the signing of the end of the war. His ship became the British Embassy after the war. He always said that it wasn’t a “people’s war”, and that stayed in my mind all this time. Living in Japan, and living through the Great Tohoku Earthquake has also influenced my perception of that time. When is the film out? We’ve just realised the trailer to youtube, and we are submitting the film to festivals around the world. Hopefully sometime this year, we will be able to announce a festival in Newcastle. Eventually, I’d love it if the newly opened Regal Cinema supported it. For now, if there are people out there who are interested in watching the film, I’d ask them to follow us on facebook or twitter, check out the trailer, and take a look at some of our other work online - like Paul Leeming’s film Birth, Silent Hill: Stolen Heart and Robyn Loau’s Never Let You Down.

 

1890583_10152066347344613_367320331_o facebook.com/AnAmericanPiano youtube.com/user/visceralpsyche/videos hamishdownie.wordpress.com twitter.com/AnAmericanPiano