A few weeks back we launched the video for Mantra's latest single The Fear (check it out here if you haven't already). Mantra not only acts in Play It Safe, but has also put a lot of work into the film's soundtrack, so it was a real pleasure to be able to continue collaborating with him. A lot of Play It Safe's core creative team (including DP Sherwin Akbarzadeh and editor Raechel Harding) also came on board with this video, so it was very much a family affair which was great.
I’ve read stories where people like Kevin Smith recall seeing Richard Linklater’s “Slacker” and then they thought “my god, I can make movies too”. The film that did that for me was “Mutual Appreciation”, directed by Andrew Bujalski.
I first saw “Mutual Appreciation” at the 2006 Melbourne International Film Festival and it was an absolute revelation to me. I’d never seen anything like it. I found the stories interesting, I was fascinated by its naturalism, and I felt like for one of the first times I was watching characters who I could really relate to. They were doing and talking about things that I did myself. How to be a young artist. How to make it. Growing up and finding your way in life. I saw “Mutual Appreciation” and something clicked. It was as if someone had suddenly given me permission. I felt like I could now make the kinds of movies I wanted to, and maybe here was a way I could do it.
I never went to film school, so I had to learn all the protocols of filmmaking on my own. I didn’t actually learn some of the basics until about three years into my career as an indie director. By this time I’d already won Best Australian Film at MIAF and been commissioned to direct a short docco for the BBC World Service. But still, I didn’t know the basic protocol of working on a film set. This was because of the way I’d come up - fiercely independent, making up the rules as I went. This approach got me some terrific results, but it also had its limitations.
Inevitably, my (lack of) knowledge was tested, and in quite an embarrassing way. Back in 2008 I had somehow managed to score a roll as First Assistant Director on my friend Alan Lam’s final honours film. I thought I knew enough about filmmaking, indie production, and visual storytelling to be of use, but it was a steep learning curve when it came to working with the crew.
I believe that learning to work within limitations is an incredibly important part of being a filmmaker. On many (if not not all) projects it is simply a requirement. In addition to this, however, I believe that it can actually be a very big help to the creative process. This is something I learned early on in my film career and I still believe it today. Some of my best work has come out of the technical or logistical limitations I had to work with. So with every new project, instead of cursing the limitations and restrictions I face (even though sometimes it’s mighty tempting) I do my best to actually embrace them.