Today I read the tragic news of Tony Scott’s passing whilst wandering towards class with a coffee in one hand, twitter feed in another. I had a strange overwhelming feeling I was going to be sick and was forced to sit down.
Tony Scott, although not the man who young filmmakers often quote as their significant influence or magazines list as ‘the greatest director who ever lived’, holds a significant place in the history of film. His films are also significant influences in my filmmaking simply because Top Gun and Days Of Thunder were the first films I remember watching over and over on VHS. Quoting lines, listening to the soundtrack on tape in a car on a trip somewhere across Australia. Whilst Spielberg grew up watching Wilder and Scorsese was on a steady diet of Fellini and Powell, I grew up on 80’s films before the classics had been re-released on VHS. Scott’s films were taped off television by my mother onto a scatchy VHS tape, hand labeled, usually with ten minutes missing from the beginning and five minute advertising breaks every ten minutes or so. Despite this my siblings and I adored these films and knew them word for word.
My entire life since I was twelve years old has been focused solely on one goal. Becoming a filmmaker with a great canyon on films, respected by my peers and successful in Hollywood. This is my pursuit of happiness. The nature of Tony Scott’s death somewhat disturbed me. I left my family for the first time last year and moved to Sydney in order to pursue my dream of becoming a great filmmaker. What followed was a severe bout of manic depression which lead to thoughts of suicide and imagining several ways to end it all. I even found myself standing on a bridge ready to jump. What stopped me was the knowledge that one day I would be where I wanted to be - in the thick of it all, a significant figure amongst the industry that had fostered my childhood dreams. In the few hours since learning of Tony Scott’s suicide, I have contemplated deeply my dream of becoming a filmmaker. His death has made me think long and hard about relying solely on that dream for a sense of satisfaction in life. I know now that everything I’ve ever longed for or imagined will not be a miracle cure that will provide a sense of happiness and satisfaction. Just as I have known all along. Tony Scott was a man who was successful as a filmmaker in every sense of a word, although critically lambasted, he was commercially lauded and appreciated by his peers. Yet for some reason he chose to take his life. The great outpour of love over the internet has proven Scott’s mark on the world.
I hope in the future that Tony Scott is not defined by the nature of his departure from this earth and rather by his immense contribution to filmmaking. Love his films or vehemently hate them, you must agree to that, unlike many other filmmakers of the same era, Scott’s work in his latter years became more experimental, pushing the boundaries of editing, cinematography and even story. Although he will always be compared to his brother Ridley, Scott stands alone as a film director. His films, although commercial, will go on to influence modern filmmakers forever. I hope that wherever he is, he has found some peace in death that he could not find in this life.
I’ve been struggling to evolve a screenplay I’ve had in my head for three whole years. It begun as the story of two brothers who’s father disappears when they are very young, only to reveal that he is alive when they are older. It evolved into a superhero origins story and became a tale of vengeance. Details have changed and evolved as have the themes and still I cannot put a finger on what story I am trying to tell. Through nights of drinking, aching and paining over what I want to say, I believe I have finally figured out what this film is at it’s very core. It is a story about a man who needs to overcome his past and inspire those around him. This character’s story is mine.
Every writer struggles to find the heart of the stories they NEED to tell. It has taken me a decade to realise what I need to write about. I NEED to inspire people. There is a reason why I keep returning to the films of Steven Spielberg, often as flawed as they are. During the very dark and horrible times of my life I have turned to his films to be lifted and for ultimate inspiration. Speilberg taught me at a very young age that anything is possible. He was my Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society
As a child I was blessed with a privileged upbringing, never in need of anything of material essence, given the opportunity to attend the most privileged of schools, but beneath the surface there were some very troubling experiences. I will not go into details about what was actually a very tumultuous childhood and the often deeply troubled parts of my early life but I was in desperately need of hope. I turned to films for catharsis, the way one would turn to the church of possibly turn the other way, towards the depths of sorrow. The way Coppola turned to films because of his polio or Scorsese because of his asthama. Films and the cinema experience in particular gave me hope and ultimate saved my life in latter on years. They left me with the unfaltering belief that anything is possible in life. Films like ET, Field Of Dreams (I very important film for me) and The War, marked my childhood the way an important mentor or spiritual world guide would. They lifted me from the depth of my sorrow and lead me to where I stand today, as a confident, functioning woman. I can remember seeing some films for the first time, as if one would mark an important lover or life event. Films are the lessons of my life and they are the medicine I turn to at the very darkest times. When I drown in the depth of sorrow they are still, to this very day, my nourishment and savior. To me, they are important as water or food. The cinema is my church, my home and my god.
Whilst backpacking around Europe in need of inspiration for my writing at the age of nineteen, I found myself in a slight depression. The first of many to come in forthcoming years. I journeyed into a video store and sought to purchase a film that I could watch in any hostel I was living in at the time. I thought hard about my purchase and eventually decided on what could be called the most inspirational film of all time. Voted for continually as the most loved film of all time. Have you guessed yet? Those of you film fanatics may have guessed already - I had in my hands a copy of The Shawshank Redemption. A beautiful film, which I watched continually from a very young age - maybe too young you would think to appreciate the nuance and depth of it’s themes. But I can say I viewed Shawshank Redemption with the exact same feelings that I view it with now. It is a film that inspires one to see their world in a different light. It speaks on a universal level about ‘hope’ and escaping the prison that one can possibly live in, in any sense of a word. It speaks on a fundamental human level.
Two years ago I wrote a film called ‘The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived’. It was the story of two best friends who are inspired by the space race to do dares for money. This was the fastest script I’ve ever written. It was like spreading Vegimite on a cracker. Within days the script was written. When I begun this year, asking myself what film out of the dozens of scripts I have written, that I would endeavor to make, ‘Greatest Man’ was the only choice. I knew what story I had to tell. It’s about a fearful child with a troubled and tumultuous childhood who seeks to overcome his fears and find inspiration. Sound familiar? Production begins as of September and the film will be released next year.
Films have the overwhelming power to unite human beings in the depths of their feeling and create a mass cathartic experience in a room with a group of strangers. I have had this experience and I will again reiterate that it has saved my life. Watching a great film in the cinema is as close to a heaven as I will ever experience. I have wanted to make films since I was twelve years old and that is what I still NEED to do. Every film I will ever endeavor to make, will some how unwittingly be about hope and will inspire - otherwise it will feel foreign and false when I am endeavoring to tell the story. I know what my story is about.
Writer’s block doesn’t exist. Find what you absolutely NEED to write about and write about it. Think of an idea and struggle and come back to that THEME and you will unwittingly find your story. If you have a need inside you to tell that story, it will find you. Good luck writing and making films. Make them profound x
The Astor Theatre of Melbourne is now in dire trouble. A few years ago, in the same situation, a nearby private school St Michael’s stepped in to take on the theater’s lease, thereby postponing it’s end, but now the beautiful art deco theatre is again in trouble and needs your help.
The film industry has changed. Support for burgeoning young filmmakers is waning in the current economy, what with funding bodies cutting off the money that was once offered to make short films. The same short films that were once the school of life and stepping stone for young filmmakers to transition to feature films and find their way in the industry. Apprenticeships are rare, even on the ABC and SBS - the old training systems having dissipated with government changes and it is getting harder for a young filmmaker like me to get a foot in the door. The hundreds of independent cinemas throughout Melbourne that once would have offered filmmakers a chance to distribute and screen their films have closed their doors.
Long gone are the days of the independent theaters of Melbourne. Throughout Victoria, two large distributors, Village and Hoyts have a conglomerate on the central locations, strip shopping streets and shopping centers. They simply offered the developers more money and in turn the developers offered them leases on the most valuable properties. Independent cinemas were gradually forced out of neighborhoods by developers and economic growth and were forced to shut their doors. With the invent of computers, digital media and high speed internet the audience is spread thinly across a world of endless outlets offering entertainment. Even the largest distribution chains are struggling. Tickets have risen to eighteen dollars, and audience’s must weigh their options when handing over this hefty sum and many are choosing to stay at home. Hollywood studios in turn, react with IMAX and 3D, trying desperately in a bid to bring audiences back to the cinemas to see grand big budget, blockbuster spectacle. The essence of story and the true reason why we make and watch films is being lost in the thick of it all.
Through all of this change to the worlds film industry and the Australian cinema experience, one Independent cinema has managed to stand the test of time. To maintain it’s location on the far end of Chapel Street, it’s beautiful decor and the true essence of what a cinema visit should be. The Astor Theatre has been screening films since 1936. I grew up after the invention of VHS, and so I was of the first generation that were able to watch the same films over and over at the press of a button. Until I visited the Astor Theatre the first time, I had never seen some of my most beloved movies the way they were suppose to be seen. In cinema scope, with the crackle of the projector and the cigarette burn at the end of the reel, or the scratchy print that skipped. I never truly grasped the worth of some films until I had seen them at the cinema, thanks to the Astor. I saw Apocalypse Now, not for the first time but the third, but seeing the film as it was intended, with surround sound and Brando’s face huge and white, hidden in the deep darken shadows blew me away. My teenage years entailed grabbing a free Astor Catalogue which displayed the double features for the season and circling all of the movies I wanted to see. I would then write those double features into a diary, so that I would remember to go see them. The Astor gave me the chance to see films like Night Of The Hunter, Gone With The Wind, Taxi Driver and Badlands, the way they were suppose to be seen. The popcorn was cheap enough to buy and tasty like it was suppose to be served. If you were tired after the first feature you could get yourself a hot black coffee to keep you going. I saw Lethal Weapon paired with Lethal Weapon 2. I sat within an audience of movie geeks watching a full cut of The Grindhouse, with trailers in between. The audience united together in the cinema watching the greats films of the past and the newest releases. It would be a sad day if the Astor Theatre closed it’s doors and the opportunity for young moviegoers to see the classics of cinema the way they were intended to be shown.
Please take the time to sign the petition online to keep the theatre in business.
”The Big Friendly Giant”
David Morse really embodies the premise of the actor who’s face audiences remember but who’s name they do not often recall.
I had grown up seeing Morse in the background of numerous films, but it was Sean Penn’s underrated and impeccable directorial debut ‘The Indian Runner’, where I was first deeply affected by his performance in a film. Penn’s film is based on the Bruce Springsteen song ‘Highway Patrolman’, about two brothers who cannot connect on their values. Morse plays Joe Roberts, a family man and small town sheriff, who attempts to curb his younger brother Frankie’s (Viggo Mortensen) destructive and violent nature by encouraging him to start a family. Morse plays this character with layers of subtle vulnerability and strength, while trying to come to terms and understand his brothers anger towards the world. I urge you to watch this film if you ever come by it in a second hand record shop or video store. It is to this day, in my opinion, one of the greatest films ever made and Morse delivers the greatest performance of his long and fruitful career.
David Morse got his first break on the Richard Donner film ‘Inside Moves’, was given a role on the medical series St Elsewhere in 1982 for six years, and since then has continued to deliver recurring and captivating performances in major Hollywood films as supporting actor. He has moved back and forth between television, films and theater throughout the years but is probably remembered most for The Green Mile. His almost 6’5 broad frame is in direct contrast to his demure voice and quiet demenour. Morse often plays the kind hearted supporting role, but he is also outstanding as the villain in films like Disturbia, 16 Blocks and The Negotiator. Morse has played supporting lead to Kevin Spacey, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, and the list goes on.
In my opinion, his other best role comes in Sean Penn’s second film ‘The Crossing Guard’, starring opposite Jack Nicholson. Morse plays John Booth, a drunk driver, who’s attempts to rebuild his life after being released from prison for the accidental hit and run of a young girl is disrupted when her disturbed father, played by Jack Nicholson, seeks revenge against him. Morse brings his usually sensitivity to the role. Choosing to play Booth as vulnerable and self-destructive. He is plagued by his own guilt for having killed a young girl and so we, the audience feel a great deal of sympathy towards a character who if we otherwise saw on a news telecast, would not.
In 2002 Morse was given the lead role on the short lived television series ‘Hack’ and continued to take minor parts in films - Dancer In The Dark and The Rock. Morse continues to star in television roles, previously recurring role on House and a current role on the HBO series Treme. Morse, sits within the Top 5000 stars on imdb but has earned his place as one of the greatest actors of all time. Although, he sits on the outside of Hollywood, he is recognised within the business and called upon time and time again to deliver subtle, sensitive and moving portrayals throughout his major and minor roles.
Best Roles: The Indian Runner, The Crossing Guard, Crazy In Alabama
”He’s very good at playing bad”
Yep, he plays Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter, but Jason Isaacs has also been a working actor for 25 years. Predominantly in Britain, where he is a household name and recently appeared in the BBC miniseries ‘Case Histories’; his turn as private detective and romantic lead Jackson Broadie has garnered him attention as a leading man. I would probably sell my kidney for a chance to direct Isaacs and that if you think thats coming on strong, you probably haven’t seen the showtime series ‘Brotherhood’. The pilot was originally directed and cast by the very wise Philip Noyce. A petition for Issacs as Bond begun a few years ago before Daniel Craig signed on for the part. He was in Paul Greengrass’ (Bourne, Green Zone) first made for television film ‘The Fix’. Greengrass has credited Isaacs with being his formal teacher when it comes to directing actors. His American breakthrough came in ‘The Patriot’ opposite Mel Gibson where he took a villainous turn as Col William Tavington. You may remember him brutally killing two of Mel Gibson’s children with a gleeful expression across his face. Jason Isaacs is very good at playing bad. Shortly after came a supporting role in Black Hawk Down, where he was somehow lost amidst the enormous cast and flying bullets over Sudan. Then came bit parts in average films, Windtalkers and The Tuxedo. These roles may have not appeared to further his career but a year or so later Isaacs was offered the part of Lucius Malfoy in ‘Harry Potter’ and turned it down. Were it not for a group of overzealous godchildren petitioning him to take the part he may not have excepted. Isaacs has had small roles in West Wing and Entourage and moved back and forth between starring roles in high quality British television and smaller parts in American movies. He played Captain Hook in the first live action film of Peter Pan, directed by Australia’s own P.J Hogan. His greatest role so far is his turn as psychopathic criminal Michael McCaffrey in the Showtime series ‘Brotherhood’, which spanned for three seasons. Isaacs has earned a reputation as an actor capable of mastering any accent. Over the last few years Isaacs has become the focus of attention by American network television as a potential lead in several TV series and was the object of a network bidding war. He is currently producing and starring on the must watch NBC series ‘Awake’. In my opinion, Isaacs is talented, charismatic and bound for Hugh Laurie-esque television fame in America.
Best Performances: Brotherhood (TV Series), Awake (TV series), Peter Pan
” I hope I wouldn’t get trapped, doing something I didn’t enjoy so I could enjoy myself on the weekends. We only get one crack at everything. There’s no dress rehearsal and if you can find something that you love doing and you get paid for it as well, then that’s about as good as it gets”
- Jason Isaacs on acting
Throughout the earth, in which billions of people inhabit, there are names and faces immediately recognisable across the globe. In the midst of Amazonian tribes, barren siberian winter landscapes, Himalayan mountaintops and war torn Africa, you might possibly see a Nespresso billboard with George Clooney’s dimple smile gazing down on you like sunshine, asking you to buy a coffee machine, when the nearest shopping mall is thousands of kilometers away, down a steep and glacier filled track and it takes you a week to earn the money for the equivalent to a soy latte at a cafe in Australia.
The following people featured in this piece are not these people. They are ‘actors’, who have been practicing their craft for two decades or more, predominantly as supporting actors in major Hollywood and Independent cinema. You will probably recognise their faces but not know their names. They consistently deliver moving portrayals wherever they grace the screen. I have followed their careers for years and would rather work with them than any known name throughout the globe. They’re are often not seen as leading man potential. This list a decade ago would have included John C. Reilly, Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Daniel Craig and Paul Giamatti, but as luck who have it, they are now household names. Over the next few weeks I will be posting a profile of an actor a day. If you know who all of these actors are then give yourself a pat on your back and go and rent all of their films for old times sake.
For the filmmakers and actors reading this, history has consistently proved, that all it takes is one role to change the trajectory of an acting career towards a different direction. After years of playing antagonists and supporting roles, Matthew Vaughn cast Daniel Craig as a drug dealer in ‘Layer Cake’, a role which lead directly to his being chosen as Bond. John C. Reilly spent decades playing supporting characters in dramas until he changed the trajectory of his career with Talladega Nights and became a comedy household name. Morgan Freeman was fifty when he starred Driving Ms Daisy. Persist and keep working. It may take thirty years to succeed but as Morgan Freeman proved. If you are talented, you will succeed.