Bree Turner interviews Melbourne based film maker Adrian Goodman
The Melbourne Underground Film Festival is an independent and non-profit organisation, which showcases a diverse range of film and video based works. This year’s festival theme is ‘Mavericks’, meaning filmmakers have been encouraged to think way outside the box. Expect to see some crazy things! Couturing Lifestyle Editor, Bree Turner interviewed Adrian Goodman, a Melbourne based filmmaker involved with this year’s festival to find out more about his upcoming film, his experiences and what his picks for MUFF are.
1. How would you describe your ‘style’ as a filmmaker?
Wow what a massive question! I could probably write a book on this one question but I’ll try to keep it brief.
My style is a subjective one. It’s internal and psychological. I like to delve inside the minds of my characters and tell the story not of a group of people in a space, but of each person’s particular perception of the world. This is true of my writing, directing and editing.
All the elements of my directorial style are chosen to best communicate the truth of the characters’ internal lives in that moment.
This gives my films what many call a dreamlike, and often nightmarish, quality.
But while there are surreal elements in my films, it’s important to me that when I’m working with the actors, we treat everything as being completely real. Because as people we all seek to make sense of the world, even in a dream we want to make conscious choices, with or against that sway of emotion. These are some of the questions and tensions that drive my writing and inform my directing style.
I like to give the actors a lot of freedom, within certain parameters, to develop a thorough history for their characters with respect to their lives before the film begins. Doing this helps the actors access the characters and give them more of a feeling of ownership over the role.
With regards to music, I tend to make films that are sonically confronting and expressive, ranging from the use of periods of absolute silence to intense doom metal music or unnerving soundscapes.
I also tend to use unconventional camera angles and compositions because I follow what feels right for the situation, and try to avoid falling back on conventions. The camera is such a powerful tool for revealing truth. It’s one of film’s great paradoxes: you can artificially manipulate a shot in such a way that you can add truth to it. And I really feel that it’s part of our responsibility as directors that our authorial voice, our vision, permeates the film.
True style to me is something that is cohesive, and which is born of both dedication and sincerity.
2. What/who inspires you?
My close friends are great inspirations to me. As are my family, among whom are several visual artists I admire very much, including my mother Jennifer Goodman and my auntie Susan Wald.
My grandparents Celina and Kuba Widawski survived the atrocities of the Holocaust as children in Europe, and have since gone on to make beautiful and dignified lives for themselves in Melbourne. Celina made a career as a fashion designer and tailor. As a young woman, she loved going out with friends and would make herself a new dress for every party she went to. Many of these wild 70s dresses feature in my recently completed debut feature film ‘Wakey Wakey’. It was a great pleasure to have her there on set helping to fit them to the actors.
As far as filmmakers go, some of those who inspire me include Charlie Kaufman, Jean Eustache, Arnaud Desplechin, Sion Sono and Michelangelo Antonioni.
To me, if there’s one thing that makes a great filmmaker, it would have to be bravery of vision. It’s having the guts to allow oneself to be different. I believe we owe it to our audience to express ourselves as honestly and as openly as possible. It’s the artists pursuing these values who inspire me.
3. What pearls of wisdom do you have for young filmmakers?
Firstly, I like to think that I’m still a young filmmaker myself, thank you very much!
If you are a young filmmaker, my advice is not to pay too much heed to what the old filmmakers tell you, or any filmmakers for that matter. It pays to watch and listen, learn the theory, process it all, and then when the time comes, forget it. Retain the strength to trust your own instincts. Be bold and do things your own way.
When it comes time to make my film, I don’t watch any movies or read any scripts. I seek honest personal expression without allowing myself to consciously draw on others’ work or ideas. I want to discover my own ideas.
Have your own ideas. Only make films if it compels you. I’m a firm believer that the best work forces its way out of you. I make films for catharsis, and to try to build bridges to others who share my preoccupations. I would still make my films if nobody watched them but myself. That’s not to say I don’t want an audience, but my films are for me and for people who happen to like my work. I hope to be able to make a living off that into the future, but making a living is not what motivates me.
The making of films is not a glamorous gig, and it is actually quite scary. Being a director is often like walking across a tightrope, juggling one hundred swords in the air, all the while having a seemingly impossible time limit within which to get across to the other side. It often feels like the smallest mistake or error of judgment could topple your whole project. But when things are really cooking it can be so exhilarating.
While I wouldn’t count him as one of my most influential filmmakers, I agree with director David Fincher that there are [to paraphrase] “a million ways you can shoot a scene, but only one right way”.
It’s important to be open to the unexpected as it happens on set. Often, the best things that happen on set are unexpected and it’s an important skill to be flexible enough to recognise that kind of gold when it arises. Often it’s a new approach from the actors, or a new idea that becomes apparent when the team is placed under tighter restriction.
Lastly, I want to say that to be a director is not just to be a camera or lighting, music or fashion guru. Knowledge in these areas is great, but only of secondary importance as far as I’m concerned. To be a filmmaker is to create life, to reflect life. And so, any life experience you have feeds into it. I think that the more broad and deep your interest in art and in life, the more you can bring to the role of director.
4. Your films have made their way around the international film festival circuit, the latest success taking you all the way to Siberia, will you have time to sneak away from the festival and play tourist for a day or two?
At the Kansk International Video Festival, I’m hoping to see some interesting films and meet some like-minded filmmakers. After the festival perhaps I’ll join them in taking the Trans-Siberian Railway across to nearby Novosibirsk, which I’m told is a vibrant student city. I’d like to then go back onto the train to spend some time by Lake Baikal, the deepest and oldest freshwater lake in the world.
Then I’m planning to head into neighbouring Mongolia, where I’ll meet up with friends of friends – artists from the capital Ulaanbataar.
Then I’m hoping to ride a motorbike across Mongolia, Easy Rider style *laughs*, before taking the train back to Siberia. Then its a few days in Moscow and St. Petersburg before heading home to Melbourne.
5. What are your picks for MUFF?
I couldn’t really tell you, as I haven’t seen any of them yet, but having read the program, I think a lot of them sound really interesting, challenging, and a lot of fun too. I’m a fan of MUFF and the new venue at Revolt will make it better than ever in my opinion.
This MUFF screening is to be the local premiere of my new feature film Wakey Wakey, showing on Saturday 25th of August at 5pm and again on Tuesday 28th of August at 7pm. A short film of mine is also playing – Migraine and Michael: A Love Story – on Monday 27th of August at 9pm.
Make sure you get your tickets for this year’s MUFF before they are all sold out! You can check out Couturing’s review of the festival here.
Images courtesy of Adelle Drover