Three Filmmakers On The Edge of Their Careers: Interview
Ashleigh Hopping | On 27, Jan 2016
We chat with three upcoming creatives about making it in the film industry, what motivates them to pursue their craft and their greatest vulnerabilities.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a cinema astonished. Iâ€™d just witnessed The Neon KingÂ on the big screen and it had surpassed all of my expectations of what a student film from a team of Griffith graduates would look likeâ€Šâ€”â€Šor feel like. There were emotions pulsing through my veins that I wasnâ€™t expecting to garner from a film set in the 70s about two young guys in the bush. Somehow these young graduates had managed to move me more than most fully fledged features ever have.
The Neon KingÂ is the final student film made by the core team of Cameron March (Director), Danielle Redford (Producer) and Jordan Lynagh (Writer/Producer). Speaking to this trio was a fascinating look into what it means to be a young creative in the modern film industry and the kind of motivation required to chase such ambitious dreams.
What first strikes me about this triad of filmmakers is a consistent vision for more than the typical nine-to-five. Cam and JordanÂ grew up with big dreams which didn’t involve filmmaking,Â butÂ discovered a love for storytelling in their adolescence.
For Jordan, it was initially a battle between the pragmatic and the creative. â€œI used to want to be a robotics engineer” – creative won.
â€œIâ€™ve been compelled to write about stuff pretty much since grade tenâ€¦I really got into my English class and I started writing short stories, thatâ€™s where it took off.â€
â€œI wanted to be an AFL player,â€ Cam tells me, laughing. â€œI was never good enough, it was a dream.â€ He did a film class through high school and gained early acceptance into Griffith University. â€œFrom there I just really enjoyed filmmaking and Iâ€™ve never looked back.â€
For Danielle, there was never anything else. â€œI grew up in a household where film was crucial, where experiencing cinematic stories was part of our everyday routine and where story was celebrated. The craft itself had a reverence that surrounded it, it was intoxicating.â€
Studying was integral in determining where they best fit into the filmmaking scope. Danielle talks about discovering her passion for producing the same way you might find yourself experiencing an unexpected love affair: â€œYou know when you see someone and youâ€™re like, heyâ€Šâ€”â€ŠI have a crush on you! And it wasnâ€™t there before? I was happily surprised to find that I fell deeply in love with producing.â€
Making their last student film was a more rewarding experience than they could have foreseen. The story is based on the tragic past ofÂ Jordanâ€™sÂ family heritage and explores the â€œbravado and total abandon of care for oneâ€™s lifeâ€ that was prevalent in the 70s, a theme Jordan believes is still an issue in masculinity today.
â€œMy uncle Alf grew up in Warwick. His youth revolved around spending every single dollar earned on drinking, partying, and souping up your shitty little carâ€¦the line from the film, â€˜Saturday night, a fuck or a fightâ€™, was what they used to say. They would always start the night off with a game of Chicken on the highway. One weekend my uncle was really, really sick and his friends came around to pick him up for the night.â€
Alfâ€™s mother wouldnâ€™t let him go out. â€œThat night, his friends were all killed in a head on collision with a semitrailer on the highway.â€
One of the reasons Cam was excited to come on board as director was to work on scenes that were overly ambitious for a student production. â€œWe had two stuntees on The Neon KingÂ who were also on Mad MaxÂ (Judd Wild and Yasca Sinigaglia). They were great, so helpful and willing to give us ideas and feedback.â€
Cam has also worked with world renowned actor Hugo Weaving, directing him in an advertisement for autism awareness. â€œIt was a really weird experienceâ€Šâ€”â€Šseeing him, I was star struck. Youâ€™ve kind of got to get over that cause youâ€™re there to do a job and he expects you to be professional. He was a gentleman and really humble and knowledgeable, a really lovely guy to work with.â€
Brisbane has so far offered these three great experience. However,Â Jordan also acknowledges room for growth. â€œSimilar to the Australian industry but on a more concentrated level, Brisbane is a place where a lack of opportunity and appreciation forces the artist to find work elsewhere, and itâ€™s kind of like a never ending cycle.â€
Danielle agrees and hopes to be part of the solution. â€œIâ€™m really interested in looking at how some of the indie world has developed techniques to counteract the need for huge overheads and dollar figures.â€ She and Jordan will be exploring this option by developing a feature film in 2016 through the Master of Screen Production at Griffith University.
While Danielle is excited about creating new sustainability methods, Jordan looks forward to working on a more light-hearted project. â€œIâ€™ve always found myself to be the funniest person I know, and I just find it ridiculous that I went through my whole film school career without trying my hand at comedy.â€ He is fascinated with the genre of science-fiction and how the most outrageous of plots can expose the most sincere of human emotions, noting films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindÂ and Blade RunnerÂ amongst his favourites.
When I ask if they have ever regretted going into film, Danielle answers before Iâ€™ve even finished the question. â€œYes!â€ She jokes about the glamour of scrubbing dirt off the floor at 2am and being out on cold sets for hours on end, but also touches on a very real fear of vulnerability. â€œThere are some moments when youâ€™re speaking out this vision for something that doesnâ€™t exist yet, but youâ€™re met with a blank stare or someone who didnâ€™t get it or someone who says itâ€™s been done beforeâ€¦the whole magic of your idea falls apart right before your eyes. As an artist, developing a thick skin is integral, but much easier said than done.â€
There is also the reality of balancing finances with job opportunity. â€œLeaving uni is a pretty scary thought, figuring out how youâ€™re going to pay the bills and still do your craft. I donâ€™t have an answer for that yetâ€¦I guess weâ€™ll see very soon,â€ Cam says. â€œBut no matter what, itâ€™s something Iâ€™m really passionate about and will continue to do one way or another.â€
This is the common quality these three share, a quiet certainty of what they are cut out for and the willingness to sacrifice comfort for the pursuit of their passion. Jordan believes that reaching success speaks more to an individualâ€™s personal ability to motivate themselves than to their level of creative skill. â€œI would rather wake up every day struggling to pay the bills but happy with what I do than wake up every day in a big house and think, â€˜I shouldnâ€™t have given up on what I actually really love doing with my life.â€™â€
When asked about his plans for the future, Jordan tells me he isnâ€™t much of a goal-setter but does wish to be the youngest screenwriter to ever win an Oscar. Heâ€™s only half kiddingâ€Šâ€”â€ŠI guess weâ€™ll see next February.
Cam is more measured with his goals, telling me he hopes to develop his skills with commercials, music videos and short films over the next 12 months. He plans to continue cultivating his personal style of beautiful imagery and seamless storytelling. â€œItâ€™s important for me when I do get older and I have directed a few films that people will see my work and recognise it as mine.â€
Danielle is already well on her way to establishing a strong career in producing, particularly with a larger feature project in the works for 2016. She wonâ€™t be slowing down anytime soon. â€œWhen Iâ€™m on set something inside of me lights up and says, â€˜this is where youâ€™re meant to be.â€™ That energy is a bit like a drug, so Iâ€™ll probably keep chasing it forever.â€