Friday 31 August 2012

Interview with Annette Uwizeye

Annette Uwizeye is a Rwandan filmmaker, who lives in the capital city, Kigali. She has made several short films and commercials, and is currently producing a feature film called Uwera.
    For the benefit of many of our readers, Rwanda, once known as German East Africa, is a land-locked nation, surrounded by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). The country gained independence from Belgium in 1962.
    With a population of almost 12 million, Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa. 43% are under 15 years of age. 56% are Roman Catholics. 
    Rwanda experienced a genocide in 1994, which left somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people dead in a mere three months.

Map of Rwanda
*  Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born to exiled Rwandan parents living in Kenya, and returned to Rwanda as a teenager. Later, I moved to South Africa and spent most of my formative years there.

*  Tell us something about your family? Are you a member of Tutsi or Hutu communities?

My grandparents were part of the 1959 Refugee exodus to countries neighboring Rwanda. In the late '70s my parents, just like many young exiled Rwandans, left Uganda and moved to Kenya in search of greener pastures. My parents met and married in Kenya.

Women drummers perform at the annual KigaliUP music festival.
I would be identified as a Tutsi, but in Rwanda today, I am simply a ‘Munyarwanda’ or a Rwandan. I am part of the larger community, where identity, race or gender is by no means a reason for segregation. Historically Rwandans were divided along ethnic lines, and other types of divisions were promoted to take away some people's liberties and to exploit the majority of the citizens. This culminated to the gruesome executions that the world recognizes as the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

Currently though I must say how proud I am of being a Rwandan. It is a country of resilient people where the once-exploited are reclaiming their dignity.

*  I’ve seen a couple of versions of your name. [Annette Uwera / Uwizeye ] Can you explain them for me.

Annette Uwizeye is my professional name. Uwera is my middle name, and that reminds me to fix my email name to match.

*  What schooling have you received?

I majored in Screen Writing at Film School at Tshwane University of Technlogy
the former Pretoria Film School in South Africa, which was founded by Jamie Uys, best known for The Gods Must Be Crazy. He died in 1986, way before I started to appreciate the craft of filmmaking.

*  How many people in Rwanda speak English?

I have no idea, but you will find a fairly good number of Rwandans speaking English. The majority will be more comfortable in French, and even more in the local language

*  When did you first take an interest in films/stories?

Long story, but on the day of Pope John Paul II’s funeral (in 2005), I was watching Hotel Rwanda (2004), and somewhere between those two events I knew I wanted to become a filmmaker. Two years later I got into Film School.

    Storytelling has always been with and within me. My mom and dad are great story tellers, very humorous and this sets the tone for a very animated dinner table at my house. So I guess I got the bug from them and decided to turn that into a full time career.

*  In 1994, somewhere between 500,000 and one million people were killed in Rwanda. How did that event affect you and your family?

In 1959 there was an exodus of Tutsis
fleeing persecution to neighboring countries. Some, however, remained in Rwanda, and for almost forty years our families were divided. Many of those who had chosen to remain in Rwanda were murdered in 1994.
    My family returned to Rwanda in 1999, but I had to leave for university just as soon as we had settled in Kigali in 2000.
    Like many returnees, all I have are the stories of cousins, aunts and uncles that I never met. It is sad to have family and friends that have their whole history wiped away with hardly any photos or reminders of their families to share. I am humbled by the strength of the survivors.

*  Is Rwanda today a safe place to be? (Most Australians only know the scary headlines from years ago.) Do you ever feel threatened as you go about your daily life?

I feel safer in Rwanda than I did elsewhere in the world. I have lived in Kenya, in South Africa, and have traveled in the USA. I am not just saying that. People feel safe here: it is not odd to have people casually strolling in the city past midnight.

*  What impact did the massacre have on filmmaking in Rwanda?

Just like the post-holocaust era, there has been a string of genocide-related films such as Sometimes in April, Shooting Dogs, Hotel Rwanda, Shake Hands with the Devil, Kinyarwanda, to name a few. These are important films in that they pass on the message of what poisonous ideology can do to a society. 

*  Who is the person who has had the biggest influence on you?

My Father, Patrick Uwizeye, a manager at MTN
a telecom company in Rwanda. He is extremely focused and I often wonder if I could possibly be his daughter. He has come from a very far place where, like so many former Refugees, he had to struggle to get an education. When he succeeded, he made sure my siblings and I had the best education he could afford. I forever aspire to be just like him and at least accomplish half of what he has achieved.

*  What was your first job in filmmaking?

My first job was directing and producing a short documentary/testimony by Hannah Pick-Goslar about her childhood friend Anne Frank. This was for the Johannesburg Holocaust Center. My team was made up of film school students and pulled off a very professional job that did this great story justice.

Children reading at the new Kigali National Library.
*  Can you earn a living making TV Commercials, or do you have a day job?

It is difficult to get a steady stream of income from Producing TV Commercials, but that should change as soon as next year, when a number of TV stations will be starting. I recently founded a Production House called A WIZE Films that will allow me and our partners to produce independent African films, as well as content for TV and New Media. We are working on including a distribution system into the business model. We are yet to begin full-on marketing. My dream is to get each one of the 12 million Rwandans to see our films.

*  What African films can you recommend?

Na Wewe (Burundi), District 9 (South Africa) and Pumzi (Kenya). I am inspired to make films like these. 
    Na Wewe (2010) is a short film. It tells the story of Burundi, whose history is dotted by the same tragic divisionism ideology that was applied in Rwanda. It is told light-heartedly, and cleverly speaks volumes about half a century’s worth of history in nineteen minutes.
District 9 (2009) has so many layers of social commentary about the South African social fabric, but ingeniously woven in the form of science fiction. Who would have ever thought of an Alien ship landing in Africa? Those things just seem to be drawn to the USA (thank God!).
Pumzi (2009) is another short film, extremely innovative in terms of its stylistic delivery, another science fiction film that speaks tons about an impending global water crisis that we must all be aware of.
Ankole cattle graze outside a traditional village.
Kindly allow me to self-promote. Uwera is a film that A_WIZE Films is working on and hope to have it released mid-2013.
    Uwera is a character-titled film about a girl that has the opportunity to go to University. Having been raised in rural cattle-keeping province of Rwanda, she now has to fit in a more cosmopolitan environment and her old values are challenged. She is a woman of surprising talents that the world is yet to discover.
Rwandan 1,000 franc note.
Previously, cattle were used as money.
    Audiences should expect to experience a side of Rwanda that is little-known, filled with color and music.

*  Have you seen any Australian movies?

Yes! If I say Australia (2008), the film, will I get gunned down? 

    It is a Hollywood studio film many would argue, but it is a beautiful Aussie story that made its way to African cinemas, so that counts, right? 

[ Not gunned down, no. It's a beautifully-made film, but one that divides Australians, due to the numerous factual errors it contains.

The only Australian productions anyone I know will talk about are the day-time soapies: Home and Away, and Neighbours. (I know they don’t count as films.) A friend just recommended that I watch Chopper (2000). Any recommendations?

[ A few you might like include: Babe (1995), Breaker Morant (1980), Cosi (1985), Crackerjack (2002), Crocodile Dundee (1986), Gettin’ Square (2003), Moulin Rouge! (2001), Muriel’s Wedding (1994), Paperback Hero (1998), Shine (1996), Strictly Ballroom (1992), and The Man From Snowy River (1982). ]

*  What one book would you recommend to a young wannabe screenwriter in Rwanda?

Can I name three?
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell, is a must-have.
  • Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist is a classic. The Alchemist inspired me to find my own true North, and in fact got me thinking about switching careers from Finance to Filmmaking!
  • Ohhhh, and not to forget, The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. This book is needed to open up the mind and heart.

*  Name ten of your all-time favorite movies.

In no particular order... 

Agaciro is a short film made by Annette Uwizeye.
This short film highlights what the Rwanda-African traditional value of Agaciro is, and it encourages individuals to dig a little deeper into who they are, how they describe Agaciro in their community and country.

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Thursday 30 August 2012

Rwanda Genocide

This short film (5 minutes) was chosen today in order to bring regular readers up to speed for tomorrow's interview with Rwandan filmmaker, Annette Uwizeye. 

1994. The genocide. We saw the headlines, even if we didn't bother with the fine print. Lots of trouble, lots of bad news. That was then, this is now.

Today things have changed in Rwanda. There is a mood of hope, and a determination to heal the land and bring a lasting reconciliation to all the people who live there.

The fledgling film industry in Rwanda is playing a part, telling the story of renewal and hope. 

Today the bad news, tomorrow the good news. Thanks for watching.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

The High Line

The High Line is a short documentary film, commissioned by Wallpaper* Magazine. It tells the story of the High Line Park in New York City.

The High Line Park is an abandoned elevated railway line, recycled into an urban park, which runs from the Meatpacking District, through the neighborhood of Chelsea, to the West Side Yard.

The film was made by Lost & Found Films.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

"Jedi Camp"

Jedi Camp is a six episode, webseries fan film, dealing with the bullying epidemic.

It was written and directed by William Ostroff, and produced by Wit's End Films.

It stars: Stuart Allan, Andy Scott Harris, Maya Rush, Gabriele Eggerling, Amanda Ward, Keith Szarabajka and Andrew S. Bowen.

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Monday 27 August 2012

"Love Sick"

Here's a short film for all the romantics out there. Love Sick.

    The end may be just the beginning...

Written, directed and edited by Kevin Lacy.

    IMDb    YouTube   

Sunday 26 August 2012

Robert Towne talks to Allan Gregg

Allan Gregg is a Canadian who interviews various authors, artists and leading thinkers for a Canadian television show.

He talked to Robert Townewriter, director, producer, actor—who got his start acting and writing for legendary exploitation director/producer Roger Corman, then came into his own during the 1970s, when he was regarded as one of the finest screenwriters in Hollywood. 

Here Robert Towne talks about his career and the business of writing in Hollywood.

Saturday 25 August 2012

"Temporary Setbacks"

Temporary Setbacks is a webseries written and directed by Rock Schroeter of Proactive Pictures.
After losing both his job and girlfriend, a 32-year-old man tries to get back on track by returning to his hometown.
Episode 1 is called, 'Me or the Guitar.' 

(You're thinking he'll choose the girl over the guitar, right? 
Let's see...)

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Friday 24 August 2012

The Consultants

The Consultants is a comedic web series about Hastings Consulting, a fictional management consulting company. Whereas The Office is bumbling middle management, The Consultants is about that back-office nether region comprised of wanna be masters-of-the-universe who work hard, get paid a ton, and treat themselves too seriously!

The series was created by Nelson Cheng.

Here is episode one: Die Hard.

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Thursday 23 August 2012

The Human Jukebox

You might remember Eddie Barbash and Jesse Scheinin from my The First Day of Spring (NYC) post back in March 2012. Well, Eddie (alto saxaphone) pops up again in this video, along with Charles Yang (violin) and Michael Thurber (bass).

These days everything's interactive, including these Brooklyn street performers. They allow the audience to be part of the show, controlling the music being played, and the speed at which it is played, by the donations they make, thus turning the performers into a ‘Human Jukebox’ of sorts.

The money went to Wingspan Arts, a non-profit organization that aims to expose diverse groups of young people to the arts.

It's fun. Enjoy. And sing along at the end.

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Wednesday 22 August 2012

French movie posters: 1930-1956

Current issue of Mubi has a retrospective of old French movie posters. If you like poster art, it's well worth a look.
The Earrings of Madame De... Max Ophüls. Artist: Roger Rojac.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Indie film distribution

This blog emerged (partly) from the realisation that the old dream of writing a screenplay and selling it to Hollywood for a million dollars simply wasn't going to happen for me. And probably not for anyone I knew. The world had changed. I had to find another way to see my stories make it onto the big screen.

Jason Brubaker is a filmmaker who had the parallel experience of realising that he could make an independent film and distribute it himself, without any input from Hollywood. The world had, indeed, changed.

Jason put his ideas to the test and found they worked. He collaborated with ten other filmmakers to write the book The Modern MovieMaking Movement. Then they gave the book away for free. (Click on the title to download your .PDF copy.) Even if you plan to restrict yourself to screenwriting, you need to know the stuff in that book. Because the world has changed.

Then Jason set up the website, Filmmaking Stuff, and wrote another book called Filmmaking Stuff - How To Make, Market and Sell Your Movie Without The Middleman. That one will cost you US$9.99. I haven't read it yet. 

One result of all this is that he gets invited to speak at film festivals. The clip below is of an interview at the First Glance Film Festival 2012. Watch Jason tell his own story.

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Phyllis Diller: 1917-2012

Phyllis Diller died on Monday at her home in Brentwood, California. She was 95.

Ms. Diller was a comedian who told jokes that piled on the laughs in rapid succession. 
“I realized on our first wedding anniversary that our marriage was in trouble. Fang gave me luggage. It was packed. My mother damn near suffocated!”
Phyllis Diller was born on July 17, 1917, in Lima, Ohio. As a child she played the piano and sang; by the time she got to high school, she also had an interest in writing and dramatics. In 1935, her last year at Central High School, she was voted the school’s most talented student.

She entered Bluffton College in Bluffton, Ohio, with thoughts of becoming a music teacher. She married Sherwood Anderson Diller in 1939.

The Dillers moved to California, where he was an inspector at a Navy air station and later held various other jobs—none, by Ms. Diller’s account, for very long. They struggled financially, even with Ms. Diller working too. She wrote a shopping column for a newspaper and advertising copy for a department store in Oakland, then moved on to a job as a copywriter, continuity writer and publicist for a radio station in Oakland, before joining a San Francisco station as director of promotion and merchandising.

Phyllis Diller made her professional debut at the Purple Onion, a San Francisco nightclub, in 1955. She was soon being booked at nightclubs all over the country, and she became nationally known after several dozen appearances on Jack Paar’s Tonight Show, beginning in 1958.

She was believable as well as hilarious when she talked about her husband, Fang; her mother-in-law, Moby Dick; and her sister-in-law, Captain Bligh. She was so believable that shortly after she divorced Sherwood Diller in 1965, his mother and sister sued her for defamation of character in an effort to keep her from talking about them in her act. She insisted that she was talking about a fictional family, not them, and eventually settled out of court.

Ms. Diller was never really the grotesque-looking woman she made herself out to be; her body, in fact, was attractive enough that when she posed nude for a Playboy photo spread the pictures ended up not being published—the magazine was going for laughs, and decided that they looked too good to be funny.

She became one of the first celebrities not just to have plastic surgery but also to acknowledge and even publicize that fact. By the 1990s she had had more than a dozen operations.

Ms. Diller's network television ventures—The Pruitts of Southampton (1966-67), and The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show (1968)—were both short-lived. She had a recurring role on The Bold and the Beautiful and did voice-over work on various cartoon shows, including Family Guy.

She made a number of films, including three with Bob Hope—Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966), Eight on the Lam (1967) and The Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell (1968).

Between 1971 and 1981 she appeared as a piano soloist with one hundred symphony orchestras across the country under the name Dame Illya Dillya. 

She appeared on Broadway, stepping into the lead role in Hello, Dolly! for three months in late 1969 and early 1970. She painted, and wrote a number of books, including Phyllis Diller’s Housekeeping Hints, The Joys of Aging and How to Avoid Them and Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse: My Life in Comedy.

Ms. Diller is survived by a son, Perry; a daughter, Suzanne Mills; four grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

When she appeared in Las Vegas in May 2002, three years after suffering a heart attack, Ms. Diller announced that this would be her last stand-up performance. She stuck to that decision. Her final performance was captured in the 2004 documentary Goodnight, We Love You.

     New York Times   

Monday 20 August 2012

Book Review: "Bambi vs. Godzilla"

I first encountered David Mamet years ago in his book Make-Believe Town. That contains a collection of reminiscences and essays which ramble across a range of subjects, some of them to do with the movie business. His application of Biblical principles to success at poker being, perhaps, the most surprising element. 
   Since then I have been catching up on Mamet's books, by way of a kind of drip-fed literary diet. The latest has been Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business
    In it Mamet references almost two hundred movies, of which I have seen less than half. If you want to know what the term "a broad education" refers to, read a Mamet book.
    In Bambi vs.Godzilla, Mamet addresses many aspects of the film business, with almost half of it given over to a series of observations about the practice of screenwriting. What follows is a short selection of quotes from that book, in no particular order.
  • Storytelling is like sex. We all do it naturally. Some of us are better at it than others. 
  • Screenwriting ... a plot reducible to five lines on one side of one sheet of paper. 
  • How does it go? Once upon a time, and then one day, and just when everything was going so well, when just at the last minute, and they all lived happily ever after.
  • The filmed drama is a succession of scenes. Each scene must end so that the hero is thwarted in pursuit of his goalso that he is forced to go on to the next scene to get what he wants. 
  • To write a successful scene, one must stringently apply and stringently answer the following three questions:
    1. Who wants what from whom?
    2. What happens if they don't get it?
    3. Why now?
  • These magic questions and their worth are not known to any script reader, executive, or producer. They are known and used by few writers. They are, however, part of the unconscious and perpetual understanding of that group who will be judging you and by whose say-so your work will stand or fall: the audience.
As an American occupation, screenwriting has replaced knitting which it, in some ways, resembles; the rules for both are simple, and both involve sheep. Richard Weisz
  • A perfect movie: The Lady Eve, written and directed by Preston Sturges. ... We may reflect that its description contains none of what the ignorant refer to as "characterization," nor does it contain any of their beloved "backstory." 
  • It begins with a premise: the hero wants something.
  • He cannot just desire something. For the screenplay to be coherent and compelling, his desire must be awakened by a new circumstance. That circumstance is the film. 
  • (In The Lady Eve) Barbara Stanwyck meets the love of her life, Henry Fonda. The film starts because she meets him. The progress of the film is her progress toward the attainment of her goal. When she attains it (in the last ten seconds), the film, the story, is over.
  • The audience wanted to know what happened next. That is more or less the total art of the film dramatist: to make the audience want to know what is going to happen next. 
  • The garbage of exposition, backstory, narrative, and characterization spot-welds the reader into interest in what is happening now. It literally stops the show. 
Cinema, at its most effective, is one scene effectively  superseded by the next. Isn't that itGeorge Stevens
  • The entire practicable sentence was, of course, not "Cut to the chase" but "When in doubt, cut to the chase." Good thinking.
  • "Stay with the money." The audience came to see the star. The star is the hero; the drama consists solely in the quest of the hero.
  • "You start with a scalpel and you end with a chainsaw." Don't be too nice about cutting the film; throw away everything that's not the story.
  • "In the morning you're making Citizen Kane; after lunch you're making The Dukes of Hazzard." At some point you're going to start running out of time. Plan your time by sticking to the essential story. You're going to cut everything else anyway.
  • The various limitless seminars in filmmaking dotting our coasts and making increasingly making inroads upon the hinterland ... have little to do with the actual making of movies.
  • When you get a great script done with great actors, then you have a classic.
  • The Godfather, A Place in the Sun, Dodsworth, Galaxy Questthese are perfect films. They start with a simple premise and proceed, logically, and inevitably, toward a conclusion both surprising and inevitable.
A guy comes home from college to find his mother sleeping with his uncle, and there's a ghost running around. Write it good, it's Hamlet; write it bad, it's Gilligan's Island. Lorne Michaels
  • The rule, then, in filmmaking, as in storytelling, is "leave out the adjectives."
  • One really doesn't start to learn how to write a script until one has been on a set—on the set one learns the difference between what is filmable and what is merely pretty words. ("Outside the window, New York—in all its vicious splendor" is charming verbiage and all that, but, script-in-hand, on location, its director is going to be hard-pressed to learn from the script where to put the camera.)
  • Dramatic structure consists of the creation and deferment of hope. That's basically all it is. 
  • What keeps them apart? (Billy Wilder) The engine of a love story is not what attracts them—we know that: they're young and pretty. The work should go into the construction of the plausible opposition to their union. 
  • The language of the modern screenplay is like that of the personals column. The descriptions of the protagonist and the lovelorn aspirant are one: beautiful, smart, funny, likes long walks and dogs, affectionate, kind, honest, sexy. These descriptions, increasingly, are the content of the screenplay—replacing dialogue and camera angles, the only two aspects of a screenplay actually of use.
  • "Smash, bash, crash: the world becomes a steel cauldron of pain." "Yes," says the young script reader. "Yes. Hot stuff indeed. Boss? This is hot stuff. This person knows how to write action."
       "Loves hazy afternoons. This well-educated beauty finds loveliness all around her. Perhaps you do, too...?"

Sunday 19 August 2012

Rejected Pitches: Back to the Future

Don't you hate it when you let someone read your script and they just don't get it? 

You're not alone. The fact is, the vast majority of movie pitches are rejected. Even movies that we know and love were most likely rejected at some point, too. 

Here is a webseries about the movie executives who rejected those pitches. In this episode they decide that a movie about a teenager who travels back in time and becomes romantically involved with his mother could never be a hit comedy.

Written and produced by Dan Klein, directed by Greg Stees, and starring Dan Klein, Kelly Hudson, and Ben Rameaka. Featuring Adam Bozarth as Robert Zemeckis.

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Saturday 18 August 2012

Citizen Kane

At the start of August, The British Film Institute (BFI) released the results of its The Greatest Films of All Time 2012 survey in Sight & Sound magazine.

Once every ten years, the BFI asks film critics and filmmakers—taking into account artistic merit and historical influence—to submit their choices for the ten greatest movies of all time, with Sight & Sound publishing shortlists of both Critics and Directors opinions. The poll is considered one of the most influential and respected movie lists there is.

For my part, I don't believe there is any such thing as the "greatest" movie of all time. There are a number of excellent films which every film buff should see. Beyond that, you can argue over relative rankings all you want, but I think you're wasting your time. The value of the lists is that they help keep alive the memory of great films which have gone before.

The most common response to the 2012 poll results was shock that Citizen Kane had been toppled from the #1 perch for the first time since the list began in 1952. That brought to mind the many complaints I've heard over the years from younger people after seeing Citizen Kane for the first time: It's slow, It's dull, It's boring, What was great about that?

Rather than bore you with my opinions, here are a few short video clips which might give you a starting point for deciding the question for yourself.

Friday 17 August 2012

Interview with Brett Snelgrove

Brett Snelgrove is an Australian writer/producer living in the UK. He is best known for the short film Domestic and the animated web series New Eden. When he isn't taking holidays in Italy, Brett works as a social media engagement moderator in London.
     I met him online when he popped up with a comment. Turns out he lives his job. Brett has the best writing/filmmaking social media connections of anyone I've come across. He is also one of the most helpful people you could hope to meet.


*  Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born in Sydney and spent the first half of my life growing up on a farm in Mount Gambier in South Australia, and then our family pulled up stumps and headed to sunny Queensland where I spent my formative teen years and university years.

Queensland University of Technology
*  When did you first take an interest in films/stories?

Growing up, I was always interested in making up stories and writing. At university I studied drama and play writing. From there it was a hop, skip, and jump into film and television.

*  What was your first paying job?

My first full-time job was working as a multimedia assembler for a real Dodgy Brothers outfit in Sydney. My first job in telly was working as a contestant coordinator on The Weakest Link. My first paid writing gig was helping Natasha Tonkin co-write a feature. The script was never produced, but we're still great mates to this day.

*  What was your first spec script about?

My first full length play at university was called Uniforms and you guessed it, it was about being a teenager in high school. Not very inspired. My first feature spec screenplay was called Bankrupt, which went behind the scenes of a TV quiz show and its contestants.

*  Who has had the most influence on you as a filmmaker?

On the writing side of things I had some wonderful tutors at the QUT drama programme (Hilary Beaton and Louise Gough and Sean Mee) whose insight and knowledge into the craft of storytelling I still carry with me today.
    In terms of filmmaking I don't think I can name one single person who has influenced me. At the moment I'm inspired by the talent that can be found on YouTube, Vimeo and Newgrounds.

*  You worked in Australian television (Australia’s Brainiest Kid, Nerds FC, NEWStopia), before moving to the UK. The highlight appears to have been working with comedian Shaun Micallef back in 2008. Can you tell us how you got that job, and anything you learned?

I had worked for Fremantlemedia and the production manager on NEWStopia for several years on various other shows, so it was a case of being lucky enough to be offered the job as researcher/script coordinator. One of my best gigs I've ever had in telly—simply a great time.
    There are two key things I learned from Shaun:
1. Comedy is subjective, and
2. For better or worse, you have to write/make what makes you laugh.

*  Since you’ve been in London you’ve been an active member of ScriptTank. That’s an unusually professional-sounding screenwriting group. Can you tell us a bit about it.

ScriptTank is a writer's group made up of professional and emerging writers working in television, film, radio and theatre, who get together once a fortnight to listen to a member's work being read. We have actors do the reading and afterwards feedback is moderated by a chairperson to help the writer get the most value out of the feedback.
    I've had several different things, at various stages of development, read there, and always came away with feedback that I could work with.

*  We all have to keep the wolf from the door, while pursuing our dreams. You’ve been working for a UK company called Tempero as a “social media engagement moderator.” That sounds like the sort of job title Shaun Micallef might have invented to impress his mother. Tell us what you do and who you do it for.

I moderate forums and website comments for a range of Tempero clients. It basically means checking that everything that goes public on a client's site is within their guidelines and isn't offensive or defamatory, etc. I also do what is called 'engagement' or 'live engagement,' which involves posting and interacting on a client's behalf on their Twitter or Facebook pages.

*  What are your plans for the London Olympics?

My partner and I are escaping the London Olympics and heading to Italy for two weeks of real sunshine. At Tempero I work shifts. At any one time there is more than one of us working on a client's property, so taking holidays is relatively easy. 

You’ve just released the Pilot episode of a webseries you created, called New Eden. What is the history behind the idea, and how did it come to be made?

New Eden sprang out of my desire to write something inspired by my love of sci-fi and comedy, that was as far removed from Roddenberry’s altruism and Lucasmythos as possible. It started with the simple gag of the 'red button' and these two nobodies trapped on an alien planet, and grew from there. It was one of those things that just really made me laugh, and I couldn't help but write it. When I was in London I took a punt and advertised for an animator to collaborate with me on it, and discovered talented Dutch animator Freek van Haagen. It's now not just my baby but both of ours. To date we've released a pilot episode and a series of shorts, all of which you can find here:

*  What are three things you wish someone had told you about filmmaking when you were starting out?
  • Don't think so much and just go out and shoot, and then shoot some more, and then shoot some more.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of people, not just willing, but eager to join you on your crazy adventure.
  • Find a core group of peers who can give you good constructive criticism and listen to them. Avoid the critics who love the sound of their own voice.
And, as a bonus, a fourth piece of advice:
  • Make something because you want to, not because you want to impress someone, or fit into whatever box they seem to think your work should fit into.
*  Tell us something about living in London, and rubbing shoulders with celebs. Any famous encounters, conquests? Have you met many Australians living there?

Well, you won't find many celebs on the Tube, so no great encounters as yet. There are plenty of Aussies though in London. Some of the best brunch places in London were established by Aussie and Kiwi expats.

*  What one filmmaking advice book would you recommend to a young wannabe screenwriter in Adelaide?

I thoroughly enjoyed Robert Rodriguez's Rebel Without a Crew. More inspirational than instructional, I would say, but a good read. The other thing I would add is to check out the Australian Film Television and Radio School's range of books, as well as the Michael Wiese Productions range of books, which tend to be informative and a good read.

*  Name ten of your all-time favourite movies.
Okay, let's see... in alphabetical order: 

Written and produced by Brett Snelgrove, Domestic is a HD short film based on an award winning play of the same name. It has screened at over twenty film festivals and won the 2006 St Kilda Film Festival's Editing and Craft awards, plus numerous accolades for best film, best actor and audience choice.
In this Kung-Fu epic, two cheating lovers confront each other, resulting in one crazy pumped up fight sequence. Mr. and Mrs. Smith meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
It's crouching lover, hidden agenda, when a couple puts their relationship and martial-arts skills to the test in this short film about fidelity, forgiveness, and how to turn domestic objects into menacing weapons.

Directed by Katie Hides, written and produced by Brett Snelgrove.

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