Tuesday 22 April 2014

Interview with Michael Facey

Michael Facey is an Australian film producer, based in Perth. He has produced award-winning short films, which have screened at festivals around the world. His short film Kanowna was the only Australian film accepted into the Canada International Film Festival in 2011, where it also won a Special Jury Award. He is a founding member of the production company Archangel Pictures.

Michael is the great-grandson of A.B. Facey, the author of one of my favourite Australian books, A Fortunate Life, so when I met him online I took the opportunity to ask a few questions.

On the left we have A.B. Facey in 1914, and on the right we have Michael Facey a hundred years later.

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

I was born and raised in the gold mining City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, the largest outback city in Australia, some 550 km east of Perth, W.A. (or 3,000 km west of Sydney).

Where did you go to school?

I was educated in the goldfields, first at Kalgoorlie Primary School and then Eastern Goldfields Senior High School. I would later move to Perth to study at the Perth School of Art, Design and Media before studying at the W.A. Screen Academy at Edith Cowan University.

Muster of students at Kalgoorlie Primary School

When did you first take an interest in movies?

I’ve always been a major fan of movies. If I wasn’t going to the cinema, I would be at the video store. Watching films with my parents kick-started my love of cinema.

What was your first paying job (in any field)?

My first paying job would have been delivering pamphlets when I was twelve years old. It bought in some pocket money, which my parents wisely set up into a bank account until I was eighteen.

You are a founding member of Archangel Films. Can you tell us a bit about the people involved with you?

Archangel Pictures was formed by myself and director Chris Richards-Scully, once we realised we both enjoyed and wanted to make the same kind of films. Archangel Pictures was born during the development of our first short Kanowna and has grown from there. We are both passionate about what we do and are searching for new projects and teams to develop and work with.

Your short film, Kanowna, reached the Top 50 in the Final Draft Big Break Contest, from over 6,600 entries worldwide. Amongst other honours, it was one of the first ever Australian films screened at the 2012 Cyprus International Film Festival. What have been the longer-term positive results of that project?

Kanowna as a short was incredibly successful for us. It took a while to gain traction, first screening in regional festivals and then it took off overseas, especially in Canada.
    The success of the short, and the rich history behind the true events it was based on, has inspired us to develop it into a feature film. There is an epic story to be told about our gold mining history. The script has been developed through ScreenWest’s feature Navigator Program and recently finished in the top 10 for its genre in the Final Draft Big Break Contest.
    Last year we were invited by the Perth Actors Collective (PAC) to have a live reading performed in front of an audience which has allowed us to hear the script and to continue developing.

You put a lot of effort into fundraising for a project called Super Fresh, but fell short of your Pozible goal. The team you compiled to make that film is quite impressive. Can you tell us about the formation of the project and where it is up to today?

Super Fresh came to us through Heather Wilson, who is a very talented writer and her career is set to take off in a very big way. I read the script when ScreenWest announced their 3:1 initiative with crowdfunding website Pozible.
    Super Fresh seemed like the perfect project for such a program. I’m a little disappointed we were unable to make that film. I still believe it had the makings of an entertaining and exciting sci-fi/action/comedy. We still have a lot of interest in the script and hopefully can bring it to life through other avenues as it is certainly a project I would love to see on the screen.

You’re the great grandson of A.B. Facey, the author of one of my favourite Australian books, A Fortunate Life. (My mother’s father had a parallel life story. I recommend that anyone interested in the traditional Australian character/mindset/value system read that book.) Did you know him at all? Have there been any consequences (positive or negative) as a result of being the relative of such a famous man?

Sadly he passed away a couple years before I was born so I never had the pleasure to meet him.
    His book has become a family bible of sorts. His attitude and mindset has been a major inspiration to my family and serves as great reference material when life doesn’t go to plan. We have a tradition where every new member of the family gets given a copy of the book, in fact my partner has only just finished reading it for the first time.
    There haven’t been any negative consequences, apart from my old high School English Teacher selecting the book to be broken down and analysed for an English Assignment. I remember her telling me that she expected nothing less than my best work because I knew the material...
    A lot of people ask me if I would ever adapt it into a film. I believe that it was done perfectly as a mini-series for Channel 9 in the late eighties. There is just too much rich material to condense into a two hour movie and it wouldn’t do the story justice.

What are three things you wish someone had told you about making a living from movies when you were starting out?

The best advice I ever got was day one of film school, where a producer was a guest lecturer. Her opening statement “ I’m a producer. I have an Academy Award, and I’m broke. If you want to be rich and famous, I suggest you quit now.”
    Making a living in this industry is incredibly tough, there is only a small amount of funding available and it is such a high risk venture for investors that can be easily scared off by the prospect of waiting 2-5 years of ever seeing a return on their investment, if any.
    But we all knew this when we started. It’s the desire to create something that gives us the energy and will to continue fighting everyday. To be able to tell stories and entertain audiences is a reward in itself.

What are your ten favourite (favourite, not ‘best’) movies of all time?

Hahaha, It’s hard to pick just ten as I have so many favourite films. I love films that entertain me. They might be scoffed at by critics, but I enjoyed the journey they took me on. So if I had to pick just ten, I would select ten films that I’ve just re-watched recently and still enjoyed the experience.

In no particular order:

The Godfather (1972)
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Halloween (1978)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Aliens (1986)
Casino (1995)
Se7en (1995)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Goodfellas (1990)
The Rock (1996)

What’s next for Michael Facey?

Currently we are developing a slate of feature films which include:

  • Sunday’s Driver: an action/crime/comedy has received development financing from ScreenWest and was recently taken to the 37° South Market and pitched to distributors and sales agents. 
  • Kanowna: "Place of no sleep," which went through ScreenWest’s Feature Navigator Program.
We are also working on a couple more short films for upcoming funding rounds.

A scene from Kanowna.   Western Australian goldfields, 1902,
a lawman does the unforgivable and fathers a child to a Japanese prostitute.

For the benefit of those who have never read A Fortunate Life, here's page 1.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

What a lovely scene - actors, music, every expression is so romantic.

I am also impressed with the development of a movie by staging a live reading in front of an audience. Now THAT is placing an importance on the writing that few movie makers do, these days. I wish all the best for Michael Facey.