As part of the preparation for the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival it was necessary for us to produce a poster for the film, so here it is.
We’re proud to say that our film Melbourne: A Guide to Living will be screening as part of the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. As we get close to the date of the festival we answered some questions for Documentary Drive about our film and what inspired us.
Why the spoof route over a more traditional format?
Sam: Chloe and I really hit it off through our shared love of comedy. I hadn’t met anyone else with such a pure love of comedy; the need to workshop every little joke in daily life until the punch line is just right, even over the simplest pun. The Melbourne film is actually a sequel to a guide to London we made a few years ago and it was essentially a format which allowed us to string together a number of different sketches, comedy bits and erroneous facts about the city. We actually both have a real interest in serious documentary film making, but I guess the instinct to make something funny is there in both of us and it would probably always derail any attempt we made to be serious.
Chloe: Yeah, I guess it’s just simply that our main interest lies in making comedy films, and the mockumentary style is just one way of doing that. I’d love to make a serious documentary some time, but I think that even then it would be focused on a niche topic or something which had some inherent humour to it.
When people think documentaries, they don’t usually think “Yes, comedy gold!” How do you see the two genres fitting together and why do you think it works so well in your films?
Sam: I don’t think it’s a surprise that there’s been a huge surge of fly-on-the-wall style mockumentary comedy since “The Office.” But I think our style of comedic documentary developed out of a different tradition led by people likeArmando Iannucci andChris Morris with shows like “Brass Eye,” “The Day Today” and “Time Spiral.” Whereas in “The Office” the joke lies between where David Brent sees himself and where the audience sees him, with shows like “Brass Eye” the joke lies between the ridiculous assertions being made and the absolute authority with which they’re told. The joke is almost on the audience, you’re either in on the joke, or the joke is on you.
You want to see who will get it and who won’t even question it. It’s also a way of highlighting irony and hypocrisy or sending up authority and pomposity in real life, and so grows out of that satirical tradition as well.
I think it works well because as others have said before, you’re looking for the ‘right’ audience. You don’t want everyone to get it, so that those who do can enjoy it even more. There’s a satisfaction in that light bulb moment when you realize it’s a joke. You’d be surprised by how many people still take the films as absolute fact and don’t even question what they’re being told, even the most blatant ridiculous lies.
It’s been a long and slow road, but its now a year since we filmed ‘Melbourne: A Guide to Living’, the sequel to ‘London: A Guide for the Naive‘, and hopefully only part two in a trilogy. The film is finished and will soon be submitted to different festivals.
Creative control is a beautiful thing. It’s been said that a film is written 3 times. Once by the writer, once by the director and finally by the editor. To be in control of each of those stages is fantastic and allows me to carry a project through from conception to completion in exactly the way I want it. It’s always still the case that the product you finish with is different to how you intended it, complete with added flourishes and unexpected shortcomings, but overall you’re left with an appreciation of the whole process and leave with lessons of how you’d do things next time. In a multi-collaborative project artists often complain that creative control was wrestled away from them and what’s left is a disheartening imitation of what they had first set out for.
However, it still has to be said that film is essentially a collaborative medium, and while maintaining such control of the whole process is great if you want things done exactly how you envisage them, it’s just too much work for one person to take on board and denies the possibility of something magical and entirely unimagined taking your film in a new direction.
Learning how to direct and produce films has been a great lesson and given expression to different aspects of my creativity, but one thing I’ve come to realise is that I’m essentially driven by the writing and ideas, and no sooner have I finished filming than my interest turns to getting on with the next script and pursuing the next idea. To get mired down in editing and promotion divides my attention and stunts the development of the craft I’m actually interested in focusing on.
I learnt not too long ago about the idea of the 80/20 or Pareto principle, a theory originally developed in relation to economics but soon taken on in many different fields and expanded into a general, if slightly rough, principle. The idea is that roughly speaking 80% of something’s effects, comes from just 20% of it’s causes. More can be read about it here on Wikipedia but it’s enough to say that for my purposes 80% of the time I spend, or it might be more fitting to say waste, in relation to a project comes from just 20% of the things I do for that project. Or to put it another way, editing and promoting a film takes 80% of my effort and time when it might take someone who actually knows how to do those things a fraction of that.
If you’re able to collaborate with the right people and combine your skills you’re able to increase your productivity exponentially. Just stick to the 80% of tasks you excel at and outsource the rest to someone else.
Besides, as Woody Allen says, if 80% of success is showing up, you just need to find someone else to do that other 20% and the job is done.
Melbourne: A Guide to Living will hopefully be going to a few festivals later in the year. If you’re interested in seeing a preview enter your email address in the bar at the top of the page.
So unfortunately we didn’t make the shortlist of the Reed short film competition. Down from 500 to 50 is something to be proud of though. Was really excited to make the long list, and very sad not to have gone further, but there are some really great films that made it so it’s hard be too disappointed. Now the remaining films are up for vote for the People’s Choice Award, and I’m going to watch the films again before giving a vote. I do particularly like ‘The Devil’s Apricot’ and ‘Going Up’.
I’m still very proud of ‘Lonely At The Top’ because it was exactly what I intended it to be. It whips along at a good pace, and has a lot of character. People’s universal response was that “it’s sad but funny” or “sweet”. Michael did a great job at playing the part of the boss, and really look forward to working with everyone else in the film again soon.
Next it’s Virgin Media Shorts and the deadline is in July. We’ve got an idea which has been going around our heads for a while and I think we’ve got a script together that should be quite fun to film. I look forward to working again in a way that is quick by leaving a lot of what happens on camera until on the day. The script is really a rough outline and I have confidence in everyone’s talents to come out with something which is quite fresh and spontaneous. With a bit of luck we’ll get round to filming some time next week.
If you didn’t yet see ‘Lonely at the Top’ then have a watch here:
Virgin Media Shorts has begun
Well the next competition is in our sights. With the Sundance and Reed comps behind us, both with good results, I feel positive about the next project. The problem as always has been deciding on which idea is strong enough to dedicate the next chunk of your time to and so I have been deliberating for a week, caught between several ideas and unable to make any real progress. However yesterday I managed a breakthrough with one of the ideas and so now think its this that we’ll tackle for the competition. And I’m looking forward to it a lot. The film will give us a chance to experiment with some different ways of shooting, some colour correction and different edit techniques. At last something different from a mockumentary.
Watch this space.