Thursday, August 30, 2012

Owen Elliott on “Bathing Franky”

What was your filmmaking background before making Bathing Franky?

OWEN: Before Bathing Franky, I'd produced and directed a handful of award-winning short films, as well as television commercials, corporate and educational films while starting my own film and video production company 76 Pictures Pty Ltd (

I'd spent two years straight out of University cutting Television commercials (2003) at NBN Television and (2004) at Kookaburra Productions in Sydney. Prior to working in film or TV I'd completed a bachelor of Communication studies at Newcastle University. At Uni I was introduced and exposed to so many wonderfully creative people, films and experiences that all inspired me to make not only one feature film, but to make filmmaking my career!!

How did you get connected to Michael Winchester and his script and what was the process of getting the script ready to shoot?

OWEN: I first met Michael Winchester in my final year at the University of Newcastle (NSW, Australia) where I cast him in my final year student film in 2002. He gave an amazing performance and we struck up a creative friendship and wanted to see if we could put together a feature film script.

After Michael showed me his one-man self devised monologue (stage piece) we began working up a collection of ideas, characters and scenarios with another friend based on Michael's 'Rodney' character.

The script didn't take too long to get into some kind of shape, it did however take many years to finesse and get to a point that we felt we really had the story we wanted to tell and had some solid feedback on the draft where people reading it felt it was ready to shoot. At each re-write we were encouraged from those who read the script to keep going, so we did!!

Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your financial plan for recouping your costs?

OWEN: Raising a budget was half the battle of getting the film shot, we had a script (that was still being tweaked even during the shoot), we had the bulk of our cast and crew, but as yet no real budget to achieve our goal of shooting a feature.

Michael and I began to really focus on raising a small / nano budget from family, friends, local hunter valley businesses and supporters to realise our dream. We knew we had to get a name, someone from the Australian film / TV / Theatre world that had a background in the industry... of course we thought of Geoffrey Rush, ... and Henri Szeps from the iconic and wildly successful Australian TV Show Mother and Son.

I was able to get the script to Henri and days after receiving it I received a call from Henri saying he was very excited about the film and wanted to meet and discuss with him and his agent to see how we could make it happen. Then things really started to fall into place and the project took on a momentum of its own, including small monetary support.

What camera did you use and what did you love and hate about it?

OWEN: We used 2 x Sony EX1 HD video camera's, mainly because myself and the DOP (Gavin Banks) had our own camera's and we could save some money shooting on our own equipment. It also meant we were very familiar with the cameras and saved time working them out as we went.

I did love the durability of the EX1 and also the fact that it was tapeless!!! Gavin also used his (then) recently acquired Letus Adapter which allowed Gavin and I to use his Nikon and Zies lens kit to give the look and feel of the film something special.

What are the advantages of directing a movie that you're editing - - or editing a movie that you directed?

OWEN: We had no budget for an editor, plus I'd always been keen to cut Franky myself, so it worked out well for me to cut the film. I needed some time between the intense four week shoot and the beginning of the edit, we'd made sure our rushes were sorted during the shoot into daily and weekly folders, each folder had a corresponding scene number for quick visual reference in the edit.

It helped me in the edit as I was so familiar with not only the script, but the actual rushes, so once I began editing it all started to rush back to me. The first stage of the edit was fun and exciting, actually seeing the scenes come to life and seeing moments that worked perfectly... then came the hard stuff, making a scene work that was not working or had no real cut-aways or overlay... but we fought through and as usual found creative ways to tell the story using a wide variety of editing techniques.

In the final stages after many rough cuts and trimming, cutting and re-arranging many scenes, Frans Vandenburg came onto the project as our editing consultant and was not only a breathe of fresh air, but his skill and truckloads of experience was invaluable in fine-tuning the edit and improving the overall pace and structure of the edit!!

What was the smartest thing you did during production?

OWEN: I think the smartest thing I did during the production was have complete trust our cast and crew. Trust that we would make the best decisions for the team at any given time, we were presented with many challenges at all hours of the day and any one of those issues had the very real potential of shutting down the production. But we all stayed strong and got through each and every day of those four tough weeks.

The dumbest?

OWEN: The dumbest thing during the production was inexplicably falling down a set of stairs after shooting the scene where Steve arrives at Susie's place after leaving jail and walks by Tommy on her front steps. The main reason I fell over was simple, exhaustion and a drop in adrenaline. As I was falling I thought to myself, 'now why didn't my other foot move' and 'this is going to hurt.' As I crashed out and into the garden bed there was a mixture of reactions, ranging from concern to outright laughter... all of which were completely justified, as it must have seemed pretty funny and or somewhat concerning.

And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you have taken to other projects?

OWEN: Pre-production, Pre-Production and more Pre-Production... so the overall importance of good planning and working through as many potential issues as possible before you press record on set, then it can be too late... and the importance of rehearsing with your actors, not necessarily learning lines and locking in blocking or intentions, but just building that rapport with your actors so that you can all have that time to play and dig a little deeper into the themes and issues, not just learning lines.

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