Sunday Shorts #1: Gifted

Welcome to Cinema Australia’s brand new weekly feature, Sunday Shorts.

Every Sunday we will feature a different short film from debutant directors to more established filmmakers.

Most of the content will be provided to Cinema Australia direct from the filmmakers. What better way to get to know about a short film than from the mouths of the people who’ve made it.

This week we take a look at Ryan Unicomb and Jordan Bailey’s Gifted.

Gifted is a short film following the rise and fall of the world’s first superhero; GUARDIAN.
The film is collaboration between Purryburry Productions, RishiRaj Films & Caldwell entertainment.

Staring David Breen, Cameron Robbie, Rachel Gobel, Brad Kendrick, Nic Hamilton, Wade Boyes, Andy Sparnon, Wayne Bassett and Joss McWilliam.
Written and directed by Ryan Unicomb and Jordan Bailey
Produced by Ryan Unicomb and Steven Caldwell
Associate Producers Aaron Cater, Jordan Bailey & Darwin Brooks
Executive Producer Dr Raj Patankar
Cinematography by Luke Farrow
Original Score by Dan Van Werkhoven

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Luke Farrow (DOP) on the films cinematography:
“Mostly we shot each scene relative to the mood that was trying to be conveyed through that particular scene based on the dynamics of each character interaction.
Camera movement was a big part of deciding each shot; we used cranes, steady cams and shoulder rigs to bring dynamic movement to the screen.
We had specific shooting styles for each character too, for example most of Guardian’s (David Breen) shots where tighter and steadier than the rest. We used smooth camera movement for him compared to Malcolm/Menace (Cameron Robbie); with whom we used more shoulder rigs to have an unsteady movement to help in developing that particular characters unhinged persona.
Colour was very important in the cinematography as well; it’s very muted at the beginning with a slow ascent to a vibrant and colourful world, although after a certain point the world begins to lose its light and colour and we show that visually”.

Aaron Cater (associate Producer & 2nd Assistant Director) on Gifted:
“It was a very exciting and tumultuous ride that’s for sure! We had cast and crew going on and off of the production all the way throughout the pre-­‐production phase thanks to scheduling issues & prior arrangements. It was nuts trying to pull it all together.
For me working one on one with Producer Steven Caldwell (Caldwell Entertainment) and Steve taking me under his wing really was an invaluable experience. I have nothing but praise to our amazing crew/talent, as everyone was 100% committed to the project from beginning to end.
The cast and crew’s wonderful contributions to the project really reflects the message we are trying to send with our project in that you don’t necessarily need to be a “super” at everything; Each person on the planet is “Gifted” at something in their own right. I eagerly await working with this crew again on WayPoint next year.”


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Jordan Bailey (Co-­writer, Co-­Director, Associate Producer) on Gifted:
“Ryan (Unicomb – Co-­Writer, Co-­Director & Producer) came to me with the idea for Gifted after he returned from his Cannes Film Festival visit in 2013. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being 100% hooked as soon as he said those beautiful words to me, ‘Super Hero Film’.
I knew it was going to require a higher level of commitment to our ‘filmmaking hobby’ if this idea was to be taken with any kind of seriousness. It was a long shot but I was supremely confident that with the right team we would be able to pull it off.

The initial script went though a lot of drafts and revisions – 11 or 12 I think – going from a 50 page script to the shorter but much more focused 20 page version we ended up with. Throughout these later drafts Ryan and I were able to make our characters much more relatable & grounded (and hopefully more memorable), while keeping the original heart of the story front and centre. In the end we received a lot of good feedback from a bunch of people within our professional network and were encouraged to push ahead with the production.

“We were in dire need of a producer that could handle the things we simply could not.”

Our pre-­‐production stage had it ups and downs, mostly because at the beginning it was Ryan, myself & Aaron [Cater] trying to do so much of the heavy lifting by ourselves. The ship steadied a little when another of our good friends Darwin Brooks (associate Producer) came on board to help with scheduling etc. It all got too much however and the shoot was pushed back twice, once in November 2013 & once in January 2014; we just weren’t ready. The delays caused more and more issues with actors becoming unavailable due to other projects; most notably 2 of our 3 lead performers Conrad Coleby & Gigi Edgley both dropping off the project because of other projects.

We were in dire need of a producer that could handle the things we simply could not. We asked around and the name Steven Caldwell kept coming up. Once we had reached out to Steven and he had agreed to produce the film, the whole production all of a sudden had a wave of calm come over it.

Things that seemed impossible to organise before our new start date of March 23rd, 2014 all of a sudden were done and organised in the blink of an eye. The production wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful without our amazing cast and crew. Everybody worked so well together. Our crew was extremely professional, and the cast performed flawlessly. We were truly blessed to end up with the group that we did. I can’t wait to get to work on our debut feature WayPoint with these guys.”

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Ryan Unicomb (Co-­Writer, Co-­Director & Producer) on Gifted:
“What a journey! It’s been 12 months in the making! Trust me when I say that I know how ludicrous that sounds! “12 months to make a short film?!”
I think a lot of people would automatically put that down to a certain level of incompetence as filmmakers; I’m going to counter that and say that we were chasing a certain level of quality with the project and when you’re chasing that level you will do everything in your power to NOT cut corners. Sure, we had our fair share of issues. Scheduling & money were the two biggest problems.

I think that’s always the way though. We were extremely lucky in that the money issue was solved when our amazing friend Dr Raj Patankar of RishiRaj films contacted me. Dr Raj had read about my travels to Cannes with my last project, Eternalism, in some print media and was very keen to talk about helping out with my next project. I will forever be grateful for he did for me, for Puryburry Productions and for everyone that had the opportunity to be a part of Gifted.

I think Jordan [Bailey] has outlined pretty well the other issues we had running up to production, so I thought I’d talk about some of the stuff that went really well as a counter balance [this is how we actually work all the time].

Casting was a very humbling experience for me personally. Having written the GUARDIAN character specifically for David Breen we knew our lead was set and solid – David had been working out 4 times a week since July 2013 and put on 16 kilos for the role – so it was onward to find the rest of our cast. The turnout and excitement around the casting for Gifted was amazing.

We’d been lucky early on that we’d received a phone call from StarNow’s head office in New Zealand & been offered a sponsorship of sorts. They essentially created and placed our casting ads on their website, Facebook & twitter to give us the widest reach possible – The last film they had done this for was ARROWHEAD-­ now filming the feature film version of their short project – of which we’re extremely appreciative for.

“I’m very proud of Gifted already and I can’t wait to show everyone what this little group of dedicated people have made.”

At the end of the casting process we’d ended up with almost all of our major players however, with the departure of Conrad Coleby as Malcolm we needed to find someone with that same level of intensity. As much of our casting had turned out to be younger [early to mid 20’s] than we’d previously  been looking at we began searching for someone around that age for our main antagonist.

We’d been recommended a young man named Cameron by some friends of the company. We sent out the audition sides and a breakdown of the project to Cameron’s agent Amanda Belton of Belton management and before we knew it Cameron was standing before Jordan Bailey and myself absolutely nailing his audition.

We made the decision almost immediately to cast him, not realizing that this choice would later become a massive part of Gifted’s rise to prominence in the local papers and media. Of course it later came out that Cameron was brother to Hollywood megastar Margot Robbie and all of a sudden we were dealing with an onslaught of media attention not just locally, but internationally. This was only amplified when the news broke that our young friend Nicholas Hamilton, who plays Joel in the film, had landed a lead role alongside Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving and Joseph Fiennes in Screen Australia’s Strangerland. We took it in our stride and stayed as focused on the project as possible.

When I finish this project completely – in post currently – I will step back from it all and try to comprehend what happened with it all. From the involvement of some of Australia’s most accomplished film professionals in Keir Beck (AP8 studios/InMotion Rigging) allowing us to film our green screen elements and flight sequences using his rigging and studio space; to Jason Baird (Emmy winning JMB FX studios) who helped in the development and creation of the Guardian super suit for the film, to the time and effort of all the wonderful background extras who came out on a ridiculously miserable Queensland day to film some scenes with us.

I’m very proud of Gifted already and I can’t wait to show everyone what this little group of dedicated people have made. I can’t wait to work with everyone again on our debut feature film WayPoint, which we’re hoping to make next year.

It’s been a blast.”


One thought on “Sunday Shorts #1: Gifted

  1. Congratulations to all associated for your persistence and determination to step up a level AND finish it. Crossing fingers that it is awesomely successful! Thanks for sharing – do we really have to wait a whole week for more ? ? : )

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