Focus on Made in Melbourne Film Festival: Director Tristan Barr discusses This Little Piggy

This Little Piggy by Tristan Barr (writer/director):

I was in my second year of actor training at the Victorian College of Arts, and feeling the need to explore externally with something other than acting I shot a few shorts with some success with small crews, minimal budget, and my mates as the actors. I had previously acted in a few feature length films playing lead characters and was able to learn the ins and outs of making full length film. From there I decided to take a leap of faith really and create This Little Piggy.

Myself, Cinematographer Binh Phan, actress Bree Whorlton.

Myself, Cinematographer Binh Phan, actress Bree Whorlton.

The concept was born out of collaboration between my mates filling the roles of the actors and improvising while I facilitated. After a few sessions of creating material I went away and crafted the story. This process was based on the works of other well-known writer/directors like Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. With help from my housemates Samuel Duncan and Emil Freund who both play lead roles in the film, the script was developed over a a couple of months. Sam’s a dreamer and really pushed the existential themes of the film while Emil was terrific at refining the script and dialogue, so it was great to have those two in my house to have nightly beers and discussions about the film. With our final year at drama school close approaching and our only opportunity to shoot being over the Christmas break we weighed up the limitations of a rushed preproduction and decided to give it a shot. We all agreed it wasn’t a project to be precious over and hold onto for several years with the possibility it would never be made. I wanted a challenge, and yep…I got one…(large exhale).

Actor Daniel Last

Actor Daniel Last.

The Production

We shot the entire film in two weeks in February 2013 with a budget of $10,000, with a few pick up days later that year. I have received a lot of feedback from filmmakers since saying “How did you manage that?” or “That’s insanity!” but at the time these were our restrictions and I had no other option if I wanted to make the film. I got an incredibly organised young lady, Laura Jane Turner, who was playing one of the lead characters to help produce and we were away. We quickly sourced locations, completed scheduling, and started rehearsals all within the next month. It soon became apparent in rehearsals that I wanted the shooting style to be individual to the scenes and reflect the work of the actors. The DOP Binh Phan was excellent at dealing with this run and gun style whilst still bringing his own flavour. At the time I was drawing influence from a lot of European film while Binh was into Asian cinema, so I ended up allowing there to be both at specific times. When viewing the film I think this is really apparent in the pacing.

Cinematographer Binh Phan asleep on my couch after a long shoot day.

Cinematographer Binh Phan asleep on my couch after a long shoot day.

The two weeks of shooting still lay in my mind as a haze due to the lack of sleep during that period. But what an incredible experience it was to have as a young filmmaker. All my gratitude to an unfaultable cast of actors who were dedicated even in the early hours of the morning when we had been shooting all night. I remember sitting in a car with the lead actors Sam Duncan and Mick Gosden at 4am as the sun started to rise while driving over a bridge trying to get some final images to wrap from the previous day. There wasn’t an inkling of hesitation from these two. Now I don’t know if that was due to a similar sleep deprivation that I was encountering, but I’m pretty positive it was because they believed in and inhabited the story. When you are lucky enough to have actors like this then I think a lot of your work is done already. I believe that is why Indy films can endure that idea big budgets are necessary and that This Little Piggy proves that creativity and passion can amount to a decent film, even if you’re under the tightest of circumstances.

Actor/producer Samuel Clark Duncan.

Actor/producer Samuel Clark Duncan.

Post Production

Having shot on the Red Epic and getting a lot of coverage it left us with a tough work flow in post. This has been the longest part of the project and definitely an area I will be more organised on future films. But in saying that, having time in post is a godsend in some ways as it allows you time to view the film in different ways to make more critical and creative choices. The editor, Dale Trott, and I would meet up weekly after I would finish Acting school and he would finish editing his own feature film that I played a role in, which was how we met. On seeing the initial rough cut an instant rush of self doubt was imminent. I hadn’t experienced this before, but dealing with a huge cut is incredibly daunting and can make your work feel sub-par. But week after week we would meet and with Dale’s sensibility and skills we arrived at a final cut. With some beautiful composition by Petra Salsjo and sourcing songs from bands I was mates with; The Vernons, Millions, 95 Royale, Camo, Shinigami, & Infestare I then had a film waiting to be mixed and graded. The last few months was working on that colour scheme with the very intricate and precise Nicholas Hower and designing and mixing with a man who is ridiculously passionate about sound Ramy Najmeddine.

With the colour grader Nicholas Hower, Actress Featured is Bree Whorlton.

With the colour grader Nicholas Hower, Actress Featured is Bree Whorlton.

This Little Piggy was an important story for me to tell due to some personal experience with the subject matter, but was also a vehicle for me to learn and develop as a filmmaker. I encourage any aspiring filmmakers, actors, directors, cinematographers to just get out there and do it, no matter what your restrictions and your experience, because you only learn this craft from doing it. There are a lot of variables in film, I’m still trying to figure out a lot of it, but every time I work I feel I’m in a more educated position than before.

This Little Piggy is having it’s premiere at the Made In Melbourne Film Festival on the 28th of November 2014 before starting it’s festival circuit.

This Little Piggy Poster

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s