Interview by Matthew Eeles:
Who first came to you with the idea of bringing commercial partners like Nikon and Reid Cycles on board and what was your first reaction?
To be honest – coming from a photography background – I first wrote the script about photographers. It was somewhat autobiographical in a sense that there’s this guy moving from the country to the city trying to find his voice as a photographer. At the time everyone was taking pictures and everyone thought they were a photographer, just like everyone with an iPhone thinks they’re Annie Leibovitz these days. I kind of felt for artists in that respect and I wanted to write a film about that kind of thing. After I wrote the script the producers and I were sitting around thinking that we were going to need cameras in the film. (Producer) Behren Schulz comes from an advertising background and has worked for ad agencies before so it was his idea to approach a brand and see if we could get some product placement. It was literally like that. We wanted to approach someone and see if we could get cameras or at least get permission to use cameras because we were going to need permission anyway. The cameras we use in the film are older Nikon cameras anyway so we didn’t feel as though we were advertising because we weren’t using the latest model.
We got an introduction with Nikon and they were the ones who came back to us and asked us if we could shoot it on Nikon cameras and Nikkor lenses. You could hear a penny drop in the room when they suggested that because we own a RED Camera and I’m used to shooting in that format. They told us they could support us in a big way, more than just product placement, and they told us they could help with marketing and other things like that. It was too good an opportunity to pass up as filmmakers. Once we tested the cameras we figured we could probably do it.
Tell us a bit about the evolution of Love is Now. From early drafts to the final cut did you ever expect it would become what it has?
It’s funny because it went through a number of incarnations and different titles. I suppose at the very heart of it I always had the idea of someone who had suffered a great loss in his life and then he’s taken to the edge of a psychological break. I’ve always been fascinated with that boundary where human beings encounter psychological breaks, whether it’s abuse, trauma or anxiety and it throws them out of the world of reality and into a world of imagination like you see in multiple-personality films like the Fight Clubs and the Primal Fears. I wanted to do something in more of an indie-style drama so it was a little more unexpected in that way. It was always going to be about exploring loss.
None of those other films are romances. Did you always want to base it around such a strong love story?
I think romance is a little bit of a misnomer. I think a lot of people are talking about it as a romance and I think the title, Love is Now, makes everyone think it’s a romance. The primary message of the film is to embrace the moment. The idea of love, in a broader human sense of the word, is kind of what I was really going for. That idea of embracing the moment and realising that our time is finite, those are the times that we dig deep and we create great works and we have great conversations and connect with people in a deeper way.
The film is really a meditation on embracing the moment and love is just one of those elements. If you have someone you love, you don’t know if they’re going to be there tomorrow. That was how I approached it at the start and that’s the message I want to come across in the film. I could have written a romance, I know the beat of a romance story, but I wanted to go out and do something different.
There’s not a huge use of modern technology in the film. Was that intentional?
Well I’m not a technophobe, I use it regularly day-to-day, but I made a conscious decision not to put technology in the film. I think there are two computers in the entire film and there are no mobile phones. It was really me thinking I really wanted to make the film about the relationships and getting away from the distractions of the city and being in the moment. I wash’t making a judgement on technology, it was just something I wanted people to enjoy while not thinking about GPS, and apps and stuff like that.
How involved were you with the casting of Eamon Farren and Claire van der Boom? After speaking with Eamon the two seem like they adore each other and get along really well.
I approached Eamon straight away. He was one of the first people I sent the screenplay to. I told him that I kept seeing him in the part of Dean because I adore his acting style and he has this real natural, River Phoenix quality to him. I’ve seen him in a couple of shorts and plays and asked him if he wanted to read it. Within a few weeks he got back to me and was really positive about it and so from that point on I started developing it with him. When we went to read for different girls it was Claire who he had the most chemistry with. There were others who were exciting in different ways but I think it was Claire who certainly had the standout chemistry. It just so happened that they were also great friends and maybe that was why. It was great to be able to work with them and give them the chance to work together because they had never had that chance before.
The Australian film industry cops a lot of unfair criticism and sometimes I think people forget that most feature films being made today are from first-time directors. What were some of the things that played on your mind as a first-time feature film director during the making of Love is Now?
It’s so tricky because everyone tells you to make the film for yourself and make the film that you want to make. There’s a lot of pressure out there to make certain types of films and I think in some ways making a film that’s a bit light-hearted about riding off to the country with a lot of great pop tracks hasn’t been made in this country for a while. It’s not a tough film in certain respects and there’s always that thought in the back of your head where you go, “is this going to be too whimsical”. But I truly made this film for me and I wanted to make it for me and Eamon and Claire and we all loved it and we all enjoyed working on it and we’re proud of it. It’s great knowing that it’s not a cookie-cutter film that a lot of people are making and doing.
When you’re a first-time filmmaker you’re balancing the hope for a future career where you’re questioning if you should make something that’ll be a critical success against something you want to push the boundaries of and make a little different. People may misconstrue that as you not having a handle on the proper language of film when you’re actually trying to do something different. [Laughs].
Luckily I was able to put all of that out of my mind and I just went out there and made the film for me, raise the limitations and get excited about all the opportunities like the Nikon connection and being able to work which Eamon and Claire who were just so beautiful on set. I look back on it and think it’s a success already because we all just had such a great time on set creating this world.
It’s tough and it’s tricky on set because you’re always battling that inner voice. [Laughs].
You were born in America. What brought you out to Australia?
I originally came out to Australia in 1997 to set up a theatre company for a private school in Newcastle of all places. I had originally planned to come out for six months and ended staying for a year. I worked with school kids and we did theatre and we did youth events, we used to go surfing and do youth clubs and stuff like that on weekends and after school. I met my wife out here during that time and we dated for a couple of years before I moved out here in 1999/2000.
So how familiar where you to the Australian film industry before you moved out here, or at least Australian films?
Not very familiar to be honest. Not many Americans are. Mad Max was a favourite and Crocodile Dundee was very popular in America. There weren’t that many Australian films that I was aware of or even knew. I think I loved Babe but had never seen it. [Laughs]. It was one of those things that was another education when I got out here. I started watching the greats like Gallipoli and Picnic at Hanging Rock and all of these other great Australian films and I discovered this really interesting film culture here and people take film very seriously here and as a result it travels well comparatively to the size of this country. I consider myself an Australian filmmaker even though I was American born because my entire career has been here and a lot of my filmmaking ideas have come from the people here.
It’s no secret that the film takes an unexpected turn towards the end. Is it something you’re often asked about and how hard is it to talk about the story without giving anything away?
Well it’s very easy to say the film is about loss and it’s about dealing with loss because it comes in a number of packages and we tried to layer the story with a couple of different scenarios where the lead character suffers loss. It both acts as a way to magnify the theme but I would also hope as a way to start to explore the theme before we actually get to the twist which has to deal with that loss.
It is kinda tricky to talk about because when you’re advertising or promoting a film with a twist, you hope it’s a portion of the film that people will talk about and ask each other if they saw it coming. You don’t want to take any of that way because you don’t want to take the cinematic experience away from people. With the trailer we focused on the love story and the adventure gone wrong and you get the sense there’s a bit of mystery to it with a character who might go off the radar or something. It’s hard not to give it all away.