Interview: Gregory Erdstein and Alice Foulcher

 

Director Gregory Erdstein on the set of That’s Not Me.

It’s been awhile since a small, independent Aussie film (made for just $60,000) received such consistently good reviews averaging around four stars. We can’t remember another low budget comedy receiving this much media attention from outlets like The Herald Sun, The Guardian and Triple J.

Such is the power of Erdstein and Foulcher’s micro brand, that In a few years the filmmaking duo could well be the Sonny and Cher of the Australia film industry. Film buffs all around the country will be asking, “Have you seen Greg and Alice’s new film yet?”

We hope so anyway. After such an impressive debut, they deserve all the future success they get.

We recently caught up with filmmaking duo to find out what’s been happening since we last spoke around 12 months ago. A lot, it turn out.

“I do hope that we can be an inspiration to other filmmakers in terms of what you can achieve.”


Interview by Matthew Eeles

We last spoke almost 12 months ago. It’s turned out to be an incredible year for you two.

Alice: It has. Just the other day we were thinking back to this time last year when we started to see the film festival rejections come in and we were wondering how we were going to get our film out there. In retrospect it was because we were aiming for things like Sundance and SXSW which should never be a given. [Laughs]. It has been a long journey in terms of getting the film seen. At that point we really wanted that silver bullet, something to get you on to people’s radars and to get distributors on board. We’ve really had to chip away at it and work really hard to build momentum and festival awareness. We’re self distributing to cinemas now. It’s been a lot of hard work but it’s definitely worth it.

I’m noticing this trend in the Australian film industry where first-time filmmakers just expect to get into the biggest and the best film festivals. It’s seldom the case.

Gregory: [Laughs]. It’s the curse of every filmmaker. I think you need a certain level of self certainty, otherwise you wouldn’t embark on almost ten years of work to get a feature film made. I think very early on, when we were in film school, that was very much the pathway people expect they’re going to go down. A lot of what we’re talking about comes through thematically in That’s Not Me where you’re told in film school that only about one in ten of us will make it in this industry. Everyone at film school thinks they’re going to win all the awards at the end of the year and they’re going to get straight into major festivals, they’ll get funding, they’ll get development and that has definitely not been our journey at all.

Alice: I do hope that we can be an inspiration to other filmmakers in terms of what you can achieve just by tenacity and that we got a cinema release for a such a small film which we made for just under $60,000. It’s a really cool achievement for indie filmmakers.

Alice Foulcher and Isabel Lucas on the set of That’s Not Me.

How many film festivals has it screened at so far?

Alice: About 12.

And how was that experience. There’s so much drinking at these things.

Gregory: [Laughs]. Yeah. A lot of booze. We started at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, which we didn’t know alot about before screening there. For a filmmaker it’s actually an incredible festival to attend and I’d recommend all short filmmakers enter it. It’s positioned itself as part of the lead up to the Oscars and 200 out of the 600 Academy members actually live in the area. The festival plays host to a lot of In Conversations with Oscar nominated actors, directors and writers.

Alice: And they go for about two hours.

Gregory: Every night we were there we were attending In Conversations with Denzel Washington, Ryan Gosling, Jeff Bridges, Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams. It was an incredible start to our time there. We didn’t know what sort of response we would have to our film or if anyone would even show up. Fortunately, we were put onto a couple of ‘must see’ lists and on the first night we turned up to our first screening and there wasn’t anyone there and we started to get worried. We went outside and to give some tickets to friends and there was a line going around the block. We asked the festival organisers what they were waiting to see and they told us all those people were actually on standby for our film because the screening had sold out completely. The response was phenomenal.

Alice: We then got into the Sydney Film Festival and we were announced about a month before anyone else so we got a month’s worth of press which was great. You have an idea that funding bodies and distributors have a big say in what gets screened at film festivals, maybe they do, but ours was a great example of a big festival supporting such a small film with no agenda and no one behind the film influencing the festivals decision to show it.

Catherine Hill and Andrew S. Gilbert on the set of That’s Not Me.

How have audiences reacted to the film so far?

Gregory: We know where the various laughs land now. We’ve sat in on a lot of sessions, probably more than most filmmakers would, because we wanted to figure out which jokes were funny – if any. [Laughs]. Chris Rock said this thing once that he was glad to return to stand up after making movies because he was sick of writing jokes and waiting two years to see if anyone laughed at it. The experience for us has been fairly consistent with the laughs. One thing that surprised me with the Q&As in Australia were the amount of times we’ve been asked what Bakers Delight thinks of the film*.

Of all the things to ask…

Alice: At the MIFF screening Greg’s parents were in the audience and the first question asked was how Greg felt directing his wife in sex scenes. [Laughs]. Amazing.

That’s Not Me reminded me a little of Muriel’s Wedding. Did you use this film as a reference of sorts?

Alice: When we first got into the edit we had recently watched Muriel’s Wedding and we recognised a lot of parallels between the two. It wasn’t a conscious choice but Muriel’s Wedding is one of the last female led Australian comedies I can think of. There will inevitably be those comparisons for that reason.

Gregory: Thematically, Muriel has very strange values and she’s also quite obsessed with becoming famous and getting onto the front of a magazine cover. For both of us, Muriel’s Wedding is one of our favourite Australian films so we’re glad to take that comparison.   

Alice Foulcher on the set of That’s Not Me.

There’s a scene in the film where Polly tells Oliver that she doesn’t really watch Australian films. I hear Australian filmmakers and actors say this all the time. Do you find this is the case out there?

Alice: I do. It’s really disappointing when you hear filmmakers aren’t supporting the local industry but they expect everyone else to support their film. At MIFF and Sydney Film Festival we made sure we saw every Australian film screening so we knew what was being made and what’s out there and most importantly to support the local industry. There are some terrific films out at the moment like Ali’s Wedding and Killing Ground.
That line always gets a laugh during the screenings though. I think people know there is definitely an element of truth to it.

Have you had any sign that Jarod Leto has heard of the film yet?

Alice: Nah.

Gregory: Although he did just Tweet that something is gonna happen soon. It may or may not be about his new album. Who knows? [Laughs].

*Bakers Delight bread is used to light a fire in That’s Not Me.

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