Sunday Shorts: Blood Orange

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Article written by M.P. Wills (Director, Blood Orange)

To me, Blood Orange was really inspired by slow cinema, especially the early Asian films of the 80s, and 90s.

What struck me most as a kid growing up and watching those sorts of films was their use of visual economy; how they’d let entire scenes play out within a single wide shot without cutting to close-ups unless it was absolutely vital to the scene.

I think it has a way of allowing us as an audience to participate in the scene and to make up our own minds about what we find important in it. In western culture, I think we’re really used to seeing things in a different way. If we see somebody crying in a scene, we’re seeing them in a close up because we’re being told that this is what you’re supposed to feel in this scene by the filmmakers.

If you look at early South Korean cinema, or directors like Bi-Gan, Kiyoshi Kurosawa or even the great Edward Yang, they really manage to craft a certain mood and style within the way they approach coverage from a distance. It affects pace, movement, tone, and atmosphere. In a sense, they create their own visual language.

Cast and crew, including actor Matt Levett on the set of Blood Orange.

Blood Orange came about as more of a sort of tonal prelude to the types of films I wanted to explore.

At the time when I wrote it, the producer Sharath Ravishankar and I were thinking about taking a break from commercials and branded content to dive into something more creative. For us, making a short film was the perfect vehicle to explore something different, and at the same time, we had this production company that we were involved in that was able to help fund it as a sort of passion project.

We knew it was a little crazy shooting a short film on 35mm, but we also knew that taking a risk was something that we needed to do at that time in our lives because we’d been a bit jaded by the advertising world. For us, short films that were shot on 35mm were virtually unheard of, so that was an attractive calling card for us.

Blood Orange cinematographer Kieran Fowler NZCS ACS

When production began I approached my long time collaborator, Rahel Romahn. Rahel and I already had many projects in development; he’s been a big part of my filmography since we were both film students and he’s such a versatile actor that you can sort of fit him in anywhere and he just excels.

We were also able to assemble what I think are some of Australia’s best up and coming talent, both in front of the camera and behind it. From our other onscreen talent Matt Levett to our Production designer Lee Launay and Cinematographer, Kieran Fowler NZCS, ACS whom I went to film school with at IFSS.

Looking back on it, Blood Orange wasn’t an easy film to make, it took nearly 2 years to get off the ground with many credit cards maxed out by the time we got to the finish line. Even after we finished shooting, we had to wait 6 months to get the rolls developed because we didn’t have any budget left, so we had all these rolls of undeveloped film sitting in our rooms.

I remember that time being a really anxious wait for us. Thankfully, Park Road Pictures gave us a huge discount on a 4k scan, so after months of limbo, we were finally able to get a budget together and see our footage come to life.

Rahel Romahn on the set of Blood Orange.

To me, cinema has always been about the sensory aspect. I like looking at an image with sound design and music and thinking about how it makes me feel before trying to understand it. But it was important that Blood Orange elicited a certain mood before it elicited meaning, which typically speaking might be an unusual way to approach a short. 

Thematically, I’ve always been interested in making things people might find unusual or strange, beautiful; the overlapping clash that happens when darkness, beauty, comedy, and violence are juxtaposed to form one absurd, singular idea. With Blood Orange, we wanted to investigate these themes in a really visceral way; the contrast between beautiful depth in the visuals and the actual content of what is being conveyed to the audience. 

The main goal of Blood Orange has always been to deliver a short film that was, above all my aspirations for it, something that was brave. And I really hope that we achieved that. 

Blood Orange director M.P. Wills.

About M.P. Wills

M.P. (Mark Phillip) Wills is a writer and director born in Canberra, Australia. He studied directing at the International Film School Sydney and the AFTRS. Mark is known for his devotion to visual lyricism and is firmly committed to making movies that blur the line between darkness and beauty.

Blood Orange follows a blind man who is tormented by the mysterious disappearance of his dog. One day he is visited by a sadistic childhood friend, igniting a disturbing journey of self discovery.

Credits

Written and Directed by M.P. Wills
Produced by 
Sharath Ravishankar
Cinematography by Kieran Fowler NZCS ACS
Edited by Sharath Ravishankar
Starring Rahel Romahn, Matt Levett, Aleks Mikic, Alice Zahalka, Sam Glissan, Verde Alyce, Emma Carrol, Helena Parker, Richard James Allen, Michael Denkha and Steve Maresca

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