So, tell us is the story entirely true? What elements are fictional? How did you come across it?
Australia’s remote areas are perceived as such wild and inhospitable places that people will believe almost anything they hear about them. I wanted to play off those preconceptions and the outback thriller/horror genre to tell a story that was quite bizarre but felt as though it could have happened. The story isn’t actually based on any true events. The genesis of the idea actually came from an ongoing joke I had with a friend about his parents-in-law testing his manhood. As I developed the script, it evolved into something more meaningful and I was able to delve into themes and ideas that fascinated me about the influences that shape us as we grow up.
What was it about this encounter that convinced you to make a short film out of it?
Even though the film wasn’t based on a specific story, it was somewhat inspired by the stories I’ve heard from travellers over the years. Being isolated really does limit your options, which is a perfect platform for awkward situations to unfold. On the surface, it’s quite a strange story, but at its core, it deals with common issues that play out in households every day all over the world. I wrote this script after recently becoming a father and was thinking about what kind of a parent I’d be. Would I try and live my unrealised dreams and passions through my children regardless of their aptitude or interest in them? I wanted to explore these relatable themes within a dark and strange story to highlight how obliviously selfish and destructive parents can be despite their best intentions.
Tell us more about the filming location. Is this a place you know well?
One of biggest challenges in getting this story from the page to screen was finding a location that had the right aesthetic and looked remote but was logistically feasible to shoot at within the budget. I’d scoured the internet and Screen Australia website for potential locations but was having trouble nailing one down. Funnily enough, in the end, it was my mum who found the location. I mentioned what I was looking for and she remembered a service station in a tiny town called Nowendoc she’d stopped by almost a decade earlier. I googled it and there was one image of the place. It looked perfect and was close enough to Sydney to get a crew up there by road. Most of my research led me to believe that it was closed and completely derelict but when I called the local police station to check they told me it had recently reopened. They gave me the owner’s number and he turned out to be an extremely generous and gracious man who was more than happy to help. When I went up there to do the recce, I was blown away by how perfect it was and how many art department props we could borrow directly from the location. Finding this location was a really lucky break. My mum told me the other day that she thinksshe’d make a good location scout…
What sorts of subjects and stories would you like to explore next?
I’m usually drawn to slightly strange stories and characters who are oblivious to their eccentricities. I find the real-life dynamics of relationships fascinating and always feel like they are the best place to explore awkward and meaningful humour. I’m currently working with Nick Burton, one of the actors from this film, to develop a feature script he’s written. It’s about an old jazz legend who’s kidnapped from his nursing home by a grandson he’s never met. The subject matter and themes are quite sad but the characters make it funny. Those are the kind of scripts that excite me.
Would you say that the short film format has given you any particular freedom?
Coming from an advertising background, the short film format felt incredibly liberating compared to commercials. I loved the depth of character I was able to explore and the freedom I had to create a story without constraints. You’re also unbound by the pressure of commercial success that comes with making a feature film. In many ways, I think the short film format allows for the greatest freedom a filmmaker can experience. I’ve definitely got the bug now, and even though I’m drawn to longer form projects, I think I’ll always look for ideas that I can craft into short films.
Jackrabbit was shown in International Competition.