G. Bryan Unger is the Associate National Executive Director of the Directors Guild of America. In our conversation we discussed the relationship between the DGA and ADG, how it’s changed since the ADG’s unionisation and the challenges facing directors guilds now and in the future.
How do you see the relationship between the ADG and DGA? Has it changed over time?
The ADG formed as a fraternal organisation (the Australian Screen Directors Association) early on. They weren’t certified as a union, but they got a lot of Australian Directors together, going back to the first wave of Australian films – the Peter Weir, Philip Noyce, Fred Schepsi and Gillian Armstrong group. They were making films in Australia, which were then getting noticed in the U.S., and a lot of those directors were coming over to work for American studios, and eventually joining the DGA.
The relationship between the DGA and the ADG began when the ADG started taking on a more formal structure in the 1990s (again, as ASDA at that time). There were some meetings with the English-speaking directors organisations: Directors Guild of Canada, DGA, the former Directors Guild of Great Britain and ASDA – we have been in communication and exchanging ideas for some time. The recent activity to become a union has sparked a renewed interest and opportunity to talk to people again and to help the ADG to facilitate its union’s formation.Read More
Blake Ayshford has had a bumper 2014, having written Cut Snake, show run Devil's Playground and written episodes of The Code. In this interview he talks about his career, the trends towards shorter run TV series along with his working relationships with some of Australia's best directorsRead More
Hugh Sullivan speaks to me about his first feature, The Infinite ManRead More
Can you tell us how you got to make your first feature film?
[Laughs] Who let me do that exactly? How it happened I guess, was putting myself in the right place at the right time, and having chiselled away at the last ten years or so before it, with a few backyard features, a few self funded shorts, a few funded shorts. Constantly trying to develop my craft as a writer/director and I think that there were other projects that I thought were maybe gonna be my first funded feature film that fell by the wayside. I am a believer that everything happens for a reason and I kind of look back at the disappointment I had in those projects falling over but I really felt like they deserved to fall over, and this one withstood the fire and brimstone of development because there was enough meat on the bone, enough of a cool central idea and enough of an emotional journey that the main character was going to go on. Just all the right elements and at the end of the day just a really interesting story and a very basic premise of ‘what would you do on the last day on earth?’. I think all those planets aligned just in the right way. Ever since we put the first draft, which I call the vomit draft, that I just vomited out of my system into the inaugural Springboard that Screen Australia were running, with my producer Liz Kearney. Ever since we put that in, literally it felt like the right people read it, the right people gave me the right encouragement and told me to really stick at it. It wasn’t great on the page, but there was enough there for people to really tell me to “stick with this one Zak” and “you might have something here”. It was getting into that in 2009/2010 and in being able to make a short film through that development scheme, called Transmission, where I just felt like I was working at a higher level than I ever had before, with the most experienced crew we could get, great actors and everyone getting paid the right way. Doing a film properly. It really solidified Liz and my relationship as a director-producer. I feel making the short and chipping away at the feature, and then the right people then saying “yes” to the feature to get the bit of funding we needed from ScreenWest, followed up by Screen Australia, followed up by MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival), everything just sort of came together, with just enough money to pull it off.Read More
Can you tell us how you got to make your first feature film?
It evolved from a short film that I made a few years ago. I was making a short about the lives of two war survivors from the war in Singapore in 1942 and as a part of making that film I ended up interviewing a lot of war survivors and POWs, and it sort of sucked me into this world of individuals sent off to foreign, hostile lands where they had no idea what was gonna happen. What I found in all these stories they told me, was a common through line of young people feeling vulnerable and not knowing wether they were going to survive. I felt that was something quite universal. Most of us have never been to war, yet we could possibly tap into the sense of fear, unknown and the vulnerability that these young people were experiencing. For me a lot of war films are the big events, the big spectacles but their stories were all about the intimate; the personal; the universal. And that was something that really attracted me as a screenwriter to this story.Read More
For the second issue of Screen Director, I sat down with Jessica Hobbs, who spoke about her career in television.Read More
I was fortunate to interview director Kieran Darcy Smith for the inaugural issue of the Australian Directors Guild magazine Screen Director, where we spoke about his career, writing and directing his first film Wish You Were Here
You’ve previously mentioned that a lot of directing is in the writing. How have you approached that and switched gears between the two? Does it stop and how do you delineate between writing and directing is there a point where that happens?
It’s funny, because at the moment I’m attached to a couple of project I didn’t write but I’ve also got one that I did write. And I also used to say that, and I particularly felt this with Wish You Were Here, that such a large element of the direction takes place in the screenplay. Because you’re sort of really seeing it through as you’re writing it. You’re sort of feeling the energy, to know exactly when to get in and out of a scene. You know exactly what the transition’s going to be. You can kind of picture camera, how it’s working, picture performance levels and so on and so forth. And I guess it’s not that different from when you come onto a script that someone else has written. Because you’ll invariably do a director’s pass on it anyway. So you tend to lay into it all of those transitions and you sort of play it out orchestrally in your head and navigate that as you’re going. So I still feel a lot of directing goes on, on the page. In terms of moving between one stage and the next, you go into a different mode I guess, once you’ve sort of seen it through on the page and you feel like it’s working. And you’ve got to really feel confident, and you’ve got to see through every sequence. And every transition and every scene, and picture the whole thing and know that it’s holding up in your head, and then you’ve got to trust that. Because no one else will if you don’t. You’ve really got to back yourself and go in there with utter confidence. And if you have that confidence, you get into preproduction and you test it. You get into conversations with all your various heads of department. And I’d occasionally do little previs setups out in the carpark and just test a couple of things to make sure they’re working, but I only did that on three or four scenes. And they were working, and I felt like I had a bit of a handle on it. I have to admit I really loved preproduction, because you’re just surrounded by all these incredible people who are just giving so much, and they do trust you, and you’ve got a lot of responsibility then, to really think about the decisions that you’re making. Cause you don’t want to let them down. You also don’t want to waste the money, you want to make the film well. You switch gears and it becomes a lot more visual and then it all becomes about communication because how do you get across what’s in your head really clearly to these people? It’s like going to get a haircut, you know, you say to the guy or the girl I want this and she says ‘yeah great, I know exactly what you want’ and you walk out and it’s completely different, and a lot of that goes on. It’s hard at first to convey exactly what you’re seeing and feeling, and I remember that with our production designer Alex Holmes; there was this massive pen drop moment - he’d been coming in with all this stuff and it wasn’t quite right and then it clicked for him one day and he went “fuck, I get it” and he came in with all this stuff and I said “man that’s it”. It took him a while to figure out what I was getting at.Read More