In Conversation With:
Interviewed by Fleur Adderley
F: You have a sophisticated but experimental style. What inspires your concepts?
P: I’m inspired by art and music and all forms of creativity, like photography, design, architecture it all melds in filmmaking. As far as being experimental I’m just trying to find a new way in to keep it fresh and interesting. I like listening to music and imagining the scenes play out when I’m writing or coming up with ideas. Then getting to shoot what you imagined is super fun seeing it all come together.
F: You work a lot with brands, do you find striking the balance between pushing yourself and working with their vision a challenge?
P: I feel fortunate as I’ve been lucky to work on some really good briefs with cool and intelligent clients and agency creatives. It’s mostly a very good time with like-minded people and you become friends over the course of the job, especially when you travel or shoot something crazy. The creative challenge is to find the best way to work within the parameters of the brief and collaborate with everyone in getting there. You have to remember that they have hired you for the way you do things and they want you to infuse that into what you’re making with them.
F: What are your biggest creative achievements?
P: I remember being at a party when my friend and I had just made a short film together. It had made it into the finals of the ABC Triple J film contest, like the BBC but here in Australia. We had to drop off a copy to the tv station and later that night we were at a party and I was on the dance floor so happy that my dream of doing something in film was happening. The future felt so exciting and it’s like your first taste of the dream is always the sweetest and most pure.
As far as projects I think working with Tame Impala and what we created with them with Innerspeaker is still some of my most favourite work, likewise an art project I did with some super 8 film I shot of them recently. I think finding contentment as a creative is that super illusive dream and if you’re lucky it’ll evade you forever and keep you busy doing your thing and creatively striving for that. If I wrote and directed a film like Moonlight, I’d feel pretty content but I haven’t yet so got to keep working haha.
F: You portray the in between, spontaneous moments very well, how do you go about capturing these moments on camera?
P: I think it might come from my experience as a photographer. I worked with a quite a few bands and artists and I was always after that Rolling Stones kind of on the road style, fly on the wall look of photo journalism. The shot after the shot look.
In film it’s taking what can be a big film structure with a lot of people at times and make a not real, scripted moment feel like it is a super natural moment in time. For us to capture that it’s a combo of the actor and their interpretation of the character we create, actions and blocking, then the cinematography, camera movement and lensing coming together. You always start broad on the script and treatment, then cast and location and then refine the detail on everything the closer you get to shooting it. It can mean some late nights if you don’t have much pre-production time but it is all actually good fun.
F: What is the best piece of advice that has stuck with you throughout your career?
P: I can’t actually think of any one thing anyone ever told me. A more experienced film director once told me that my best asset was that I hadn’t studied film, so I didn’t know the rules I was breaking and therefore I was doing things in a new way. I have since studied screen writing and directing actors at NIDA and I think you can always learn more, but it is good to remember that doing things against the established ways of doing things will keep your work new.
F: Lots of your works are no longer than a couple of minutes, how do you fit a sense of narrative into such a short time frame?
P: I started in music videos and documentary so my first films were in the three minute plus space. I never had any constrictions with time and I always thought it would be easier to make things that were shorter, but the commercials pay per second for media time so you’re working in up to 60secs essentially. When you’re doing narrative in a short space of time, every shot needs to work hard as a story beat, it doesn’t mean those shots have to be boring but they have to be clear in their intent for a viewer. So it’s planning ahead and knowing you have the necessary shots and performance to tell the story you’ve set out to shoot whilst making it feel like a real moment, hopefully shot and told in an artful, fresh and captivating way. That is the dream.