Words by: Finnian Williamson
2015 has been one hell of a year for Perth-based, freelance filmmaker Lauren Brunswick. At 25 Brunswick recently won “Young Filmmaker of the Year” and “Best Direction – Short Form” for her short film Ono at the WA Screen Awards.
Since completing her TAFE film course in 2010, Lauren has become the embodiment of a filmmaker who goes out there and does it for herself. True to her nature Brunswick is already in pre-production for another project, the upcoming SBS comedy Top Knot Detective.
But filmmaking isn’t just about talent, it is also about who you work with and about making films you would want to see, as film student Finnian Williamson found out.
What initially inspired you to try filmmaking out as a course?
I got involved in it as a fluke. I was supposed to go and study Law and Journalism at UWA, but ended up deferring for a year. I went to TAFE and said ‘give me something creative to do for six months, give me anything, I’m going mental’. And I just fell in love with film, because that’s all they could offer me! It’s probably not the most inspiring story.
There weren’t any films that inspired you take up filmmaking?
My film taste before I started making films and really loving it was pretty terrible. I grew up in my late teen’s years loving films like Amelie and Garden State. But then I realised there’s so much more to movies, and when I discovered the language of how you can be more subtle and make people feel a bit more, I began to get more involved in different styles. Wes Anderson and Michel Gondry were my gods, as they are to every film student.
Hold up! I don’t think you should downplay your love for Amelie, that’s a great film –
It is a great film! But it is a bit of an independent film student cliché. You go through waves with what you love. As a director, the films I go back to are Before Sunrise, Before Midnight. I love Richard Linklater, I love those styles of films – I feel they’re quite personal, and really interesting.
But importantly, your short film Ono won Best Direction at the WASA Awards this year!
I’m normally a producer and it was the first thing I directed, so it was such a shock.
Wow, congratulations. What is it about the film that you thought appealed to audiences?
Oh god, I really don’t know…maybe because it’s a little bit more character based, like Linklater. It’s based on a nuance and the honest reactions of a character to a situation that we all know quite well. It’s sort of an unrequited love, self-acceptance type of film. Getting to your early thirties and realising that you haven’t made the best decisions in your love life. Sometimes you need to reflect and choose the best decision for you, other than giving into social pressures of having to settle down and picking the next best option like the one that’s on your door step.
So when you’re directing and writing, do you keep in mind how the audience is going to react to it …or do you focus on making the film that you’d like to see?
I think that’s where the producer comes in. I always write something where my voice can come through, something that I feel relates directly to me or my experiences. I think more about the honesty and the situation of the characters rather than how people are going to see it, and that comes out in the edit.
I don’t get too distracted early on with what an audience is going to think, because I think everyone’s either going to love it, hate it or feel nothing. They’re always going to have their own responses to it. It sounds selfish, but as a filmmaker you have to write something that speaks to you before you can think about how an audience is going to react.
You can’t focus on what the story is if you start thinking about what other people are going to think. It can really ruin the film. And especially for early career directors, if you’re focused too much on what other people are going to think, then you don’t have enough room to develop your own style or voice.
And would you describe there being much of a film scene in Perth?
Yeah, there’s a huge film scene in Perth! It’s actually growing bigger and bigger, it’s almost an exponential growth since I’ve started. There were one or two mini series being done a year, but this year alone we’ve had six or seven features shot here. In the last half of the year we’re going to have five feature films in production.
Now, you’re probably just at the beginning of a long career in film, but what advice would you give to anyone interested giving film-making a crack…?
To start out, it’d be to try and find your team. The people creatively that you’re going to work with who are making the stories that you want to tell…find the stories that are important to you and find other collaborators that have the same vision as you, so that you can keep moving.
But when you took on this course, did you have a ‘back up plan’ like us art students are told to have?
You know…I didn’t. As soon as I went into it, the people at TAFE were really good to me because I went in halfway through the Cert 3 course. They saw the first film that I made and even though it was rubbish. They kind of thought I had something, so rather me going through the next year of TV (which is what the course used to be), they skipped me up a year so I could get straight into the drama production I wanted to do. That was really helpful.
I was one of the people that were overly proactive and constantly in production on something, whether it was a no-budget music video in my backyard or trying to create more collaborations with other people. I was always trying to make something, so that’s probably what brought me together with the other two guys that I still work with today. We were the core group of people that were always trying to make and motivate and move.
Just go out and make it, basically.
If you’re not making stuff…you don’t want to lose the drive or inspiration, so you’ve just got to keep making stuff and get better at your craft. And I’m always open for anyone who’s studying, or has just finished studying, that wants to get involved in film projects. I’ve always got space in my productions to do mentoring or if people want to have a day working on a film set or helping out in art department. We’re always open to people approaching us.