Desktop Cinema: an interview with digital feature director Dane Giraud

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Celebrating the "unsung heroes of our film industry", the Desktop Cinema Season is on at the Film Archive in Wellington every Wednesday night until 26 September. In part four of a six-part series…

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Celebrating the "unsung heroes of our film industry", the Desktop Cinema Season is on at the Film Archive in Wellington every Wednesday night until 26 September.

In part four of a six-part series of interviews with digital filmmakers, Desktop Cinema curator Diane McAllen talks to NZ director Dane Giraud about his film, Luella Miller.Celebrating the "unsung heroes of our film industry", the Desktop Cinema Season is on at the Film Archive in Wellington every Wednesday night until 26 September.

In part four of a six-part series of interviews with digital filmmakers, Desktop Cinema curator Diane McAllen talks to NZ director Dane Giraud about his film, Luella Miller.Tell me about the process of making the film. How was the script developed, and how long did shooting take?
I found the short story thumbing through one of my many horror anthologies. It is actually classified as a vampire tale, believe it or not. The supernatural elements of the text, to me, were only ever repressions of the sexual tensions in the story and that's what we went for. I wanted to make a melodrama - the thriller aspects were not so important to me. I wanted to make something intimate. Intimacy is the first casualty of commercial cinema.

[The shoot took] 28 days. We were shooting up to five scenes a day. It has made me wonder how people can fuck up a film they have six months or a year to shoot!

How much did it cost?
It depends on what you mean exactly. In terms of value I would say $250,000. Take the freebies away and deal with the actual coin we had and it's under $20,000.

Did you receive any funding?
Yes. Arkles Entertainment and The Screen Innovation Fund, with a little help from the NZFC and Writers Guild through the Script to Screen Workshop they run. It was good but I find these workshops offer little in terms of aiding expression and true exploration. It's structure this, structure that... which is fine but you get the feeling after a while that the whole thing is geared up to make your original idea less original. When a producer begs you for a three act structure all they are really saying is make it look like something I've already seen.

What attracted you to the digital format?
It's cheap. That's all really. I'm an actor's director. That's what I'm about. I hire people to take care of the technical stuff. I'm not totally ignorant to it - I know what I want - but essentially I'm about performance. I would shoot on film if I could and fully intend to. That said, the bar is being lifted by these new digital cameras all the time so it probably doesn't matter either way anymore. I think in this country we have never had the money to shoot on film. The $1.5 million films are pretty rough. It's the actors who get it worse in that situation. The performances are pretty stilted. On tape, at least in our environment, you can honour the actor's process more.

Has the film been accepted into any festivals?
Yes - a number of festivals in America. We also took it across to the Digi-Spaa conference in Brisbane. That was good and it got great feedback. It has picked up a few awards in the U.S. A couple of audience choice awards and a directors choice award, I believe.

Have you had any formal training in film/television?
I trained as an actor at the Unitec Performing Arts School under the late Murray Hutchinson. He had taught film and television directing at the Australian Film & Television School to people like Jane Campion and P.J. Hogan. As actors, he taught us all how to construct a film so as understand the process better in terms of our acting. A great approach! Three of the actors from my year are now directors and I put that down to Murray.

I had been writing scripts for a while before shooting Luella so I was honing my craft in that way. I am yet to make a short! I say that proudly because I cannot see how shooting a short prepares a director for a feature film in any way.

Are you working on any new projects?
I am currently prepping a documentary, which is going to be a great ride. I'm really looking forward to getting that on. It's going to take me halfway around the world, which is exciting. I have two more feature scripts - one is an ultra-violent horror film. I also want to make a Western. I think Westerns and Horrors are the perfect vehicle for a man to explore his sexuality and potential for violence.

Where do you see the future of digital film-making going?
The future is here. It's happening now! People are making films for as little as $500 and getting them seen. The distributors (in our case anyway) have been open to picking them up too. Luella secured a deal in the U.S. and is in most Blockbuster video stores over there.

The only thing we have to be careful of is using any digital initiatives to make feature length versions of the 48Hour comp type film. The quirk factor. The powers that be seem to be too easily seduced by these quirky film makers. There's no depth in any of those films and it all a bit middle class really. Attack the audience! Assault the senses. Create discomfort. Be real. These films are too establishment. There's no rebellion in them so ultimately they won't speak to anyone. If your own grandmother thinks your film is cute then you are a failure. Filmmakers need to be punk rock. And by that I don't mean Green Day, I'm talking about G.G. Allin.

Luella Miller
(2005, R16 - Contains violence, offensive language, drug use and sex scenes, 82 minutes)
Director: Dane Giraud
Screening: 12 September 2007, 6.30pm
Where: Film Archive, 84 Taranaki Street, Taranaki Street, Wellington
Tickets: $8 ($6 concession)

12/9/07

Image: A still from Luella Miller.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

12 Sep 2007

The Big Idea Editor

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