The Medium Is The Message
AFI-winning director Rowan Woods (Little Fish) is set to lead a Masterclass at AFTRS OPEN and chats to us here about the current filmmaking climate in Australia.
The Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) is stepping up its Masterclass program as part of its OPEN program, having enlisted director Rowan Woods (The Boys, Winged Creatures, Little Fish, and pictured) to teach a class on the differences between film and television directing.
When asked by FilmInk about his teaching style, Woods says that traditionally, master classes involve film practitioners telling war stories. "That's an easy way to approach it," he laughs, "because students want to hear the inside trading and the anecdotal aspects of your work from go to whoa."
The versatile director quickly disclaims his class as a recounting of his laurels. "I like to take more of an educational-structured approach to the fabric of my work; the why's and wherefores, of being an all round director," he says.
Being pragmatic about the state of the arts is key. Woods stresses that even if you have your heart set on directing feature films, you still have to have your bread and butter line of work. "In Australia it's very viable that it be in directing television," Woods says. "I have a lot of fun doing it. My first year out of film school was working in TV, and my last three gigs have been great examples of Australian episodic television - Spirited, The Straits, and at the moment, Rake. I couldn't be happier with a career where you can do all things."
Illustrating some of the differences Woods will cover, he says that in film the director is often seen as the auteur, the authorial voice in that medium. "As a director you are brought on as an important element in the finance, you are there to develop. You cast the project, you attract the cast, you tell the story, and control it in every way."
One of the focuses of the Masterclass will be on the emergence of the 'Authorial TV' model, exemplified by the success of HBO original programming where the reins don't reside with the director. Instead they are held by the show runner.
"The writer/producer of the show is usually also the creator in the great American tradition," Woods says. Case in point with David Chase for The Sopranos and David Milch with Deadwood, and the ill-fated Luck.
"We in Australia are fairly new to that model. Even though the best of our TV has been traditionally that, writers controlling the programme with Mother & Son, SeaChange, and Blue Murder," Woods explains.
What the class is aimed at teaching is how to impose your own vision as a director on your particular episode without thinking you're the author of the show. "One has to accept as a director of TV what you're not," Woods says. "That's the key to being successful in TV directing. Being able to impose a strong vision and control on the particular episode you're directing, but also being subservient to the text. That duality is often a difficult balance for directors who come in from another medium."
AFTRS' Masterclass in Film & Television with Rowan Woods will run May 24 in Sydney. Find out more or book your place here.