Ben C. Lucas: Fighting Fit

November 11, 2018
Two of six episodes of the gripping local series Fighting Season are directed by Ben C. Lucas, in his first foray into television. We spoke with the OtherLife filmmaker about tailing Kate Woods and what he brought to the short order drama.

Lucas’s 2010 dramatic thriller Wasted on the Young seemingly kickstarted the Western Australian filmmaking boom that continues in earnest today. He eventually followed up his well-received debut with the 2017 sci-fi thriller OtherLife, which was released globally on Netflix. And now he has jumped into television production, directing two episodes of the 6-part Foxtel series Fighting Season, about – to use a cliché – the war at home, as the show tracks returning soldiers from the war in Afghanistan and the effect that it has on them and their families.

How do you work on a project such as this, with Kate Woods (Looking For Alibrandi, but who has since been directing TV such as Bones, Castle and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the US) being the ‘leading’ director?

I came on to the project well aware this was my first event series, that I was stepping out of the indie world and as such had both a lot to prove but also a lot to learn. I was quite eager to shadow Kate and stay in my lane, basically, but from our very first meeting, she made it clear she wanted a collaborator. From that point onwards, it was a wonderfully professional, constructive experience. Despite being 2nd block I stayed on for the entire production, from day 0 to delivery. In fact, I probably did more time in post as Kate had to fly home and I was able to continue on the tail end – ADR, sound, grade etc. It was a spoilt experience because I got to enjoy the full A-to-B journey of the set-up director without the same level of responsibility. Kate and I crossed over all the time, did all the readings together, sometimes even swapping in and out of locations, peeling off units to shoot in parallel. It was a great way to work.

In the process, what did you learn by working with Kate?

Kate understands the TV world back to front, she’s done so many high-level American shows and understands how she fits into the system without compromising her strengths as a director. Learning how to shoot for the edit, shoot for the show and the producers etc. was a great learning curve.

What role does the director play in a series such as this, with writers and producers, I imagine, leading the way rather than the director? Was that tough to get used to after making your own feature films?

TV and film are more the same than they are different. I don’t feel like there are just two camps any more either – TV and film – there are now hundreds of formats directors (all filmmakers for that matter) could be asked to shoot for. The craft is in knowing your audience and your project and how those two things glue together. It’s true, an event series like Fighting Season is much more a writer’s and producer’s medium than it is a director’s (particularly in Australia) but the nature of the collaboration is the same. Figuring out how everyone’s efforts combine is part of the privilege of the job. Working with storytellers, it’s wonderful. On a feature it’s the same, you want to inspire contribution and consolidate the vision. To answer your question, yes it was a bit different and there was a lot to learn but it wasn’t tough, it was a distinct pleasure.

What do you think that you brought to Fighting Season

I made a concerted effort to be consistent; this is a tightly contained, well-realised event series and it doesn’t need that odd-ball episode. Having said that, I hope my overall contribution helped heighten the material where possible. It’s not about “my” episode, it’s about adding another harmony into the choir that lifts the whole show.

Any particular highlights that audiences can look forward to from the episodes that you directed? Or personal fave moments that you’re proud of?

Episode 3 focused in on Izzy, the Samoan character and his family. Working with Marco [Alosio] and Sabryna [Walters], creating the family day at Church, that was a big piece of the production and an utter joy to be part of. The community really rallied around it, too, I could have shot that stuff for days (but schedules being what they are, had to settle for one). My episodes also had a lot of flashbacks and leaned pretty hard on the thriller tropes for the series, which is a bit of a sweet spot for me, so it was fun to figure out where the pressure points are, how to use them to build the tension without giving away too much.

Fighting Season is screening on Foxtel.

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