By Travis Johnson

What’s your background? How did you come to be directing a feature?

My background is in visual effects and design, so I kind of came up the ranks doing all the local bigger films, doing pre-viz, visual effects, animation and so on. I started off there about 10 years ago now. But the day I got into visual effects I realised I wanted to be a director, so it was a day job situation where I was working on visual effects during the day, and working on my own stuff in the evenings and on weekends.

Did you cut your teeth doing shorts and music videos?

That’s exactly what I did. I did a whole bunch of short films and music videos, filmed a lot of commercials as well, all of which was “in the nightshift”, so to speak, so all outside of the day job. I did a couple of short films that did rather well internationally, got some awards and all that business, so the usual route.

What was it about the story of Skinford that made you think it could be a feature?

As a director, like anything, you’re kind of constantly searching for what your voice is, what your stamp is, what you can do that’s unique, that sets you apart from everyone else. I read a lot of comic books, so I come from that background. When it came to creating a story and a world for the first time, I thought “I want to dive into those roots and have fun in a world that has no restrictions”. Luckily our partners who pretty much funded the film didn’t put any creative restrictions on me, so I pushed everything to its limits as far as the budget would allow me.

What was the initial inspiration for Skinford?

That’s the hardest question ever. Me, I play with visuals. Having that comic book background, I just drew a whole bunch of visuals that I thought were powerful to me – one of which was the hook for this particular story, which was this low-end criminal digging up this girl from underground. That visual began sparking what this world could be – and obviously it’s a development process. Knowing that I wanted to play with this comic book world, it all kind of evolved to be what it is now.

What filmmakers have influenced your approach to directing? Are you a horror fan?

That’s the thing – as much as people don’t want to believe me, I don’t necessarily classify Skinford as a horror. To me there are horror aspects, but there’s also action, and there’s also dark comedy, and there’s also drama. So my influences are definitely all over the shop. Even though I grew up watching martial arts films and action films, the guy that I look up to is Christopher Nolan – the Christopher Nolan model is creating really weird stories with a massive budget, so that’s kind of what I’m working towards. I’m trying to find unique stories that I can dive into and really push the visual side of things. I’m trying to find and design visuals that I’ve never seen before.

Does your visual effects background affect your approach?

Definitely. It’s ironic – even though I have a visual effects background I avoided it as much as possible in this film, purely because I know how long it takes and how expensive it is. A lot of the effects work was in camera as much as possible. A lot of the stunts were in camera. But, having said that, being a low budget film sometimes visual effects can really help, and our team consisted of one visual effects artist who pretty much did about 100 shots on his own. A lot of it is cleanup, but there’s a couple of big set pieces that required a lot of love and attention and time.

You also filmed a lot at night and on location.

It definitely affected performances too. We were all out there, we were all cold, and we were all feeding off it. It helped create an interesting vibe and, as I say time and time again, even though I have a visual effects background I love shooting on locations, I like shooting in authentic spaces that really influence the tone and just the mood of the performances. That’s really important to me.

What’s up next for you?

Off the back of Skinford I ended up getting representation in the States so I’m now qttached to a sci-fi film tht I want to bring back to shoot in Australia, so that’s what I’m developing next. Then again, writing a whole bunch of TV shows and features that I’m developing. But yeah, just pushing on and seeing if I can sink my teeth into the next one.

Read our review of Skinford here.



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