by Dov Kornits

What was your relationship with Alistair before making the film; and if there was none, then how did you happen on him as the subject for the film?

“I first met Alistair the year prior, at an Oceanic Art Fair in Sydney, and had a brief but profound encounter with him. Someone mentioned that he was a fashion designer, and I did think he looked particularly stylish, but was more intrigued by our conversation and his personality. I returned to the Oceanic Art Fair the following year and promised myself I’d ask him out for coffee if I bumped into him again. I did and we ended up going out for dinner and hitting it off. I had only met him a handful of times before his life partner passed away, and I suggested he be the subject of my Master’s film.

“Strangely enough, I have a vague memory of visiting Alistair’s store in the Rocks as a very young girl. I didn’t realise it was his store until perhaps halfway through the shoot, but the memory had stayed with me. I remember entering and it felt like a spiritual space – there was an otherworldly element to it. I knew the Trung label was considered artistic, poetic, and highly respected – worn by the intelligentsiaI never imagined I’d make a film with a fashion designer – but this film isn’t about fashion per se. Sadly, I never had a chance to meet Alistair’s life partner before he passed away but did greet his ashes inside the Emu eggs that accompanied us on the shoots.”

How much footage did you shoot, and did the script change a great deal after shooting was completed?

“We filmed around 60 hours of footage which was edited down into the 20 minute film. The script changed substantially as we filmed due to Covid, lockdown and the changing events in Alistair’s personal life. Documentary requires a level of flexibility and faith – I had planned to follow Alistair in the months after his life partner died, but after our initial shooting block, the Covid-19 pandemic started in Australia and production was shut down for 5 months. That was a hard wait, but I stayed with the project as much as I could — through reading, watching films, meditating on the themes (it helped that I take daily walks through a cemetery) and writing my Master’s thesis which was on ‘Director as Shaman’ and the healing potential of documentary cinema.”

Kate Vinen

What sort of resources provided by AFTRS were invaluable in making it?

“The film was a core assessment task for my Master’s in Documentary degree at AFTRS which I completed between 2018-2020. The Master’s was an incredible experience, giving me time to explore my craft and develop my practice with the support of the experienced heads of department and mentors. I was lucky enough to receive mentoring for the project from leading industry practitioners including Lynette Wallworth, Amiel Courtin-Wilson, Simon Price and Veronika Jenet. Studying at AFTRS also gave me access to crew (other students from my Master’s cohort), equipment (we filmed the bulk of the project on an Arri Alexa), post production facilities and the film was selected for distribution by the AFTRS Sales & Distribution department which means festival entry is handled by the film school.”

Were there any films/filmmakers in particular that influenced the film?

“I am inspired by a wide range of filmmakers but for this project I was inspired by Lynette Wallworth, Amiel Courtin-Wilson, Chris Marker, Evangelia Kranioti, Joshua Oppenheimer, Ciro Guerra, Les Blanks, Emmanuel Vaughan Lee, Alejandro Jodorowsky and without sounding like a film-school cliché – Andrei Tarkovsky.”

Did Alistair cooperate 100%, and/or did he have final cut? Considering his comment about being in isolation without an audience… has he seen the film, what’s he think, and will he be at the Sydney Film Festival screening?

“Making Acts for the Invisible was an interesting collaboration between Alistair and myself. It is his life and experience with grief I am filming and essentially interpreting. My previous directing experience had been predominantly working with actors whilst directing fiction. Working with a real human being, who isn’t being paid to play a role, requires a very different approach. I did my best to listen, ask questions, and not get too in the middle of Alistair and the camera – whilst guiding the film towards a vision I felt would connect deeply with the audience, and taking creative risks related to my practice. Thankfully, Alistair and I spoke a lot about what we wanted to achieve with the message and our intentions about the film aligned. Our aesthetics are also compatible, which was a good visual anchor. As the film was an AFTRS production, I had the final cut. Alistair is yet to see the film and will be attending the Sydney Film Festival screenings on November 4th at Palace Central and November 7th at Dendy Newtown. Look out for someone amazingly dressed!”

Now that you have graduated AFTRS, how was it, and what are your plans for the future?

“AFTRS was an intense, challenging, and incredible filmmaking bootcamp experience. I particularly loved the close mentoring from the Heads of Departments (all working industry practitioners) and the workshops by filmmakers – both Australian and international. It’s that connection to more experienced makers that is so helpful to emerging creatives, combined with ongoing feedback from fellow students. There’s nothing quite like a mirror to help you grow! Every day I stepped into the AFTRS building I was filled with awe – it’s a large, contemporary space completely dedicated to the art of filmmaking. You walk past Hoyts Cinema to reach it, which is a humbling reminder of where your film may end up one day. I felt privileged and overjoyed every single day to have the opportunity to study what I am passionate about. Graduating from AFTRS made me feel like my dream of being a working director – a creative leader of meaningful projects that meet their audiences and contributed to reflecting and shaping culture – is indeed possible.

“My future plans are to continue creating opportunities to use my creative skills, and to work with other skilled creative practitioners to create meaningful projects that deeply connect to audiences. I’m looking for agency representation as I’m keen to do commercial work. I am currently writing on a feature script and in post-production for a Bus Stop Films short fiction I co-wrote and directed called ‘Hopeful Romantic’ which stars Daniel MacPherson, Lianne Mackessy, Chris Bunton and Rae Pastuszak.”

Acts For the Invisible is screening at the 2021 Sydney Film Festival


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