Mike Green: Wake in Fright

October 31, 2019
With his feature debut, Outback (alt title for Wake in Fright in US and UK release), the first-time feature writer/director has produced a DIY hit.

“Oh, did I mention Taylor drank his own pee for real in the film?!?! The shot where he pees and drinks it is one take and is REAL.”

That’s Outback writer/director Mike Green, messaging us excitingly after we concluded our interview, and tempting us to call this article ‘Taking the Piss’. But seriously, in Outback, Taylor Wiese and Lauren Lofberg play American high school sweethearts who head to Australia for an Outback holiday of a lifetime, which very quickly escalates into a nightmare.

“I had a low budget film that I was hoping to make, and Angel of Mine was announced, and it sounded very similar to what we were trying to do,” says Green. “It pulled the rug from under our project. I had my wife going back to work from maternity leave, we had a three month old baby, so I had a small window of time to come up with an idea, write the script, execute the shoot and get the project in the can.”

And obviously, with the film now doing the rounds through Monster Fest, Mike Green and his dedicated cast and crew got the job done.

“It was really reverse engineered, based on what money I could access, the time I thought I could be away from home, the resources. I’m a First Assistant Director by trade. So, I know how to shoot things quickly, efficiently, I have worked with animals a lot, out in the open, and all different types of weather.

“We shot it in 10 days, with one day where we had to shoot 17 pages. That was a little daunting, but man, we did it. Any which way you point in the Outback is beautiful and it’s just head down and get on with it. We had a really great bunch of crew members behind us. It was really small and nimble, but it was all we needed.”

As per the title, the Outback plays a major role in the film.

“The original inspiration was ‘Open Water in the Outback’,” Green says. “A two hander and then leaning on Australia’s reputation, and using the resources at my fingertips. I knew we could shoot it like a documentary, pick up the Americans that fly into Australia at Sydney, and then travel with them out to Broken Hill, which was where we shot it. The Outback plays a major role. We feel like it’s the hero in the story. Everyone outside of Australia, and in Australia knows what the Outback’s like, so we thought that we would lean into that.

“It’s the fish out of water scenario where you’ve got foreigners in an unfamiliar environment like the Outback. All the locals that we show it to love watching the foreigners in their backyard. And people outside of Australia think it is full of critters that are going to bite you, and poison you, and sharks, crocodiles.”

The film itself and the premise have proven successful already, with Outback sold to the US, UK, Middle East and Indonesia off the back of Cannes Film Market earlier this year.

No mean feat for a film made completely independently. “It takes time to jump through those hoops,” says Green about not even bothering to apply for any sort of funding from local screen organisations. “You never know if you’re going to get funding. They’ll look at genre projects, but they’re not probably chasing that segment of the market, although it’s a huge proportion of what people are watching.

“I’m not on their radar. Being a dude at the moment isn’t all that…” he trails off. “I say that knowing exactly what they’re doing and embracing it; diversity is amazing and that’s what we should be doing. But they’ve got priorities. It’s a government organisation, it’s a cultural fund and it works to a certain time frame… And yeah, I’m probably impatient.”

Originally from Adelaide (“I spent a lot of time camping, growing up and playing on people’s farms and loving the Outback.”), now Sydney-based Green and his young family are looking to capitalise on Outback’s momentum.

“I’m working with three or four different writing teams. I’ve got something that I’d like to shoot next from a Brisbane writer, which is a Sci-Fi horror. Like all great horror films, it’s really a drama underneath, and it’s punctuated with scary or horrific things.”

Hopefully his next project will even allow for fake pee.

Outback is screening in Sydney on Saturday November 2 at the Monster Fest Horror Film Festival

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