Naked Ambition: Lincoln Hall and Rory Kelly team up for Naked Strangers

October 24, 2018
Get 4 actors in a room (including Kate Williams and Jennifer Rani, pictured), physically and emotionally naked, and address hot button topics such as sexuality and identity, and you might just have a low budget feature film that connects with the elusive young audience for Australian content. That was the credo of producer/director Lincoln Hall and writer/actor Rory Kelly, who discuss their experience of making their first feature film, which premiered at overseas film festivals, and has just hit iTunes.

Lincoln: When Rory and I first discussed the idea, it was all about answering the question “How do we make a film with what we have?” The resources we have, the collaborators we have, the skills we have. It was about designing a project from a practical stand-point, because we’d never made a feature film before. But, of course, the desire for a meaningful and relevant story was equally important. So, we balanced what was realistic with what we dreamed.

Lincoln Hall

Rory: When I was growing up I loved romantic comedies, but as an adult falling in love was never like that. Not that it wasn’t great, but it was less about big gestures and more about little moments. That’s what Naked Strangers is all about, exploring those silent, uncomfortable and beautiful interactions, as well as all the silly and sizzling moments. When I mentioned the kernel of the idea to Lincoln, it was simply about making a film in one location that happens in real time and gives space for those smaller moments that people can relate to.

Rory Kelly above, Takaya Honda, below

Lincoln: That core idea never changed. We set out to make a story that you’d want to curl up in bed with on a rainy day. Something really personal. And it’s exciting to explore that intimacy through two characters played by four actors, who constantly rearrange into different pairings. It allows the film to make a very subtle statement through an unconventional portrayal of gender, sexuality and ethnicity. Attraction, flirtation and love come in many forms. The film isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it is a gently fresh take on the rom-com genre in a contemporary and Australian way.

Rory: The funny part was when we went to shoot it, most of us barely knew each other. The cast and crew gathered from all around Australia. Between the sweltering summer days and the constant pausing mid-take for Sydney planes to fly overhead, we were all doing the same thing: getting to know these new friends of ours by the way they talk, the faces they make, the way they deal with pressure, the things that make them laugh. We filmed across nine sweaty days, mostly in a small bedroom on the top floor of an old terrace house. No air conditioning, one tiny little oscillating fan, and the window blocked for better sound…

Lincoln: Maybe it’s those factors that make the film feel so up-close-and-personal. And there was definitely some pressure. We had planned for more than nine days of production, but events like the neighbours suddenly needing to chop down a giant oak tree meant we had to cancel shoot days and work fast with the time we had. The actors were almost never all on set at the same time. We even shot a couple of scenes without two actors present, so we filmed the two halves of the conversation separately. Thankfully it works in the edit.

Rory: We achieved what we set out to do: create something imaginative, something intimate, something appealing to a wide audience that can also possibly challenge and expand their perceptions. As the discussion about the equality of love continues, the film aims to remind people of the intimate, singular, and human encounters that make up that diverse tapestry. It’s a neat little package with a clear message: attraction is universal, love is equal, and connection is complicated.

Check out Naked Strangers on iTunes.

For more on Lincoln Hall, head to his website.

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