Big screen auteur, David Caesar, gets down with the kids for Nowhere Boys: Book of Shadows, the cinematic expansion of the popular ABC-TV fantasy drama series.
“It’s a thing that I’ve always been interested in,” director, David Caesar says of one of the most often cinematically trodden life periods: late stage adolescence. “I’m fascinated by that whole idea of going from a teenager to being a fully-fledged adult in the larger world. It’s such a huge part of our popular culture. So much of our music, and so much of our movies, are about that. It’s an interesting thing to talk about.”
One of Australia’s most muscular writer/directors, Caesar gave powerful voice to this subject in his cult classic, Idiot Box (where his two lead characters had a lot of trouble moving into adulthood), and expanded upon it even further with the TV series, Dangerous, which tracked a crew of teenage street racers. Now with Nowhere Boys: Book Of Shadows, a big screen continuation of the popular ABC-TV Young Adult TV series, Caesar (whose big screen output also includes rippers like Dirty Deeds and Prime Mover) is once again doing it for the kids.
Dealing with alternate dimensions, magic, otherworldly evil, and four teenage boys with special powers, the film is undeniably youth-driven, but that didn’t mean that Caesar had to adjust his directorial style. “I’m not very mystical about any aspect of filmmaking,” he says. “My approach to it has always been more craft based, like, ‘Okay, we need to do this, and we need to do that.’ That’s whether I’m dealing with special effects, or dealing with the actors. When I talk to actors – and I’ve been told by actors that they find this refreshing – I talk about what we’re trying to do with the scene, and where the characters are at. We talk about it in a really straight up way rather than some sort of mystical way. The young actors seem to have responded to that process. We talked a lot, and we talked about movies, shows, and music that we liked.”
A noted film buff, such cinematic referencing is always a big part of the play for Caesar. “I’m one of those sad guys that watch two movies a day,” the director – who also famously played judge on the short film contest TV series, Race Around The World – laughs. “When I was in Melbourne making it, I was watching stuff all the time. We’re very much referencing stuff all the time, and we’re always thinking about it. We’re thinking about how the cinema of it would make the audience feel when they’re watching it. There’s this key scene in the middle of the film where we actually tried to play on [John Ford’s 1946 western] My Darling Clementine.”
Despite his more noted signature as a big screen filmmaker, Caesar is also a jobbing TV director, having helmed the likes of Underbelly, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and Power Games: The Packer – Murdoch Story, as well as high turnover shows like All Saints, Water Rats, Stingers, and Cops LAC. Perfectly placed to comment, Caesar has seen a big shift in the thinking behind how television is made, aimed, and sold to an audience. “That goal of getting everybody to watch something is gone, to some extent,” he says. “There’s now more a sense of stories being true to what they are, instead of trying to reach all four quadrants, and get grandparents and kids and everybody else watching. It’s about hitting that particular audience. We want to serve them really well. In the end, it’s about storytelling. You need to know who your audience is, rather than trying to make everyone happy. I’ve directed episodes of Underbelly that 2.5 million people watched. That still means that 20 million people didn’t watch it. I think that people have accepted now – with the way that people watch stuff – that you want a specific audience. That audience is probably a lot smaller, but if they’re really passionate about it, it still works. When we made Power Games: The Packer – Murdoch Story a couple years ago, it wasn’t the same as making The Flying Doctors in the early nineties.”
This changed attitude toward TV is a big plus for Caesar, who can jump from Prime Mover to
Nowhere Boys: Book of Shadows with nobody blinking an eye. “One of the things about television becoming more interesting is that you used to carry a kind of stigma if you made TV,” the director says. “You’d be seen as a lesser director if you made TV and not big screen pictures. [SBS TV’s series] The Principal was incredibly well directed [by Kriv Stenders], and very cinematic too. That’s a great example of a piece of TV that is very cinematic. That being said, the fundamental issue is the same: we just want people to watch it. That’s the fundamental issue.”
Nowhere Boys: Book of Shadows is released in cinemas on January 1. For more information including cinema locations, check out the website http://www.nowhereboysmovie.com/