“I grew up in the forest in Australia, in the outback and just swimming in rivers and climbing trees when I was a kid,” Seth Larney tells us during promotion for his first Australian film as writer/director, 2067. “We didn’t have electricity or power when I was growing up. When I came to Sydney in 1999 to work on films, I read this horrific stat, which was that the Amazon rainforest was being deforested at the rate of three football fields per minute, or even faster. And this was in 2000.”
Larney’s South African impressionist oil painter father Enver preferred an artisanal lifestyle when he arrived in Australia when Seth was just a baby. “We lived in a little hut that he built with his own hands, planted trees that he grew on his own property, with no electricity, no running water. That was my childhood.
“I left the bush and came to Sydney specifically to try and get into the film industry,” says Larney today, a world away from his idyllic childhood. “I wanted to be a director from when I was five-years-old. I used to read sci-fi novels on the bank of the river that goes through our property all day, every day, and watched 2001 and Alien and Terminator on this little seven-inch black and white TV that we had, that we used to run off the car battery because we had no power.”
Managing to land an entry post-production gig on The Matrix sequels after only 6 months in Sydney at the ripe old age of 18, Seth Larney was off and running, crewing on some of the biggest blockbusters Hollywood brought to make in Sydney.
“I was blessed with the opportunity to be a fly on the wall to some of these director idols of mine and then see how they direct actors, how they handle the pressure, how to deal with the problems that come up on a day-to-day basis.”
Seth Larney had been working on getting 2067 off the ground as his first feature film for almost 10 years when an opportunity emerged to direct Malaysian blockbuster Tombiruo. “When this offer came along out of the blue, I thought to myself, ‘this is such a great experience’, because, first of all, it’s a studio movie, so it’s very much the studio system. It was in a different culture and it was a director for hire job. It was the perfect opportunity for me to put myself through the meat grinder, so to speak, and see if I could come out of that process delivering a movie in the studio system, with a product that really ticked all the boxes for them, but that was respectful to the fans and responsible for the box office. On a movie like that, you have this number that you have to hit at the box office, which is super high. And if you don’t hit that, it’s considered a complete failure.
“I wanted to put myself through the pressure of having to deliver all of those things. And also, we were able to shoot some stuff that, I think, in Australia would have been really difficult. We shot car chases, lots of martial arts action. We built a small village and then burnt it to the ground, just lots of logistically challenging and exciting things that I think were cool to have in the tool kit.
“Also, here’s a movie that I can show all of the 2067 investors and Screen Australia. 2067 is a very ambitious film for the budget and the amount of funding. There’s a lot of visual effects and a lot of logistics that we had to pull off for a relatively minuscule amount of money. I think it was really helpful for me to be able to show people, ‘this is how we’re going to do it with a pre-existing film that I’ve done, and that helped to get it up immediately and then we were straight into production.”
2067 presents a world that has deforested Earth, with no breathable oxygen and people dying from biophysical rejections of synthetic oxygen that they’re being fed. They look to the future to try to learn if there is anybody still alive in the hopes that they can cure this sickness. The Adelaide made film stars Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ryan Kwanten, Deborah Mailman and Aaron Glenane.
“When we started writing the film, the concepts felt very sci-fi, like characters walking around in masks and no more breathable air; it’s ironic that now it feels obvious.
“It’s absolutely about hope,” adds Larney. “The reason that it’s a science fiction movie is purely to serve the deeper theme. It’s not just a science fiction movie because it’s this dystopian apocalyptic thing, it’s so that there’s a platform to talk about this hope; can we change things? Are we in control of our own fate? Is there a chance that we could actually affect the greater good? That’s what the big question of the film is, and I come down pretty strongly on one side. I’m very positive that we can make change and hopefully, it’s a little bit of a platform for people to be able to ask themselves that question and make up their own minds.”
Sitting on the riverbank as a five-year-old, did he dream of being a director because he wanted to change the world? “I very much believe that, my friend,” says the director. “It feels like it’s the purpose of my life. I have this, perhaps naïve, theory, but it really holds true for me, which is, I feel like films need to be fun and they need to be enjoyable because, let’s be honest, they’re for audiences. Audiences don’t like to be preached to. You expect them to pay money to see a film, they should have a good time. But at the same time, if you can infuse in it a platform for a conversation about something real in in a non-preachy way, then maybe somebody walks out of the cinema and they have a moment where they think to themselves, ‘Oh, wow. I feel moved about this and I’m not sure why’. And they take that with them, and it affects the way that maybe they treat other people in their life.
“That idea in itself is enough of a reason for me to commit my life to doing this because it only takes one of those people to go off and do something positive for this all to be worth it.”