Shane Abbess: The Madness Behind The Osiris Child: Science Fiction Volume One

May 20, 2017
The filmmaker steps up in a major way with his latest spectacle, and doesn’t mince a single word in describing the method behind the madness.

So how did the casting come together?

Dan was literally the definition of a muse, because he’d done Infini, and he knew the bar we were trying to set with performance, and then everything else was a brand new thing. I got Temuera (Morrison) two days before the shoot, I got Rachel (Griffiths) one day before the shoot… They signed way before that, it’s just that on Infini I had the whole cast a week before and they all did it together. Whereas on this one, it was like, on week three you get this actor for four days, and it was like ‘do they understand that I’ve told them about the way I work, but do they really understand?’ If Teagan’s (Croft) mum wasn’t there, I would’ve been in all sorts of trouble.

 

Because she’s a kid.

Yeah. And Teagan was fucking amazing with what she did. But to be around that, all the time, and Dan’s like doing a lot of stuff – legal and illegal – just to keep himself at some sort of a level, and obviously, none of that’s seen, but to be around that all the time, and to be around Dwaine (Stevenson), who turned himself into a beast, walking, talking… he’d be in a – not a cage, but this little area – and then he’d come out and stretch, and he’d get in the suit. He wanted people to fear him as the Ragged. Dwaine would just stand there snapping at people, and screaming. No one wanted to work with him, or talk with him, or do anything. And then, once they got around to the idea that, that feeling, you just take into the scene, because all he’s doing for you is, you don’t have to act, you’re only meeting him for two days, you can hate him for two days, you can fear him for two days, because he seems like a guy who’s going to snap. But I think a lot of people who don’t work that way, have to get around to the notion of ‘aren’t we just making a movie?’ Like, how come there’s prison guys just living here on the set at night, because they’ve got one night, one night of struggle, before you’ve got to believe they’re fucking prisoners tomorrow. Or they can just turn up, put some grubby make up on and sit in.

We were talking about a lot of people for who would play Sy. I actually met Kellan years before. He got the script, and reached out, and I said, ‘look, when you come down to do it, you’ve got to really surrender your past, surrender whatever you’ve done, and come to our way of work. Now you don’t have to be method or anything like that, just a level of commitment that I’m asking you to do, which should be mandatory in my opinion, but you’re making film after film, I understand the rut you get into.’ So when he turned up, I had him arrested, I had people dressed up, and we took him to a hide-out, Hyde Park Barracks – I had a prison cell there, and we put him in there, I had some of the other guys in there, they were sort of in the courtyard, having a smoke, and having a chat, and we charged them all for their crimes, and put them through sentencing, and I played music for them to help unlock and create memories… So for Kellan, what it was, was permission to play and I feel it’s his strongest performance to date. I’m really proud of him.

I remember with Temuera, when he came in, I said to him, ‘I want to get back to Jake the Muss, and I haven’t seen you do it. I’ve seen you do lots of films, but I haven’t seen you do that.’ And for me, I said to Temuera, ‘I wanted you to be in the film because you gave me, back at the early stages of my life, one of the best performances on film I’ve ever seen, and you’re from the south, you’re one of us, the southern hemisphere. Where did that guy go, though, where did he go?’ I said to him, ‘I’ve never made a classic film. I’ve made lots of interesting films, that I really like, but I’ve never made a Mad Max, or anything like that. And I’m very aware of that. So whatever you don’t like about what I’ve done, fucking tell me, and I’ll work that with you, but I’m going to tell you everything I don’t like about your performances, because I’m an audience. Let’s not talk to each other as film people, but just as an audience. And that’s how we’re going to find out what we need to do. As the shoot went on, he was there for five days, he was amazing, you could see this cinematic hero of mine, start to let loose, and I’d work with him again in a heartbeat. I feel like now, Tem’s gone through it, and will turn up on the next one ready to play. And he’s a great actor, he just had had his Hollywood time of, ‘stand here, do this, shut up, go.’

And I know Rachel went from us to Mel Gibson, so she had a great couple of experiences, but even Rachel Griffiths, Golden Globe winner, and Oscar nominee, I think she really appreciated, by the second day, what the set was in terms of the nurturing, playful love. Please get back to that, please get back to why you started this, please get back to being a five-year-old, please get back to that… so that’s the set, and it was different to Infini. Infini was a fucking claustrophobic angst mine, this was a very – Isabel Lucas, of all people, said there was a lot of love in this one. Like, we had an eleven year old girl, we had Isabel, we had all these different people, and I couldn’t just railroad them all with hard truth, it would shut half of them down, and be like, ‘oh, we’re not coming back tomorrow’.

Rachel got everyone to sing ‘Amazing Grace’, the crew and everyone, because she said on the second day, I get the collaborative spirit of this set. It’s not a traditional set. And I play music for them, and I build sound design into the set, and she said, ‘can we just sing ‘Amazing Grace’ together, at a wedding, at the favourite wedding I’ve ever been to’. And she’s talking everybody, grips, gaffers, we’re all holding hands, singing, and then she got us all in this union, and she just got us straight into it, she said, ‘okay, now we’re either our children, at our funeral, or we’re at our children’s funeral. Let’s sing it again.’ And she went to sing it, and all of a sudden, as you started thinking about it, you felt the set drop, I felt like I’d been sucker-punched. When you’re in the vulnerable space of a film, and you haven’t slept, it was just very emotional. And all of a sudden, she was exposing the people on the film, that couldn’t actually, really, they were going to that place, even the people that weren’t in the cast, going to that place, and they have to abort because they’re actually going to be emotional. And then she’s like, ‘okay so you guys want to bullshit me that we’re going there? There’s 22 frauds I just saw.’ And this included other actors on the set. And, I was there with her, and it was just this amazing thing. She’d turned the tables.

 

How did you handle the larger budget and canvas on this film compared to Gabriel and Infini?

This film hit the roof, whereas I think, if you’re working with smaller constraints of a movie, like Infini, you can have a bad day, and go, we’re still going to shoot on this set for twelve more days. So we’ll just pick that up, and shape that. But this was literally – some of those sets we were moving into, by the time you’d set up lights and shoot, it would be planned as 35 set ups, each day, and you’d have to get that down to 15, and in reality it’d be about 8, and then you’d be out of time. And it was kind of like, I need to still shoot the scene. So I’d actually go back, sometimes, to television coverage, it wasn’t as cinematic, in terms of knowing how to hit that beat, but I’m just going to have to keep this going. Whereas I never had to do that on the other two. And I don’t mean that as a disrespectful thing, just under the constraints where there is a point where you’ve previously felt invincible, and I think this is important for other filmmakers as well, I feel like, Mat Graham and myself, I feel like these guys can get any budget and blow it into the sky. But it was like, no, we can’t anymore, we saw where all the limits were.

 

I was very impressed with scale you achieved.

When you see the sequences and stuff, you go, oh, that’s cool, but, take the sket aerial battle for instance, it was a much bigger sequence, with multiple fighters, and a lightning storm, and they went through this big tornado that was on the planet, and we shot that, and then we got to post, and the government didn’t give us any money for post, which we thought they would, but they felt we weren’t culturally significant enough, so then we didn’t get any of that, and we were relying on that. So it was that kind of experience of making the most of the compromise to still keep it entertaining, so sitting there watching the fight, thinking, maybe we’ll take four or five of the fighters out, maybe we’ll just have one, we’ll make it sunny, as opposed to rainy, and we’ll take all those tornados out, but then you’ve shot other parts of the film, which are supposed to have more of a rainy day, so then the whole film has to keep changing. And I think only because of the experience of Infini and Gabriel, we knew how to do it. Whereas, if this were my first film, we would’ve been screwed. I would’ve just stood there like a deer in the headlights and gone, I don’t know what to do! Like, nothing’s how I planned it.

 

So did you hold a grudge about the whole cultural thing?

No, no, not at all, I do kind of get it, it’s fine. I just wish we had budgeted for it, like that assumption that we’d get it, and then we didn’t, like, okay, lesson learned.

 

Do you think it’ll be a challenge to launch the film in the Australian marketplace?

It’s hard, do you promote it to people as what it is, it’s not fucking Star Wars, it’s not Serenity, or any of those films, they’re all massively budgeted films, but do you promote it as a little indie, lower budget film because it’s also not that. It’s this thing in the middle, and that’s why, I see it’s an extinct species, because it used to be the golden spot, for how films like Predator and those films got made, whereas now, who the hell makes a film above five million bucks that’s Australian? And that’s why you don’t see any more of this type of film.

The Osiris Child: Science Fiction Volume One is in cinemas now.

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