Short Film Deep Dive

January 5, 2020
Co-Directors Michael Leonard and Jamie Helmer of Golden Moss Films discuss their latest short film, the highly anticipated The Diver, which after playing at Venice, will have its Australian premiere at Flickerfest.

The film is a French/Australian co-production. Can you speak about how that happened for two Melbourne based filmmakers?

Our previous short film The Knife Salesman competed at the 74th Venice Film Festival, whilst there we met producers Justin Pechberty and Damien Megherbi who also had a film in the short competition. They really liked Knife Salesman and when we all caught up, it automatically felt right. After a few conversations post-Venice, I sent them the first draft of The Diver. On reading this, they decided to produce the film with us using their contacts at Arte and CNC to financially support the project – they also came on as creative producers, helping shape the film into the final piece it is today.

Jamie Helmer and Michael Leonard

Can you speak to the story of THE DIVER, and what inspired it?

The Diver began as a way to dissect the systemic culture of violence in our country, especially in regards to men and the immaturity and ignorance of how their presence and actions can affect others in their community. As the project is always driving towards a feature, the film and its characters are constantly evolving, but this epidemic of violence is what we really want to tap into, it’s just about finding the most effective way to present our ideas to the audience.

Nicholas Denton in The Diver

When you’re making a short film, what sort of parameters/restrictions do you put on the story in order for it be a short film, rather than a feature?

I wouldn’t say we put up any parameters or restrictions. It’s more about following the idea. Our last two short films have been created as proof of concepts for feature films, so we wanted key themes embedded in the films, but with such a short amount of screen time it’s difficult to flesh out those ideas properly and the creation of these shorts have been instrumental in helping us really understand what we hope to say with the long form projects. In the end, shorts are a great way to play with mood, atmosphere and style. Using the characters we’re creating with our actors, those are elements we concentrate on the most with our collaborators. For us that’s the creative process, in finding what we want to say and how to say it.

The trailer is quite striking in its visual palette. Can you discuss the approach you took, and also whether you were inspired by any other work to come up with the style of the film?

That particular shot used in the trailer was something Jamie and I had been talking about for a very long time. We’re both great fans of photographer Gregory Crewdson and his ability to create something so cinematic in a single still frame. It’s not just down to the lighting or it looking like a still from a Lynch film, it tells a whole story while also leaving so much up to your own imagination. He provides you with everything you need and based on your own personal experience and particular mood, your mind is free to go wherever it please with the details provided. In the case of what we call “the house shot”, there are many ways you can show the emotional separation of a family. Our thought is always “What’s the most cinematic way to show this?” To stylise a regular family home and show each individual separated from each other in one shot gives the audience a lot of information very quickly. And if you have a DP like Giovanni Lorusso capturing it, aesthetically it’s going to be pretty damn beautiful too.

Outside of that particular shot, I feel that this is the first film we’ve made where we weren’t as directly influenced by other filmmakers as we had been in the past. We watch a lot of films; so I’m sure David Lynch, Lynne Ramsay and others will always seep out into the work, but this film was such a collaborative effort, where all the people involved were able to shine and influence the way the film came to be. Our job was more to work as a funnel, communicating with our collaborators the best we could, and listening to their thoughts and ideas to bring the film to a complete whole.

John Brumpton in The Diver

Can you speak about the film’s premiere at Venice, and also your feelings about the film having its Australian premiere at Flickerfest?

What can you say about Venice? It’s the best! It’s the second time we’ve been invited there and there’s nothing like it. The festival is super relaxed and most of your meetings take place on the grass by the water with a spritz. Sometimes you get to shake hands with Vince Vaughn in a tuxedo, other times Udo Kier is sitting in front of you laughing at himself as his character on screen does some absolutely terrible things. Aside from eating some the best spaghetti vongole, we just love watching our films play on those screens and getting to meet other artists from around the world, expressing themselves through a similar medium.

But we’re super excited to go to Bondi and have the Australian Premiere at Flickerfest. We’ve never been to the festival before and I’m sure it’ll be a blast. A great way to start 2020!

The Diver screens on January 11, 2020 at Flickerfest


Leave a Comment