Filmmaker Andrew Kavanagh grew up in the Dungog Shire and DFF is so proud to bring not one but two of his visually stunning works to the 2012 Festival. Both films utilise an elaborately choreographed, unedited single shot. DFF's Michael Newton spoke to Andy about his work.
Men of the Earth and At the Formal explore ancient rituals in modern contexts, yet produce very different emotional outcomes. What led you to depict these two occasions as you did?
I wanted to use the meshing of the rituals and the similar structure and style of both films as a template that could be used for different aims. Each film explores a different ritual and I think more than anything, it's the differences between these rituals that guide the tone and emotional effect of the films. In the interest of not spoiling the films, I won't tell you what the rituals are.
MEN OF THE EARTH is about hidden grief and the durability of ancient class structures while AT THE FORMAL is perhaps a more shocking look at teenage rites of passage, so while the films are linked, they were always going to have different effects.
What attracts you to this form of visual storytelling?
I think that a film is something to be experienced rather than deciphered. Visual storytelling is a very direct form of communication, and an image can mean so many things instantaneously. In short films particularly, I think that words sometimes just get in the way. When I think of my film ideas the visuals and the music/sound design come first. I just seem to imagine them as though I am there and experiencing it myself, and I think this is what attracts me to the long, unedited shot. It is as close as I can come to my own experience.
What was the process involved in coordinating such an elaborate shoot?
I had a great producer and production team. We spent a long time in casting both films and auditioned about 75 people for the roles. In production, we had walkie-talkies and megaphones on hand and I still lost my voice from yelling across such vast sets.
It really is a lot of fun dealing with so many actors and crew. There is a sense that we are all here to achieve something and everyone has an important role to play in this complex machine. If one part breaks down, we start the whole shot again, and no one wants to be the person responsible for that happening. I've been very lucky to work with the people I have.
I’ve seen you refer to these films as ‘short collisions’, what does that mean to you?
Well, there is another film in pre-prod at the moment that will finish the trilogy and as it's a trilogy, I had to call it something. The name comes from the content of the films and the specific form it is contained in. Both films present us with a collision of worlds - a collision with our own past. This collision is mirrored in the form, as we get lured into a seemingly familiar experience with an unbroken shot, only to have that experience jolted at a point. I also think it sounds cool.