Your upcoming movie Our Darkly Perfect World - in a few
words, what's it going to be about?
Darkly Perfect World is a haunting romantic drama/neo-noir about an
agoraphobic author and a down-and-out grocery delivery man. These two
protagonists never meet face-to-face but they are able to change each
otherís lives by corresponding through letters, which they place in
envelopes marked ďREAD MEĒ. Each letter reveals their life stories,
the pros and cons thereof. But, unlike the great majority of my short
films to date, this one focuses primarily on beauty. Itís an affirmation
of life, of sorts.
You're calling Our
Darkly Perfect World a romantic drama/neo noir - please explain!
this rather fascinating subgenre of film called anti-romance,
where things start happy and end disturbingly. Itís the very antithesis
of the fairy tale ďhappily ever afterĒ. Gillian Flynnís Gone Girl is
one of the most recent examples of this. And itís an amazing story. In
fact, one of the two protagonists in Our Darkly Perfect World is actually
named after Flynn (as well as Patricia Highsmith, whose Ripley-novels have
been a huge influence on me). That said, Our Darkly Perfect World is NOT
an anti-romance. It would be easier to pigeonhole it as such but there are
vast discrepancies in the way Iíve decided to tell my story. In a way,
Iíve allowed there to be a ďhappily ever afterĒ although it
certainly isnít the same type as Disney are famous for. More of a
Miyazaki approach. Iíve used a lot of tropes from classic noir
(fatalistic narrators, femme fatale, Chiaroscuro lighting, etc.) in order
to tell a realistic love story about destructive relationships and tragic
romances. Communication is the key. Iíve also employed a lot of obscure
pop culture references to hint at darker depths beneath the surface
veneer. Whether or not audiences pick up on these references, or find the
double meanings Iíve carefully hidden, is up to their analytical
abilities. Our Darkly Perfect World is very interactive in some ways.
far as I know, Our Darkly Perfect World does have some
autobiographical elements to it - care to elaborate?
didnít set out to write something that was so personal but itís very
difficult not to put yourself into your work if youíre a serious artist.
I donít make films because I want to entertain people. I make them as a
form of therapy. My films are often quite dark and disturbing because I
had a very traumatic childhood and I want to understand why, years later,
Iím still haunted by certain past events. Lately, Iíve wanted to deal
with romantic situations because of the darkness that is ever present in
our real world. Death has never really fazed me too much because I was
introduced to it at a very early age. Itís become a very prominent
feature in most of my work, to varying degrees. Never has it been so close
to home as it is with Our Darkly Perfect World though. The breakdown of
the relationship between the author and her muse is exaggerated but, for
those who know me, it has evident connotations of my most recent
relationship. I was devastated for a while after it ended because I gave
so muchÖ some would say too muchÖ yet it still didnít work out.
There were obvious reasons why, which I wonít go into. The death of the
perfect woman, Amy (the grocery delivery guyís wife), is a metaphor for
me losing what I mistakenly and rather naively believed to be the changing
of my perfect woman into something else entirely. And Nicole, the jaded
bi-curious love interest of Gillian, was the aftermath of when this change
occurred. Some of the auto-biographical elements are very on-the-nose and
Iíve even been asked how much of myself did I put into this film.
Sometimes people that are quite close to me have asked. Iím not one to
tell people exactly what is personal experience and what is exaggerated.
But, I will admit, thereís at least 80% truth to everything in Our
Darkly Perfect World.
do you identify with more, the recluse author or the down-and-out grocery
a hard question to really answer. For me, theyíre not really characters
but theyíre extensions of me. In a lot of ways, theyíre the same
person. Together they make up an amalgamation of everything Iíve been
through and experienced in my life. Gillian, the author, is an
exaggeration on how intensely private I can be. And how heart-broken I was
when one of my relationships fell apart. I wasnít ready for it to die
but it had to in order for me to come up with new stories. Before that
relationship died, and for a while after I admit, I was stagnant. I was
lazy and uninspired. Alfred, the grocery delivery man, is an exaggeration
of the frustrations of that being stuck. Both charactersí love lives are
very close to the ďromancesĒ I have seen or been part of. So, to
really answer one or the other, I wouldnít really be telling a full
truth. Plus there are three other characters that are also quite engaging
and very much part of my being. If I had to choose a favourite character
though, it would definitely be Amy. I like innocent characters. They help
you to fall in love with a project. I sort of dabbled in this innocence
with my previous foray into romantic filmmaking, my short This
Although, there is a world of difference between how I did that film and
how I am doing this one.
Other sources of inspiration when writing Our
Darkly Perfect World?
saw Blake Edwardsí adaptation of Truman Capoteís Breakfast at
Tiffanyís when I was around 11 years old, and it left an indelible
impression on me. It wasnít until last year that I decided to revisit
the film and fell even more in love with it. Especially how Audrey Hepburn
played Holly Golightly. The moment Holly was sitting on the window and
singing Moon River helped me focus my own mind. Iíd been dabbling with
ideas on how to do another romantic story for 2 (almost 3) years prior,
mainly because when I made This
Time I set out to make a romantic trilogy.
Holly, as well as Audrey Tatouís performance as Amelie, inspired the
character of Amy. I liked the idea of someone that was so perfect in so
many ways that death wasnít just felt by those around her (the
characters) but by the audience as well. That notion became the core of
Our Darkly Perfect World. But an idea is just an idea until you can find
the best way of doing it. Wim Wenders and Terrence Malick both provided
heavy influence on the direction Iíd take the story in. Their attention
to detail was spectacularly beautiful and mesmerising. Not many filmmakers
make films in the same way. Usually I donít either. Most of the time I
will seek out and/or experiment with style to find the best way of doing
it. Previously, This Time
was my only film I knew what I wanted before I
even touched a camera. Our Darkly Perfect World is, again, a project I
know EXACTLY how I want it done. And itís very different to This
When I was writing the initial drafts, I was listening to Nick Cave and
Richard Marx a lot to get into a particular mindscape. It was important
for me to pay attention to the lyrics and the subtext. That led me to
creating my own concealed meanings.
As far as I know, Our
Darkly Perfect World took a little while from being a thought in your
head to develop into a filmable movie script - so do talk about the whole
writing process and getting the project off the ground for a bit!
with (almost) anything I write, the initial idea came from a dream I had.
I remember waking up and wondering who the girl was. I knew Iíd seen her
before. And I immediately felt a little guilty because I was dating
someone at the time. Thankfully, that relationship ended because it was
abusive. I can only vaguely remember any sort of good that came out of it.
Most of the time I was being barraged with insults and blamed for nasty
things my ex brought on herself. I wonít go into it because a lot of it
is very personal. Suffice to say, that relationship was also a main
inspiration of my writing for this project. The dream inspired me to write
a love story, something about complete adoration whereas my reality
inspired me to write about my frustrations. I didnít originally think to
combine the two ideas. Strangely enough, it only occurred to me over
drinks with a couple friends. We were debating the validity of my two
stories as separate entities. One of my friends refused to acknowledge
romantic films as anything but cheap trash. I remember seeing his point
because there really arenít a lot of good ones. Theyíre usually
manipulative rather than actually emotional. I didnít want that for this
project. So I put the two projects aside for a little while and focused on
horror concepts. It wasnít until within this last year that I went back
to look at the ideas. It was a way of escaping from all the horrible
events splashed across the news. Iíd had enough. I didnít want to hear
about any of it anymore. So, instead of making a new horror concept, I
decided to restrict my undying attention to the writing of the two
projects. I got to the mid-point of one of the projects, I think it was
the frustration one, before I realised it was becoming quite dark. Instead
of shelving it again, I looked into how I could combine the two projects.
It actually worked a lot better than I ever imagined it could. After
finishing the first draft with the two projects combined, I went back and
made sure everything fit. I think the writing process went through around
15 drafts before I was happy with it. Another 4 or 5 drafts before
everyone else was happy with it. But now, the script has been attracting
some very interesting talent (industry professionals who have worked on
some amazing projects). Thatís how I know itís a strong script.
can you tell us about the intended look and feel of your movie?
Lai Peng Chan, Daniel James
slow-paced with a strong focus on the beauty of the world. Iíve
specifically designed each shot with the storyboard artist,
cinematographer and lighting department with a particular vision based on
paintings, photographs, even films such as Darren Aronofskyís The
Wrestler and Terrence Malickís Tree of Life. From the very beginning,
Our Darkly Perfect World has been about lavishness in content and in
framing. Itís highly stylised filmmaking. Weíve also decided on
colours for characters. Alfred and Gillian are often seen in the same
colours, perhaps hinting at something. Amy, on the other hand, is always
in white. Nothing in the film is without meaning. Weíre shooting with
Chiaroscuro lighting and, right up until the end of the penultimate scene,
the film will be in Sepia tone. Colour will bleed into the final scene,
much like when Dorothy arrives at Oz. Visual cues to pop culture
references will be scattered throughout but viewers will need to know
where to look in order to find them. In a lot of ways, the beauty is the
surface story. The pop culture references are the keys to the story
underneath. And the story underneath is for each individual audience
member to decide on for themselves. Itís a puzzle, a magic trick. I
canít give away all the answers.
you can tell us about your projected cast yet, and why exactly these
been lucky enough to build a talented cast based on the strengths of my
screenplay. I briefly worked with Rachel Kahan on a promotional shoot for
another film I was going to direct but it never reached the momentum of
Our Darkly Perfect World. In the promo, Rachel played a kidnapping victim.
Her portrayal was so haunting that I wanted to work with her again. I
actually wrote the character of Gillian with her in mind. Alfred, on the
other hand, was written without any particular actor in mind. I was
terrified about how close he was to me and I wasnít sure how, or if,
Iíd be able to find the right actor to play him. When I met Daniel James
and spoke to him about his experiences with acting, I realised straight
away that he was the perfect person to play Alfred. Daniel was used to
being cast as an antagonist because of his appearance. And heís damn
good at playing those roles. His frustration was that he didnít want to
be pigeonholed as ONLY bad guys. Just like I didnít want to be
pigeonholed as the guy who ONLY did horror/thriller films. We understood
each other from a very personal perspective. With the two leads cast, I
needed counterweights for both roles. Linda Marie Curryís short film,
Dennis Mayhewís Magic Mirror, introduced me to Lai Peng Chan (the
perfect person to play Amy). From there, the rest of the cast fell into
place. The wonderful Natsumi Sato is playing Nicole, which is very against
type for her. In real life, Natsumi is lovely and very supportive and
weíre lucky to have someone of her talent on board. As Nicole though,
she is a heartless spider-woman who jumps from partner to partner trying
to find the perfect way of life. Sheís a real golddigger. But that
said, Nicole is also a victim. She used to be good but certain events in
her life have turned her into this femme fatale. Gene Von Banyard, another
catch, plays opposite her as Samuel Marlowe (a timid man who has always
sought after Nicole but watched from the grand stand as she destroys her
innocent side and chases after bigger game). I saw Gene in a short film
called Lifeís A Drag, where he played a violent homophobe and I wanted
to see what heíd be like cast as someone who was at the opposite side of
As far as I know, the film's still in
pre-production - so what's the schedule ... and even if it's almost
certainly waaay too early to ask, any idea when and where the movie might
be released onto the general public yet?
begin principle photography on June 7th this year (2015) and
itíll be a consecutive 4-day shoot. I always edit my own films so I
project that the film will be finished by September this year, ready to be
entered into the film festival circuit. My producers and I are aiming to
have it at such a high quality that it can get into the most revered
international festivals. Once it has toured the world in this way, the
film will be available to the general public on various websites as a
digital download. But that will probably be late in the year if not in 2016.
Those that help us fund the project, however, will be given copies of the
finished film as soon as it is finished this year.
projects beyond Our Darkly Perfect World you'd like to share?
next film after this one will be a return to form with a dark and
disturbing thriller set in apocalyptic Sydney. Itís about a young
manís frustrations with wanting to leave his childhood home and make a
life for himself but heís trapped and forced to live with his mother who
is suffering from a terminal disease, which is reminiscent of vampirism.
The protagonist has to search for unsuspecting victims and feed them to
his mother in order to keep her alive. Heís a very conflicted character
because he canít do what he wants unless his mother dies but he canít
just let his mother die because they have a strong familial bond. In a lot
of ways, itís my love letter to the survival horror videogame genre.
Iíve also taken preliminary steps to turn Our Darkly Perfect World into
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
can find any information on the upcoming project at:
donít have a webpage yet but weíre currently negotiating with a few
companies on price, design, all that jazz. Weíll be setting up a crowd
funding campaign soon enough so we can finish the project. Iíve been
spending my own hard-earned cash on making this baby so far. Thatís just
how passionate I am about this project. But, in order to finish it
properly, weíll need contributions. So, thatíll be something to look
out for in the next few weeks.
for the interview!