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PRESS

Adam's very fun interview with Film Industry Gateway's Adon Blake

The history of cinema could be traced in the journeys taken by filmmakers from the small towns in which they were born and grew up in to the big cities where they live and make their movies. Adam Morris sticks out on the Australian filmmaking landscape in doing that trip in reverse. Born in Dublin and raised and educated in Perth, Morris relocated to Albany a decade ago. He now teaches at the University of Western Australia, writes fiction and makes movies. Indeed, Morris is such a curiosity in the picturesque former whaling town that when he reached out for support for his second feature, Frank and Frank, locals coughed up the $70,000 he needed to make his comedy-tinged drama about two men forging the kind of intimate bond normally reserved for female characters. While his debut feature, Edward and Isabella and now Frank and Frank, which is receiving its world premiere tonight at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival, showcase a part of the world that rarely makes it on to the small and big screen, Morris’ reason for becoming a regional filmmaker was more pedestrian. Quite literally. “I just don’t like the traffic in Perth,” Morris tells me over the phone from Albany, where he shares his life with his filmmaking collaborator and editor Talarah Pedrocchi Roelofs. “There are less traffic lights down here and the air cleaner. It’s also a place that has been criminally underused by filmmakers. There is a wonderful mix of people, from those whose families have been here for generations to those like myself who have moved here more recently,” he says. “And the locations are stunning. For Edward and Isabella, I went up to top of Bluff Knoll. For that to have never been part of a feature film before is just wrong. “Even though it was a small film made for just $15,000, being in Albany gave us access to some of the most beautiful locations in the country and the equal of a movie that cost many times more.” The other thing that sets Morris apart from his peers is that he’s bypassed the traditional route to a filmmaking career – film school, a few shorts, maybe a video clip or two, countless applications to film funding bodies – and jumped straight into a feature film, which he penned himself. “The current model is that you spend three or four or five years raising money, then you shoot the film, then you spend another four or five years raising money for the next one. It’s really hard to get good at something when you do it every five years,” says Morris. “So our model is to keep the budgets really low and focus on the script and the actors. Just keep it simple. So after three or four years of doing this we might get good at it and gradually take it to the next level in terms of style and scale. Our next one is a heist movie.” While Morris’ first two films are similarly modest in scope – both are sophisticated dialogue-driven relationship dramas centred on a character facing a crisis and grappling with a big decision – Frank and Frank is a considerable leap forward in terms of the elegance of the writing, the use of Albany locations and the depth and subtlety of the performances. It stars Myles Pollard as a deeply troubled Christian finance guru named Frank who has come to Albany to deliver a TED talk. In the days leading up to his lecture Frank forges a friendship with another Frank (Trevor Jamieson), a laid-back local artist who lives in a caravan and who each morning says goodbye to his latest conquest. As the men get closer, Pollard’s Frank begins to open up about his crumbling marriage and, in one startling sequences, walks Jamieson’s Frank through his wonderfully well-thought-out plan to murder his wife, who is back in Perth making preparations for the permanent split. Edward and Isabella, which was also unveiled at Revelation, stirred enough interest in Albany locals that they were happy to chip in for the greater cost of Frank and Frank, with a bookshop, an arts and culture magazine, a restaurant, a radio station and a hotel donating $70,000 to enable Morris to forge ahead without having to resort to the harrowing, often humiliating process of going cap-in-hand to government. The healthy budget also enabled Morris to secure the services of two highly skilled in-demand professional actors, which is essential if you are making a movie centred on two characters talking for the entire running time. “You really shouldn’t have access to actors of that calibre for your second independent feature,” says Morris, who has teamed with former Paramount Pictures rep Ian Hale. Since stepping away from his studio job, Hale has built The Backlot into an iconic Western Australian film hub and is now putting his weight behind local micro-budget movies. He is also distributing Morris’ movies through his company Halo. “Ian has so much experience in the industry that I can show him a script and he immediately says that Myles and Trevor would be perfect for the roles and be able to ring them up. He has been indispensable in moving my filmmaking career forward.” While Morris’ first creative endeavours were music and literature (he has written two novels) film was his first love. He spent his teenage years roaming the world of cinema, absorbing the work of English-language masters such as Alfred Hitchcock and Francis Ford Coppola and the classics of European art-house cinema, from whom he clearly learned how to hook an audience with the simplest of means. “I would have loved to have been a film director at an earlier age, but I didn’t have the social skills. It was also more expensive back then than it is now. I was a very shy teenager so watching films was a refuge but not really a career option. I now teach literature and creative writing, so it is something I’ve had to overcome.” Despite a shyness so crushing it was almost a disability and zero experience making movies, Morris threw himself into the deep end with Edward and Isabella, teaching himself on the job how to direct actors and move the camera. Frank and Frank bond over a joint: the quality of Morris’ script lured top performers Trevor Jamieson (left) and Myles Pollard (right). Frank and Frank bond over a joint: the quality of Morris’ script lured top performers Trevor Jamieson (left) and Myles Pollard (right). “To prepare myself I watched videos of directors talking about their process. They all say the same thing: you have to jump in and make your first movie because you’ll never feel ready. It’s remarkable. Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Mike Leigh, Robert Altman all give the same advice: just dive in and do it.”

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