24th February 2016
Essential truths
Title of film: Holden, The Twitch
Director: Luke Shanahan
Just signed to Moxie Pictures in London, we roll through Luke Shanahan's reel and catch up with the Australian director about shooting comedy dead straight

You’re currently shooting your first feature in Australia but now that you’ve signed to Moxie in London we’re expecting you to start making commercials in Europe any day now. When are you arriving?

I’m looking at two projects in Australia at the moment with tentative shoot dates…. But hey,  London takes precedent.  I’m raring to go.

How do you think your Australian visual humour will travel to other cultures?

My visual aesthetic has often been called, stylized real. I like the term, awkward real. For this reason, it’s always gone down a treat within Europe and as for my comedic timings and sensibility, I’ve never considered them particularly Australian. We tend to visualise comedy with a much broader brush. For me, at times it lacks truth and becomes parody. What I have gained from Australia though, and I think it’s particularly pertinent within the UK market is the ability for us as Aussies to laugh at ourselves and not take ourselves too seriously although of late – political correctness has returned.

Where do you think your particular eye for macabre wit comes from?

Again, I’d have to say growing up on English comedy and the darker side of European film. I’d like to watch a film around a dinner party with characters from “The League Of Gentlemen” be directed by Roman Polanski. For that reason, I attack my comedy as if it’s not funny. Play it dead straight and then suddenly it becomes funnier. I made a film called, THE NEWS which did very well and was based around a simple slice of exposition delivered straight. I think the most effective direction is based around the simplest of tonal choices. And for me – it always ends up dark.

When you’re not working on a commercial project do you discipline yourself everyday to work on personal work?

Absolutely. It must stay focused and near the top of the pile.

How does your creative process work – do you sketch out ideas or tend to write copious notes before storyboarding or do you tend to leave a lot to spontaneity on a shoot?

I have a lot of ideas but they’re always based around a tone that has consistency. If I get the job and my ideas are trusted, then it’s collaboration. Coming from a writing background, I love to workshop the script with actors and find the essential truth within it. Shooting boards normally come later and I‘m a big believer in playing comedy organically. Not being too technically strict with actors marks on the floor. Let magic happen. Trust people.

Your worst nightmare production story was when….

It’s fairly trivial but I was shooting a spot for a large meat and livestock company and it involved (amongst other weird things), the eating of meat. You can imagine my amusement when I discovered that the three leads were vegetarian. How this got to this stage and wasn’t picked up is still a “wake in fright” moment for me. But we cheated a bit, had to lose one of the actors but then shot around the most convincing non-eating “eating” meat shots I’ve ever seen. Man they were good actors.

List five inspirations that have connected with you recently:

I really don’t want to think too much about this so I’ll just wrap up what has been current in my head and that which has been present in my life over the last month.

I’m inspired by two very small boys that have blessed me by calling me daddy – Rudy and Walt. Through them – I’ve  re-discovered my old skateboards and collection of Powell Peralta, “Bones Brigade” videos. Watching Rodney Mullen again 20 years later inspires me no end but the ramps seem higher than they did for me around the year 2000. And the cement hurts more when you fall onto it. I normally listen to THE BRONX while skating and the seminal REFUSED album, The Shape of Punk to Come has still not been equaled for me.

My film, RABBIT is a dark thriller so I’ve been binging on European cinema a lot. The original LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Tomas Alfredson) is still a masterpiece and every time I watch it, that point solidifies.
PT Anderson’s, PUNCH DRUNK LOVE was on TV last night and is still his most under-rated film. Why hasn’t Adam Sandler made art again?