What made you want to be a filmmaker?
I was a bit of a clown as a kid and I loved entertaining people but growing up in rural Australia there weren’t many extra curricular activities. When I discovered some drama and dance classes that were being held in the back of our town hall I felt like I’d found my place. For a long time I thought I wanted to be an actor. I even got a degree in acting. Looking back I realize that I just didn’t have access to filmmaking.
At the age of 21 and weeks after graduating from acting school I lost my sister in a car accident. It was devastating and I felt completely torn open. That’s when I stopped acting. Around that time and through some pretty random events I found myself at a small community theatre rehearsal, just watching. In the middle of the rehearsal the director asked if I had any ideas to get the scene to work. I offered some suggestions and the scene opened up. I ended up directing the whole play and a bunch more after that. And not long after that I found a pocket of filmmakers who helped me make my first short and then I was hooked.
What draws me to filmmaking is the scope it allows me to make sense of things. Life can be weird and sometimes painful. Filmmaking allows me to piece together these more obscure elements into something beautiful and funny. It’s like a really satisfying puzzle.
What kind of projects do you want to be working on?
I love spectacle, comedy, action and color. Big entertainment. I spent a large part of my teenage years choreographing for these epic dance competitions in Australia called Rock Eisteddfods. 100 kids on stage telling a story through dance. They were super ostentatious productions and really competitive. I choreographed my first Rock Eisteddfod at age 15 and two more after that. I got a real sense for the impact of movement en masse. I’ll be looking to direct a musical or two for sure and just big fun, elevated stories.
I also want to make Science Fiction. My friends from film school teased me about my deep love of Contact, Firefly, Star Trek Voyager, Battlestar Galactica (the reboot) and Cloud Atlas. The arena of space is a super objective for me.
Death and Grief will always be important themes to me as well.
What are you most proud of in your body of work?
It’s hard to choose. I’m really excited to share my first feature, Fun Mom Dinner. The experience of working with Toni Collette, Molly Shannon and Adam Scott is something I will always treasure.
But I also have this little short comedy I directed years ago called When the Wind Changes. People thought the script and its humor wouldn’t work. But the writer and I thought it was funny so it became this exercise in trusting our own instincts. I scraped together a crew and we went out into the bush, in the middle of Winter and just made it. The film turned out beautifully and it went on to collect a bunch of Best Comedy and Audience awards at festivals. I’ll always be proud of that one.
What are your strengths as a director?
Creativity - I’m left handed and very right brained. I’ve learned to embrace the fact that I just cannot do math BUT that seems to have made space for some interesting creative thinking.
Performances - My acting background has proven useful with my directing. I love to work on authentic but unexpected choices with cast and I love the results.
Empathy - I have a feel for when to press in and when to give something or someone space.
Leadership - I lead through empowerment. My goal is that each member of the team works at maximum potential and, to me, that’s creating a positive and authentic space.
I don’t transmit stress and my sets are fun. Life’s too long to have a bad time at work, right?
What's your favorite film from childhood?
I watched the films my older brother and sister watched. The Lost Boys and Ferris Bueller's Day Off were two films I had on high rotation from a very young age. I was also really into The Emerald Forest.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received from another filmmaker?
“Listen to everyone but know when you’re right.” I was on my first directing gig here in LA and I asked the first A.D if he had any advice he felt was pertinent to share. He’d once asked the same question of Joss Whedon and the above answer is what Joss told him.