Vincenzo Perrella and Dan Osborn made a very successful viral video in 2009, a comedy called THIS IS PERTH. They have followed this up with a character-based short called IT’S JUST GARY. It premieres on Saturday 19th June as the headlining film in Future Shorts at the Fly By Night in Fremantle.
Phil Jeng Kane interviewed Perrella and Osborn about their new comedy. The Official Trailer is at the bottom of this story.
PJK: The shorts you made previously were paid for out of your own pocket. How was making IT’S JUST GARY as a funded film a different experience?
VP: We’ve been used to a two-man approach to everything. But we realised that to be able to put on screen the ideas on a certain scale, you need funding Many Perth filmmakers realise that LINK funding is an important step in that process.
DO: We had a huge cast and a lot of different locations – we couldn’t have done it any other way.
VP: We were told that it couldn’t be done on a LINK budget, anyway. (Laughs)
DO: We were told to strip it right back. Have Gary in a room sipping herbal tea.
V: Many people said write a film with one location and two or three actors.
DO: Very sensible…
VP: To my mind we could achieve a film like that on our own.
DO: So where did the money go?
VP: With some funding behind you people come on board – and many industry professionals are happy to give back. Many of the people we worked with said that. They are happy to give back and help emerging filmmakers. That happened to some extent because of LINK – it legitimises your project a bit.
PJK: You had Richard Mallins as your Director of Photography and Scott Montgomery on sound. How did you find working with people of that calibre?
VP: Richard’s stuff is pure class, to be honest. He has a classical filmmaking approach and that’s what we wanted for GARY. The story is a classic rise and fall tale.
DO: With Richard we found something that clicked and he has a great sense of humour. And he’s very efficient. Scotty is a guy who lives and breathes sound. It was kind of exciting because he’d talk to us on set and give us a little lesson.
VP: Everyday on set was an immersion in the intricacies of sound recording. From the smallest details of the individual mics we were using or boom placement. Again very efficient and clear with what he wants. That kind of efficiency is what we were looking for.
DO: Which brings us to Claire Blake.
VP: She was the first assistant director. She has spent most of her long career working in the UK and Sydney. She happened to be in town for our shoot. Kate Bailey the producer introduced us.
DO: Claire made it happen. That’s how we shot it in six days.
VP: It was like a military operation. Claire has years and years of experience which allowed us to strategically achieve the film.
DO: Having those people on board helped us achieve all of that. But it was still a pleasant shoot. Very little stress.
PJK: I believe your producer Kate Bailey was part of making that happen.
VP: Kate is a one of the nicest most thoughtful people I’ve ever met and she managed to put together an excellent crew. It was a pleasure to work with somebody who cares about other people and wanted to make this film without stepping over anyone. It helped to foster a nice tone on set.
PJK: You direct in a slightly unusual way. Basically both of you direct everything in a sort of ‘tandem system’.
VP: We watch the takes together have a quick chat, then one of us talks to the actors.
It doesn’t matter who. What’s good about the system is if you’re not 100% sure…
DO: If one of us isn’t 100% sure, we know we have to go again.
PJK: You’ve developed this method of working together over a long time, haven’t you?
VP: I met Dan when we made a short film on a course at Uni.
DO: We both ended up living in London at the same time. At that stage we were getting together and throwing ideas around but didn’t have a clear focus
VP: We would meet up. We have shared interests in literature, art and film. We’re not film “heads” but we like the medium of film very much. We would catch up and see theatre, watch live comedy or discuss novels we were reading and we were always in that (creative) mode. When we got to London we wrote our first script together. Inspired by the comedy and seeing Australians in London.
DO: From there on we focussed on our writing.
VP: What’s good about working in partnership is that you rarely hit blocks. We feel you really make that film in the writing processes. If it doesn’t work on page there’s no point. First and foremost we would consider ourselves writers who direct.
PJK: IT’S JUST GARY is a Who’s Who of West Australian Comedy.
DO: There’s a great comedy scene in Perth.
VP: It’s world class. Some of the comics who have worked in Perth for the last 5 to 10 years and are second to none.
DO: We would watch the BIG HOO HA etc and wonder why they weren’t on film. It was great joy – casting this film. Some act in theatre and have a great range. And not all the characters are laugh out loud.
VP: Although Damon Lockwood is naturally funny. You look at him and you’re ready to laugh. But he’s in enough scenes and has a different types of conflict so he can bring different shading and subtleties to his performance.
DO: I expected a great performance, but he went beyond that. And he’s in every scene.
VP: His consistency was amazing – no variation unless we asked for us. He has an innate understanding of how that dialogue is supposed to work.
DO: There are so many great smaller roles in this film that now we’re writing something different we going – “how can we fit everyone in again because they’re such a joy to work with”.
PJK: So what did you learn by making a bigger film?
VP: It was great for our skills. You don’t know what it’s like to be on a set unless you’re on one and when we were in the middle of it…
DO: It was a nice place to be.
VP: It was the best place to be.
DO: You’re looking over and there’s Richard and there’s Scotty and there’s Claire Blake …
VP: Cracking a whip
DO: It was the first opportunity we ever had, where we were only worried about framing and performance.
VP: Usually, I’d be holding a camera. Dan would be rigging a light, holding a microphone…
DO: Wearing a cardigan
VP: It was the first time we could say ‘our job is that it’s shot properly and the scene is blocked and covered.’ It was like a drug. At the end of six days it was very hard to come down. To be in the centre of such an efficient team and for it to be just for six days?
PJK: A lot of the things you write seem to have a reverence for the past.
VP: We take such pleasure in literature of the past. The past is a foreign world where language was used which seems to be evocative to our era. Where Old Conservative values are amusing in some way. Stylistically aesthetically we are interested in history. Although sometimes it’s a history that never existed. I want to be transported into a world. I want to construct an unusual world within which you can deal with symbols and metaphor and have a bit more fun.
DO: It’s probably the most fun we can have writing.
VP: That’s where Bertie comes from in THIS IS PERTH. The fantastical as a metaphor.
Naturalism is great but sometimes you want to have a bit of a giggle.
PJK: Apparently, some people don’t like Bertie.
VP: When people first see it they think this is a straight piss take – “Perth sucks” which was never our angle. It was meant to become more absurd and more absurd.
DO: I’ve read people saying “I don’t like it when they make stuff up”. They want “The shops close” because they do, but not Bertie. Let us have some fun!
VP: There’s a desperation for the literal. It depends how you take the film from the first few lines. If you see it as a satire those absurd elements don’t seem so strange. When it got framed in that whole “Dullsville” debate you get people saying “What the…”
DO: People still ask me what is Bertie a reference to. We made it for ourselves and our friends first. To make us laugh. It got such a wide audience that you get that range of responses, which is fascinating.
V: There are a lot of assumptions made. But THIS IS PERTH was literally a viral surprise. When you have to answer serious questions about the film– it’s kind of hilarious.
PJK: In THIS IS PERTH and THIS IS FREO you appear Dan, but have no lines. In GARY, finally, Dan Osborn Speaks.
DO: With Damon Lockwood.
VP: He saw the opportunity and grabbed it.
PJK It wasn’t a plan to have you not speak for a couple of films?
DO: There was no great plan, but it’s nice if people go “there he is”, I guess.
PJK: It was suggested to me by some in the filmmaking community that you were going to play the part of Gary originally.
DO. The rumour mill. I got ousted. (Laughs) People are going to talk and you got to let them.
VP: We originally wrote the role for Damon.
PJK: You’re a team, but you’ve ended up as the face of the films, Dan. Are you going to bring greater pleasure to your fans with a full speech in your next film?
VP: The next short will be his monolog straight to camera
DO: The sky’s the limit, really
VP: Dan is also a very fine dancer. So we’re putting that into the next short.
PJK: So where do we the public, get to see the World Premiere of IT’S JUST GARY?
VP: It’s headlining the Australian launch of the Future Shorts Festival. It always shows exceptional world-class films and it’s excellent to have the opportunity for IT’S JUST GARY to be shown locally because it has such a big local cast.
Future Shorts is on at the Fly By Night on Saturday 19th June and is proudly supported by the Film and Television Institute.
This interview also appears at the Film and Television website.