Australia is a country commonly associated with kangaroos and the Sydney Opera House, yet it also has a thriving film industry which is showcased with “Watch the Sunset”, a powerful new drama about a young man struggling to escape the bikie gang life and his past addictions. “Watch the Sunset” is Australia’s first one-shot feature film. A drama crime-thriller wherein a single take a man is on the run from his biker gang life and a past he can’t escape.
The 80-minute film has received numerous offers from big US studios to take on the project, as well as heavy festival interest, but the immediate goal of the filmmakers is to raise more funds using crowdfunding platforms to polish it before its major theatrical release later on. “Watch the Sunset” was shot on location in the country town of Kerang, Victoria. The cast and crew were able to utilise the entire town of Kerang as their set for the film, where the action follows through eight different locations in the beautiful regional town. Using actors amongst a real community helped to bring true sincerity, honesty and immersion into identifiable Aussie backdrop. According to the official press release:
The story centers on Danny Biaro, an outlaw bikie member, who wants to change his ways and start a new life with his estranged family. But his past quickly catches up to him and he is compelled to make a decision that will affect his life forever. The journey follows him rushing against the clock to save his family. “Watch the Sunset” has an underlying theme about effects of Crystal Meth or Ice, which is very real contemporary Australian issue. The one shot concept of our film allows the viewers to observe the harsh reality of this regional problem on an intimate and raw level. But at the core of this film we find a story of love and an unrelenting quest for redemption.
“Watch the Sunset” starts out slow but once the action starts it does not stop and the story completely captivates the viewer’s attention. It essentially immerses one in the violent and unpredictable lifestyles of individuals caught in the illicit world of drugs and gangs whilst also managing to maintain a very intimate story that primarily focuses on one family who are dealing with a crisis amid this desperate backdrop. The characters are realistically rendered as flawed people who have obviously made a number of poor choices which have ultimately led to the disastrous situation that unfolds throughout the movie. Despite its short running time, “Watch the Sunset” managed to create complex characters with enough depth to keep viewers thinking about them long after the film has ended…a feat that very few movies–including major motion pictures–achieve.
Although some editing is needed, the acting is superb and there are some truly clever directorial angles throughout the movie. With a bigger budget, this script could easily morph into a classic–even iconic–crime-drama film in the same vein as “Pulp Fiction” and “Training Day”. Moreover, the plot is a fantastic testament to why dabbling in drugs and/or entangling yourself with criminals are very bad decisions–and it conveys these points in an entirely fluid and totally non-preachy way.
Recently, directors Tristan Barr and Michael “Mick” Gosden spoke to the Examiner about their experiences working on this film and their hopes for the future:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): What inspired you to become a director?
Mick Gosden (M.G.): I’ve always had an interest in storytelling, but the directing bug bit hard when I made my first short film out of drama school. I had written called “Crossings” about two hit men who became accidental wildlife warriors. The shoot went over two nights, starting at 8pm and finishing at 6am both nights. The post production went on as I had to work and then go to the editor’s suite at night to be excruciatingly meticulous about every minor detail. Once we’d finished and found our end product, I realized that I had loved every single moment of the process and it’s painful, seemingly never ending list of demands. I knew that if I did this for the rest of my time, I’d never work a day in my life.
Tristan Barr (T.B.): I can actually pin point the moment exactly. I was acting in a film and it was an intense but intimate shoot over about six weeks and the DOP was spending lots of time just following me around to capture the different scenes. At one point the director was so stressed out he had a breakdown, which is quite a common occurrence shooting independent film I’m finding. Anyway the director walked off set and it was just left to me and the DOP to finish the scenes for the day. We had a great time collaborating together and I left at the end of the day thinking, “You know I could actually give this directing thing a shot”. A month later I shot my first short. And those scenes the DOP and I shot ended up pretty good we thought!
M.M.: Growing up, what kinds of shows–plays, TV shows, movies, etc.–had the biggest impact on you? Why?
M.G.: Primarily growing up, I was obsessed with ABC kids and Aussie shows like “Round the Twist”, “Mr. Squiggle”, “Blinky Bill”, or Aussie films like, “Crocodile Dundee”, “The Castle”, “Strictly Ballroom”, “Muriel’s Wedding”, “Two Hands” and so many more. They were all so weird and brilliant. Of course I watched a lot of different things from around the world, but they opened up a lot for me in terms of what was possible in storytelling from an early age and showed me that Australia had great stories and imaginations. The list for this question could go on forever really, but the definitive film that changed everything for me and solidified my passion for film was “Hook” by Steven Spielberg. Robin Williams in a world with so much colour and life is a perfect. The set design, the casting of the characters, the direction, the sound…Just brilliant! I didn’t know it at the time, but the ability of “Hook” to have so much depth while still showing a beautifully simple story changed me. The way it plays yo-yo with your emotions so easily is ridiculous and I find something new in it every time I watch it.
T.B.: I think I went through fazes, but I absolutely loved those classic Disney films when I was a kid: “The jungle Book,” “Bambi,” “The Lion King,” “Dumbo,” “Toy Story” to name a few. I have always appreciated these films and probably spent more time watching them than is healthy. But upon reflection I think their appeal to me is the underdog story. I think I have always been an enthusiastic supporter of the unlikely hero and love the experience of their journey. A lot like “Watch the Sunset”….Hmm… I wonder where that came from. As I got older and started to watch a lot more theatre and films with darker content something that excited me was the manipulation of these classic forms of story and the building and breaking of conventions. I suppose that is something I’m hyper aware of in my filmmaking now. A few filmic examples of these are “Donnie Darko” and “American Psycho”, which my brother and I watched and re-watched fastidiously as teenagers to prove our point of views on plot to each other.
M.M.: What most appealed to you about “Watch the Sunset”?
T.B.: The story was based on true events and the characters on real people whom I have personal experience with which stirred me to write the concept. So the biggest appeal or motivation was bringing light to their story that is a very raw reality in regional Australia, which hasn’t really been explored in film. The theme of an underdog seeking redemption along with the technical challenges of shooting the film in a single take was thrilling. It was a great opportunity to work with some talented actors in the cast; Chelsea Zeller, Aaron Walton, Zia Zantis- Vinycomb, the young Annabelle Williamson, and Mick who had no choice but to live the roles for the duration of the film. Damien Lipp, the producer and cinematographer, and I own a company that shoots commercial stuff and we had wanted to work on something more creatively fulfilling for a while. So this story was our opportunity to collaborate on something we were passionate about and he led visionary crew that was insane enough to take on the task of the one shot. Two in particular: Jesse Goheir-fleet and Lachlan Wright who were literally behind the camera for the majority of the single take and of course Damien who held a camera stabilizer for an hour and a half. Just that in itself is an achievement, which he had to train for.
M.G.: How this story seemed to resonate so deeply with so many people from all walks of life. This film is just one of the thousands of stories that exist for people on a daily basis. The more we researched, the more we realized the sad truth that we didn’t need to invent our scenarios, there were already so many out there and they eventually became the inspiration for this film. Plus I knew that with the cast and crew that came on board, we would be able to achieve something special. The opportunity to work with everyone involved was a privilege.
M.M.: It sounds like the whole town got “into” it during the shoot. What was the filming experience like, especially regarding the locals?
M.G.: I remember talking with one of the teachers from the school we were filming and she said that a week before we had come to them to talk about the film, they had had a town meeting about Crystal Meth. Everyone was on board to help out from the moment we had arrived and there was never a moment where they couldn’t find us a solution to any problem that may arise. This film could not have happened if the Kerang community hadn’t been so generous with their town. I couldn’t describe my gratitude to the people of Kerang.
T.B.: The town of Kerang was incredibly supportive and some of the best darn country folk in Australia. We were actually overwhelmed with the assistance we received and it was up to our production manager Ally Bjørnstad to set over 80 locals in position every day volunteered their time for the shoot. I’m so grateful to the community and patience they had with us. The film moves from one side of the town to the other and stops at about nine locations, so we are just glad we were able to utilize the whole of the town with their support.
M.M.: So far, what has been the most rewarding thing about being involved in the movie industry?
M.G.: Probably the very random moments when someone you don’t know will give you a very in-depth analysis of the film you’d made or been a part of years before and knowing that your story will always appeal to someone or some group of people–also, the film family that exists on and off set. You have to work so intimately and they see you at your best and at your worst, yet if you have a story that they believe in, they will still turn up early the next day to give you their all. That’s something special.
T.B.: Experiencing a story you wrote and directed come to life in a cinema is pretty cool. Also I’d say the people you work with and the experiences you share. The process requires you to work so closely with so many different people you become like a little family, which is nice.
M.M.: Career-wise, where do you hope to be in ten years?
M.G.: Writing and directing and collaborating with people who inspire me on stories I am passionate about; kind of the same thing as now except hopefully not still working as a removalist on the side.
T.B.: Well I guess the question is where will film be in ten years? I’d still like to be writing my own content but I’d like to be able to be more adventurous definitely. I’m excited about the advances in technology and I want to be on the forefront of that, so I suppose I might be doing something like virtual reality films or something… I have no idea…. What ever it is, my goal remains: to tell relevant and engaging stories.
M.M.: Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to mention?
M.G.: I have two features and a TV show that I’ve been writing away at for the past twelve months. They’re in that exciting “What if?!” stage, so watch this space.
T.B.: I have a few on the go, one is a film Mick and Chelsea produced called “Gabby’s First Time” which is a coming of age comedy, think an Aussie female Napoleon Dynamite where Chelsea plays the lead. It’s awkward and I’m having a lot of fun in post.
Also I’m in the scripting stage for two features, one is a post apocalyptic thriller set in the Australian desert and the other is a survivalist horror set in the Norwegian mountains.
M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to become a director?
T.B.: Learn from doing.
M.G.: I think Nike nailed it when they said “Just Do It” (don’t sue me, Nike)! If you want to make something, there is literally no excuse to not to it these days. So I’d say focus on a good story and then go make it with whatever you have available to you.
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To learn more about “Watch the Sunset” and/or to support the movie, visit its official fundraising campaign for post-production support here. Also check out the official website, Facebook and Twitter.