May 26, 2012 3:17PM

Michael Spiccia Interview

We visited the director whose movie 'Yardbird' is representing Australia in the short film competition at Cannes.

Cannes is like schoolies meets a trade show, combined with the Oscars and the Olympics (the latter because of the competition between countries).  If you’re very lucky you can experience the full spectrum it has to offer in a single day, although, you do need to factor in outfit changes. Representing Australia in the short film competition this year is director Michael Spiccia with his film Yardbird — an eerie tale of a young girl with very special (but dangerous) powers. I visited director Michael and screenwriter Julias Avery at Film Australia’s HQ in Cannes. We ate some chips, drank some sparking wine and talked about the film, just a little.  

Alice Cavanagh: What do you think of Cannes?

Michael Spiccia: It’s incredible. It’s a pretty overwhelming experience, really.


Does it remind you at all of schoolies on the Gold Coast?

[Laughs] Yeah I suppose — on steroids. 


How do you guys know each other?

Julias Avery: Well it’s quite freaky really. Do you know anything about our backgrounds?


No, but you look related.

Michael: I know. Everyone says that. 


Well, one of you needs to shave or something… 

Michael: We’ve even exchanged each other’s tags in Cannes and no one notices. 

Julias: Michael and I are both from Western Australia, we were both born in 1977…

Michael: Well, same year — no need to go there — we are the same star sign as well. 
Wait.

Why don’t you want to talk about the year?

Julias: Oh, don’t go there. 

Michael: We don’t want to give our age away.

Julias: We like to say we are 25.
Michael: I feel 25!


OK. So what else do you have in common? 

Julias: Right down to weird stuff like the same ex-girlfriend. 


Whoa.
Julias: [Laughing] No! Not the same ex-girlfriends, the same…

Michael: How did you go there?


What is going on?! 

Julias: [Laughing] No no no — ex-girlfriends with the same name. 


That is very different!

Michael: Yes, very different!


What was their name?

Julias: Oh we can’t say…


Go on! 

Michael: No, we mustn’t. 


So when did you actually meet?
Michael: I had a friend of mine who worked on Julias’ film Jerrycan — which won four years ago, in 2008 — and after seeing that I was immediately drawn to Julias as a filmmaker, and I knew he would understand me as a filmmaker. So we naturally grew together in some ways…


And you became the same person.
[Laughs] No. 


How has the week been? Have you been hustling? 

Julias: We don’t hustle. 


How come?

Julias: It’s too much effort and you have to be careful.

Michael: You want to make sure you work with the right people. 

Julias: A lot of things have happened naturally, we haven’t gone out and been like [puts on an American accent] — “We gotta meet this person. We gotta make this deal today.”


I love that you put on an accent. Well, who is the person you were most excited to meet?

Micheal: John Hillcoat

Julias: Yeah, John Hillcoat and Harvey Weinstein. 

Michael: The other night we went along to The Sapphires screening and it was probably the most incredible reception, of the week almost.

Julias: It had two standing ovations. 


Harvey loved it, didn’t he? Let’s talk a bit about your film. 

Michael: Without giving too much away, with this film we wanted to explore themes of control and bullying. When Julias went away and wrote the script, he was drawn to films such as Carrie and Firestarter.

Julias: I wanted to throw a framework out there that was different to a traditional short.


How did you find the girl? She is beautiful.
Michael: I went through a pretty extensive casting process with our casting director for Ruby’s character. I had a really clear vision of what I wanted and who Ruby was, and when Mitzi [Ruhlmann] walked in the room I knew instantly that she was Ruby. The thing with her character  — you know, she doesn’t talk — so there was so much more importance on physical presence and emotion.


On a technical level — how did you achieve those special effects? 
Julias: There are no special effects.

Michael: Yeah, that really happened. 


Wow, she really is amazing. OK thanks guys. Good luck at the awards on Sunday!


Alice Cavanagh

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