Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Daniel Knight Interview

Daniel has fast built a reputation as one of Melbourne’s most prolific short-form directors. With sixteen year’s worth of experience in theatre and film, Daniel has won awards both locally and internationally. Daniel has a vivacious appetite for differing production styles and moods and has directed commercials, corporate videos, short films, documentaries, web serials and music videos. 

You can watch Daniel’s film at www.snowgumfilms.com and see the Troll Bridge Kickstarter page at www.kickstarter.com/projects/snowgumfilms/terry-pratchetts-troll-bridge

What is the current project you are working on?

I’m currently knee deep in two projects! We’ve almost wrapped up post-production for an intimate short film called Blood On The Game Dice, which is inspired by my days playing Dungeons & Dragons. We’re also in the middle pre-production for a stupidly large scale, short film called Troll Bridge, adapted from a short Discworld story by Terry Pratchett. I guess I’m a bit of a fantasy nerd.

Did you always want to be a filmmaker?

I knew I always wanted to be an entertainer… I just didn’t know how or in what field. When I was a kid I wanted to be a magician and used to perform magic shows for my family in the living room. Later on I discovered acting, and thoroughly enjoyed it to the point of pursuing it heavily in theatre after High School. I ended up packing everything up and moving to the other side of the country to follow that dream. Filmmaking obviously came after all this, but it was these steps that lead me to where I am now.

What inspired you to become filmmaker?

While I was acting, I was directing on the side – it was something I was interested in and I thought it would give me a better insight into acting and improve my performance ability. Eventually I came to the realisation I was getting more excited by directing than acting. I’ve found myself directing ever since!

What is the best thing about being one?

It’s a job that requires equal parts art and technology, and I’m a huge fan of both. Is also requires such a broad spectrum of the arts, from performance, to writing, to set design and costuming and makeup, to musical scoring and photography… there really isn’t another art form that reaches out to as many other art forms. I love the collaboration with other artists and working to that singular goal.

What is the worst thing about being one?

The demand I think. It’s not something you can go into half-hearted and you have to really embrace the sacrifices you need to make to pursue it.

What is the estimated number of projects you have worked on?

Over 40, not including the stuff I’ve acted in, and not including my theatre work.

Who is is your favorite filmmaker?

Currently it’s Danny Boyle. I’m a huge fan of his focus on characters in what are essentially genre flicks.

How has your life changed since you became a filmmaker?

I’ve met a lot of awesome likeminded people! It’s feels great to belong to an extended family of creative storytellers.

What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who also wants to make it in the movie business?

I wouldn’t classify myself as someone who has made it in the movie business, but I never shy away from giving advice so here goes:

Just to go out there and do it. Don’t worry about film school, or expensive equipment, or (for that matter) even trying to get it right first time. You won’t. The important thing is to have passion – make a heap of mistakes – and learn from them. Provided you are making content, you are moving forward.

Beyond that – your two most important things are your script and your actors. You can’t make a decent film without either of those things being decent – don’t think for a moment that the whole of a film can be better than its individual ingredients – it can’t. Write and act as much as you can so you learn to recognise what is good and bad. That actually goes for all departments, but I find that bad acting and writing particularly grate me. It’s something that is very easy to get right – but people screw it up all the time.

What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?

My favourite film has always been The Dark Crystal, but I also love films such as Moulin Rouge, Old Boy and Braindead. I might have eclectic tastes. Television wise, I loved the work that was done for The Wire and Deadwood, and I’m currently thoroughly enjoying Spartacus and Game Of Thrones. Also a massive fan of British television comedy with The League Of Gentlemen and Red Dwarf being pinnacles for me.

How would you describe your film education?

Home Schooled predominantly. I applied everything I had already learned through theatre, and integrated it into film. Which is maybe why I’m very passionate about writers and actors – in theatre it’s pretty much the one consistent you can’t get away with screwing up.

How would you describe the film "scene" where you live?

Complicated. We currently have an art focus which isn’t on genre (although that is slowly changing). All of my films are very genre driven for genre audiences – so it’s very difficult to get funding support here. But that doesn’t really stop me or other genre-driven filmmakers here from making the content we ourselves would like to see.

But that doesn’t really describe the “scene”. I’d say that there are a lot of filmmakers here who are happy to help each other out where we can. We’re all in the same boat together, so we’re very supportive of one-another.

How has social media changed the independent film industry?

It’s been essential for us. Without it we wouldn’t have been able to get funding for Troll Bridge for starters! It has also allowed us to reach and keep our audience informed at a minimal expense. This is extremely important to us given we’d rather put all our dollars into the actual films.

What is the casting process like?

Always enjoyable. As mentioned - I like actors and I write my films for them first and foremost - so it’s always a buzz watching them bring your characters to life.

How does independent film differ from the mainstream?

Here in Australia it really doesn’t. There is almost no such thing as an Australian mainstream film. It’s mostly art-house wank… excuse my language. I don’t have a problem with art-house, it has a place, but not at the expense of genre or films that get bums on seats. Our mainstream content is dominated by the US who seem to thrive on genre. Love it – I wish Australian films were as audience focused!

Independent film must source their own budgets – while mainstream films usually have studio backing. Because studios are much more focused on turning a profit, their films are catered to a larger crosscut of the audience spectrum. Personally I believe it’s possible to be both independent and mainstream, and the internet is making it easier to achieve that. Filmmaking in the future will be very democratic with funding only going to those films that people actually want to see get made.

You could go back in time and see any classic film being made. Which film would it be?

Without a doubt The Dark Crystal. That thing is utterly magical.

You could be any animal. Which would you be?

An otter! Always my favourite animal to see at the zoo.

You could have any super power. What would it be?

Laser eyes! Everyone loves laser eyes!




Thanks for doing the interview Daniel. I'm  gonna to watch "Dark Crystal".  Keep me posted on the progress of "Blood On The Game Dice" and "Troll Bridge". I do my best to spread the word about your projects.