Braving torrential rain, bugs and biting insects and successfully flipping a car in just one take … it’s all in a weekend’s work for budding film director Elise Reader. The end result? Crash Crash Burn … a dramatic, action-filled short film presented by TAFE students, at the Glasshouse on November 24.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in film making …
I’m currently 20-years-old and living in Port Macquarie. I grew up in Crescent Head making (terrible) little clay animation movies on my parents’ 8mm video cassette camera, back when I was around 8-years-old.
I always knew I wanted to work in media, but I never thought film or television could be a possible career; it just didn’t seem logical considering the region we live in. I started off doing Multimedia at TAFE when I got a job at NBN Television as a trainee. I’ve now worked at NBN for just over 3 years as a commercial production editor and camera operator, and I love it!
What is the TAFE course you’re completing at the moment, and how is it helping you to create movies?
I’m currently studying a Diploma of Screen & Media at Port Macquarie TAFE. One of our major assessments for the year is to make three short films as a group. Everyone in the class had to write a short film script, and Out of Range, which is directed by Anne Hywood, Finders Keepers, directed by Sam Mascord and my film, Crash Crash Burn were the ones chosen to turn into actual short films.
We also made three documentaries at the start of the year, which was something I wouldn’t have normally done – but I absolutely loved it. The one I worked on, called Wander Through the Night, was about sleepwalking. Researching and talking to doctors about it was one of the best parts about making the documentary.
You have a project that’s close to your heart right now – ‘Crash Crash Burn’. You actually wrote the script and directed this short film?
I did! Crash Crash Burn is the first film I’ve ever written, let alone directed. It’s about a girl in her 20s who experiments with drugs on her way to a party with a group of friends and ends up losing her sense of reality. The film is a bit of a mind twist – a lot of people won’t like the film because of this, but I love a film that really makes you think and leaves you wondering afterwards.
We’ve just done a rough edit of the film and it’s looking great so far, but hopefully the mystery really comes across to people in the final product. After knowing it so well in my head, it’s hard to imagine what the audience is going to think.
How did you create the idea for this film?
It’s really quite strange how it came about – I had no real story idea in my head. I’ve never, ever thought that I could write, but I really wanted to film a party scene, a car scene and running through the forest at night time (weird, I know!) Visually, I thought they would be great, so I just needed to come up with a reason to film them and find the pieces to make a story out of it. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle!
After I came up with the initial idea and a draft script, I pitched it to the class, and our teacher Simon Portus really helped me develop the characters and storyline and come up with a defined story.
This was your first time actually directing a short film project. What was the process like – was it what you expected?
It was what I expected, plus a whole lot more! Crash spent about three months in pre-production; we really didn’t realise how much planning it would take! It was all the tiny little details that were the hardest to prepare for – even more so considering we had a zero dollar budget. The film consumed my life for a few weeks; it’s all I thought about – I was even dreaming about it … but it was all worth it on the days of filming.
Everything went pretty well, considering the amount of things that could have gone wrong. The worst part was filming in the rain out in the middle of the bush battling leeches, ticks and fire ants! There was no way around it; we had to keep going. It made everything so much harder, cold and miserable, but as a team we soldiered on.
Rolling a car for one of the scenes was the most challenging – you only get one take in a situation like that. I hid behind a tree, yelled action, and just hoped for the best! Looking back on it now, the days filming this movie were some of the most fun days of my life – and the film is something I’ll forever be proud of.
Who are the actors starring in ‘Crash Crash Burn’?
Our lead actress, Sascha Raeburn, is such an incredible actress. I really couldn’t have asked for anyone better. She travelled up from Sydney multiple times to be a part of the film and really brought it to life. Former Port Macquarian, Lance Delaforce, took time out of his busy acting schedule to travel from Melbourne to be the lead male. We also had some amazing local actors: Amy Hobbis, Julie Brandt-Richards and Olivia Casey, who were all supporting actresses.
The most amazing part for me was seeing them bring paper to life; these characters were finally real, and they all did such a fantastic job. I can’t speak highly enough about them!
There must be some people you’d like to thank for helping with the whole film making process?
I need a whole page just to thank everybody! I’ve had some really great support from family and friends. The whole class really helped, but Paul Collins and Rodney Petrie, who are the Director of Photography and the Producer of the film, spent months helping me plan and really helped get the film off the ground.
All our teachers were great as well – especially Simon Portus and Brad Diebert, who loaned their professional knowledge on the days of filming. Without them, I would have forgotten so many things! And of course, all the actors deserve a huge amount of thanks – not only our leads, but all the extras who went out of their way to be in the party scene.
We also had a lot of community support, especially from Bels Bakery, Munster St Butchers and Growers Markets, who all donated food to us. A fed crew is a happy crew! Thank you to EVERYONE who helped in one way or another in the making of this film.
Apart from experiencing film directing first hand, what roles did you perform on the other TAFE film projects – and was this a valuable experience?
On Out of Range I was the Production Designer. I dressed the set, looked after props and made sure the actors were in the right costumes. On Finders Keepers I was the Sound Recordist, making sure all the levels were right and there was no interference from things like cars or wind.
I think it was great we got to have different roles on different films. We were all able to help each other out and see what areas we liked more than others. Learning multiple areas in the film industry is a huge plus.
Where can readers actually go to see ‘Crash Crash Burn’?
You can check out our films at their very first screening on Thursday, November 24 at the Glasshouse. Not only is Crash Crash Burn screening – all the films we have made this year, along with our documentaries, are going to be shown.
After that, I’m hoping to do a round of the film festivals, locally and internationally, and see if Crash gets any reaction. There are so many festivals around the world for female directors and young film makers; it would be great to see it get some recognition.
Where to from here? Do you see yourself continuing to make short – or even feature length – films in future?
I would definitely love to keep making films for the rest of my life. Editing is my passion, but I have a new found love for directing. I’ve already got some new short film ideas – one I’m hoping to make in time for Tropfest. I’ve been really lucky to have worked on a feature film in the past, but getting that chance again would be a dream come true … especially if I got to direct one! 🙂 Onwards and upwards!
Interview by Jo Atkins.