by Don Groves
Actor Matt Day won the top prize at Tropfest 25 with The Mother Situation, the comedic story of three adult siblings who assist their terminally ill mother to commit suicide. Here he explains his approach to making shorts.
Q: Congratulations on the Tropfest win. Did that take you by surprise?
A: I was surprised to win. The aim was to get into the festival and get the film in front of as many people as possible in one hit. I hadn’t really factored in the competition aspect at all.
Q: I read that you got the idea for The Mother Situation after hearing someone say, “Well he’s going to be fine when his parents die because he’s got the house at Balmain and the place on Pearl Beach.”?
A: I can’t say where the idea came from exactly. I keep a file on my laptop of random ideas that occur to me and that was one of them. I do like characters going to extremes to get what they want and I have a pretty dark sense of humour.
Q: How did you pitch the short to your co-stars Peter O’Brien and Harriet Dyer?
A: As far as casting went, I sent the script to the actors and everyone came on board pretty much immediately. It helped that I was only asking for a day of their time and it was one location. I like to think being an actor means I write material that is fun to play as my focus is really on performance and story.
Q: How long did it take you to write, shoot and edit as you did it all yourself, and what was the total cost?
A: I wrote the script fairly quickly, over a couple of days… Initially there were more family members but I cut them down to three and I rejigged it a little longer to find the ending. It took a day to shoot then I had about two months to edit, mix the sound and grade it before the closing date, which I do all myself on my laptop. Getting it down to seven minutes was a challenge. But you can really learn to do anything on YouTube.
Q: Your prize includes a trip to Los Angeles. Who will you see and what do you aim to achieve?
A: I’m not sure when the LA trip is planned. I hoping to throw around a few ideas and make a few contacts. I have a couple of series ideas I’ve been developing and other work to show.
Q: I think you have made five shorts now- do you see these as a stepping stone to directing features?
A: I’ve made six short films and still have a couple of others I’d like to do. Shorts are a great way of finding your voice and developing a style. It’s why I like to work cheap and fast so I can make more mistakes and learn from them without blowing 50k every time.
The Mother Situation ending up costing around 1k which means if it doesn’t work then I can absorb the loss, catch my breath and move on to the next one. I have a feature idea I’m working on now. I like to think I have a rather naïve approach to filmmaking. You have to approach it with the enthusiasm and innocence of a child, otherwise you’d never do it if you stopped to think about the chances of getting anything done or seen.
Q: As a screen industry practitioner for nearly 30 years what is your view of the need to protect and support content creators’ rights?
A: It should be blindingly obvious to anyone that we need to protect creators’ rights. No rights, no content!