Like most Australian filmmakers Greg Mclean started out making short films. In the first part of an extended three-part feature, he tells INSIDEFILM what advice he would give to emerging filmmakers. Interview by Simon de Bruyn and story by Philippa Maclachlan.

After releasing Wolf Creek in 2005 and Rogue in 2007, Greg Mclean will be back on Australian screens next month. It won’t be with another project however, but rather as part of Flickerfest on Extra, a new series celebrating Australian short films.

Executive produced by Flickerfest festival director Bronwyn Kidd, the series presents shorts from the festival and interviews with actors, directors and producers about their experiences making short films.

For Mclean, his success with short films helped him gain exposure and credibility in the industry and helped him prove he could move on to features. His first and little-known 1993 short film Plead won a gold award from the Australian Cinematographer’s Society.

“I was trying to get up feature films and the problem was that I didn’t have a great short to show that I could actually do something that had any kind of value. I sent over some scripts and stuff but you need more to convince people. I thought I really should try and make the best short film I can just so I can show what I can do,” he says.

He then wrote and directed ICQ in 2001, a mystery-drama about a man who has a bizarre encounter with a woman on an Internet chat network. It also marked the first time he worked with Frank Tetaz, the AFI Award nominated composer of Wolf Creek, and later Rogue. Throughout making ICQ he kept focusing on how it would help his feature plans.

“It’s great to make a short on its own but like if you know, a lot of the time it is a training ground for you to show what you can do and it just makes it that much easier because it is so hard to get a feature come up.”

Mclean first studied visual art before completing a graduate diploma of directing at NIDA. He worked alongside acclaimed director Neil Armfield on his 1994 production of Hamlet starring Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh, and directed other theatre productions himself.

Although trained as a director, Mclean has proved he can write original screenplays. His experience with both features and shorts has taught him the importance of having a good script, and says in moviemaking, good scripts will always win.

“Everything’s always about how good the script is. The best scripts going around will always win,” he says.

“So if your goal is to get a movie made, either become a great writer yourself, befriend great writers and study scripts everyday because it’s all it’s really about – who’s got the best idea and who’s got the best script. [You should] also just understand the concept of development is not just writing a script at your own convenience and churning it out.

"You know, make sure you take the time and the effort, invest in development – just getting everyone you know to read it and read it again, re-write it, make sure it’s actually as good as it can possibly be. That’s my only little bit of advice.”

Despite his interest in features, (and he is currently developing several) Mclean hasn’t ruled out making more short films. “I’m always kind of toying with short film ideas; it’s just its hard to do them when the feature films kick off again,” he explains.

“It takes so long between getting up movies – the kind of movies that need lots of moving parts to come into play at the one time, inevitably you need to work as hard as you can – it might be a year or two between making a film, and sometimes longer. So you do sort of go, ‘Oh my god, I haven’t shot anything for a year’ or something. It hasn’t happened yet, but that’s not to say it won’t ever happen.”

Hosted by Damian Walshe-Howling, and screening throughout May and June, Flickerfest on Extra features the work of filmmakers including Frank Woodley, Rachel Griffiths, Jan Chapman, Jan Sardi, Fred Schepisi and Gillian Armstrong.

Mclean is the sixth episode in the series, which goes to air on June 19 at 10:30 on Movie Extra, and will feature his interview, short film and a special presentation of Rogue. See a trailer for the show here.

INSIDEFILM will publish the second part of this interview next Wednesday, June 3.

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