Feature Story: Stop, collaborate and listen

09 June, 2009 by IF

In the final part of an extended three-part feature, filmmaker Greg Mclean tells INSIDEFILM about the importance of collaboration and drops a few hints about what he might be working on next. Interview by Simon de Bruyn and story by Philippa Maclachlan.

Filmmaker Greg Mclean has been described as an auteur, given he writes, directs and produces his own films; even his deal for Rogue with the Weinstein brothers was made on the condition that he would have say on the final cut of the film.


However his collaborations with other writers and producers prove that, in the film industry, it is impossible to work alone.

Mclean says he likes to be involved in all aspects of the filmmaking process. “I just think it’s so important, the film’s so important, you really have to have an interest in everything,” he says.

“I come from a visual arts background, I was a painter, so for me all the aspects of making a movie were preparing it or financing it or distributing it or marketing it. To me it all feels like the same kind of thing because you’re basically just trying to tell a successful story.”

To tell these stories, Mclean has collaborated with a number of people over his career. Matt Hearn, who had previously worked in advertising, executive produced Wolf Creek and produced Rogue.

The pair met when Hearn worked on corporate and music videos for Mclean’s production company and discovered they liked the same type of films. They thought Wolf Creek was a good film to start with and as it happened it was an immense success for the duo.

Alongside its international $27 million box office success and acceptance to Cannes, Wolf Creek was nominated for seven AFI awards, including best original music score by composer Frank Tetaz, who also worked on Rogue.

Strong creative relationships like this seem to be a fuel for Mclean. While he tends to write his own features, more recently he has been working with several writers to co-author screenplays he is hoping to direct. In addition to adapting a play from Melbourne playwright Michele Davis into a film, Mclean is working with writer Chris Wheeler to write Dark Forces, a World War II action/horror film he is trying to get up and running.

Wheeler wrote short films In Living Memory, Fuel and Boy and is listed as one of the writers who has worked on Fred Schepisi’s upcoming The Last Man.

“I wrote this sequence for Dark Forces and then was trying to find someone who could write in that kind of style in Australia. I called Chris and he added a bit more to Wolf Creek as well,” he says. “He’s actually a very cool, very interesting writer. He’s awesome, a very smart guy.”

When it comes to future projects, Mclean is fairly tight lipped. Indeed he seems to be wary of saying too much lest it affect his chances at funding, somehow.

“I’m kind of pushing about three different things at the same time and there’s a few other Los Angeles based things that are sort of bouncing around as well. It’ll hit – one of the things will go off and hopefully it’ll be Dark Forces but we’re still working on that one.”

McLean is still keen to make Australian films, provided he can get the funding for them.

Rogue took so long to get released that they’ve allowed me to develop a whole new project. So I’ve basically developed about five different scripts all of which originate out of Australia. We’ve got a whole bunch of stuff we want to get done and some of these are either Australian movies or international movies shot in Australia,” he says.

“Hopefully I’ll be shooting my next big film in Australia, but because some of the [scripts] are quite big, there’s not really the money in Australia to do them. So you’ve really got to come [to the US] to get the cash then come back and try and make it work with an Australian system and get it down and that kind of thing.”

After years of writing his own script – both literally and with his career – Mclean now seems happy to collaborate more and let whichever ideas that are best spring forth, although with the US system he is still wrestling for control.

“I try to get as much control and as much say as I possibly can. I mean, when I say me it’s actually me and my team. So you know it means whoever we trust aesthetically and with taste within our group, the ideas can come from anyone,” he says.

“It’s really just about having a very tight knit group of people with really good taste and jousting things around and whoever has the great idea we go with that.”

Hosted by Damian Walshe-Howling, and screening throughout June, Flickerfest on Extra features the work of filmmakers including Frank Woodley, Rachel Griffiths, Jan Chapman, Jan Sardi, Nash Edgerton, 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 ICQ and a special presentation of Rogue.

Read the first part of the interview here and the second part of the interview here.