Geoffrey Wright and Lily Sullivan on the set of Stan Original series ‘Romper Stomper’. (Photo credit: Jackson Finter).
The traditional ways of making movies and TV series no longer make sense, according to veteran writer-director Geoffrey Wright, who is mapping out an entirely new creative process.
“The technology has changed and I am not sure why we are sticking to these old ideas,” said Wright, who co-directed and co-wrote Stan’s Romper Stomper series.
That is his first screen credit since his 2006 Shakespeare-inspired crime drama Macbeth, which starred Sam Worthington, Victoria Hill, Steve Bastoni and Lachy Hulme.
“I don’t understand why we produce the way we have been producing all these decades. We can do things differently and in a more efficient, cost-effective way.”
Wright intends to put his ideas into practice next year, perhaps initially on a TV series he is developing with Daniel Scharf, his former producing partner with whom he collaborated on the Romper Stomper movie in 1992.
Scharf heads talent management firm Profile Creative, who had clients in several roles in the Romper Stomper series which Wright co-directed with Daina Reid and James Napier Robertson.
“Daniel and I have a philosophical and practical point of view of production which we’d like to experiment with,” he said.
The series deals with strange, inexplicable events which happened in Melbourne in the 1960s and which led to further developments in the past couple of years, so the story arc would stretch from the ’60s to contemporary times.
Declining to be specific on the topic, he said: “It’s considered to be one of the top four stories in the world and yet it took place not 10 miles from where I live. I have done quite a bit of research with a colleague and we have discovered some new witnesses. It’s really exciting.”
Wright spent years developing four screenplays, Australian Gothic, Whispering Death, Galaxy of Caravans and Highgate, and is confident at least one or two will eventuate.
Since his Romper Stomper debut he directed just three films, Metal Skin in 1994, Cherry Falls in 2000 and Macbeth. That’s a longer gap between films than in the career of the famously selective Peter Weir, whose last effort was The Way Back in 2010.
As well as writing screenplays Wright kept busy directing re-enactments of crimes for students at Deakin University and making training films for legal professionals and law enforcement agencies.
He acknowledges he had not been viewed by producers as a go-to director for TV dramas and believes there is an in-club of directors in that genre. “We don’t try out enough new people in TV. We have a dwindling number of TV directors whom the industry keeps going to,” he said.
Here are the key elements of his new, experimental approach to filmmaking:
- Bring in the art department and a first AD at the conceptual stage to cast their expert eyes on what the filmmaker plans to do.
- Similarly, hire a skeleton crew much earlier in the creative process to work as a small team.
- Engage the head of the locations department at an early stage to counter the issue that Australian cities, including Melbourne, generally have become less receptive to hosting productions.
“We can give more thought to the writing of a show based on the input of location, first AD and the art department from the story formulation stage,” he said.
“Too much time and money is wasted by the art department revising its plans during pre-production. It’s a laborious way to do business. There are too many compromises during pre-production. I would rather acknowledge the difficulties much earlier on with a skeleton crew, refine the creative approach and get the best out of that early-warning system. I have no doubt all that would result in a much more effective bang for your buck.”
The filmmaker learned a lot working on the Romper Stomper series and had a lot of fun collaborating with the cast. He describes collaborating with Stan’s executives as a big thrill and is excited about what’s on the horizon next year.