Magazine article Metro Magazine

Talking the Back Leg off a Chair: A Conversation with Jonathan Teplitzky

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Talking the Back Leg off a Chair: A Conversation with Jonathan Teplitzky

Article excerpt

'Everyone in the film is deluded', opines Gettin' Square's director, Jonathan Teplitzky when I ask him to talk about the themes of his new film.

And probably the person who comes closest to not being deluded is Barry, Sam Worthington's character. One of the great delusions is that to get square, you have to give up crime. Barrington's idea of gettin' square is not getting caught. Sam's character is much more ... "to give up crime, to get square, I have to give up my old life'. It's really about the characters transforming, evolving away from the fife that they had into something new, that in a sense gives them positive hope of a life. There's an element of the tittle man winning against all odds ... but it was more in the character thing that interested me the most, thematically. I like that the idea of getting square can mean giving up crime, it can mean trying to find a normal life, it can mean giving up smack, it means getting even with someone. On a dramatic level I wanted it to be nebulous as to exactly what 'getting square' means.

When I meet Teplitzky, he is everything that one has grown up imagining a director to be: intelligent, forthright and opinionated. His enthusiasm for film is a constant throughout our conversation, and it is clear that he is just as comfortable talking about his admiration for Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988) as he is about The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan, 1997). After working in music videos and commercials in England, he returned to Australia in the mid-1990s to restart his career as a film-maker. His debut film was 2000's Better Than Sex.

One day I just thought of this idea. I didn't want to have to go through the AFC, I didn't want to have to go through all the usual channels because you lose all your autonomy; it's a lucky dip as much as anything else. I wanted a bit of independence. A lot of my interest in film springs from that sort of new wave American indie cinema which started in the mid-1980s with things like Stranger Than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch, 1983) and She's Gotta Have It (Spike Lee, 1986) and all those kind of films that started coming out where they're basically made for nothing. I felt like that's what I want to try and do. So I wrote Better Than Sex very much [as a film] with a few characters and small locations.

I pick up on his remarks about funding bodies and ask for some clarification.

'When I was starting out I did go through them', he notes.

I went to the AFC ... and I just found it an incredibly dysfunctional process. Let me temper this by saying it's a very difficult thing to do to work out how a bureaucracy decides what films should be developed, what films should be made, and I certainly don't have the answers. I've talked to a lot of film-makers about it ... and there's utter frustration amongst film-makers that these people who sit in judgement of them ... who the hell are they? And what qualifies them to do so? Again, it's really difficult, because the people who are good are making films (and that's a generalization as well because there are some good people in those bureaucracies). Someone came up to me from the AFC recently and they said, why don't we ever get anything from you? And I said, well ... you have! And I decided it was too much hard work. When I get someone who is a script adviser on a TV series on Channel Whatever in Australia, they're the person doing the script assessment ... they have no experience of cinema. And you kind of go ... well, wait a minute. I don't want this to sound like sour grapes, because it's not at all. I'm very happy with the way we did Better Than Sex and I understand how difficult it is, but ... it is an incredible frustration where you get these extraordinary reviews from them and you just know there's another agenda in it. For example, when we put Better Than Sex into the FFC we got a review back (and this is when we had David Wenham and Susie Porter signed on to the film)--this is just a freelance person, who's employed by the FFC to assess scripts--he came back and said he didn't believe David and Susie were attached to the project. …

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