Spin Out is the latest Australian film to hit cinemas and I recently spoke to stars Xavier Samuel, Morgan Griffin, Travis Jeffrey and Lincoln Lewis to talk about the project…
Matt: I’ve spoken to other Australian filmmakers who have shot films in rural areas and they always tell me how excited the communities get that their town is going to be immortalised in a movie for all to see. Where precisely was Spin Out shot? How involved was the town in the production?
Travis: We shot in Shepparton and it was exactly like what you’ve heard. They got behind it and were loving it. Some people were volunteering as extras for 10 hours a day.
Morgan: They volunteered their time, brought along their utes, and were really lovely.
Xavier: They helped “make” the film by giving it an authentic atmosphere. The film is about community and we certainly felt that when working out there. Many of them were extras in the B&S ball scene and some of them steal the show.
Matt: Most films have a target audience and I see this having appeal in regional Australia because it taps into a part of their culture with B&S balls and ute musters. Have you had the chance to show the film to any regional audiences yet and what sort of response have you received? Is it different from screenings in capital cities?
Lincoln: The coolest thing is that it’s been received in a similar way in every location. It’s been surprising.
Xavier: We had a screening in Sydney and there was a great response that didn’t feel any different from the country. It was nice to see that the story transcends.
Travis: We even took it to Shepparton a couple of weeks ago. I was worried that they might think we’d made fun of them but that’s not what we wanted to do. Thankfully they loved it as well.
Matt: It was an eye-opener for me though. I know of B&S balls but a ute muster is a completely new term to me. Did you guys know about this side of Australia before making the film?
Morgan: I knew what they were but it was still foreign to me.
Xavier: It’s one thing to hear all the stories but it’s another to experience these things. We went to an actual ute muster and some of that footage appears at the end of the film in the closing credits. You have to experience it firsthand.
Matt: Xavier & Morgan, was it easy to make those driving scenes look convincing?
Morgan: There’s a definitely a technique you have to master to be able to drift and do continuous donuts but we had really good stunt coordinators to help us out. I’d never actually driven a manual car before so we spent a bit of time in pre-production getting used to that. We also went to a stunt driving school is Shepparton.
Xavier: It’s very full on. We rocked up on our first day and there was a 90-something-year-old guy burning around in a ute telling us he was going to teach us. It was intimidating at first but the more we did it, the more we enjoyed it.
Morgan: It was terrifying to do in front of the locals though as they regularly compete in ute musters. One of my stunt drivers gave me a funny backhanded compliment – “you could drive better than me… when I was 7 year’s old.”
Matt: Comedy is the hardest genre to perfect because there are so many different styles and everyone has a different sense of humour. As an example, this is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum compared to Love & Friendship which is the last film we saw you in Xavier. How were the jokes developed for this film? Was it all left in the hands of the writers (Edwina Exton and Tim Ferguson) or was there a lot of ad-libbing and experimentation on set?
Xavier: It’s interesting because both Love & Friendship and Spin Out celebrate language but in a different way. Whit Stillman, who directed Love & Friendship, is very dialogue driven. Tim Ferguson, who wrote and directed Spin Out, has created something different with “colourful” language where the jokes come thick and fast. You can’t sit back with this kind of material. You have to embrace it.
Morgan: We had room to try different things but the tone was always there and we always knew what type of comedy this was going to be. It was fun to delve into.
Matt: You are working here under the guidance of Tim Ferguson who has a long history in comedy and on television. This marks his directorial debut and I’m curious to know about his approach and what he was like to work with?
Travis: He’s a comedian behind the camera as well (laughs).
Xavier: His enthusiasm is contagious. He wasn’t precious about his screenplay and he did allow us to improvise a lot.
Lincoln: He’s very relatable as a director and easy to talk to. He was always clear with the messages he was trying to get across. For a simpleton such as myself, it was great (laughs).
Matt: If I took the average age of this huge cast, I think it’d have to be one of the youngest in an Australian film this year. How did the casting process work? Are all the people we see on screen professional actors? What was the vibe with such a young crowd?
Travis: It was so much fun. They put us all in the same complex and we were hanging out together off the set for 5 weeks. The film is about community and being in each other’s pockets all day, every day helps translate that onto the screen.
Morgan: We’d have a pub meal most nights and relax and play some pool. Everyone got along and it was what you’d hope an ideal film set would be like.
Lincoln: On the weekends we’d do BBQs and people would sit around on their guitars singing songs. It was wicked and had a real family vibe.
Matt: Trying to connect Australian audiences with Australian movies is always a challenge. In cinemas at the moment we have Bridget Jones’s Baby, Pete’s Dragon and Suicide Squad. I know a lot of work goes into making the film but how busy have you guys been over the past couple of weeks trying to promote this and get the message out there? What’s the hook? How can we get people to see this?
Travis: Just do it (laughs).
Lincoln: Without sounding too clichéd, this is a feel good movie. It doesn’t have one specific target audience. It’s an accessible romantic comedy.
Xavier: We’ve watched it a dozen times now and we just have fun watching it. It’s a big party.
Morgan: Even though it’s set in the country, it’s not just for country people. People are experiencing very real emotions in the film despite the frivolity that goes on around them.
Travis: The themes are universal like love, commitment, growing up and fear of change.
Matt: Have you been surprised by the way audiences have reacted to certain scenes? Are there moments where there big laughs when you didn’t quite expect it during the filming process?
Lincoln: There are some moments that get a huge laugh at every screening.
Travis: I’ve learned that the audience can help change the film.
Xavier: Yeah, sometimes you need someone in the audience like your mum to kick the laughter off (laughs).
Travis: That’s why we’re going to try to see every screening of the film now that it’s been released.
Lincoln: Having a big cast really helps with that (laughs).
Matt: And Lincoln, I run into you at film previews here in Brisbane every so often because you’re with Mitch who works for Nova. He’s family but he’s also a film critic. Has he given you his honest appraisal of the film yet?
Lincoln: He has actually. We were having a chat last night and he said that what he loved most about the film was the language. It’s not trying to cater to an international audience and say “hey, we’re Australian!” It’s just the way we talk to each other and insult each other here in this country. Mitch was stoked with how that came across.
Matt: What are you guys all working on at the moment? When are we going to see you on screen next?
Xavier: Morgan and I did a film a couple of months ago that’s going to be coming out sometime next year.
Travis: I did a bit in the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie and that’s coming out mid next year also.
Lincoln: I’m heading back to the audition circuit and I’ll maybe head over to the U.S. for pilot season. In the meantime, our fingers are crossed and hopefully Spin Out does really well.