Matt's Blog


Interview - James Cameron & Ray Quint On Deepsea Challenge

James Cameron

We don’t see a lot of documentaries hit the big screen and it’s even rarer to see one in 3D!  I spoke with director Ray Quint and “star” James Cameron about Deepsea Challenge…

Matt:  It’s a point you guys make early on in the film but we spend so much money on space exploration as opposed to ocean exploration.  Why is that you think?  That we seem to take such a lesser interest in something that is so close to home?

James:  There are economic reasons for it because we are having to compete with the money the government puts into the big aerospace industry, defence contractors and so on.  The reality is that we need to spend a lot more on the ocean than we do.  The oceans are our life support system right here on spaceship Earth.  They’re critical to our survival and they’re critical to our understanding of climate change.  For example, where is all this heat going, where is all this carbon going?  We need to understanding the interface between our ocean and our atmosphere for our climate modelling.  We also need to understand the web of life that exists in the ocean… hopefully before we destroy it. 

Ray:  Part of what we hope the film will do is push for support for deep ocean exploration.

Matt:  James, something that people always seem to strive for is a work life balance.  And has we see in the film, you’re a married guy with pretty much two careers – filmmaker and explorer.  How do you balance that all up?  Do you worry sometimes that you’ve taken too much on?

James:  It is a time management issue.  Fortunately, I have a great, supportive wife and I’ve got a wonderful family and I think I’ve managed to balance them all.  I really love my time with my kids and so you have to make time.  This is why I’m not that prolific as a filmmaker.  I’ve only directed 8 movies and made 5 documentaries.  But I’ve also done 8 deep ocean expeditions which probably accounts for the low productivity on the feature film directing side.

Matt:  This film has been cut down into a pretty tight 90 minute documentary.  Ray, how many hours of footage did you have to work with?  Was there a lot you wanted to include but couldn’t find the room?

Ray:  I think our first assembly of the film was something like 3 hours long.  We realised we had to get it down to a more palatable length for the distributors.  When I came onto the movie, there was something like 1,200 hours of footage that had been shot in the making of the submersibles and the expeditions.  My first job was to assemble that footage into a coherent narrative that told the story of the expedition and the dives.

Then we asked ourselves what else do we need to bring to this story for an audience, what historical recreations did we want to do, and what archival footage did we need?  It was a matter of compiling all of that into a cohesive story.

Matt:  The film certain builds the suspense – we’re told that if there is a crack in the craft, you’re going to be crushed instantaneously due to the pressure.  I realise there is so much work that goes into the safety of the craft but what is it like where you’re descending for so long – do you actually get nervous?  Or is it something that you can control?

James:  It’s out of my control at that moment but it hasn’t been out of my control during the 7 previous years that we built the sub.  I was intimately involved with the design of the sub with my co-designer Ron Allum so I knew how ever control system worked and I knew every step that we had gone through in our computer modelling and our testing.  Everything had been tested over and over.  I felt very confident in the vehicle.

That said, it’s a prototype vehicle.  As I was progressively diving deeper and deeper, it was essentially a set of sea trials and we were finding flaws and glitches and so eliminating them as we went along.  I did have a couple of “character building” moments on a couple of the dives but again, panic doesn’t do you any damn good.  You just have to sit there are process it.  My brain was racing – thinking of all the ramifications and the things that might be happening in the computer or outside the sub… but that’s in the nature of the work.  Essentially, I was a test pilot.

Ray:  I was looking through hours and hours of footage to find those moments where Jim might have been panicked or worried and the reality is that he wasn’t.  He was very calm under fire.  It may have made it more dramatically compelling to see him stress in those moments but in fact, what we’re seeing in the film is actually the truth of those moments.

Matt:  Ray, as the director, are you responsible for working out where the cameras are positioned inside and outside the craft trying to get the best angle of all the footage?

Ray:  I came onto the film post expedition so the design of those cameras was up to Jim and his team prior my involvement.  Those cameras were the result of a multi-year camera development program to create cameras that were light enough and small enough to bring back 3D images from the ocean depths.  Also, they had to fit into the sphere of the submersible. 

James:  We should probably point out that there were 3 directors sequentially on this film – they weren’t working simultaneously.  I was none of those.  The first was Andrew Wight who conceived the project and started out at the same time that Ron Allum and I started designing the sub.  He was the famous Australian oceanographic filmmaker and had made many of his own documentaries and had worked with me since 2000.  Andrew was the original producer and director on the film but sadly he was killed in a helicopter crash on the eve of the expedition.  It was a great tragedy and we all had to pull ourselves up by our boot straps after that and go on.

I then made 2am phone call to John Bruno who was a friend of mine who had been on a number of expeditions prior and he knew how 3D photography worked.  He jumped in to shoot the expedition proper.  He then rotated off and Ray came for post-production, to shoot the re-enactments, and to find the story.  We really wanted to maintain the through-line and theme of the film being an Australian project as much as possible and John Bruno was not Australian – he was a friend of mine from the U.S.  We wanted the film to have an Australian identity as the film crew is Australian, the build team for the sub was Australian, and Ron Allum and Andrew Wight are Australian.

Ray:  While I was very aware of having to pay tribute to Andrew and was very pleased that we were able to do that in the movie, I couldn’t actually make Andrew’s film.  I realised this after some time and I couldn’t make John’s film either.  I had to take a step back and then step in to make the film that I wanted about Jim and his experiences.

Matt:  One of the biggest news stories this year has been the loss of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 which is suspected to have disappeared in the Indian Ocean.  And it’s been surprising that it’s now been 5 months and not a single shred of debris has been found.  As someone who knows the oceans as well as you guys, does that come as a surprise to you? 

James:  It’s not surprising to me at all.  The ocean is vast and we’re very underfunded for vehicles and instrumentation to explore it.  I don’t think they’ll ever find that plane based on the sketchy knowledge they have of its area.  They can’t narrow the search box enough without further clues.  I think it was a shock for people to suddenly come up short in the 21st century where we think we’ve explored this planet and yet there are vast reaches of it that we can’t have ready access to.  I think that should be a lesson to everybody.  It certainly comes back to my theme that we’re not spending enough on ocean research and technology.  It’s certainly not enough to have the ocean sufficiently instrumented so that we can get good predictive modelling for climate change.

Matt:  James, as we see in the film, you consider yourself as much an explorer as you do a filmmaker.  Now that you’ve been to the deepest part of the ocean, what’s next?  Is there a new challenge you’d like to set yourself?

James:  I think it’s a mistake to go “well now I’ve climbed the highest mountain” and leave it at that.  The reason that we went to the deepest place was to say to the marine science community that we now have a platform that allows us to go to any point in the depths of the ocean.  I saw this as the start of a much larger investigation.  I could spend the rest of my life diving the deep ocean trenches and making new discoveries.  I will continue my life as a Hollywood filmmaker with Avatar sequels that I’m currently working on so for me, it’s a continuum. 


Interview - Meeting The Inbetweeners!

The Inbetweeners

I’ve long been a fan of The Inbetweeners and back in 2011, I sat down with Simon Bird and Joe Thomas to talk about their first movie.  I’ve been able to go one better this time.  All four of the guys were in Brisbane for Ekka Wednesday and I was fortunate to spend 10 minutes with them, along with director Iain Morris, to talk about their latest sequel. You can listen to the full interview by clicking here.

Matt:  You’ve picked a pretty interesting day to be in Brisbane – it’s a public holiday and we’ve got the Ekka going on – have you guys been out and about?

Simon:  Yeah, we’ve been out sheering sheep, been electroshocked and are now good to go.

Matt:  I remember reading reports after the original film about that being the end of it.  What brought you guys back together for the sequel?

Blake:  We genuinely did think the last film was going to be it and then we had two and a half years of people asking us to make another one.  It was lovely that people liked the first one so much that they wanted us to do another one but even so, we were still unsure about it until Iain and Damon came up with a brilliant script and once we read it, we were on board.

Iain:  We hadn’t thought of a sequel when we made the first film but we missed working with each and we were so enthusiastic.  We kept bumping into people who were saying “why aren’t you doing another one?”  and we didn’t really have a good answer.  We just said “because we said we weren’t”.  So we started thinking about it two years ago.

Matt:  I’m trying to think of a film in recent memory that pushes the envelope further in terms of offensiveness.  Is there stuff you think of that’s just too much or stuff you have to tone down a bit?

Iain:  Not really.  What we tend to think is “let’s shoot everything, push it, and then if it feels like too much when we’re watching it, we can always pull it back in the editing room”.  You’d rather be in a position where we’d taken it to the nth degree and got it rather than worrying about it later.

Matt:  Of all the places you could have gone, what made you think of Australia?

Simon:  A lot of British kids that age go to Australia for their gap year so it felt like a natural fit in the same way that going to Magaluf felt in the first film.  It feels believable that they would at least spend a few weeks in Australia. 

Iain:  I was here in Australia as a high school exchange student and so I had an idea of the people who travel here.  For example, I went to schoolies week and saw the Gold Coast life.  It feels like a place where a lot of people come from England to go backpacking.  Also, it hasn’t got that same poshness that you get from people travelling to India or South East Asia.  Australia is more of a place where people go to get drunk, pick some fruit and get drunk again.

Matt:  I’m trying to think of the closest location to Brisbane that you used.  Were the waterslide park scenes filmed at Wet’n’Wild on the Gold Coast?

Joe:  Yeah, we spent quite a few days at Wet’n’Wild.  A big sequence of the film was shot at Wet’n’Wild and there were some quite challenging scenes.

Matt:  I believe the youngest of you is 26 and that would be James.  Is there a lot of work that goes into making you guys look young on screen?

Blake:  Yeah, shaving is a big part of it.

Joe:  And yeah, we’re pretty immature.  We regress back when we get together as a four.  To an extent, growing up is something that you have to force yourself to do so you can kind of “undo that” when the time comes to film.  In general, teenagers are just people who are little bit more intimidated and less prepared for the world than adults.  Adults aren’t that much more prepared… it’s just that they’re pretending more… and so if you stop pretending then you’ll find your inner teenager quite quickly I think.

Iain:  You guys are incredibly immature on set so well done.

James:  Well that’s because we are committed to our art. (laughs) 

Matt:  I spoke to Chris O’Dowd earlier in the year about the release of Cuban Fury and he said it was really hard for him to play such a despicable human being opposite Nick Frost.  How easy is it for guys to be so awful to each other during the filming?

Joe:  We don’t mind the swearing and that sort of stuff.  That’s how we talk to each other anyway! 

Iain:  I always remember that scene in series 2 where you said to the old woman to “lick my Cornetto”…

Jay:  You just don’t think about it.  It’s almost like you hover above the scene like an “out of body experience”.  You take yourself away from what’s going on.  If you think about it too much, you’ll be standing there asking an old lady to suck you off and you won’t have the confidence and it won’t be a good performance.

Simon:  I don’t find it that embarrassing to be honest.  The more embarrassing it is for me, the funnier I think it’s going to be on screen.  You always know it’s for a good cause.

Matt:  Australia’s most well-known film critic is a lady by the name of Margaret Pomeranz and she gave your original film 1 star and described as “schoolies week with a bunch of morons”.  You guys clearly have a huge fan base but do you read any of the negative stuff that gets said?

Iain:  I saw that.  She also said that this is the reason why Britain lost the empire.  To be honest, if she’s enjoying the film, we’ve made the wrong film. 

Simon:  We’ve actually had some quite good reviews this time which is worrying!

Iain:  Yeah, the people who are the equivalent of her in the UK have been very nice about this film.

Matt:  So is this it?  Is there any chance that there’ll be a third film?

Simon:  Zero. 

Iain:  I don’t think so.   This film felt like something we did because people really, really wanted it.  We were lucky that we were in that position and also because of the fact we loved working together.  I think you’ve got to know when to leave though.  You don’t want to overstay your welcome.  But I’m really proud of this film and I think it’s a really good end to their story.

Matt:  What have you all got planned next?  Are you going to stick to acting or branch out into different things?

Joe:  Quite a few of us have comedy projects we’re trying to write on our own. 

Iain:  They’ve seen me and Damon do it and they’ve gone “well it can’t be that hard”.

Blake:  And now we can direct our own stuff.  (laughs)

Joe:  Yeah, I’m working on a couple of things but it’s very early days at the moment. 

James:  To be fair on Damon and Iain, one thing that we’ve learned is that there’s nothing wrong with being quite stubborn and only doing something if you really want to do it and really believe in it.  You don’t want to do something for the wrong reasons.  I think we’re all like that in a way and so we probably will take our time before we decide what to do next.  I’ve been doing a bit of writing which suits me as I can do it at home and I have two little boys who I can spend more time with. 

Simon:  I’m sort of the same.  There’s a bit of pressure being involved with something as successful and popular as The Inbetweeners.  People will be watching to see what you do next and so we want it to be the right thing.  Not many of those opportunities come up and so a lot of it is a waiting game. 


New Farm Cinemas Now Open In Brisbane!

Last Thursday, for the first time in 12 years, I set foot inside the New Farm Cinemas.  It was as if I had been transported in a time machine.  The revamped Purple Room cinema looked almost exactly the same as I remembered it – complete with fresh seats and carpets.

There’s nothing functionally wrong with the big Event/Hoyts multiplexes but the New Farm Cinemas have a history, a charm that it almost impossible to replicate.  You only need to step inside the Purple Room cinema to see what I’m talking about.  It was a pleasure to be invited along to the cinema opening and the Queensland premiere of Guardians Of The Galaxy.  A few photos from the night can be found below.

There are currently two cinemas in operation – the Purple Room (which seats about 200) and the intimate Bronze Room (which seats about 30).  There’ll be six screens in total when the revamp is fully complete next year.

The opening seems to have sparked a price war that might entice those with shallower pockets.  Tickets at the New Farm Cinemas are just $11.50 for adults (with an extra $2 surcharge for 3D films).  If you join their movie club (which costs just $16.50 per year), tickets only $9.50!

The Palace Centro and Palace Barracks – two close competitors – have responded by dropping their top ticket price from $17 to $11.  That’s a permanent change too.  Hopefully the competition isn’t too fierce as I’d like to be able to see all the above mentioned cinemas putting bums on seats and making some cash.

The New Farm Cinemas are licenced and also offer light meals, pizzas, gelato and brownies (in addition to normal popcorn, drinks and confectionary).  You can check out more by visiting their website at  Hopefully I’ll see you there!

New Farm Cinemas
New Farm Cinemas
New Farm Cinemas
New Farm Cinemas
New Farm Cinemas
New Farm Cinemas
New Farm Cinemas


Interview - Nathan Phillips On These Final Hours

Nathan Phillips

These Final Hours is the latest Australian films to hit our screens.  I caught up with star Nathan Phillips to chat a little about it…

Matt:  You started out in Neighbours and have been in the business for 15 years now.  Has it gotten any easier to get your foot in the door and land auditions for roles you really want?

Nathan:  I’d like to say yes but also no.  Just like life, my career is constantly evolving.  With acting itself as a craft, you’re continually learning on the job and working with new people. 

Matt:  Can you tell me how this particular role came across your radar?

Nathan:  I was fortunate enough to be sent the script.  I was living in northern California on a farm and had been removed from the industry for a few months.  I choose to do that and I think it’s really healthy to take a break.  So yeah, I read the script and saw it was a coming-of-age tale for a young man moving from his 20s to his 30s and realising that there’s more to life than getting “off your head” every weekend.  He wants more substance in his life.

You don’t really know too much about his backstory.  All you know is that there’s only 12 hours left and so you get this microscopic view of a self-obsessed man on the road to redemption through the catalyst of Angourie Rice’s character, Rose.  They’re an odd couple.

Matt:  Every director has to start somewhere and in the case of Zak Hilditch, this is his first feature film.  Does it feel any different on set working with someone who is making a film for the first time?

Nathan:  He’d made a short film previously called Transmission which starred Angourie Rice.  That was a proof of concept for him.  I could see that he had a great piece of the puzzle already done – and that was finding a young actress that could bring energy to the film.  Also, while I knew he was a first time feature director, I also knew that he’d written the script and that he was very close to these characters. 

Matt:  You’ve mentioned Angourie Rice and I believe she was only about 12 years old when the movie was shot.  How is that for you working with someone so young on such an emotionally intense film? 

Nathan:  Yeah, it was funny.  It brought out my natural paternal instincts of wanting to cover her eyes during the party scenes because there’s a lot of nudity and crass language.  While it is the end of the world, not everyone is sitting around singing Kumbaya My Lord.  A lot of people are getting loaded and trying to escape from the problem with drugs, alcohol and whatever.

When we talk about this film, everyone has an idea of how they will spend their final hours.  Everyone is intrigued by the concept.  It deals with mortality.  It deals with an existential, philosophical subject matter.  To have a young girl thrown into this and being asked that question – “how do you spend your final hours?” – I think it’s a very brave concept.

Matt:  Did you get involved in the script?  Were you able to provide some input into how your character would act and what he might say?

Nathan:  Yeah.  The blueprint was there and we adhered to that.  However, the backstory and life of these characters before they come on screen was our responsibility.  The authenticity of the relationship between myself and my mother, played by Lynette Curran, were so important to nail and we only had a week of rehearsals. 

Matt:  I noticed last night that you sat in on the preview screening and watched the whole film.  Can you sit back, enjoy the film and admire your performances… or are you looking at yourself far more critically?

Nathan:  It’s hard to not be critical of your own performance… but as a filmmaker myself, I’m more intrigued by what Nick Meyers did as the editor.  I’m interesting to see how he put these stories together into a seamless narrative.  So yeah, I’m dissecting it while also trying to let go and get caught up in the world of it. 

Matt:  It’s a very physical role.  You’re doing a lot of running and fighting and stressing.  Was there a lot of physical training that you had to put yourself through prior to the shoot?

Nathan:  Yep.  It comes back to the importance of authenticity.  I didn’t want to get all 300 and have the washboard abs but it was still really important for my character to have a physical appearance so that you can believe that he’d handle himself in a fight and that he’d be able to carry a 12-year-old girl in extreme heat.  I was preparing while I was living on the farm and so it was easy for me to build up my strength.

Matt:  It looks like you’re a sweaty mess throughout the whole film.  Is that you actually being a sweaty mess or do we owe some thanks to a talented make up crew?

Nathan:  (laughs)  No, I was a sweaty mess.  The film is suggesting that it’s getting hotter as we get closer to the catastrophic event.  Lucky it wasn’t shot in the heat of a Western Australian summer.  It was just on the border as we filmed in October and November. 

Matt:  We’re introduced to your character here straight up with a pretty steamy sex scene.  It’s a question that’s often asked of actors but how easy is that to do?

Nathan:  It’s never easy.  There’s a great quote from Michael Caine that I like to use in these circumstances and I just worked with Diane Kruger and I got to use the line on her as well – “if something happens I apologise and if something doesn’t happen I apologise.”  It’s a small room with about 10 people holding boom sticks and cameras and so it’s always a weird experience… but it’s not the hardest part of the job.

Matt:  Australian budgets typically aren’t very high and so despite this being an apocalyptic film, there isn’t quite room for huge special effects, or massive car crashes, or scenes with hundreds of people running down a CBD street.  This film is set in the quieter suburbs and focuses solely on your character.  Do you think that limits the film in any way?

Nathan:  No, I think the film can stand alone without all the things that you’ve mentioned.  It allows for many more creative choices to be made when you don’t have a budget and don’t have an “excess”.  You have to rely on acting, characters and story.  You’re not relying on special effects and a quick edit.  There’s a charm to that and it’s important to remember that this isn’t a Hollywood movie.  It’s an Australian movie.   

Matt:  And to finish up, are you able to tell us what you’ll be working on next?

Nathan:  Yep, I’ll be working on The Bridge, a television series with Diane Kruger.  It’s a wonderfully written show with a great subject matter and I get to play a very cool, mysterious lover of Diane Kruger.  It’s all being filmed in Los Angeles at the moment and I’m really excited to be on the FX network and on that show.