Today I had an opportunity to have a look at a fine cut of Chris Richards-Scully's short film, Kanowna. This takes me full circle from the days when we were breaking the story for The Red Bride when Chris would ask, "have I told you about Kanowna?" For a long time that's all I knew - a title!
Eventually, he pitched the story to me in typical director style - shot by shot. He could clearly see the film in his head so my response simply was, "write it down!". And to his credit he did.
I can't remember when he sent me a script but it must be well over a year ago. Very lyrical and very Chris with a focus on characters you don't normally see in Australian shorts, in this case, Japanese in the Kalgoorlie Goldfields circa 1902. I suggested stripping out some dialogue (and it was pretty sparse to begin with), tinkering with some lines and from memory, slightly re-arranging some sequences. We had a couple of meetings after which there was a pretty good draft.
Producers came and went, including a strange meeting I went to with one producer who had a different take on the story (that I didn't understand and certainly wasn't part of Chris' vision). A new draft was written. However, the lead actor - Dustin Clare - quite perceptively remarked to Chris that it seemed like the new draft was "explaining things". He was right - that draft was scrapped along with the producer.
So I had a pretty good idea of the story when I sat down to watch the fine cut. But it's always a treat to see words on a page turned into images on screen and while this hasn't been colour graded yet it looks terrific.
I knew from Chris' blog he was looking more for comments on structure and my main feedback was regarding the opening sequence. At the moment the film opens on the protagonist with some off screen dialogue that I remember from Chris' very first draft but here it jarred. It also didn't maximise the introduction of the antagonist - the beats just didn't feel right.
There is, however, a great cinematic introduction to that character in the next scene and I suggested dropping the O.S. and building to the essential conflict in the story. That's as much an intuitive story-telling thing than anything else but Chris and the editor Sarah Clarke were appreciative of the different perspective. It will be interesting to see how it plays when they take another swing at that sequence.
Ultimately, it's all about making the film as good as it can possibly be. There was probably a gap of over a year between when I was assisting with the script to the screening of the fine cut where I had no involvement at all. But being able to contribute in any way is always a privilege.