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Interview - Director Jeffrey Walker on Bringing Back 'Dance Academy'

Dance Academy: The Movie

Dance Academy is the latest film to transiting from the small screen to the big screen and I recently spoke with director Jeffrey Walker about the experience…

Matt:  You were directing episodes of Neighbours, Home & Away and Blue Heelers when just 22 years of age.  Given how tough it can be to break into the director profession, what’s the secret?  How did you open the door so young?

Jeffrey:  I had an extremely unusual set of events that played out.  I started acting as a 7-year-old in different television shows and films in Australia.  I developed a real love for the camera and all things behind the scenes when I was about 13-14 years of age.  I then started to make little short films on the weekends.

When I finished high school, I hadn’t decided what I was going to do with my life.  I had a wonderful producer, Jonathan Shiff, who took me under his wing and he trained me for two years as an on-set shadowing director.  At the end of that, he thought I was ready so I got my first job directing an episode of Neighbours when I was 20.  I know I’m very lucky and extremely grateful that bizarre set of events occurred.

Matt:  I think you’ve been directing episodes for more than 20 different TV series across a whole mix of genres – All Saints, City Homicide, Angry Boys, Rake and Modern Family.  Do you look back on your older work?  Has your style changed a lot over the past decade?

Jeffrey:  I haven’t look back out of fear as to how terrible some of the early stuff might have been.  Given that I’d spent so much time on sets as an actor over 10 years, I had a good knowledge of running a set.  I’d watched enough terrific directors to learn from what they did scene-to-scene.  What I didn’t have at the age of 20 was a unique voice.  I didn’t have anything that I could infuse on stuff I was working on.  When I did develop a voice, I started to feel that a bit more of my DNA was in the final product and those things are more fun to rewatch.

Matt:  I know you were involved with the Dance Academy TV series but this is a rare chance for you to direct a feature film that will be released in cinemas.  What are the major differences between the two mediums?

Jeffrey:  As a director, to be able to zero in on one particular story is great.  In television, you’re given a single episode or a series of episodes and you don’t get that total sense of storytelling.  I’ve always seen film as a director’s medium and TV as a producer’s medium.  With film, a producer will still help you come up with a lot of creative ideas but you have to go out there and execute it.  No one is going to be leering over your shoulder telling you how we make this show.

Just before I started Dance Academy, I worked on another film with a similar budget called Ali’s Wedding that’s due to come out a little later in the year.  I did an enormous amount of learning on that and I was able to use that experience to come in and hopefully make the best choices I could on Dance Academy.  I’m now experiencing the release of a film for the first time which I’ve had no experience in whatsoever.  My native terrain has been television for such a long time now and it makes this both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

Matt:  How did this film come about anyway?  The show finished up in 2013 and I admit it wasn’t something I was expecting to hear from again?

Jeffrey:  The amazing thing that has sustained with Dance Academy is that it’s never stopped being on air.  It’s had big sales overseas and there are major territories such as the U.S. that only discovered it a couple of years ago.  Oddly, it’s still as relevant as it was when we made it.  The interest is not just there from the fan base in Australia but there are 10-year-olds coming to it now from around the world.  That wide audience is the major reason that we were able to come back and revisit it.

The great gift of this film is they didn’t resurrect these characters as 15, 16 and 17 year olds.  We see them now in their 20s and they have new dilemmas that hopefully our maturing audience can relate to.  Their struggles are real for young people trying to find their identity in life and we’ve tried to dramatically explore that.

Matt:  You have been involved with the TV series but how do you get your own insight into this world and these characters?  Do you talk to a lot of dancers?  Do you have contacts with the Sydney Ballet Company?

Jeffrey:  When I did the TV series for the first time, I knew extremely little about elite ballet.  My sister was a dance teacher who had grown up through dance schools but I had no idea except for the fact that the characters were extremely relatable to me.  I felt a kinship from being an aspiring actor and that gave me a sense of the pressures these characters went through.  When you’re pursuing something at an elite level, your entire identity is wrapped up in that.  When you wake up in the morning, you’re a dancer.  You’re not just a dancer when you step on stage.  You’re a dancer from the moment you wake up.  I felt that as an actor and I now feel that as a director.

With the film, we wanted to explore what happens when that’s taken away from someone.  What’s left of them?  How do still feel you have a contribution to make if you don’t have that passion? 

In terms of just spending time immersed in the world of dance, I’ve done that a great deal over the last few years more out of choice and enjoyment than what I had to do at the start of the TV series.  Back then, I spoke with choreographers and dancers about what it’s like.  Many of them come out and say “oh, it’s just a joy” but the reality is that it’s hard.  You’re in pursuit of a completely unobtainable dream for perfection with your entire life as a dancer.  That’s a hard thing to reconcile and it’s another theme I wanted to explore.

Matt:  Dance movies are a staple of American film culture.  There’s iconic stuff like Flashdance, Footloose, Dirty Dancing and then more recent stuff like Centre Stage, Save the Last Dance and the Step Up franchise.  Do you look back on films like those when trying to come up with something of your own – to see what works and what doesn’t?

Jeffrey:  For me, the film that was the game changer in that genre was Black Swan.  It introduced a thriller element to a genre that I thought was exhausted.  Even though this film is aimed at a teenage audience, I think many people will be surprised that it doesn’t play out as expected.  I remember in Black Swan watching director Darren Aronofsky take the camera in hand-held mode and stay with the dancers on the stage so you can hear them breathing and the hard sounds of pointed shoes hitting the floorboards.  That changed the way I looked at making a dance film.  I realised you didn’t have to conform to the clichés of the genre and you can shake it up.

Matt:  There are scenes in this movie shot in New York City and in particular around Times Square – one of the busiest places in the world.  I’ve always been curious to know – what’s the process for being able to shoot in a public location like that?  Can you just do it?  Or is there a lot of planning and paperwork involved?

Jeffrey:  It was described to me in two ways.  There’s the way Sam Raimi does it when he makes Spider-Man and there’s the way I do it with Dance Academy.  You turn up with a skeleton crew and it’s so busy and chaotic that no one cares that you’re even there.  We were always permitted but we couldn’t disrupt traffic and we always had to be using steady-cams or hand-held cameras.  You can’t have anything like cranes that would obstruct views.  It’s “guerrilla” style which makes it noisy and hard to work.  You ultimately choose the shots in the edit where you have the fewest passer-bys who are looking at the camera and there’s also a lot of looping of dialogue.  It’s hard but hopefully the results for the audience make it all worthwhile. 

Matt:  Just like the TV series, there’s a big soundtrack here too.  What was the process behind picking the right songs for the movie?

Jeffrey:  There were three key tracks that we reached out to get – one each from Sia, Flume and Taylor Swift.  Australian films have notoriously low music budgets when compared to the United States.  Our producer, Joanna Werner, had to be as hard edged as she could in going to the representatives of these wonderful artists and describing how we loved their songs and thought we had a fantastic way in which they could be used in the film.  There were barriers but ultimately we did get a lot of positive answers.  I hope that audiences don’t get the sense that they’re watching a small film with a small music budget.  We think this provides a big cinema experience.

Matt:  I’ll finish up by asking what are you working on at the moment?

Jeffrey:  I’m in New York doing the third series of a show called Difficult People where Amy Poehler is one of the executive producers.  She’s a funny but also a beautiful, smart, gentle person.  I’ve directed nearly all the episodes across 3 seasons. It’s got Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner in the leading roles and it’s been a heck of a lot of fun.

Interview - Josh Gad on a Reimagined 'Beauty and the Beast'

Josh Gad

He’s appeared in films such as Pixels, The Wedding Ringer and Jobs and voiced characters in films including Frozen, The Angry Birds Movie and A Dog’s Purpose.  I recently had the chance to speak with Josh Gad about his role in the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast.

Matt:  What was your first reaction when you heard about a live action remake of Beauty and the Beast?

Josh:  My first reaction was “oh God, it better be good”.  That movie, as I’m sure it is with many others, was a pivotal part of my childhood journey.  I was 10 years old when I first saw the movie in a theatre in South Florida and it left an indelible impression, specifically the songs which are now iconic.  Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin became the soundtrack to my childhood.  Being able to bring those songs to life, given that they were so influential on me, was a thrill.

Matt:  How do the singing numbers work?  How much time is spent on rehearsal and getting your voice down pat and in sync?

Josh:  We rehearsed the choreography for 5 weeks and recorded the song over 2 days.  The problem was that Luke Evans and I both come from musical theatre and we’re perfectionists when it comes to singing.  You can record something but to do it out of context and not match the physicality of what you’re doing doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the greatest results and so we insisted on singing it live and not lip syncing.  A lot of the flourishes in the song were actually moments that we recorded on the day of shooting.

Matt:  So it wasn’t all done in a studio?  It was done like Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables?

Josh:  It was both.  Some moments were in a studio but others, like when we’re dancing, were done as part of the shoot as it brings a different quality and energy to the vocals.

Matt:  How easy was it shooting the scenes themselves when you’re dancing and jumping all over the place whilst trying to sing at the same time?

Josh:  It’s not an easy process but it’s a process I’m comfortable with because so much of the work I’ve been blessed enough to do has been musical orientated like Frozen or Book of Mormon.  I come from that background and my first big break was on Broadway doing a musical called Spelling Bee and so I sort of love it.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to finally bring those skills to the big screen because they are few and far between.

Matt:  So how did Bill Condon find you for this project?

Josh:  Bill and I actually worked together years ago on the pilot for HBO called Tilda with Diane Keaton that sadly never saw the light of day.  We both really loved working with each other.  He called me about Beauty and the Beast and I was like “yes, sign me up”.

In the original movie, so much of the comedy from the LeFou character comes from cartoon conceits.  He’s so physical and he’s the butt of every joke like where he’s getting his teeth knocked out, he’s getting thrown across the room multiple times by Gaston, and animals sit on his head.  That’s not something that I thought would be really great to play in a live action version.

So for me, it was about giving him a humanity.  If LeFou was as dumb as a box in the original movie, what if we made him dumb as a fox?  That means that he’s not quite as dull and a fool as people would imagine.  He’s actually got a conscience and he calls into question this blind faith he has in Gaston along the way.  That added a really interesting dynamic to the whole enterprise.

Matt:  What stands out for me watching this film are the visuals – the castle and the surrounds are incredible.  Since it’s almost impossible to discern the difference these days, how much of what we see is real and what is not?

Josh:  It was all practical when it came to the sets.  When I tell you that Disney spared no expense on creating this environment, it’s true.  Bill felt that it was important, especially in a film that requires so much digital trickery, to put the characters in an environment that was real and tangible because you want to ground the other elements.

Matt:  The costumes in the film area really great and you’re working alongside Oscar-nominated costumer Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina).  Do you have a lot of fun with that part of the process?

Josh:  It was so, so, so brilliant working with every single department on a film like this because they all bring their A-game.  The costumes are gorgeous but so are the sets and the hair & make up.  You just feel like you’re doing this grand, incredible, epic film that is a homage to something you grew up with.  To bring it to life with an all-star crew, you pinch yourself every day coming to work.

Matt:  The film has an amazing cast and a lot of them you wouldn’t have had a chance to work with before.  Who surprised you?  Was there someone you got along really well with?

Josh:  You can’t be surprised at the level of that cast.  Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci… these have been idols of mine growing up.  What I was surprised by was working alongside Emma, Dan and Luke was how well-rounded all of them are when it coming to the singing, dancing and other elements that they aren’t necessarily known for.  That to me was a great joy to collaborate with them on. 

Matt:  What’s it like seeing the finished product?  Are you amazed sometimes by how it all comes together on screen?

Josh:  Sometimes?  Try every minute.  It’s stunning and amazing.  For instance, Dan Stevens was wearing a onesie with his face sprayed with thousands of dots for motion capture and then all of a sudden you see this living, breathing beast on screen and your jaw is on the floor.  The audience are saying “how did they do this?”  I was there and I still don’t know how they did it!

Matt:  What are you working at the moment?  When are we going to see you next?

Josh:  I just wrapped production two weeks ago on Murder on the Orient Express which is directed by the amazing Kenneth Branagh.  That’ll be out at the end of the year and it has an incredible cast including Johnny Depp, Dame Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe, the list goes on and on.  It was such a thrill and I feel the movie will have a David Lean quality to it where it feels like a breath of fresh air.  It’s a different type of film to what audiences usually get.  It’s a murder-mystery set in the 1930s.  I then have a smaller film coming out with Chadwick Boseman and Dan Stevens again which his directed by Reginald Hudlin called Marshall.  That should be out in October.

Interview - David Stratton On His Life & Australian Cinema

David Stratton

He’s been reviewing movies since before I was born and so it was a privilege to sit down with legendary Australian film critic David Stratton and talk about his life’s work and Aussie cinema as part of the release of David Stratton: A Cinematic Life.

Matt:  I have to ask since it’s going to be talked about for a long time to come – did you see the debacle to end this year’s Academy Awards?

David:  I didn’t because I was on a flight from Perth to Brisbane.  I saw a glimpse of the disaster on the news.  I felt sorry for Warren Beatty because he looked like he wasn’t sure what’s going on.  It was obviously a big stuff up.

Matt:  Are you a big fan of awards shows?  Do you watch them?

David:  I do watch them.  I always watch the Oscars and this was the first time that I’d missed them in a long time.

Matt:  You’ve spent so much time interviewing actors and filmmakers.  What’s it been like on the other side of the fence as you’ve been doing publicity for this film?

David:  Exhausting.  No, it’s been stimulating because it shows people are interested in what we’ve done with this documentary.

Matt:  When were you first approached about it?  Did you think your life would ever be put up on the screen like this in such a way?

David:  No.  The original idea was not my life but rather my reflections on Australian films.  We didn’t want to tell a history of Australian cinema.  We wanted to originally make a 3-part documentary for the ABC which would reflect and comment on some of the most important Australian films.  That changed, as these things do, and it’s ended up becoming a cinema film with a different title.  There will still be an ABC series later in the year.

Matt:  One of the things I like about the film is that it celebrates Australian cinema as much as it celebrates your life and work.  Was that always your intention from outset?

David:  That’s the director, Sally Aitken.  She deserves full credit for that and I didn’t even know what she had in mind.  She did it very cleverly and skilfully.  It was only when I saw the film for the first time that I realised how she had extrapolated links in my life and some of the Australian films I’m so fond of.  I don’t think that element will be in the TV series so the two are going to be rather different.

Matt:  Having been part of the Australian film landscape for so long, is it harder to be critical of Australian films given you know so many of the people who worked on them individually? 

David:  It is hard.  You don’t want to hurt the feelings of people you admire but we can’t always make a good film.  I’ve given negative reviews to people I’m quite friendly with and I think that upset them initially but it was all right later on except for Geoffrey Wright which is referenced in the film.

A good example is the late Paul Cox.  I was a good friend and I love most of his films.  I didn’t like one of his later films and so I phoned up to warn him before we went to air that night with At The Movies.  He said “that’s all right, you have to call it the way you see it.”  The morning after he called and said “you really didn’t like it!” but we remained friends of course.

Matt:  I have to talk about your run on The Movie Show with Margaret Pomeranz.  I assume you both saw films together but did you talk about your views before going on air?

David:  We didn’t always see them together.  Sometimes we saw them separately.  It depended on the circumstances but we never talked about them before going to air.  I think that was one of the reasons the show worked.  We were often surprised by each other’s reaction.

Matt:  You’ve had the chance to travel the world and attend numerous film festivals.  Which ones stand out?  Which festivals should I be putting on my bucket list?

David:  Venice.  It’s the only one I’m still going to regularly and I’ve be going since 1966.  It’s a great festival.  Maybe the films are better in Cannes and the organisation is better in Berlin but Venice is Venice.

Matt:  I was astounded in the film to hear that you average seeing about a film every day on average.  Do you have holidays?  Can you detox and not watch anything for a couple of weeks?

David:  On this tour, I haven’t managed to see a film every day but I wouldn’t exactly call it a holiday (laughs).

Matt:  Do you ever get star struck with any actors and filmmakers that you’ve had the chance to interview?

David:  Not really.  They’re ordinary people.  Some are very relaxed and easy to get on with.  Some are more self-important.  The Australians in particular are very easy to get along with.

Matt:  What do you think of the state of film criticism at the moment?  There are fewer paid, published critics but a lot more people putting opinions out there though blogs and social media.

David:  I think that’s the way of the future.  There are fewer people getting paid to review films.  There was a time when The Courier Mail had its own Brisbane based critic (Des Partridge) and now they take reviews from Melbourne.  That’s the trend throughout the country.  Filling that gap are people blogging with their ideas and while they may not be always informed ideas, they’re ideas those individuals want to express and I think that’s a great thing.

Matt:  You clearly spend a lot of time focusing on film.  I’ve always been curious whether you branch out and have much time for TV or live theatre?

David:  Not as much live theatre as I’d like to.  It’s always a question of time.  I live in the Blue Mountains and it’s always a hike to get into the city and back again.  That limits evenings at the theatre.  I only watch political things on television.  Insiders on a Sunday morning I wouldn’t miss for anything.  Q&A is riveting television and Media Watch as well… that’s the television I enjoy.

Matt:  There are some big names in the film that we see speaking very highly of you on camera – the likes of Nicole Kidman and George Miller.  What was it like seeing it for the first time?

David:  It was very touching.  I met Nicole for the first time when she was about 15 years old and making her first film.  I remember going on a junket for a film that her boyfriend at the time was starring in.  He was doing all the interviews and she wasn’t in the film so she was just hanging about.  We had a long conversation about the history of movies to fill in the time.  Since that time we’ve been friends.  George once told me off camera that he thought if I hadn’t shown his first short film at the Sydney Film Festival in 1971 that he might still be a doctor.

Matt:  I’ll finish up by asking – do you think about legacy and what will happen to all your reviews and other collectables when you’re gone?  The great Roger Ebert passed away several years ago but so many of his reviews can be found online and there’s also a review website named in his honour.

David:  No, I haven’t but I should.  I have no idea.

Interview - Rachel Perkins & Craig Silvey Discuss 'Jasper Jones'

Craig Silvey & Rachel Perkins

Australian cinema has been going “great guns” over the past few months with the success of Hacksaw Ridge and Lion.  Jasper Jones is the next cab off the rank and it’s a terrific film that skilfully mixes genres and features some wonderful performances.  I sat down with author-screenwriter Craig Silvey and director Rachel Perkins (Bran Nue Dae) to talk about the film. You can listen to the full interview by clicking here.

Matt:  I was talking on my radio spot last week about film adaptations and we had a debate as to whether it’s best to read the book first or to see the movie first.  I don’t think I’ll be in a better position to ask that question given I’ve got the author of the book and the director of the movie.  In general, what are your thoughts on it?

Rachel:  Tough one.  I think the nation is divided on that issue.  I’ve been talking to people at the screenings because we’ve been taking it around the country.  Some have seen the film and then bought the book.  There’s something good about that because what awaits them is all these other riches in the book whereas if you’ve read the book first, you’re doing more of a comparison and thinking about what’s been left out.

Craig:  I think that’s a good point.  They’re two different processes I suppose.  A lot of people who are coming to see the film have read the book and loved the book.  They’re happy to celebrate it and see it in a different way on screen.  With the film now out, people will go the other way.  They’re looking for extra content and something else they can explore because they want to spend more time with these characters.

Matt:  Craig, not all authors get a chance to adapt their own novels for the screen.  You got the chance to do it here for the first time.  Can you tell me about the experience?

Craig:  It was a huge challenge.  I was brought it to write a fresh draft before we went into production and so I didn’t have a lot of time.  I only had about 6 weeks and it was my first screenplay.  I was thrown right in the deep end but I adored the opportunity.  It was difficult work but I think we had a terrific collaborative team around us.  Rachel was a great help and had a really strong vision for the film.

Matt:  Do you ever have a thought that it might one day become a movie?

Craig:  When you’re developing a novel, you want to avoid thinking about all those things that are out of your control like reception, publication, criticism and adaptation.  You’re just trying to put one foot in front of the other and develop the work as honestly as possible.  From time to time it occurred to me that this structure may lend itself well to an adaptation but back then I was less interested in film and seeing my stories told using film.  These days, it’s all changed.  At the inception of an idea, I think to myself “What is this?  Is it a novel?  Is it for the stage?  Is it a film?  Is it television?”  I run it through a filter of structures before decide where to go with it.

Matt:  Rachel, can I ask how you became involved with this project and came across Craig’s novel?

Rachel:  Like the other half-a-million people who have read this book, I came by it after someone recommended it to me.  It’s often the way it happens – through word of mouth.  I picked it up and then couldn’t put it down.  I felt it was a book that I could adapt or direct for the screen.  I procrastinated for a while and then went to the publishers and by then the rights had gone.  I was devastated and assumed that someone really famous and talented would make it who I could hate for the rest of my life (laughs).

A few years later, I heard that a friend of mine had the rights so I rang up and asked if I could be put on the list of possible directors.  He agreed and I think he helped push for me to do it with the other producers.  I wore them all down with my enthusiasm I think and it was nice for the project to come back to me in a way.

Matt:  If we get into the filmmaking process itself.  Craig, as the screenwriter, you put a script out there but does it stay that way during the shooting process?  Or are there a lot of changes you make along the way when you see the actors and how they interact?

Craig:  Film seems to be all about adjustments.  You don’t know what’s going to come up in a day and you don’t know what’s going to work in rehearsals.  You don’t know if your dialogue is going to “sing” on a day or whether it’ll be problematic.  You’ve got to be agile and there were a raft of re-writes.  There were also ideas we’d have on set and also some concerns which we’d try to solve on the fly.  

Matt:  Rachel, let’s talk about the cast.  I know a lot of people in Brisbane might be interested to hear about Levi Miller who was born here and went to Holland Park State School.  He’s already got a couple of big movies under his belt.  He comes across so well in the film – Charlie is this very awkward, uncomfortable kid.  What can you tell us about him?

Rachel:  Yep, he’s Brisbane born and bred.  All he wants to do is act and so far he’s realising that dream.  His mum looks after him and brings him to set.  They’ve got this really good family unit and they’ve worked out how he can do school and acting together.  He’s on an incredibly trajectory.  He was selected out of thousands of kids to do Pan and then he did Red Dog: True Blue.  By the time he came to us, he had more experience than I had.  He’s also the face of young people’s attire for Ralph Lauren.  He’s so grateful for the work and so grateful he can act.  He’s down-to-earth and very talented I think.

Matt:  It’s funny because he was with Hugh Jackman in Pan and now the two of them are going head-to-head at the box-office this week in Australia because we’ve got Logan versus Jasper Jones.

Rachel:  Yeah… and who will win?  I’m asking all Australian listeners out there to please go and see our film instead of Logan.  I’m just going to say that straight out (laughs).  I don’t want to beat around the bush.  It’s just a clear request to the people of Australia.

Matt:  There are some great actors in this film like Hugo Weaving, Toni Collette, Dan Wyllie and Angourie Rice.  How easy was it pulling them all together?

Rachel:  It was frighteningly easy.   I thought it would be much harder.  We had a great time making this film.  Whoever we wanted for the cast said “yes”.  Toni Collette tried to adapt the novel early on herself.  When she heard about the film, she rearranged her U.S. schedule and came over.  Hugo Weaving immediately agreed too.  Kevin Long, who plays Jeffrey Lu, we found in a kung-fu class in western Sydney.  He’d never acted before but is like a child genius.

Matt:  Can Kevin play cricket?

Craig:  He can now.  I fell in love with the kid when I first met him.  He’s such a sweetheart and he really is that character.  There’s a pivotal cricket scene in the film so he had to really know his stuff.  Kevin didn’t know much about cricket at all so I took him under my wing as a fan of the game.  I spent every spare hour down at the nets in Pemberton and taking Kevin through his paces and teaching him how to hit a cover drive.  I was like a proud dad during the two days that we shot those scenes.

Matt:  Rachel, there are a lot of different tones in the film.  There’s comedy and romance but there are also much darker themes which I won’t spoil for those who haven’t seen it.  How do you balance that up when making the film and putting it all together in the editing room?

Rachel:  It’s a good question.  A murder-mystery usually has a tension and dark edge that runs all the way through the movie.  This work was very different.  The novel is loved by so many because it has a mixture of elements.  It has a murder-mystery that opens the work and that drags you through because you want to know how it ends.  Between these young characters though, there’s the humour and the romance and it’s all wrapped up in this coming-of-age tale about a young guy growing up in this town and realising things aren’t the way he’s been led to believe.  It’s a beautiful combination of different genres which is why I was attracted and why audiences are responding to it.    

Matt:  Craig, I was fortunate enough to host a Q&A with you on Tuesday night and it was remarkable how many people in the crowd had read the book.  There were even school teachers saying how they’ve been teaching it to their kids for years.  What’s this publicity tour been like and interacting with these people who collectively have all read the book at various stages over the last 8 years?

Craig:  It’s been overwhelming and moving for both of us.  There’s a passion for this story and a lot of goodwill around it.  The support for this book is now culminating with a rapturous love for the film.  It’s impossible not to be inspired and moved by that.  These people have come out in such generous spirit to see our film and to see this story in a different way.  It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Matt:  I’ll finish up by asking what you guys have got in the works?

Craig:  I’m working on a western set in the gold fields of Western Australia in the late 19th century and it’s called The Prospector. 

Matt:  And you guys will collaborate on that again?

Rachel:  I think we’re going to go through it again together.  It’s so far, so good.

Matt:  I’m excited about that already but in the meantime, we can all go out and watch Jasper Jones smash it at the box-office.

Rachel:  Let’s hope so.  The preview screenings we’ve had so far have been incredible.  We’ve had 200 people coming up to Craig after the screenings to sign copies of the book.  The screenings with the Q&As were sold out weeks in advance.  I hope the passion continues and I hope we live up to people’s expectations who love the book so much.