'A suitcase of money, a woman and two men; a lot can happen in the middle of nowhere'. Premiering in Adelaide last week to high praise, Craig Lahiff's Swerve is a homegrown noir epic that takes the typical rules and conventions of modern day thrillers and flips them faster than you can say 'Wolf Creek'. I spoke with the uber talented director about his inspiration behind the bloody-yet-entertaining Swerve, working with esteemed Australian actors Vince Colosimo and Roy Billing and the future of our local film industry.
GB: What was the train of thought behind Swerve?
CL: I feel many of our films are slowly paced and take themselves very seriously, so I wanted to make an Australian film that was a rollercoaster ride of action, suspense, plot twists, black humour and fun for an audience to watch.
GB: Did you set out to make this a Wolf Creek-type scenario that will stop locals from ever driving in the outback ever again?
CL: It’s more a noir thriller than Wolf Creek, with the focus on suspense and humour rather than violence, although it has its moments. So after watching it, you should be safe to drive into the country again – just don’t take a wrong turn!
GB: From the trailer and stills, I'm certainly getting a noir vibe. What made you want to explore a more stylized approach to a tried and tested formula?
CL: I wanted to give a unique Australian sensibility to the film noir genre – no wet dark streets, rather the action taking place in brilliant sunlight. Here, the claustrophobia of a night landscape is replaced with the wide open spaces of the Australian outback, yet, as the drama unwinds, our hero has nowhere to run –the outback has its own claustrophobia.
GB: How important is it to adhere to genre conventions when making a film like Swerve?
CL: The audience is the focus, so you need to give all the genre signposts so they can enjoy the world you have created. This also allows you to move at a fast pace through the storytelling and the editing, as audiences familiar with the genre don’t need as much exposition. As a director, it’s also fun to ‘homage’ other films – something an audience expects.
GB: Does it get tempting to just completely turn the horror/thriller genre on its head?
CL: Yes, it is tempting but again, you need to keep the larger audience in mind. There are many ways to tell the same story and structure it differently. You can make it more realistic or like I have done here, made it larger than life, with more emphasis on dark humour. I also toyed with the idea of telling the same story from each of the three main characters’ point of view and interweaving these, but in the end, I chose a linear and less ‘arty’ approach – wanting people to have fun watching this film was my first priority.
GB: How much influence did the South Australian setting have on Swerve? After all, we are of the murder capitals of the world.
CL: I’ve chosen not to work overseas – South Australia is my home. So all my films will naturally have a SA setting, or as in the case of Black and White [another of Craig’s films], dramatise a SA story.
GB: There are a lot of big names involved in Swerve – did it take much convincing to get them involved?
CL: Actually, no. Jason Clarke was first on board – my producer Helen Leake and I decided he would make a great ‘Frank’ – an unhinged town cop. It’s the pivotal role. So we sent his agent the script, who sent it over to him in the US where he was working. We had a conversation over the phone, discussed the part and the style of the film and he agreed straight away. Emma Booth liked the script and was keen to play a quite different role to what she had done before – a femme fatale. Then we approached David Lyons, who we thought would make the ideal “nice guy” who gets caught up in the web of intrigue. Actors like Roy Billing, Chris Haywood, Travis McMahon and Vince Colosimo took no convincing – they liked the script and just wanted to be involved.
GB: A lot of sources have said that Swerve marks the ends of a 'slump' in the South Australian film industry; do you feel that's apt?
CL: The only way to avoid a ‘slump’ is for South Australians to go and see local productions when they are on in the cinema and not just wait for the DVD to come out or the TV release.
GB: Where do you see the SA film industry going in the future?
CL: The film industry nation-wide is actually very small; it may be that younger people entering the storytelling game will focus less on film and move on to smaller screens, such as TV and cable. Making good quality film stories still requires significant resources, even with digital technology. 80% of the budget is people costs.
GB: Are there plans to take Swerve globally?
CL: The film has been very well received internationally and it has sold to all the major territories including North America, UK, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia etc. It has also been screened in two US International Film Festivals and will be featured in another in the next few weeks. We also have the rare opportunity of a theatrical release in the US later this year. All of this is excellent for our future projects.
- No Related Posts... yet