Filmmaker Q&A: Michael Raso (Solitide)
We were stoked to showcase the first film that Michael Raso has ever made at our Summer Season festival. Michael gave us a cheeky look behind the scenes and passed on some solid advice for indie filmmakers. Solitude took home the award for Best Drama at our 2017 Summer Season screening.
Tell us about you, what makes you tick?
What motivates me is the enjoyment of sharing an idea I've thought about for a long time with an audience, and seeing how they react to it. I try to think of unique ideas that are relatable to a very diverse range of people, not just one type of age group or peer group.
Why film? And why this film?
When I was very young my dad exposed me to his large collection of old black and white and technicolor films. He doesn't work in the industry, it was just something we generally did, watching old films from the Golden Years of Hollywood. That sparked my interest in film, but it was many years later until I finally made my first film, Solitude. The reason I decided to make it was because my sister said it was a great idea. There were many ideas I had before Solitude, but my sister felt they weren't worthy enough to be made. So her approval was quite important.
What happened behind the scenes on this one? Did you have a budget? Did you have to pull any wild favours to get it made? Was it your first time?
Solitude was my first film production and cost $20,000 to make. I hadn't produced a film before, and I never went to film school. So my knowledge in producing was very vague. Almost each day during pre-production a new crisis would occur that I had to deal with. The most difficult part was acquiring the train station. A lot of the budget went into that, as well as hiring safety officers, doing safety reports, having all of the correct insurances in place. The rest of the budget went to the cast and crew and catering. Probably the best preparation I did was my storyboarding. I drew every shot by hand and that really helped me understand exactly what I needed to get on each day of shooting. Probably the most interesting thing that occurred during filming was the platform we were given wasn't meant to have trains running on it. The script did call for trains to stop on the platform where the old lady was sitting, but only weeks before filming I was told that no trains would be stopping on that platform. But by complete chance, when we started to shoot there was a black out at another train station and they had to divert the trains onto the line we were shooting on. So we got the trains stopping on the platform we were shooting on which was amazing.
Where will you be in 5 years time?
In five years time I hope to have made a few more interesting short dramas like Solitude, and have developed a better understanding about directing. I'd never directed before, so I pretty much just let the actors do what they wanted. I do have a feature film in development, which is a huge deviation from drama, but we'll see what happens with that.
What advice would you give to other independent filmmakers?
I guess probably the best advice I can give is believe it's possible. I'd never made a film before, I'd never been to film school, I didn't quite understand much about producing a film, but I believed I had a good idea and I just kept at it. Solitude has since won up to ten awards internationally. So persistency, tenacity and determination I think is very important.
Born in Frankston Victoria, Michael's passion for film came from watching black and white and technicolor films from his father's collection. From working at a local Television Museum to Channel 31, Michael was always going to work in the film industry.
Starting out as a Production Runner on Rove Live, he now works with all the free to air networks on major sporting events and reality shows as a camera op. He's helped on low budget features in Melbourne and Sydney with JD Cohen, and many short films. His ambition to direct and tell his own stories led him to write Solitude, a story inspired by love and devotion.