Q&A: Mason Fleming, 'Deighties'

Deighties

Tell us about you. What makes you tick? What keeps you up at night?

I’ve never been motivated by the advice “do something that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning”, because in my experience, the most rewarding work is what stops you from going to bed in the first place. Thinking about films could keep me up until dawn if I let it - I’d say it’s a healthy mix of inspiration and addiction! I’ve always loved stories that explore the odd grey area of human emotion - the one’s that aren’t entirely sad and aren’t entirely humorous, instead they exist in a weird little space in between.

Why films? And why this film?

I think films can be incredibly powerful as a catalyst for empathy. With Deighties, empathy was always the objective. I’ve noticed a collective blind eye turned to the notion of the elderly needing intimacy. I’ve always loved that Deighties tells an emotionally universal story. It acknowledges that everybody will age, everybody will feel loneliness and love, and everybody needs companionship. If the film can allow audiences to feel empathy towards the people within it, or even better towards the elderly as a whole, in a way that would be the perfect answer to this question.

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?  

It was my first time making an observational documentary like this, so I was expecting there to be a great learning curve in the process. There was every possibility that the date could have gone horribly wrong, and as a result the entire film could very well have been dead on arrival. Even though we had no budget, and a team of student filmmakers, the process was remarkably smooth. I think the biggest hurdle of the entire process was me teaching Phil (our 87 year old subject) how to answer a mobile phone. I think he accidentally hung up on his date about 6 times. In terms of behind the scenes gossip, there was only one romance during the making of the film, and that was the one we made our film about!  

When your dreams have all come true in five years time, where will we find you and what will you have made?

With a bit of luck, and a lot of work, I hope to have directed more series-based content that contains the same emotional signature as Deighties. I think the question of where i’ll be down the track is one i’ll never really have an answer to, because in a way it’s always seemed irrelevant to where i’ll actually be. All I can hope for is that the wind takes me to more work that connects with people, regardless of where, when or what that is! Either that or I’ll be famous in Hollywood for directing the big budget superhero reboot of Blinky Bill.

What's the best advice you've been given / would give to other independent filmmakers?

I’ve been lucky enough to have been personally given advice by two great mentors: The first was by legendary cinematographer, Don McAlpine (Romeo + Juliet, Predator, My Breaker Morant): “Hit them with the golden sledgehammer.” I’m admittedly still deciphering this one as I go along, but what I think it means is this: that in this modern age, we don’t have time to play coy with audiences and give them half-hearted messages (or meaningless imagery). Rather, we should hit them with the golden sledgehammer, give them everything we’ve got and make sure every shot counts- to make absolutely certain that the audience goes home feeling the way what you wanted them to. The second was from a directing mentor, Simon McQuoid (director of the upcoming Mortal Kombat reboot), who one day shared with me what he believed to be the most important role of a director: “A director hires the right people.” Simon’s advice was a bit less cryptic, but just as vital. Without a great producer, writer, cinematographer and pool of talent working with them, a director is absolutely nothing. I think that’s a really important lesson.

Deighties is an official selection film in our upcoming film festival with Vivid Ideas in Sydney on Sunday June 4th. Tickets on sale via Giant Dwarf

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