Living Between What?

Alex Munt spells it out

Toby Schmitz (l) with director Alex Munt
Toby Schmitz (l) with director Alex Munt

I met Alex Munt a couple weeks ago at a seminar on low-budget filmmaking at the University of Technology in Sydney, attended by screen academics, filmmakers, digital cinematographers, Australian screen-industry funding and distribution bodies, and film students. The event capped with a screening of my film Harmony and Me, and Munt stayed for the Q&A. We talked a bit afterward, mostly about Austin and SXSW, and a few days later, I sent him some prompts about his debut feature, LBF.

Genesis of the 'LBF' Project

"I'd have to say failure. I was trying to write a screenplay based around a set of themes about a young guy (late 20s) landing back in Sydney from time away in Europe – a kind of generic condition today. Anyway, it wasn't really going anywhere but I didn'treally want to move on from the premise. Then I stumbled across the novel Living Between Fucks (by Cry Bloxsome) in a book store – not really looking for material to adapt at that stage. Anyway, the synopsis on the back read something like, 'Goodchild, ayoung writer, just off the jet lands back home for his ex-girlfriend's funeral, The Dead Girl ...' I bought the novel, it's a slimnumber, and read it in a single sitting with an eye to a screenplay and it clicked, and enabled me to funnel in some of the fragments of screenplay I had been working towards on and off for a while."

When You Started To Think You Had a Good Idea

"LBF was in an organic state of production from the get-go, so it's hard to answer. We started out doing a week or so of fairly conventional low-budget film production which I actually found pretty boring – as a process that is. I looked back at that material and thought, We need to change track here. From then on, it really became completely fragmented –rewriting, going to shoot scenes, going to shoot bands, getting different characters often one on one to do script parts. But it was always: writing/editing/shooting/writing .... This is referred to as a kind of digital 'scripting' where accessibility/affordability of digital cinema can beexploited to kind of 'write' the film. Of course, one here thinks of [French film critic and filmmaker Alexandre] Astruc's 'camera-pen,' which became one of the manifestos ofthe New Wave. Back to LBF, I guess once we started to juxtapose scenes in the edit suite I thought, yeah, I kind of like the shifts in the film. In LBF there's a series of black chapter cards for the present ('The Beautiful Financial Backer') and colour onesfor the past ('The Dead Girl') so these juxtapositions became interesting to me. But being in 'production' (in the loosest possible sense) over a relatively long period of time (compared to the six-week shoots of a typical indie project) also creates a distance with the material – which I think is actually constructive. Saying this, the two-year LBF process wasn't altogether by design – pragmatic delays happen along the way, the editor Andrew Soo got booked for a two-month TV series gig – so waiting is part of this game."

The Movies That Inspired

"I was kind of obsessed by Masculin Féminin (1966) by Godard around the time of thinking about LBF. It seems to me one of thosefilms that won't go away, and has inspired some fascinating films from Greg Araki, Dagur Kari, and others. In Masculin Féminin, from that seminal New Wave period – the curious blend of narrative (inspired/adapted from Maupassant) and Jean Rouch-inspired'reportage' about the world makes [for] a film that struggles to maintain its overall form as the parts head out in different directions. In any case, I don't believe LBF aligns much with Masculin Féminin – it's just that weird thing when you have inspiration layered over something else that doesn't necessarily correlate – but still makes for an interesting result. ...One film which I watch over and over is The Graduate (1967) which I think is close to a perfect film: photography, performance, soundtrack, style. For LBF, the other movie which inspired was Gus Van Sant's debut feature Mala Noche (1986), which is a DIY adaptation made in the mid-Eighties for $20K. His use of voiceover narration, from Walt Curtis' source material, showed me that adaptation can work at the microbudget scale."

'Love. Loss. Desperation.' What's in a Tagline?

"It implies the themes of LBF but doesn't give the tone of the thing, so I had to add somewhere 'a pop-artfilm'. And I guess what I mean by that is the treatment of those potentially 'heavy' themes is treated in a way more akin to a three-minute pop song. LBF is a music-film, and when you think about songs, lyrics, melody – they are powerful tools to generate emotion as 'narrative' in a minimalist kind of way. And in LBF, Goodchild's investigation into LOVE is really an existential one, inthe fact that he generally refers to a secondary source, a step removed, his favourite books, records, things as evidence of thething itself. I think of that great scene in Manhattan (another perfect film) when Issac's (Allen) answer to why life is ultimately worth living is just a list of symphonies, novels, Swedish movies."

Worst Moments on Set?

"Sad to report nothing that notable outside the normal paranoia, alienation, doubt that is filmmaking, and most creative pursuits. ... The lead – played by upcoming Australian actor Toby Schmitz – is central to the film, in nearly every frame. Once we got a certain point – when the end was in sight after a protracted process – I had strange thoughts/nightmares: What if Toby just disappears? Like, goes to Europe or something or gets hit by a bus? The film would hover forever at this close-to-finished state. Then again, there's always a back up plan to finish films – postmodern tactics and all."


LBF

Spotlight Premieres, World Premiere

Friday, March 11, 9pm, Alamo Lamar A

Sunday, March 13, 7pm, Rollins

Thursday, March 17, 1pm, Alamo Ritz 1

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

LBF, Alex Munt, Toby Schmitz, Living Between Fucks, Cry Bloxsome, Jean-Luc Godard, Alexandre Astruc, Andrew Soo

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