The Weekend Edition’s Lauren Barker had the opportunity to sit down with David during a recent trip to Brisbane to talk fear, childhood and success.
We’ve included an excerpt below. You can read the interview in it’s entirety at ‘The Weekend Edition’. Great insightful read!
First of all, congratulations on the film! When you watch the finished product now, do you ever have moments when you think there’s something you’d like to tweak or could have done differently? Or once you’re finished with it, can you let it go?
I’m reasonably good at letting them go. I’ve had a slightly different experience this time to the one I had with Animal Kingdom. With the last movie, it was only a few weeks after we’d finished it that we were at Sundance watching it with an audience, so everything was still fresh in my mind – I usually walk out of the sound mix with a hundred things I’m not sure about. But with The Rover, we finished it in about November last year and I didn’t watch it again until we were at Cannes in May so it was great because I really just enjoyed it. I couldn’t remember any of those things that I wasn’t sure about and it just felt good … I don’t know what other people are going to think but I think The Rover is clearly a better movie than Animal Kingdom; it feels like a far more muscular and considered execution of my original intent.
Do you think that’s simply due to time because it’s your second feature?
I think a little bit, yeah. I’m just a bit more experienced and part of the proof in that pudding is the fact that on Animal Kingdom there were about 20–30 deleted scenes and in The Rover, there’s one and it’s tiny. I’m proud of Animal Kingdom and it’s a pretty accurate reflection of what I wanted the movie to feel like, but it was a movie that we were massaging and finding all the way through the process, whereas this one felt much clearer in its intent all the way through.
How was your headspace approaching your second film? Did the success of Animal Kingdom make you more confident and comfortable with the process, or did it put extra pressure on you?
The latter. The movies are always terrifying; you fear what it might mean if you make a big mess of it. And I’ve made messes of things before. The early shorts I made at film school were embarrassing and I never wanted to feel that again. When I made those shorts I don’t remember feeling that terror, I remember just thinking, ‘This is cool, we’re making movies. Aren’t we cool.’ And sure enough, the end result was just sort of lazy. It wasn’t until I started fearing walking on set that it felt like the work took a step up.
So the fear helps.
Yeah, fear is a pretty powerful motivating source!
You said there was one deleted scene, what can you divulge about that?
It involves that little girl … That’s all I’m going to say.
Was writing the script a fairly smooth process, or did you suffer from serious writer’s block like the rest of us?
Writing is never smooth. It’s hard work, and it should be. The plot of The Rover is very simple and I didn’t want to make another movie that was as sprawling and complex as Animal Kingdom, I wanted to make something that felt very spare and elemental. But I also wanted to make sure that it felt very layered on a character, story and thematic level. And that’s where the work gets done.
Do you have any pre-requisites for writing, like total silence or being out in the world? Does it change?
I need a quiet space. I can’t work in a cafe or outside or in a public space, I can’t do it. I can’t work when there’s music playing but I can weirdly work if I’m in my house and there are people roaming around. When I’m in the zone, I’m very good at blocking things out – and then the challenge becomes letting things in when you actually need to live your life.
How did you go about choosing the filming locations in South Australia?
I’d never been to that part of the world, or even the desert, before I started scouting for this movie. I had a lot of conversations with people about different parts of Australia that might be appropriate. There was a lot of variety I needed within a manageable geographic sphere, and frequently people would say there are places in Australia that are amazing but they’re amazing in exactly the same way for three days in every direction. And that’s one of the things that’s incredible about the Flinders Ranges – the distances are vast, but you can find all sorts of different things in a little pocket of the world. So you go out to these places and it’s all about whether you can see these different scenes.
And straight away you could?
Yeah there were a couple of towns in particular, like Hammond, Marree and Copley that just straight away I thought this was the texture of the movie, I could see it.
And in terms of the cast, I know you wrote the role of Eric for Guy Pearce but you hadn’t seen Robert Pattinson in any of the Twilight films – how did he come into it?
I just had a random Hollywood meeting with him. Because Animal Kingdom got so much attention, you pretty much straight away get put on the meeting circuit, you do it for months and you do a few a day, and you just meet hundreds of people – studio executives and producers and a lot of actors, so Rob was one of them. I’d also learnt very early on to not pre-judge actors based on what I thought their work was. Because very often – and Rob is a classic example of this – they take jobs that they’re incredibly lucky to get, and often at a very young age, and you can’t blame them for that. I met Rob and instantly liked him, so when it came time to start testing for The Rover, I wanted to see what he could do. That was the last great unknown – how good an actor are you actually? He came in and tested for me and it was exhilarating because straight away I could see the character. It’s interesting that you should ask that question straight after asking about locations because in a way they are the first two most important things for me. This is where the movie lives – it’s the people who are going to bring the characters to life and the places that you put them in, and then everything else after that just becomes like decoration …