Here at Loud, we try to bring you an array of intriguing content, so we’ve ventured into new territory here with an exploration of the world of film. Shaun Katz is a young film-maker from Sydney who has recently directed and written a new short film, Sleeping in Blood City. The film’s score was co-written and performed by former Helmet/Handsome guitarist Peter Mengede. In part one of our investigation of the film, we talked to Katz about the making of the film, why he enlisted Mengede to score it, his favourite soundtracks and more.
Q: First of all, tell us about yourself and your origins as a film-maker.
A: I’m in my mid-20s, I moved to Sydney from South Africa and I’ve made three short/mid- length films. A few years ago I made a no-budget
feature which was selected in competition in the Melbourne Underground Film Festival and a few other regional festivals. Making a 60- minute film as my first attempt in writing/directing was an interesting experience and afterwards, the hope is that each film you manage to improve on from the last. Since Sleeping in Blood City had some money in it, it allowed me to really grow and push myself in ways I’d never previously attempted.
As for ‘inspiration’ that’s always changing and what might interest and inspire me the one day might not do so the next day. The main purpose of inspiration is to make you excited about what you’re doing, so it can come from anywhere I suppose. Overall, the most consistent form of inspiration is the people in my life.
Q: Tell us about Sleeping in Blood City – where did you derive yourinspiration from for it?
A: It’s a film about a hitman’s downfall, which all begins after he meets this woman; he’s thinking about her way too much and it begins to affect his work. The story is loosely based on a feature-length movie script I’ve been trying to get produced. As for the actual look and style of the film, I was inspired by an Anime film, Golgo 13, each scene in it had a different look and it kept trying new things. I began to wonder why more films weren’t as visually daring as that, so the cinematographer (James Caley) and I began to try out visuals that were hopefully a bit bolder, keeping in mind that we would have to apply these kinds of visuals for live action.
Q: How long was it in development for and how long did it take to complete?
A: I tried to put the film together in 2009, and it fell through. In 2010, I applied for funding for it through a government body, and when that didn’t work out, that was the moment I decided I was going to get it made no matter what, and it got funded privately between myself and someone else. It took six months to prepare and complete.
Q: Interesting. As an independent film-maker, what kind of battles do you face when trying to finance a film’s production to enable you to have a budget for elements such as music?
A: I’ve had to produce all my films myself, so far, which is a necessary evil, and every time I have completed something it’s been because of the people who were involved in the film. There are certain people who are willing to really get on board, they’re usually people who love what they do, and when you meet one of these people who are on the same page as you, they will go to amazing lengths to help you if they believe in what you’re doing. Those people are the key to getting a film made under financial strains. Not having financial resources during a production will always make life more difficult – but it won’t make it impossible. At the end of the day, the people that you meet can either be your greatest barrier or your greatest asset.
Q: You enlisted Peter Mengede to score the film. Why was he the right man for the job?
A: This was really exciting. Meantime and Strap It On were the two seminal Helmet albums and you could notice the change in the band after Peter left. Peter’s riffs are immediately identifiable by how dramatic they are, it’s almost like I’m listening to a story unfold when I hear him play. When I heard his other band, Handsome, that really blew me away, the one and only album they ever made has aged like a fine wine, it’s textures and emotional power are unbelievable. So I was really curious to see if Peter could take all these things that I admired so much about his music and try them out as film music.
Q: Can you describe the style and feel of the music that Peter wrote for the film and how you think it made it a better finished product?
A: Peter brought on his collaborator, Mark Bradridge, and together the two of them constantly amazed and surprised me with what they came up
with. I sent Peter and Mark three pieces originally as examples of the moods I was after, one piece by François de Roubaix, one by Howard Shore and one by Mogwai. For each piece I sent them, they sent back two or three pieces of their own. In the end they made so many pieces of music that I couldn’t use them all. Many of the pieces have the feel of old Italian composers, some of them are very bold and dramatic, some are more atmospheric and pulled back.
Because the film had little dialogue and was so reliant on atmosphere,the music was what brought everything to life. Each music piece in the film highlights the atmosphere of the story and its world, but mostly the music gave a richer context to the scenes and really lifted the film.
Q: As a director, what are the main qualities you look for when considering who to approach to score your film?
A: It depends on what I’m trying to achieve in the storytelling. Sometimes you want music to highlight certain points and other times you want music to completely play against what’s on the surface. You look for musicians who have certain strengths; in the case of Peter, I knew straight away that I wanted a musician whose music would cloud the film in intensity.
Q: What are some of your favourite film soundtracks/scores and why?
A: I really like Peter Gabriel’s score for The Last Temptation Of Christ: it’s haunting, and meets the searing visuals of that film head on. Obviously a lot of Ennio Morricone, but my favourite score ever has to be Clint Mansell’s score for The Fountain.
Q: That’s a vastly under-rated film in my view. What styles of music do you enjoy personally?
A: Lots of styles, but I have a particular soft spot for post-punk,like Quicksand, Big Black, Killing Joke, etc. I particularly like the different things that Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers) has done, as well as Al Jourgensen’s various bands. I like other stuff too, like Aretha Franklin or Prince.
Q: If people want to see Sleeping in Blood City, where can they do so?
A: If they like they can join up to the Facebook page and they will receive news on future screenings in different parts of the world, as well as news on when the film is available online further down the track.
Check out http://www.actorsedge.com.au/ for more details!