Photography by Josien Van Oostveen

Photography by Josien Van Oostveen

Examining your short films, you can see there’s a rich tone to all of them, a unique and strong sense
of storytelling with attention to detail and human portraits. What do you feel over time has curated
your sense of storytelling and what inspirations do you draw from?

I think just everyday life. I’m not really interested in fantasy stories or high concept stuff. I can’t find it relatable. I much prefer mundane things, and the beauty in them. It’s a very cliche answer but if you’re not writing about what you know, then what the hell are you writing about? I love Vanitas paintings. Artists like Caravaggio. In those works, there isn’t a single object that doesn’t mean something. Everything is symbolic. I think that’s had a strong influence on my work, especially with regards to set design etc. Other Filmmakers such as Mike Nichols, Sofia Coppola, Charlie Kaufman and Noah Baumbach have all had big influences.

 

In your new film, ‘Junk Mail’, we look into the relationship between a father and son and the fragility of
people. What inspired this story and how did you produce it?

 

I’ve always been fascinated by comedians playing serious roles. Jim Carrey, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler. There’s such a haunting authenticity to their sadness because it goes so directly against what we associate those performers with. That’s why I wanted Joe for the lead, I wanted a comedian. I think the first iteration of the idea was a tiny little note about a character who’d tried to end his own life but had only jumped from the second floor and broken his ankle. It sort of stuck with me until slowly over a year or two, it got embellished with more plot and became fleshed out. Junk Mail articulates a type of frustration we’ve all encountered when trying to help loved ones and ourselves through a tricky time, but there's no direct parallel with me and my Dad or anything like that. It just came about like any other idea. Too much beer and a blurry tube ride home.

 

When did you first start making films and what advice would you give to those who also want to
pursue filmmaking as a career?

 

I think I was 11 when I made my first film. Been doing it pretty consistently ever since, though that’s not to say
I’ve got any better haha. I don’t really think I’m far enough along in my career to be giving life advice, but from what I’ve learnt so far, surround yourself with as many talented, creative people as possible and it will make the insecure and hysterical midnight meltdowns a lot easier to deal with. Being fostered by an equally angst-ridden creative network of mates is the most effective coping mechanism I’ve found.

What do you find most inspiring about working in a collaborative art such as film? Do you have a core
team of people you find yourself working with or do the people you work with change project to project?

 

I definitely move between projects with the same team of people, if I can. It’s always exciting to work with new people, but equally the familiarity of a creative family can be lovely. Working with new people is a great way to put new spins on old ideas. Shit gets fairly dusty up inside your head; the collaborative nature of a film crew helps shine it all off.

 

 Photography by Josien Van Oostveen

Photography by Josien Van Oostveen

What was the first film you remember making?

It was either ‘The Cherie-Blair Witch Project’ or ‘Mistaken’. The Cherie-Blair Witch Project was a robust and
complex social-satire of the at-time PM’s wife and how she liked to haunt children. Pretty profound for an 11 year old. ‘Mistaken’ was about a case of mistaken identity and wrongful kidnapping. I played the Russian mob boss as well as the kidnap victim. I’m an incredibly versatile actor.

What were the first and last films you fell in love with?
 

First Film: Garden State, by Zach Braff. I watched it when I was way too young to ‘get it’ but I kept obsessively trying to understand it and I think through those repeated watches, something clicked inside. It’s like me and that film formed a life long bond. I don’t even care what other people say about it, I feel like that film is a third parent.

Last film: Love by Gaspar Noe. I re-watched it a couple of weeks ago and it’s just so brilliant. It’s fearless to the point of absurdity (ludicrously graphic) but equally sensitive and intimate. Generally if I fall in love with a film, it’s to do with things I’m dealing with at the time. Love perfectly articulates the selfish hysteria of heartbreak and all the other ridiculous things that come with the territory. I love Love. Lots of people hate it but I guess it’s just misunderstood.

 

Define the word ‘Human.’
 

Human was the third track on Goldfrapp’s debut album Felt Mountain. The album was highly regarded amongst critics, even being shortlisted for a Mercury Prize and the track has since been sampled in Kanye West’s ‘Freestyle 4’.

 

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Photographer: Josien Van Oostven

Instagram: @josinematography