Written by Luke Creely
Playground is our most ambitious film to date. During the development phase of pre-production, and when we first announced the film on our website and on Socials, we used the words ‘bigger’ and ‘better’. This was our intention. Bigger production crews, bigger ideas, a bigger budget, and better production values, better execution, better people. 3 weeks out from Principal photography, the two Bs are still as prominent as ever – driving us, motivating us, pushing us to reach more prominent heights. We wanted to get better, we wanted to go bigger, and as we prepare for our on-location, all-weekend shoot at Cricket Willow on May 1, 2 and 3, I can safely say that we have not only achieved these goals, but exceeded them.
Playground excites me more than any other creative project I’ve been involved in. Jack and I had a vision. I put that vision on paper. I devised the film in my head and watched it over and over. I shared that vision with Jack. And to have our Production Crew fully in tune with this vision and to have everyone so exuberant and committed to helping us not only fulfil but surpass it – wow, that’s all a director can ask for. I feel very lucky to have the team I do.
Our film is essentially a celebration of Australia’s cinematic history, its unique iconography, specific male film archetypes in the tradition of actors John Jarratt and Jack Thompson, and the pristine Victorian landscape deep within an isolated bush setting. When planning the shots, camera frames and visual style of the film, particular Australian films were in the back of my mind as reference points: Picnic At Hanging Rock, Walkabout, Wake In Fright, Sunday Too Far Away, Mad Max 1 & 2 and, of course, Wolf Creek, the film which has inspired me most. Like Will Gibson did on Wolf Creek (the film’s DP), Tim, our DP, will shoot the film from over his shoulder to capture a handheld ‘shaky cam’ aesthetic style. In conjunction with the innate ‘Australianness’ of Playground, our film is, at its heart, a horror film. Australian horror films like Wolf Creek and the more recent The Babadook are reference points, but we will also reference classic horror tropes from Evil Dead, Deliverance, and adopt similar filming patterns to found footage films such as The Blair Witch Project. Additionally, stylistic and editing choices present in many European films, particular French cinema and the work of Michael Haneke (films such as Cache and Amour), and the actor performances and camera techniques pioneered in the US micro-budget Mumblecore movement – the films of Joe Swanberg particularly – have inspired the artistic vision for Playground. By blending these distinct influences into our film, my aim is for Playground to foster a fresh and unique Australian filmmaking style which operates on a number of complex and multi-faceted thematic and visual levels – in essence, a film carefully structured, carefully considered and storyboarded, with specific focus on film detail, camera composition and mise-en-scene.
In terms of story, our official Playground webpage features the following paragraph as a plot summary: “Playground is an Australian short horror/thriller film, set in Country Victoria, about two male friends – Stewart and Clint – who go on a weekend camping trip in the bush. Stewart is soon to be married to city-girl Liz and is moving from the country to live with her in the inner Melbourne suburbs. Having grown up together in the bush, Clint takes Stewart out for a ‘last hurrah’ in the country. The two friends drink, eat, smoke, and get drunk in the otherwise peaceful Australian bushland. Meanwhile, lurking in the distance, someone (or something) watches them, surveying their every move.”
Thematically, Playground, which will feature natural and raw performances by actors Rob Jackson and Cris Cochrane and a multitude of silent sequences which will put faith in the audience to pick up on subtext, is about deep psychological manipulation which often occurs subconsciously and between people in close, long-term relationships. It examines the toxic and co-dependent friendship between Stewart and Clint, the underlying tension between them, and the significant chasm between urban and rural life – specifically, in our case, between Country Victoria and the city.
With three weeks until Principal photography, Jack and I couldn’t be happier with the positive attitude and enthusiasm of our crew. Everyone is ready and raring to go. We are all set. 10kms of our marathon is down. The final 30kms will be tough, but we will get there, and we can’t wait to show everyone the final product at the finish line.