CAT SICK BLUES Filmmaker Dave Jackson Talks New Project GACHA GACHA!
Dave Jackson, the dark force behind the 2015 Monster Fest award-winner (Best Australian Film), CAT SICK BLUES, returns with an all-new short that features a stop-motion animated Tanuki! Titled GACHA CACHA, it’s a tale of dangerous obsession and the short-lived highs of being a collector. We caught up with Dave to discuss his nightmarish vision, his tightrope balance of tone and his decision to use crowdfunding as a means to produce his latest short.
Your projects thus far, have a dark and idiosyncratic nature – why do you think this is the case? Is it a reflection of your unique tastes in film?
My mother has probably wondered the same thing many, many times. Honestly, I really don’t know why I lean towards certain themes and a certain tone. I have a pretty broad taste in films. I like light and fluffy stuff as much as dark and twisted stuff, as long as the actual filmmaking is good. I think if you exist solely on a diet of a single type of movie, you’re missing out. I don’t actively try and recreate films I like, but I’ve noticed when I go back and watch my older stuff I can see the influences. I need a good solid amount of time after making of it to see that influence though. Recently I rewatched a show called FEVER DREAMS I made with my friend Pierre ages ago and I could see every Shinya Tsukamoto styled shot that I had subconsciously ripped off. But that’s style rather than the nature of the work. I’m not sure where the darkness comes from. I watched a lot of horror as a kid and teenager… it always fascinated me… and my older brother had a lot of nasty comics lying around that I probably shouldn’t have read. I’m sure that warped my filmmaking leanings. But I guess it also comes down to a form of release. Those who know me vaguely probably see me as a pretty light, goofy person, but I think people who really know me see that I’m quite a broken person full of self-loathing and negativity. Haha. The stuff I make is likely a way to push it out of my system, so I can get on with acting like a clown in daily life.
CAT SICK BLUES contains a lot of confronting and downright disturbing imagery. Were you aiming to ‘provoke’ the audience, and what is your response to criticism from audiences who found the film too dark or confronting?
We knew it would have some disturbing moments and I like outrageous films. I think we wanted to surprise and shock, but we weren’t aiming to hurt and provoke. People were certainly a lot more horrified and sickened by CAT SICK BLUES than I expected. When Andrew and I wrote the film’s nastier moments, it mostly came from staying true to the characters and the depressing world around them. There were a few sequences and pieces of dialogue that were too much in the script that I took out, so it could have been worse! I don’t know if I really have a response to audiences who found the film too confronting or too dark. I think it’s totally fair to think whatever you want about the film. I’m obviously too emotionally attached to the film to be able to know what I would think of it as an audience member. Maybe I’d be upset by it too!
CAT SICK BLUES walks the line between outright horror and absurdity, while also containing emotional moments were you really feel for the characters. How tricky is it to balance all these different elements in one film?
Well, I’m sure many would say we didn’t pull off that balance! Haha. Whether you think it succeeds or not, I was trying to go for a tone that made people want to laugh but also feel unsure whether they could laugh. I’ve talked about it before, but the tone of Takashi Miike’s GOZU was a big influence on CAT SICK BLUES. I love the way that film is funny and deeply disturbing at the same time, rather than switching from scares to laughs between scenes. It is difficult to maintain that tone, and it meant a lot of stuff in the script got the chop for edging too far into the absurd. In the editing process, we hacked out a number of big scenes because we felt they pushed the balance off. If you flick through the deleted scenes on the DVD, you’ll get the idea. The emotional moments came from the honesty that Shian and Matt brought to their roles. I didn’t want them to be caricatures, and I definitely think you can see the incredible effort and depth they brought to their roles.
After completing CAT SICK BLUES, you moved to Japan (which was obviously integral to your upcoming short film, GACHA GACHA). How do you think Japanese culture has coloured your filmmaking style, and in particular your approach to GACHA, GACHA?
Before even moving to Japan, there were a lot of Japanese directors that have had a huge impact on my style. Shinya Tsukamoto is probably my favourite filmmaker. Miike is up there too. I’m sure their influence will indirectly be in there somewhere. I’m also obsessed with the fucked up films of Hisayasu Sato, so some of his grim, sickening framing and pacing will make it into GACHA GACHA.
The biggest influence from Japan has simply been living here. Specifically, witnessing the collector culture and fan culture here, which is on a whole other level to any other country’s geekdom. There is an obsessive fan for anyone and anything here—from a bunch of guys terribly singing karaoke on the street surrounded by girls silently filming them to capsule toys of replica post office boxes. It’s proper madness, but I can totally see how easy it is to become entirely consumed by something here because everything is built towards the nature of collecting and consuming.
CAT SICK BLUES features some really inventive (and disturbing) practical effects, and from what we’ve seen of ‘the creature’ in GACHA GACHA you’re continuing that trend here. Why the love for such elaborately grotesque set pieces?
It’s not as prominent as it was in CAT SICK BLUES, but yes, it’s still there. To me, practical effectwork is about as purely cinematic as cinema gets. I love looking at beautifully crafted effects and wondering how the hell they were pulled off. Even dodgy practical effects have an innate charm because of the effort they represent. I know it’s popular to shit on CGI these days, and I’ve been guilty of it too, but I think it can be used wonderfully in tandem with practical effects (see THE SHAPE OF WATER). But I can’t handle horror that’s all digital. I need the crustiness and hands-on artistry of a puppet or a gross fake wound. I have an insane respect for propmakers and special make-up effects artists. The work that went into the practical effects in CAT SICK BLUES was staggering, and Liz and her team were inspiring to watch work.
You used Kickstarter support to complete CAT SICK BLUES, and have also launched a campaign for GACHA, GACHA. Does Kickstarter play a vital role in ensuring unique projects (like yours) achieve the proper support?
Absolutely! While my own savings made up much of the budget of CAT SICK BLUES, there is absolutely no way I could have made it without Kickstarter. I can’t see any studio getting behind a film that features a dream sequence with an exploding cat. GACHA GACHA is not as violent or gross as CAT SICK BLUES, but it is perhaps just as weird and unsellable, so crowdfunding is really the only way to have any kind of money to play with. Also, Kickstarter creates a different kind of support. It fosters a community. People can become a part of making a movie. As someone who has supported Kickstarters before, it’s a pretty delightful feeling.
Any advice for aspiring indie filmmakers you can share from personal experience?
If you’re planning to do a Kickstarter, take it seriously. We spent months prepping before both of our Kickstarters. It is not a walk in the park. It’s constant self-promotion. Relentless pushing and prodding at people to get involved. Think of decent rewards. Make the step ups in quality make sense. Put an effort into the description and video. I’ve not supported Kickstarters I’ve actually wanted to support before because I found the rewards nonsensical or I didn’t trust them to finish the film. Something I’ve fucked up before, set your amount for what you actually need, because once you tip over that goal point, the pledges will most likely slow down or disappear completely. And actually deliver. If people don’t get something after backing you, you’re pretty much done as a crowdfunding filmmaker, and rightly fucking so.
I don’t think I should really be allowed to give advice on filmmaking. I don’t make my living from filmmaking. But in more general terms, I think it’s important to decide what you care about. Is this a hobby? A career? For me filmmaking is a creative escape, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make money out of it, and I feel okay with that. I think that kind of decision dictates what you’re going to make, unless you’re someone who has found the perfect balance of artistic satisfaction and consumerism. I mean, it does happen, but don’t set yourself up for disappointment.
I think it’s also important to know that once you finish a film and it’s out for the public to see, prepare for basically everyone who watches it to have a different idea of what you were going for. A film has a life of its own once it leaves your hands. That’s a great thing, but it can also be a massive slap in the face. People will misinterpret, reinterpret, place meaning where you didn’t see it, tear you to shreds, praise you for things you don’t want to be praised for. As a fairly private person with a lot of anxiety, I find this to be the most nightmarish aspect of filmmaking. People always seem surprised when they see me pale, hunched over, ready to vomit at a premiere or screening of something I’ve made. “Surely, this is the best part,” I’ve heard many times. It’s not. It’s pure terror. And any filmmaker who enjoys it… well, I have to question their sanity.
Finally – is there a possibility that GACHA GACHA may lead onto a feature like CAT SICK BLUES did?
100% nope. This is just a short film. I have a feature idea that I’m hoping to make while I’m in Osaka. I’m really, really pumped to make it, and I hope I can. We’ll see how we go with GACHA GACHA first!
GACHA GACHA is just $300 shy of reaching its $3, 348 goal and with less than a week to go, you can play your part in helping this dark vision come to light right here!