Cinema abounds with stories of individuals who staring into the economic abyss, find themselves taking desperate actions in order to survive. While often heightened on screen, struggling to make ends meet is an all too familiar daily reality for many of us and the underlying spark which led Australian directing duo kidsofbill (Harrison Friend and Samuel Stevenson) to conceive their low key story of a 19-year-old vagabond who holds up a service station for reasons much larger than himself. Below Harrison shares how his symbiotic partnership with Samuel and the aesthetics of small town Australia coalesced into compelling short film, Pighead.
Sam (co-director) and I had travelled to a rural Australian town called Lithgow a few times with other projects and having scouted the place, we came to realise the socio-demographic profile portrayed an incredibly interesting slice of life. So we began simmering the idea behind Pighead.
At the risk of sounding too dramatic, as a relatively young filmmaker, there’s a daily pressure to life that comes with a low security, low success rate profession. When you have thoughts of the future, of family, you begin to wonder how it will all work. Placing a young man in a lower socio-demographic environment with sole responsibility of a young child, that was something that felt very tense, very urgent to us. Then, of course, you ask yourself how far would you go to provide for the ones you love, and well, we’ve seen that answered many times throughout cinema history, it’s usually pretty far.
As a relatively young filmmaker there’s a daily pressure to life that comes with a low security, low success rate profession.
We didn’t set out to defy genre conventions or create something incredibly unique, in fact, it was quite the opposite. We really wanted to work inside a simple narrative that felt tonally compelling and try and execute as well as we could under the conditions. The goal quickly became to tell a story in as short a time as possible. This was largely due to budget restrictions, meaning that we were very time poor, and very light on gear (we shot in two days). However, we also saw telling a story at 4 minutes as a test of craft and film language. If we could convey the ethical weight on his shoulders as well as transport the audience into his bleak environment, then we would know we’re growing as filmmakers.
Pighead is our fourth short film. We’ve worked with ranging budgets, crew sizes, gear, etc. The greatest production challenge in regards to Pighead was that Sam and myself were taking on almost every role in production and post. In some ways, the jack-of-all-trades method of making shorts is a real pain, to make it work we had to wholeheartedly trust and rely on our Actor Sam Payne and each other to execute. This means having a symbiotic partnership with whoever’s involved and that is the benefit of a filmmaking duo. The bouncing of ideas, the crutch to lean on, they’re all necessities when it comes to crunch time on set.
Scouting and locations became our most important tool. We love the idea of world building, transporting the audience to a place we’ve designed and controlling the tone. With little resources, the best way was to nail the locations. The small town of Lithgow is the reason Pighead works.
In some ways, the jack-of-all-trades method of making shorts is a real pain.
We shot on a Blackmagic URSA mini 4.6k, lensed predominantly with an old, worn out nifty fifty as well a Rokinon Cine Lens kit. We didn’t use any lighting throughout the film and the sound mix was recorded through a boom onto a H5N, no ADR, no foley.
Editing and grading were done by ourselves on DaVinci Resolve, the drawback here is that it’s very difficult to get a polished look to anything when you’re relying on your own skills across the entire process. However, over time we’ve worked a rough and raw tone into our directing style out of necessity – I think moving forward it will always be a part of the look and feel of our work.