Vertigo Chats to Aussie Director Simon Stone
By Taylor Denny
Simon Stone’s film directing debut The Daughter invites audiences to consider the meaning of family and sacrifice through resurfaced memories and revelations. The Australian film showcases the work of a brilliant and dominantly Australian cast while also setting the film in a non-distinct location that creates an international atmosphere for viewers. The film tells the story of a man who returns to his hometown and unearths a long-buried family secret. As he tries to right the wrongs of the past, his actions threaten to shatter the lives of those he left behind years before. The Daughter is a powerful piece of storytelling that allows audiences to feel and recognise their own lives and the lives of people around them.
Taylor Denny: Your film is an adaptation of Henrik Isben’s ‘The Wild Duck’, which was first performed at Belvoir St Theatre, what was it about this production/text that inspired you to create a film adaptation?
Simon Stone: He’s [Ibsen] amazing at creating extraordinary plots. Structures that in themselves are heart breaking and moving which is in the essence what story telling always has been. The idea that you can tell a story around a campfire, a pub, or to someone on the train and go, ‘oh god how awful would that be if that happened to you’ from just hearing the events that took place in someone’s life, those are the kind of stories that I look for. What you realise quite quickly the more that you do it is that The Wild Duck didn’t become a masterpiece because it was always going to be a masterpiece but because it proved its worth historically.
Denny: You’ve been directing people who “scare the shit out of you” for a while. What techniques do you use when you’re working with big names like Geoffrey Rush, Ewen Leslie, Paul Schneider?
Stone: For a long time I’ve been working with people who should scare the shit out of me. I started making theatre and I’ve directed Colin Friels, Robyn Nevin, Jackie Mckenzie, and Kerry Fox on stage. I think the public assumes that it’s intimidating to be in the same room as a celebrity but a celebrity becomes a celebrity because of who they were, not what they’ve invented.
Denny: You say a good director is a risk taker. How did you take risks in the film?
Stone: It’s the fundamental job of all artists to put themselves in jeopardy and share their most personal aspects with the world. It’s like giving the gift of saying, ‘you’re not the only human being out there that has thought like this, acted like this, reacted like this and behaved like this.’ So the kind of contract you have with all the people you’re making a film with is that you’ll all support each other in an open way in that nakedness where you’re sharing your souls with each other, and then ultimately sharing your soul with the audience.
Denny: One of the challenges you faced was restricted time as you only had eight weeks between getting confirmation and beginning shooting. How did you maintain a focus on great storytelling and manage to get the job done?
Stone: When you have a pre production schedule that is incredibly shortened, which was my fault (I had to disappear to do a play in Amsterdam on the other side of the world), you have to make sure that you’re keeping an eye on the vision of the piece and not making compromises that don’t make the film better. Most compromises make films better, just like it makes pieces of art better. Some of them don’t and you have to keep your eyes out for the ones that are not going to make them better. Some of the greatest pieces of art in the world were made from the need to compromise, in fact I would say all of them have some kind of innovation at their core that was a response to their need to compromise.
‘The Daughter’ (2016) will be in cinemas from March 17th.