The Vend Drive-by: James Findlay

A graduate of the University of New South Wales Media Communications Degree, James Findlay has written and directed a variety of short films and documentaries over the years.  His horror short, ZZZZ, screened in festivals around Australia and the UK, winning the Audience Award at the 2004 Eyescream Film Festival and scooping second prize in the National Trasharama Film Fest.  In 2005, he received funding from the New South Wales Film and Television Office’s Young Filmmakers Fund to direct the short film VEND, which won Best Film of the Fest at the Very Short Movies festival in Hollywood as well as Best Experimental Film at the very same festival in 2007 and Best Short Film at the 23rd Annual St Kilda Film Festival 2006.

1. I love the short film form because …
… unlike feature films which are inherently conservative with their narrative, shorts can explore a wider universe, taking their audiences to places features can’t and won’t. You could say that short films boldly go where mainstream cinema fears to tread! Also the simple fact that short films are short in length often punctuates what the filmmaker is trying to say – this can be used to great effect.

… and I hate the short film form because …there’s not enough funding/investment for them. This inhibits development of young filmmakers who need to be exposed to professional crew and technologies in order to gain experience and cut their teeth on bigger productions. This has always surprised me given that Australian short films travel to more festivals around the world than features, arguably acting as better cultural ambassadors!

2. The impetus behind Vend was …
… Vend came about when I was working on a particularly boring job and every day I would go to the Vending machine for a can of soft drink. I eventually became curious with this machine and its part in my daily rituals and imagined a man trapped in the machine itself, mirroring my drudgery dispensing the soft drink behind the colourful perspex logo. The world that eventually sprung up around the characters in the film was influenced by my love of the alternate universes created in films like Brazil and City of Lost Children.

3. What drew you to Sisters?
Sisters was a fantastic scenario for a short film, contained action, touching characters and an absurdly disturbing scenario which was eerily moving. I was keen to explore relationships between women, as it was an area I hadn’t delved into before as a filmmaker and this story did that in a wonderfully surreal and poignant way.

4. Where to from here with your film making career?
More shorts! – I’m currently adapting Angela Slatter’s beautiful short story “The Jacaranda Wife” into a short film as well and am working on a feature film script set in historical Tasmania. I’m also currently in the early stages of a research Masters at Sydney University looking at representations of convicts in film and television and their effects on social understandings of convict histories which is both a fascinating and terrifying process at the same time.

5. Donuts or danishes?
Jam donuts all the way!


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