Melbourne based Film Maker Dia Taylor directed her first film "Marital Problems" at the age of 20. She also has an amazing collection of short films in her portfolio - including my favourite - the very moving "These Few Hours" which leaves you pondering the question "Would you?" after watching it. Dia is extremely talented and her passion for the craft is more than apparent in her selection of work. We had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Dia for the Australian Short Film Network Journal.
Welcome to The Australian Short Film Network Dia Taylor
Dia – Hey there, thanks for having me!
When did you realise that you wanted to create films?
Dia – I guess I’ve always sort of known. Originally I wanted to be a novelist though that is still a goal of mine. When I was a kid, my friends and I only ever played make believe where we would pretend to be these characters on these great adventures and in my head I could always visualize how the scenes would look and play out.
When I was about twelve, my aunt Silvana McCausland who was a filmmaker herself, got me to help out on a few of her sets, mainly her films ‘Chocolate Fetish’ in which I acted and ‘Rules is Rules’ where I was credited as 2nd AD but looking back was pretty much a production assistant haha.
It was on these sets that I really found myself and my passion for the art and went on to study it later on and make my own terrible little videos.
Who have been your biggest inspirations when it comes to film?
Dia – Tough question! I guess from a personal point of view it would be my Aunt who always supported me. But from a creative point of view… I guess I don’t really have just one person. Tom Hooper, director of ‘The King’s Speech’ would have to be my favourite director. Even from his early work, I’ve always loved the unique style he brings into his work, especially from a visual point of view. Julie Taymor would be another – director of ‘Across The Universe’ – both directors are heavily inspired by theatre which is my background. Baz Luhrman’s ‘Moulin Rouge’ was definitely an inspiration growing up, I use to play that film on repeat!
What is your favourite Australian film?
Dia – Hmm good question. If I’m being completely honest, I find it hard to resonate with many Australian films. I feel like our industry is heavily lacking in certain areas, that being said though… I did love ‘Snowtown’ for it’s realistic portrayal, ‘Beautiful Kate’ for it’s story. ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ of course, still breaks my heart to this day. ‘The Tunnel’ is a great Australian horror. I was lucky enough to work with one of it’s producers, great guy. The most recent Australian film I’ve liked though is a film that’s little known called ‘Triangle’. I honestly had no idea that it was Australian until the end. It’s a supernatural horror with a twist I guess you could say. Starring Liam Hemsworth, give it a watch!
Do you think that there is enough support for Australian film makers within Australia?
Dia – No. Not at all. Our industry – especially the mainstream industry is very clique in the way that newcomers have almost next to no hope of making it. I’m sick to death of seeing the same actors used again and again for every single role, I’m sick of reality stars getting roles that actually talented unknown independent actors have been trying to get for years. I’m sick of watching shows that are essentially just different versions of the same show. Cop drama after cop drama, real life crime! The Australian film industry is funded by the government and under our current arts hating conservative government, that isn’t much. Not to mention that we share our funding body with the games industry who get even less funding than we do. Our Government just wants to push tourism to Australia. That’s all. Gone are the days of Ozploytation! And to think our industry use to be world leaders. We created the world’s first feature film! ‘The True History Of The Kelly Gang’.
It’s just disheartening to see what our industry has become and how much it suffers. I always try and watch as many independent films from Australia as I can, because honestly, that’s where this industry’s talent is and the big guys need to realise. The English film industry is funded by the lottery, how great would that be?
Can you tell us about what you are currently working on?
Dia – I could but then I’d have to kill you! Haha I joke! Yeah of course! At the moment I’m currently in the post production stages of two short films; ‘Daughters’ which tells the story of a convict released from prison after fourteen years, who tries to connect with his estranged daughter, and ‘Little Miseries’, a zombie film about a woman who leads her zombie husband through the bush, searching for a cure. It’s been a tough road with the two films, especially ‘Little Miseries’ which, due to some unforeseen events, has taken almost five years to finalise. But we persist!
That being said, I am also in pre-production for my second directorial feature film ‘Jett’; which tells the story of a metal band in Melbourne’s underground music scene and all the dramas they face. This film has been in my heart for ten years now and it’s so exciting to finally be working on with such a fantastic cast and crew.
What is your favourite genre of film?
Dia – It’s always been musicals as terrible as that sounds haha. I don’t know, I’ve just always felt that there is a raw emotion that you get from music and song that you can’t get elsewhere. I mean, why else would films have soundtracks. My favourite film of all time is Tom Hooper’s 2012 version of ‘Les Miserables’ where he captures both the stage musical and the book perfectly. Maybe I was also just raised on too much Disney as a kid haha.
I’m also a sucker for fantasy, especially hard fantasy where the world of the story is set in a fantasy world rather than just one or two elements. I find though that lately this genre has been suffering with bad stories. They seem to focus too much on the shock and awe of the special effects and less about what we’re actually watching. An example of this that I saw recently was Luc Besson’s ‘Valerian and the City of a thousand worlds’. It was visually beautiful, just watching it you felt intoxicated by the world. I mean this is the director of ‘The Fifth Element’ for pete sake! But the story… is lacking. The characters are unlikable, the plot is everywhere with a whole subplot that has no relevance at all, and the antagonist is well… reactive and boring.
What is the last film that you watched?
Dia - Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘The Wind Rises’. Who doesn’t love Ghibli? It was such a beautiful film. Miyazaki has always had a love affair with aviation and this film feels like his personal magnum opus. It’s based on the true story of Iro Horikoshi; designer of the Mitsubishi A5M fighter aircraft IN World War Two. Not a fantasy film which is interesting for a Ghibli film – but you can tell the passion is still very much there. Absolutely beautiful.
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
Dia – Alive still haha. I guess a big goal of mine that I’ve been working towards for a while now is to move to England and set up shop there. I would love to work for a production company, ideally See Saw honestly, and just help them to produce content. I’ll probably never stop making my own work too so I’d like to have completed my third feature by then… which may or may not already be in the works. But yeah, that’s the goal.
What are some of the disadvantages and advantages of being a female film maker?
Dia – That’s a good question, because it’s true – there are both good and bad aspects of it. I feel as though sometimes, even if it’s unintentional, that I am taken less seriously as a filmmaker because of my gender. It’s very much a male dominated industry, especially with less than 105 of directors in Hollywood being female but you do what you love. I’ve had people on set mistake me for the make up artist – even though I couldn’t do make up to save my life! And it can be a bit disheartening. A lot of the time I feel like my colleagues think that I don’t know what I’m doing or that I know less even when I don’t. I’ve had to fight harder than I imagine a male filmmaker would in order to prove myself.
That being said, there is a growing support for female filmmakers, especially by female filmmakers in the community which is fantastic. We now have female led film festivals and production companies. We’re all very supportive of each other and when I see a woman in film doing well, I applaud her. Sara Lamburg for example – director of ‘Innuendo’, is absolutely killing it lately, same with Rebecca Ann Bentley.
One thing I will note though, that I have also seen is this. Women, we can support each other and not belittle our male colleagues. I have seen men, talented hardworking men, lose out on positions to less experienced women just because the producers wanted to keep a gender equal set. Equality to opportunity means that we give any gender the opportunity to apply, not choose one gender over the other. We need to find the best person for the job or else we’re just wasting each other’s time honestly.
If you could remake any film what would it be and why?
Dia – That is a tough question. I’ve been asked this before and I still struggle. The way I see films is that if it’s been made, it shouldn’t be re-made. There are so many other stories out there still yet to be told. Make something personal to you.
I guess though, if I had to choose, I’d love to make a live action version of the Ghibli film ‘When Marnie Was There’, shot in the story’s original setting of Norfolk, England. Ever since I first saw that film, the story has just resonated with me. I can’t explain it.
If you could give any new film maker advice what would it be?
Dia - Never Give up. Not once. I know that sounds corny and cheesy but it’s true. I’ve been film making now for thirteen years and honestly there were times when I wanted to give up. Times when I thought I wasn’t good enough. Times when I got a bad review or I stuffed up or someone said I was bad at what I did or knew nothing. And honestly it got to me. It still does. But if you love something, if you really love it and it makes you feel alive. Never give up. Keep creating, keep learning. Yeah your last film might have been terrible! Good! Learn from your mistakes! Look back on it and figure out what worked and what didn’t.
I had someone the other day tell me that they thought that they were terrible and should just give up. I asked them how many films they had made or worked on. They told me that they were shooting their first student film. I said ‘Dude. You haven’t even begun your journey. There’s so much for you to learn and accomplish still yet to come. Don’t give up before you’ve even started’. I then showed them some of my film school work – I think that made them feel better haha, my stuff was terrible. I knew nothing about cameras or editing or anything and I thought I was the bees knees back then. Haha.
Where can our readers find your work/ social media?
Dia – You can find my work on my Youtube Channel: youtube.com/diataylorofficial/ and you can also keep up to date with me on my website: https://diartaylor.wixsite.com/portfolio
Thank you for your time Dia.
Dia - Thank You!