Garage Days

Time is so subjective—it's all about perception. We see things differently at various stages in our lives. Time stretches forever when you're a kid, and seems to speed up the older you get.

Garage Days takes place at a point when everything changes in the lives of a group of friends. Kick Gurry (who plays Freddy in the movie) said his character had yet to learn that one day he was going to die. They say the moment you realize you won't be around forever is the moment you become an adult. The characters in the movie each reach a crossroads. One signpost says: DREAMS the other direction is tagged: REALITY. It's not to say their two roads won't eventually re-unite but they must make a choice. Sometimes it's easy, other times it's harder, but they're searching for a way to be content with whichever it is. It should be about the journey not the destination.

I wanted to get back to a kind of filmmaking I missed, in an Australian setting, about an era when things were simpler. Though GD isn't a period piece it is influenced by my younger years in Sydney's inner West, in that eternally Bohemian suburb full of dreamers and nutters called Newtown. Of course that world doesn't really exist in Sydney any more—the developers have seen to that in the last decade or so. So we had to "recreate" that landscape on our limited budget, a place already in the death-throes of change. I joked about wanting to reconstruct the main street of Newtown (as I remembered it) on a soundstage. I thought it would be wonderful to lavish a big Hollywood style set on something potentially so mundane. We of course couldn't afford that extravagance and so, using digital manipulation of existing exteriors, every wide shot was added to, firstly simplified to get to its core "iconic" quality, then layered with clouds, colourful buildings, signage. We turned the city into a kind of punk wonderland. And then we all wanted to live there.

It was not my intention but as a result, the film is stylistically faithful to the old fashioned Hollywood musical—which was all about theatrical artifice—but in a contemporary way. The movie is firstly an anarchic comedy but also a strange anti-musical, in that it doesn't take the genre at all seriously. It's not an all-singing all-dancing kind of movie, though we did stage a few "numbers," but music was integral to the emotions I was trying to recreate. I chose rock "anthems" from the last forty years for the soundtrack. Rock 'n' Roll tradition is more about evolution than revolution and the movie features several generations of rockers who stay true to their art through thick and thin.

We see Andy Anderson's character teaching his son Joe (Brett Stiller) how to strike a suitable guitar-hero stance, then later Joe is seen teaching a group of kids the same moves. And so the flame is passed down.

We spent much time in rehearsals getting all the actors to know each other. The bonds between these people were extremely important—I wanted to have a feeling of real history there, if the audience was to accept this wonderful dysfunctional "family." In the process we all became really good friends.

The moment I will always remember is when the cast were about to go out on stage in front of 30,000 people (a music festival in Sydney letting our little movie hog their stage for ten minutes in front of their paying crowd) to play live so I could get that authentic flavour I was after. These guys weren't musicians, they were actors who went through rock boot camp for two months and now they were about to play in front of a huge crowd (in front of ANY crowd) for the first time. They were scared, but I was terrified—even though I got to sit in front of my monitors and direct the show from the wings it felt like I was going out there with them.

I guess all my films are in one way or another about time and change. But Garage Days is specifically about what you carry forward with you. When an era is over and everything moves on, it's friends and relationships that you hopefully take with you that matter. In that sense the old Chinese proverb is true: ALL CHANGE IS GOOD.

©2003 Landmark Theatres