I’m often asked where I find my stories. To
date I have made a film from a novel, Bliss, a play, Lantana,
and a short story, Jindabyne.
Towards the end of Jindabyne someone said that it was the last
in a trilogy of Man Woman Death stories. It was an interesting notion
inasmuch as, for me, Man Woman Death stories, along with all their permutations,
are really the only ones to tell.
In 1985 I had just finished Bliss and I met singer/songwriter
Paul Kelly. What we had in common was we were both reading short stories
by American writers like Richard Ford, Rick Bass, Tobias Wolff and Jim
Harrison. He asked if I had ever read Raymond Carver. I hadn’t!
Paul gave me a copy of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
After that first Carver book I devoured all the others, including his
essays and poems. I couldn’t get enough. Along the way I
read “So Much Water, So Close To Home” and that’s
where Jindabyne started. It stayed with me for some 20 years.
From the first reading I knew I wanted to make a film of it, but never
thought I would.
In ’89 Paul wrote a beautiful song called “Everything’s
Turning to White” which was based on “So Much Water….”
In ’93 Robert Altman made Short Cuts. The story I was
obsessed with was included in that wonderful film. After that I thought
I would never get the opportunity. I knew I could make a feature out
of it. That didn’t change. But why would anyone let me? Why would
Altman, who had the rights along with Tess Gallagher? Why would they
bother to sell the rights? It was a ridiculous dream.
I continued to work on other things. I wrote three screenplays and worked
directing commercials. Like for most other people in this business,
there are long breaks. It wasn’t that I wasn’t trying. It
was just that what I wanted to do didn’t coincide with what other
people wanted to do. The planets weren’t lining up. They didn’t
I had been working towards making a particular film with the writer
Andrew Bovell. It was going nowhere and after almost five years we just
had to give up. Andrew is firstly a playwright. He had just written
a play called Speaking in Tongues which was on in Sydney at
that time. I went along to see it out of curiosity and support. I wasn’t
looking for a story. I didn’t even want to make a film at that
stage. However, there was one moment in the play when one of the characters
ignores a telephone message from his wife. It was at that moment I thought,
“This would make a good film.” That’s where Lantana
Lantana was reasonably successful everywhere it was shown.
It opened up a lot of doors. “What do you want to make next?”,
I was asked. “There’s a short story by Raymond Carver,”
I said, figuring that I had nothing to lose. That was in 2002. Four
years later Jindabyne is released in Sydney.
Now I’m working on two others, one based on a song, the other
an original screenplay. So I figure I have just about covered all the
bases. Each time it’s a different journey. It’s like light
driving at night. You know where you want to go but can only see as
far as the headlights shine, and you never really know where you’re
going to end up.