13 Dec 2018

How I Turned Problems Into Positives While Making My Final Film at AFTT

Not everything always goes to plan when shooting a film, just ask recent Film Graduate, Pierce Hadjinicola. Sometimes you need to think on your feet and sometimes, it pays off...

We chatted with Pierce about his final project with AFTT, the inspiration behind it and how he managed to turn some major challenges into positives throughout the process.

You recently finished your grad film 'I'm Not Going Anywhere', tell us a bit about the film.

My grad film is a whole can of worms. Heading into our major film block was a bit daunting for me because in my mind, this film was to be the last one, so I wanted to be at my best and really show who I was and what AFTT had taught me. 

I remember just having a whole flood of ideas hit me and I struggled with which one to really hone in on. One of my teachers, Andrew Lawrence, said to me "Look mate, you just really need to dig deep inside yourself and find something that is you." My first thought was to do a Rom-Com because bizarrely I got really into them earlier in the year. But then I remembered during my ‘Stalker Assignment’ I did a romance, so I decided to test myself in another way. I went through about six or seven different scripts ranging from addiction to pornography to racism to homophobia until I finally arrived at what would be my major; a film about parents and loss. 

What were the most challenging things about making this film?

I guess everything that could have gone wrong during the making of this film, did. We were dealing with torrential rain right off the bat, which we actually ended up making work in our favour. But the biggest challenge hit about twenty minutes before a very key scene... 

It was a dinner scene between the Daughter, Mother and the Father and the actor who was to play the father forgot about it and didn't rock up. This obviously wasn’t ideal, but in the end it was kind of a good thing. I remember looking from Sinclair (DoP) to Suriya (lead actress) to my mother and everyone was like “so what do we do now?”. So I grabbed my laptop, pumped a massive coffee, went outside and let my brain do the rest. I eventually wrote a scene that recontextualised the situation between the Mother and Daughter. I came back, gave the actors time to rehearse while Sinclair and I worked out a new shot list and then we just shot the scene.

I think part of me really enjoyed having things go very sideways because in the end, the actors produced a beautiful performance which felt much more honest than it would have if the Father had been involved in the scene. 

What were some key lessons that you learnt while developing this film?

Send out a call sheet, don't be afraid to test yourself, don't go into something without being fully prepared for what may happen and make sure you have a killer crew around you because, without a doubt, they were the only thing that got me through the shoot. Also always have a wicked soundtrack to plug in at any moment (trust me it's important).

How was your overall time at AFTT?

Generally, the experience was immense. I reflect on my time there and I recognise that the past two years have probably been the most important in my life in terms of my development as a filmmaker and also as a person. It is a bit bitter sweet moving on from the shelter of AFTT and being able to make mistakes over and over again, to the professional world and whatever it may hold for me.

Now that your time has finished at AFTT, what are you planning on doing now?

Sleeping is a good start. It's felt like I've had to be switched on for so long that I don't know how to relax, so I'm experimenting with that. I guess the dream is to release my film into a bunch of film festivals and do well, so getting a soundtrack and mix ready for that is a priority for me. On the side I've just been continuing to write. I've been writing features, television shows, shorts; essentially trying to cover all my bases for whatever the future may hold.

What were your favourite things about AFTT?

The people. My class mates, the teachers, the admin team, the actors screaming in the other room, the colour of the carpet, the free coffee, the red hot banter being slung across the room every class, the gear room. I'll miss all of it because it's been my home for so long now that it's hard not to take everything and want to hold onto it tightly.

What advice would you have for anyone thinking about studying film?

Don't walk into it to be generic. Walk in wanting to really show not just the world who you are, but yourself. I've said it once and I'll say it again; there are too many people in this world who fall into the trap of hiding who they are. I think film gives people the opportunity to be universal, to be relatable, to express what makes sense to them. Not a lot of other careers do that. I find it so inspiring when someone gets behind a camera or picks up a pen and tells a story that is ‘them’. That is their voice. I feel if you aren't willing to be awake till four in the morning mulling over a script, or to stand out in the middle of the night in the cold behind the camera then don't waste your time. Film is beautiful, film is true, film is the world, film is you, so don't walk into it just to 'try it'. 

To learn more about studying film, click here.