Mike Green on survival thriller ‘Outback’

Shorts vet Mike Green, whose superlative “Mother” was one of the treats of MIFF a few years back,  attended Monster Fest this year with his bravura survival thriller “Outback”. The film, which will be released in the US next year, fixes on two Americans at odds with the harsh and unforgiving Australian outback.

You cut your teeth directing shorts. Do you recommend filmmakers kick off that way rather than go straight into a feature?

Yes. Try not to spend too much money learning your craft and practice, practice, practice.

After your amazing success at MIFF a few years back with “Mother”, what kind of doors started to open for you?

None, really. Unless you play Sundance or Cannes I wouldn’t expect doors to open. Get used to hustling.

How different was it doing a feature length film, to some of the shorts you’ve done? I imagine there’s a significantly bigger amount of pressure?

There is. Especially in the amount of time you’re asking of people and yourself. And time translates to money. I had a two month old baby so there’s the pressure of home life as well. As they say- happy wife, happy life (or vice versa).

Now I understand it that you financed this yourself — can you discuss why you decided to go that route, and how a big of a dent it made to your credit account!?

I had a conventional feature film fall apart when an A-list actor announced a project that sounded very similar to mine. My wife was going back to work from maternity leave in three months. So, I decided I had a small window of time to try and get a film in the ‘can’. I designed Outback to be shot in a compressed amount of time, ten days, and on a micro-budget. To complete the film the budget has increased considerably but it was shot on a credit card. I wouldn’t recommend it to the fainthearted.

Are you able to recoup any of that during production by pre-selling domestic or international distribution?

No. Without name cast it’s very hard to get attention for your project.

Why this particular story? What was it that appealed to you?

Thematically I wanted to speak about not taking tomorrow for granted. As a filmmaker trying to forge a career, I put everything on the line. I try to live for today. I thought it would be interesting to view this idea through the lens of a young girl who thinks she has her whole life ahead of her. Strangely no ones done a film called Outback. With my producer hat on, you could say it has built in IP or a hook. A survival thriller was born. Open Water in the Outback.

Was it always, in your mind, two Americans?

No. But it was always going to be more interesting to see two fish out of water types. It didn’t have to be Americans. With our compressed prep time, learning an accent can be tricky. We developed extensive backstories to our characters to the exact cities/suburbs of their upbringing, school and college life and we worked with two amazing dialect coaches (Charmian Gradwell & Nick Curnow) to hone a specific authentic accent for our actors Lauren Lofberg & Taylor Wiese.

Having worked with James Vanderbilt, did he make any suggestions or lend a hand where he could?

He read over a draft for me. He’s been an amazing mentor and friend a long the way. I’m currently in discussions with a feature project with his new production company. Jamie’s such a talented storyteller and all round legend.

I believe you’ve got a number of projects in development. Can you tell us about any?

We’ve sold Outback to a US studio for a June 2020 release date. I’m working with a bunch of writing teams and will be in LA early next year. I’m focusing on the smart horror landscape. They’re really dramas where scary things happen.

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