By Jacob Cerin
Good For Nothing Blues is an indie crime-comedy Perth feature, directed by Alexander Lorian. It screens at Luna Leederville this Sunday. Jacob Cerin speaks to Alexander about the film. It follows the story of Calvin, a young man lost in life and his ‘dole-bludging’ mates, whom, after a surprise $200,000 lottery win find their dodgy investments going astray, embroiling them in a web of debts, drugs, gangs, and cops.
Jacob Cerin: For the billionth time I presume, could you give a rundown for readers of your film, as brief or long as you like?
Alexander Lorian: Can I ask, how would you describe the film? I’m just doing this to mix things up because I do explain it a lot, and I wanna see how someone else interprets it.
JC: It’s a crime-comedy. Shit hits the fan. It’s like a web of cause and effect for a bunch of dole bludgers who hit the lottery jackpot, and it shows how they handle this money, and what they aim towards. It also has a side plot of romance. The story escalates into an absolute shitstorm, which I love. The characters can’t handle what’s coming to them.
AL: I just wanted to hear someone else trying to tell the basic idea. I’d just say there are two sides; the crazy plot element, and the story about Calvin’s emotional development, feeling like he doesn’t have a place in the world. Calvin wants to be a good person, but he doesn’t know whether he is.
JC: Sincerely, congratulations. The film is such a thoughtful and intelligent comedy. There’s so much humour coming through the actors, who are terrifically cast, and their interactions with each other.
AL: That’s a lot of Big Lebowski inspiration, in terms of trying to get that quick pace back and forth. I don’t think I got up to the Big Lebowski level. That’s what I was going for. It’s incredible how they (actors in Big Lebowski) did that. It’s just got the one shot of the three guys. The way they bounce off each other feels like it couldn’t have been scripted, but it was. If you read the script, it’s there, line for line. This one was 95 per cent scripted.
JC: The film has so much happening, but it flies. The film is two hours and ten minutes but is lightspeed in pacing.
AL: I’m glad that you feel that way, because you don’t find whole lot of comedies over two hours. You can find some that are about two hours. Generally, it’s just rare to find long comedies, so I was a bit worried about that. I can’t, however, see why a comedy should not be that long. What’s really holding them back? Apart from the amount of time people typically want to stay before going to the bathroom. That Alfred Hitchcock rule.
JC: Could you give us a walkthrough of creating the comedy? Was it more the acting or the writing?
AL: There was a bit of improv, but the vast majority is in the script. It just all comes from trying to make sure the comedy arises primarily from the characters. It can’t just feel like your joke was there for the sake of having a joke. It needs to come from characters’ personality and motivation at that moment. I think that’s the harder type of comedy to write, and probably part of why this script took me years write.
JC: What was the impetus behind the film? Were there experiences in your life that led you to the story for “Good for Nothing Blues”?
AL: The film’s core feeling is very much based on how I felt in my first few years out of high school. I also had family stuff that wasn’t good. Straight out of high school, I was going through depression. I couldn’t seem to land a job anywhere and I was just feeling very isolated and all that sort of thing in the same way Calvin was. That was the general vibe of my environment, feeling lost in a drab world where you don’t belong.
JC: This film felt homely, with its use of Australiana. The film’s environment is not what I expect to see in a film, with all its idiosyncrasies. Finally getting a chance to see and hear Maylands and Kings Park on screen; it’s like, “what on Earth?”
AL: I remember when I first saw something like that when I was in TAFE. I saw a short film, which had the Perth skyline, and I was like “What?”. You just don’t see it, but why can’t you have distinctively local things, like local culture and stuff? In trying to make everything universally palatable for US and international audiences, you lose something, because you make everything sort of generic everywhere. Part of what I think is interesting about international cinema is seeing the unique cultures. Even if they’re not crazy different. Seeing the little idiosyncrasies of different places. I know people laugh at it, because it’s a silly version, but Fargo and its Minnesota-isms, for example. It wouldn’t be the same film if it was some random place in America, or New York.
JC: You explained your impetus before, but is there a certain purpose you wanted to aim for with the film?
AL: Obviously, I want to entertain people. I want people to enjoy it. I guess I wanted to make something that would get people thinking. One of the great things about art is that it doesn’t have to be an essay or something, with some specific point. If you can get people feeling and connecting and thinking, then that can get people discovering more about the world and themselves, which they hadn’t before.
JC: You use film as a pedestal to other ideas, rather than a conclusion. Not to make people think a certain thing, but to make them simply think. Where they go from your film is up to them.
AL: Yeah. And I wanted to make something more local feeling. Hopefully, it can bring a little extra credit to the Perth arts scene.
JC: Any Perth filmmakers you look up to?
AL: I found Ben Young very inspirational, with Hounds of Love. I guess the other guy would be Jeremy Sims, who made Last Train to Freo and Last Cab to Darwin. It’s pretty inspiring seeing him. He’s obviously gone on to be a big successful Australian director, and he makes great movies.
JC: Any artists in general who inspire you?
AL: Bob Dylan, Stanley Kubrick, the Coen brothers. Those are probably my three biggest influences. Music’s a big thing for me. George Orwell is a very insightful writer, and George R.R. Martin. I don’t read a lot (laughs) but those are definitely writers who’ve influenced my thinking.
JC: What’s your proudest part of the film?
AL: That’s a hard one, I don’t really know. I guess the proudest thing is just that people enjoyed it, and I didn’t make too many compromises with it. I’m just glad that for money, or people’s sensitivities, or any of that, I didn’t really change anything. I made the film I wanted to make.
JC: Lastly, do you have any final statements?
AL: Come see the screening. Let’s make this an indie hit.
Encore screening for “Good for Nothing Blues” will be held 6:30pm, September 12th at Luna Leederville.
Image courtesy of Jess Robley.