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Victoria Film Festival 2011 Interview - "Blame" director Michael Henry

Blame - At Victoria Film Festival
by Jason Whyte

"Blame is a tense, claustrophobic thriller. Seeking justice and revenge, five friends violently attack a man in his remote country house. Their plan: the perfect murder. Confident that their victim's death by his own hand will not be questioned, they overdose him on sleeping pills, but it all goes horribly wrong when their attempt fails and their victim fights for his life." Director Michael Henry on the film "Blame" which screens at this year's Victoria Film Festival.

Is this your first film at the Victoria Film Festival?

Yes, this is my first film at the Victoria Film Festival. I unfortunately won't be attending the screenings, but I hope the audience at VFF will embrace and enjoy the film!

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, and what led you to the industry.

I was completing a legal studies degree in the mid 90's and found myself writing screenplays during the lectures. I was obsessed with the indie American scene of that time - Reservoir Dogs, Clerks etc - and realized that I'd been bitten by the film bug - I wanted a piece of it for myself. I studied film at the Victorian College of the Arts in the late 90's, and returned for a Masters Degree (in screenwriting) in 2002. Over the last 15 years I have made almost a dozen shorts, but my focus has always been feature drama.

How did this whole project come together?

The project started in 2000 when I read an article about vigilante groups in the UK who targeted sexual offenders and made huge mistakes by attacking the wrong people. I was fascinated by how people, often driven by emotion, rush into things without knowing the full truth. I spent the next eight years working with producer Michael Robinson drafting and redrafting the screenplay. In 2008 Michael met producers Ryan Hodgson and Melissa Kelly from West Australia, and the pieces finally fell into place; we were shooting the film within 12 months.

Please tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.

Blame was shot on the Red One camera. I have always been cautious of digital cameras, preferring film, but after my experience with Blame, I'm a convert. I worked very closely with my cinematographer Torstein Dyrting, shot-listing and story-boarding the film. We went through numerous films, photography books and the internet sourcing out reference images and inspiration. Shooting digital allowed for a extra take or two when we needed it. It also meant we could quickly review footage and watch rushes a few hours after the days shooting was done. And now that most films go digital for post production anyway - it was the right choice both economically and creatively. When you've got people like David Fincher and Michael Mann shooting digital, you know its time has come; no more excuses.

Out of the entire production, what was the most difficult aspect of making this film? Also, what was the most pleasurable moment?

Strangely, one of the most difficult aspects of the film was the score. It was a challenge to bring together my vision for the score, and at the same time allowing Tamil Rogeon (our composer) freedom to express what he felt worked best. It took a lot of discussion, experimentation and tweaking to finally arrive at the perfect balance. And to counterpoint this, one of the most pleasurable moments was the final sound mix where the score, sound design and images worked together as one. It's an amazing feeling when it all comes together so well.

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world? Did you have any direct inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?

My biggest inspirations are Hitchcock, Haneke, Polanski, Lynch and Kubrick. For "Blame" I was particularly influenced by John Boorman's
"Deliverance" and Pekinpah's "Straw Dogs". Both are great examples of tense, confined, claustrophobic thrillers.

How has the film been received at other festivals or screenings? Do you have any interesting stories about how this film has screened before? What do you think you will expect at the film’s screenings at Victoria?

Blame had its international premiere at Toronto in 2010. I loved Canada. It was a fantastic festival and the audience reaction to the film was amazing. I'm sure the audience at Victoria will get behind the film as much as they did in Toronto. A funny moment during the Toronto Q&A was when an audience member asked why all the actors in Blame were all so good looking. I replied that it's because everyone in Australia is good looking. It's true...well, sort of.

If you weren’t making movies, what other line or work do you feel you’d be in?

An architect, like most film-makers. We're into spending other people's money to create big expensive things.

How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?

In the internet age, the media's coverage of a film has more impact. Reviews from anywhere and anyone can be accessed in an instant. This can greatly boost interest in independent films, allowing them to reach a wider audience.

If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?

The Astor theatre in Melbourne. A grand old-deco cinema that's still in use.

If you could offer a nickel’s worth of free advice to someone who wanted to make movies, what nuggets of wisdom would you offer?

Persistence. It took ten years from the first draft of Blame to its completion. The time you spend working and reworking a project only serves to strengthen it.

What do you love the most about film and the filmmaking business?

The quiet and solitude of writing a screenplay and the camaraderie and chaos of shooting a film. Every day is different and creatively you're always on your toes.

What would you do or say to someone who is talking or being disruptive during a movie?

I would shave their head and force them to watch "Big Momma's House" wearing that eye contraption thing from "A Clockwork Orange"... without eye-drops.

A question that is easy for some but not for others and always gets a different response: what is your favourite film of all time?

Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Conformist" (1970).

"Blame" screens on Monday, February 7th, 9:15pm at the Capitol 6.

This is one of the official selections in this year’s Victoria Film Festival lineup. For more information on films screening at this year’s fest, showtimes, updates and other general info, point your browser to

Be sure to follow instant happenings of VFF ’11 on my Twitter account @jasonwhyte, including mini-reviews of films, comments on festival action and even a Tweetphoto or two. #vicfilmfestival is the official hashtag.

Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 02/08/11 06:05:39
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