Filmmaker Series: David Black
DB – Thanks for the interview Leah. I’m a film maker in Melbourne, Australia. I’ve produced 10 music videos for my band, Darkness Visible, as well as over 30 short films and a hosted horror series called Horror House. I’m currently making a feature film called “Toxic Alien Zombie Babes From Outer Space.” This feature is unique in that we are making it during stage 4 lock down.
What initially got you into filmmaking?
DB – I first got into film making because I was the main person in a theatrical gothic rock band called Darkness Visible and I realised that we needed to start making music videos. I’d made enquiries since as early as 1994 to see if I could get one made but it wasn’t until the band appeared on a local TV show that I started meeting people who could make one and were interested.
That was around 12 years ago. Since that time, film making has become much easier with pro
quality cameras and editing software coming down in price. Back then, cameras were expensive so I had students making the videos because they were able to access the university equipment for free.
Nowadays, you can make a pro film with your camera phone.
Who are your biggest influences and why?
DB – My biggest influences are actually cartoonists. I used to be a professional cartoonist and at the height of my career, I was the editorial cartoonist for Australia’s biggest national tabloid newspaper, The Truth. I also published a comic book called “Punkz in Space.”
With a comic book, you are still working with many of the elements that go into a film. You have to write a script and then break it down to the camera angles. You also need to think of the lighting and framing. Instead of acting, you are bringing your characters to life, so before you can draw them so you have to think like an actor to work out the expressions and body language. I first realised a lot of this after reading Will Eisner’s book, “Comics and Sequential Art,” so you could say that he was my biggest influence.
How important is film as a medium and art form in the world, today?
DB – Film is becoming increasingly important as people spend more time online. Over the years, bandwidth has increased so more people are uploading moving images. There’s also more competition than ever for attention, whether it be advertisers or just narcissistic types on social media. In order to stand out from the crowd, businesses and individuals are continually upping the ante in their film making work. Movies are evolving fast and things that seemed amazing just a few short years ago now seem a bit bland.
Do you have a set process when making film?
DB – the process always starts with an idea that then gets developed into a script. I can’t really say where ideas come from and I suppose that is one of the greatest mysteries in life. Once the script is finished though, the rest of the process is pretty much the same for each film. You get your actors and crew together.
With my latest film though, everything has changed because we can’t actually have a crew on set due to the restrictions. We are getting actors from around the world to self-tape, and in some cases, they have access to crews and are not as restricted as we are in Melbourne. Toxic Alien Zombie Babes From Outer Space is new territory for us and we are working it out as we go along.
What has been your favourite film to work on and why?
DB – My favourite was “Life, Love and Death.” I felt that it was the cleverest in that the story had a fantastic twist that pushed the boundaries in metaphysical theory. Within the film, I brought a number of everyday items to life such as a bin, clothes on a line and a plastic bag by simply moving them and giving them voices. It was very low tech yet effective.
Which genre do you enjoy working in?
DB – I like any genre that has a fantasy element, such as sci fi and horror. Horror is the one I work on the most though due to the community being supportive. I already know before I make a horror film that there will be outlets to show it and media willing to cover it. That’s a major benefit when it comes to finding cast and crew. We are all working volunteer, or on token payments, so the main thing everyone wants is to have their work seen.
Is filmmaking your primary source of income?
DB – At this stage, I don’t make anything from my films. I haven’t monetised them or even accepted payments from theatres that showed them. I’m more concerned with getting the films seen and building my profile. I intend to keep all films that I’ve made to date free, forever.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t have a plan for making money later. There are many businesses whose main income stream doesn’t come from their primary product. Movie theatres often make more money from food sales than ticket sales. Mc Donalds Corp makes more money from rent paid by franchisees than from food. Newspaper comic strip cartoonists make more money from merchandise sales than from newspapers paying them to run cartoons.
I recently read that the main actors in “The Walking Dead” get more money from attending
conventions each year than they do from acting in the series over the same time period. I’m
thinking that is going to be more the direction that I will need to take, but it will only work if I can build a following. In order to do that, I believe that making my films free is the best path there.
What is your definition of success?
DB – Happiness is success. If you are enjoying what you do, then you are already there.
What advice can you give our readers, should they wish to pursue filmmaking?
DB – Think of it as a journey rather than a destination. If you concentrate on just where you want to be, you will miss all of the magic in getting there.
Do you ever suffer from creative burnout? How do you combat it?
DB – I suffered a major burn out when I was a cartoonist, which is why I abandoned a successful career. I was going through a hard patch when the recession hit and I would say that subconsciously, my mind was blaming cartooning for all the problems. I found that I was not only struggling to draw, but I was also getting migraines each time a job was on the desk. I have never been able to draw well since. Burnout is real and can be catastrophic.
My advice is to take breaks and not be afraid to step back for a while. If I had done this with my cartooning, I might have been able to come back fresh and with new ideas.
What projects are you currently working on?
DB – I’m only working on the one project, which is a feature film called “Toxic Alien Zombie Babes From Outer Space.” We started this because we’d gone into lock down and all my other films had been put on hold because we could no longer have a cast and crew on set.
TAZBFOS has been designed to be filmed during the current circumstances. We have actors from all over the world sending in footage that they have self-taped. I find the actors then put the scripts together, then the director, Gerardo Chierchia instructs with a shot list.
When the footage is back, Gerardo then does any clean ups to sound and footage that are needed and adds in the special effects.
The film itself is covering a lot of the crazy events of this year, such as the lock downs, bushfires, murder hornets, 3g, toilet paper hoarding and assorted conspiracy theories. This all occurs within the framework of an alien attack on the Earth. The film pays homage to a lot of the b grade sci fi’s of the 50’s- 70’s. In fact, sometimes I feel like we are living through one of those old films.
What are your hopes for the future?
DB – I’m not concentrating on the future too much. As said earlier, I think it is better to enjoy the journey than fixate on the end goal. This way, even if I don’t manage to turn this from a hobby into a living, I will at least have enjoyed what I’m doing.
As for Toxic Alien Zombie Babes From Outer Space, I’ll be offering this free to any outlet that wishes to show it, whether that be TV or Cinema. So far, a few TV shows have shown interest. Cinemas in Melbourne are currently under lock down and none have answered any of the emails that I’ve sent out. If we are still under lock down when the film is out, I will be contacting cinemas everywhere else but Melbourne.
Lastly where can people find you?
DB – here is my YouTube, where you can see most of my films:
There is further information about me on the master list of Melbourne Independent Filmmakers
And on MyIndie - https://myindieproductions.com/artists/david-black-2/
Are you a filmmaker? Want to be interviewed? Please get in touch and fill out your contact details; https://www.leahsolmaz.com/contact
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