Multi award-winning short film director Dean Francis burst onto the feature film stage in 2010 with his debut horror ‘Road Train’ – about a demonic truck with a thirst for blood, roaming the Aussie outback. But Dean didn’t snag that by just sticking his thumb in the air!
Like many young folk starting out, Dean viewed film school as some artistically stifling institution. But as his yearning for more collaborative relationships developed in later years; he discovered the major benefits film school had to offer, & studied at AFTRS for 2 years.
Dean lists the benefits of film school:
- Collaboration with professionals.
- You learn proper set structure & industry standards.
- They’re in good favor with funding bodies (like Screen Australia)
- They have recognition from the industry.
It was through film school Dean secured his first professional directing gig on ‘Road Train’. As a development agency, the Australian Film Commission who supplied funding, saw their role to support filmmakers who had already been supported by the government through AFTRS. But moreover, it was the films Dean was able to make at film school, that ultimately drew the producer to him being hired as director.
Director Dean Francis part 1
Despite overcoming finance issues, a litany of technical errors with the truck, bad weather & ambitious car wreck stunts that didn’t always go to plan, Dean learned that the director lives or dies by his ability to bring the project in on schedule. “When you’re doing it for yourself, you don’t have that pressure because it’s only your credit card that’s on the line”.
Dean also discovered that you’ve got to continually be moving forward. Because it’s very easy through the numbers on a daily progress report for a picture to form of a film that’s not on track. So to keep your job, be sure to check the DPR’s for inaccuracies before they reach the producer!
With so many added pressures, the film set can often feel like a war zone. Dean believes your 2 biggest enemies are mediocrity & time. The best way to combat this is through unity, trust and a given sense of being in it together.
Road Train Trailer
Dean’s directing tips:
- Go in with a plan, but be prepared to depart from the plan.
- Be open, and that possibility you need to solve an issue will come.
If a scene is not working, ask yourself:
- What is so fundamentally important here?
- Under the surface – what is the subtext?
- What is the change that happens?
- Why is it so necessary that this is in the film?
Though ‘Road Train’ had a limited theatrical release in Australia, it was internationally successful, selling in over 50 countries, occupying premium shelf space over thousands of rental houses & DVD shops in the US, & it quickly became one of the most illegally downloaded films for its time.
Director Dean Francis part 2
For his second feature, Dean was drawn to the hard-hitting social issues of homophobia & pack mentality found in Stephen Davis’ acclaimed play ‘Drown’ – which follows 3 Bondi beach lifesavers on their drunken wanderings around town. Whole-heatedly inspired by the source material, Dean just dove right in, & said to Stephen “We’re doing this!”.
Harking back to his grass-roots DIY attitude before film school, Dean takes up the extremely liberating & exhaustive mantle of ‘the one-man-band’; directing, shooting, co-producing & writing the film.
‘I’d be framing & lighting a shot, while simultaneously checking the bank balance for production to see if we had enough for catering’.
‘Drown’ is currently in post production & is set to release theatrically in 2015.
Dean’s biggest lesson for building a career:
- Though tempting to think your first feature is going to be some tipping point in your life where everything will suddenly change, it is far more realistic to see that it takes SMALL STEPS.
Dean Francis is CEO of jj splice; a production house with a focus on features, commercials, music videos & documentary.
For more information about Dean & his projects check out his company website.
For ‘Drown’ check out the facebook page.
If you have any questions, hit us up in the comments and we will chase Dean down for some more info for ya 🙂