In a more perfect world, Davo Hardy would be a name better known to Australian film-makers and audiences. His DIY approach to production mirrors our own here at the Any Cam offices and have resulted in two feature length films already.
The first, The Lives We Lead, secured distribution on DVD and VOD through US distributor TLA in 2015 and the second, Hunting for Shadows, was snapped up for streaming in Australia by OzFlix this January. Both of them were scraped together for less money than a bigger film spends on a day’s catering.
Currently in production on his third feature, A Silent Agreement, Davo dropped by our offices a while back to talk up Hunting for Shadows, his horror/thriller that borrows liberally from Indigenous myth in order to tell the all-too-relatable story of a child forced to survive in an unforgiving world, and left us with some useful knowledge on the challenges of low-budget film making.
Hunting for Shadows Trailer:
Access to Talent
Davo recounts the rather straight-forward way he secured Paul Mercurio, star of Strictly Ballroom, for one of Hunting for Shadows’ leads. (The two are also working together on the follow up). By sending the script to casting agents, Davo was put in touch with Paul and locked him in by agreeing to cover transport costs and a day’s fee.
Cleverly, Davo scheduled Paul’s scenes to be filmed together, maximizing the use of a name who would legitimize the quality of the production in the eyes of his potential cast & crew, as well as help to secure distribution for the film.
I’ve heard similar stories from colleagues in the US, working with the likes of Danny Trejo or Michael Madsen, because they’re a) the kind of actors who’ll work for a reasonable fee and b) because distributors understand how to sell a film with one of the two of them in it. Paul Mercurio might not have that level of name recognition, but certainly amongst Australian audiences he’s a household name.
Securing recognizable talent at a price that’s fair for everyone is a very tactical way to get your film produced and seen.
Davo Hardy on Hunting For Shadows
Remaining Open to Influence
It’s rare to have the time and money whilst producing a low-budget film to allow your cast to explore a creative tangent, yet Davo explains how he recognized the need to allow one of his actors to develop an extensive subplot that strengthened the fabric of the narrative.
The risk of following your cast or crew down a creative rabbit-hole that is, to a degree, unplanned is that it may spiral into days (and memory cards) wasted on capturing useless footage. But with adequate preparation in pre-production and a strong vision, along with trust in the creativity of your collaborators, a film can become greater than the sum of its parts.
It’s important to be receptive to the story that wants to be told; don’t forget that if Woody Allen had had his way, Annie Hall might’ve been a lot more time-traveling murder mystery and a lot less Oscar-winning romantic drama-dy.
Subject to Reality
Working low-budget means you’re subject to the schedules and desires of your cast and crew and don’t have the leverage of cold-hard cash to get your way. You’re also often subject to cold-hard reality in the form of sound, weather, or other surprises you have zero control over.
Davo recounts having to shoot a day without sound because, not having paid a premium to secure locations, the production had no leg to stand on when a farmer decided to plow a nearby field with a noisy tractor.
But low-budget also means you don’t have the luxury to simply re-schedule; your creative expression becomes focused on problem solving. In this instance, Davo shot visuals without sound; knowing that some of what they captured could be used as is, and some would require more time (if not more money) spent on it in post.
Even in the eight minute interview we conducted, there’s a lot to unpack and learn from Davo Hardy and those like him; those who act on their film making passion, and don’t just talk about it. More like it, I say; and now that Hunting for Shadows is easily accessible via OzFlix, you should watch it and see what other lessons it has in store for you.