Kelly Dolen is a filmmaker looking to twist the Australian film industry, in much the same way as his cinematic inspiration David Fincher does with his brand of off-kilter Hollywood fare. Dolen is keen to tackle serious topics, social issues and injustices, but has been around the traps long enough to know that a powerful message is not enough; that the ability a movie has to effect social change is inherently linked to how entertaining its audience finds it.

Dolen’s latest film, John Doe: Vigilante was originally conceived as a response to the media commentary and saturation following the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, but over time (and as a result of the events of 9/11) the film has evolved along a more cynical, logical path. It lives in the troublesome, morally grey area of the modern world, where ever more extreme brutality seems to be all that rises above the pessimistic white noise of the evening news.

A spark of inspiration:

“Wouldn’t it be fascinating to make a movie from the killer’s perspective?”

The writer / director / producer / jack-of-all-trades spoke to Any Camera Will Do about securing funding in Australia, working with top international talent and breaking free of the restrictive Australian market and exhibiting around the world.

Kelly Dolen On John Doe Vigilante part 1

One of Dolen’s chief objectives when making John Doe: Vigilante was for the world of the film to inhabit a sort of ‘any-town Australia’; a tactic designed to help immerse audiences in the story, leading viewers to believe that the events depicted could be happening in their town. Your town. This helps it appeal to a much broader audience than many culturally specific Australian films, and thanks to some confidence and support with international distributors it’s enjoyed a limited theatrical releases in several major markets globally, including the US and Australia.

Thanks more than a little to the universality of the social justice issues at the core of the film, audience response has proved divisive. There are as many people finding the experience cathartic and inspiring as there are those warning Dolen that it’s likely to start riots wherever it’s shown, likening it to a snuff film. They’re responses that Dolen happily takes in stride, and perhaps prophetic of the shift that the director seems eager to usher in the industry.

On breaking in traditionally: “I wouldn’t worry about the system. If what you’ve got is good enough, they will come to you. Follow your own bloody instincts.”

Kelly Dolen On John Doe Vigilante part 2

Top Tips for Aspiring Filmmakers

– The script isn’t ready until the money’s in the bank!
– Attach quality people to your project (calling their agents or sending them your script or pitch is not as hard as it seems).
– Embrace new production and distribution techniques. “The future’s here, now!”
– Cutting away before major on-screen violence helps keep costs down (because you don’t have to spend big on FX!), but it’s also more effective to let the events play out only in the audience’s head.
– Be tenacious. Never stop working hard for what you want. “The only person who’s going to hold you back from making your career happen is you.”


More info:

Got any questions for Kelly Dolen? Hit us up in the comments below or on our Facebook page and we will hit Kelly up for more info.

Take a look at the John Doe Vigilante website here.

And you can find the John Doe Vigilante IMDB page here.

Big thanks to Andrew Yong, our man in Melbourne who shot the interview with Kelly Dolen.

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