‘I am no longer a technician. I am a creative’, Australian director Jon Leahy declares in his debut at the helm for indie drama ‘Skin Deep’, a dual character study of polar opposites coming face to face with their own mortality.
Actively involved in the film industry for the past 20 years in the grip, rigging and electrical department, it was Leahy’s sheer persistence, experience and observation on set that would prepare him most for diving into the realm of feature film making in the capacity as a first time director.
Skin Deep Trailer:
Despite the film having 2 female protagonists, Skin Deep doesn’t isolate its audience by catering to a sole gender. Rather, it focuses on universal themes everyone can relate to, from learning to be responsible as a young person to exploring that inevitable transition into adulthood. It were these base, relatable elements found in writer Monica Zanetti’s script that made jumping on board for Leahy a no-brainer.
Learn more from our interview with Jon below:
Jon Leahy on Skin Deep
Leahy professes to an unobtrusive, open approach in his directing style in order to create a nurturing stage for actors to hone their performance. Over the course of the dozen days shooting, Leahy picked up some invaluable lessons directing actors.
Jon Leahy’s directing tips:
- Have the actor speak back to you in the 3rd This will allow them to hear, understand and know what is required from the scene clearer.
- Be non-invasive. Give the actor room to be vulnerable and playful.
- Don’t focus too heavily on delivery from an actor. Get to the core of what’s really going on in the scene.
The majority of Skin Deep was shot down claustrophobic laneways and back streets across Sydney’s Bohemian capital, Newtown, on the Arri Alexa, coupled with ultra prime and super speed lenses. This combination proved ideal when pushing the latitude in the grade to enhance visibility of actors in shadows, given the camera’s vast dynamic range.
Approximately 90% was shot handheld and with natural light. Creatively, Jon wanted the camera style to match the film’s whimsical dream-like tone, yet establish a grounded sense of reality given the confronting ‘life and death’ subject matter.
Leahy reflects, it was a romantic thought to shoot at 4am and get that beautiful sunrise, but what wasn’t anticipated was the ‘bustling highway’ that was King street! Part and parcel with shooting amidst a never-ending peak hour was dealing with commuters staring down the barrel of the lens during takes. Essentially, the 50mm became the ‘wide’.
With a flurry of genre pictures dominating the theatrical domain, Leahy is enthused by the video-on-demand platform regarding Skin Deep’s future for wide release. ‘The benefit of VOD is that if your audience wants to see it, they can’.
Skin Deep has already received a wealth of international and local festival success with an honorable mention for Best Narrative Feature at the 2014 Austin Film Festival and a standing ovation at the sold out Australian premiere for the 2015 QueerScreen Mardi Gras Film Festival.
It is with this assurance of engaging an audience Jon Leahy firmly marks his line in the sand as a creative storyteller.
Jon Leahy’s tips for first time feature filmmakers:
- Surround yourself with people who you trust. If you’re working 16 hour days, make sure you’re doing what you love.
- Write something that is attainable; 2 characters in a one-town location, with bare minimum costume changes, stunt work or fight scenes.
- JUST DO IT!
Skin Deep is now set to screen at the 25th Melbourne Queer Film Festival on March 22nd. Details for tickets below:
Got any questions for Jon? Comment below or on our facebook page and we’ll hit up Jon for more info.