The Intentions of Shaun & Jay Perry
interview by Steve Proposch
“Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
Shaun and Jay Perry grew up in a little mountain suburb/town called Olinda in the Dandenong Ranges about an hour and half from Melbourne’s CBD. It’s a lovely place to look at, very lush and green, but kind of isolated. The twins jumped into the arts pretty early, writing stories, drawing cartoons, sculpting with clay and running around filming random things on their Cash Converters Handycam. “Our family is a little strange and very much into the arts, so we’ve always had a lot of encouragement over the years,” they say. Now, at twenty-six years old, they’ve moved closer in to Melbourne. Shaun has almost finished his degree in Professional Writing and Editing at Swinburne University, and feels ready to jump face first into the real world. Jay completed a Bachelor of Screen Production at the University of Canberra, and now works full-time in the CBD, saving cash primarily to help fund future film projects.
The twins’ first film together has already achieved some major success, winning two awards last year at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, as well as taking out Best Director at the European Cinematography Awards. The film has also been featured at a number of International festivals, and as part of Flickerfest in 2018. Most recently it was selected for the St Kilda Film Festival (17-26 May) and the Revelation Perth International Film Festival (5-18 July). These are all incredible achievements for a couple of bright, young first-timers who funded their efforts with a clever crowd-funding campaign. And the resulting short is certainly worth the fuss. The Intentions of F. Scott Fitzgerald is a dark, existentialist comedy that follows two Australian hitmen on a routine ‘clean up’ job. Whilst in a meaningful conversation about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous novel, The Great Gatsby, the pair find themselves in a panic as their victim makes a run for it. This set-up is original and well-conceived, brilliantly shot, and directed by Shaun and Jay with surprisingly subtle and artful hands. It stars Lawrie Fildes, Glenn Luck, Mark Reed and Alfred Nicdao.
First up can you explain who does what job in the team?
Jay Perry: The concept for The Intentions of F. Scott Fitzgerald was first developed by Shaun as a short story. He then went on to write a first draft, and then I came in and wrote the second draft. It was from there that we went on to write over ten drafts together to form the final script. Shaun and I both directed the film, Rhys Sherring, a friend and someone we met at university put his hand up to be Producer. Shaun and I have also wanted to collaborate with a long time friend from High School, Scott Mulgrew. He runs his own production company called Woolshed Imaging and he’s an absolute genius behind the camera. We were lucky to have him on board. Scott then reached out to a friend and owner of production company Illum, Matt Read. Matt has had extensive experience in commercial filmmaking and proved to be a vital asset on set in all areas.
You are identical twins – does your relationship as brothers and/or as twins inform your process at all?
JP: Working with my brother on set had its advantages and disadvantages. It was great to be able to spout any bit of nonsense I liked at the fool, without having the repercussions of a professional working relationship. We also didn’t have to deal with egos, or outline who does what and when. We developed the film in our own way and didn’t follow a strict process. We also have a lot of the same tastes and interests, so for example when one of us came up with an idea, it wasn’t hard to convince the other person that the idea had potential. A disadvantage was that both of us are not the best at time management. Thus, our creative process as directors was quite slow and a little unorganised. Something that we both recognise we need to work on.
What made you want to become filmmakers?
Shaun Perry: My brother and I have always had a bizarre thirst to tell stories even before the days we could read or write. I remember as a kid pacing back and forth, attempting to articulate a story, my older brother transcribing it down in Word on the old Windows 96. In primary school there was always a set hour of reading time and the classmates and I were tired of the same old books available – Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter, Garfield, or something by Paul Jennings. So Jay and I began writing short stories and bringing them in for everyone. Our teacher at the time, Jenny Garrett, was a great support and allowed us to do it. They were usually a rip-off of some movie we had seen, but instead we replaced the characters with our dogs, or our friend’s dogs. We then began writing plays for the class to act out and from there it just naturally moved to making animations on Microsoft Powerpoint, to finally owning our first Handycam. That’s when it really got wild.
When it comes to our influences, we have always enjoyed movies that are heavy in theme, but balanced with humour. We think it’s good to have a laugh, but also to have something to chew on afterwards on your drive home. Filmmakers such as Martin Mcdonagh and his brother John, we truly admire. We love the intelligent and often hilarious dialogue they write for their actors. With movies like In Bruges (Martin), Three Billboards (Martin), or The Guard (John), they manage to seamlessly blend comedy and drama together. They are true master auteurs. Other independent directors such as Wes Anderson (The Grand Budepest Hotel) and Jim Jarmusch (Coffee and Cigarettes) also influence us heavily. They add so much humour and quirkiness into the cinematography. Writers like Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind), Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) … the list can go on. There are so many influences I would like to talk about, but it would go on forever.
Tell us about your film – a brief history.
SP: The inspiration for the film came from a combination of things. The first being that I had just finished reading The Great Gatsby and found F. Scott Fitzgerald’s exploration into the American dream and its consequences, mind blowing. Around that same time, we had just swan dived into the sweat inducing world of the 9 to 5 grind. Our parents had moved to the United Kingdom to live and so we were out in the real world, earning a wage, paying bills, paying rent, etc. I was working at the local cinema, and Jay was working at Woolworths. While it wasn’t your down and dirty blue collar jobs, we found with routine and repetition – selling tickets, scanning groceries, ripping stubs and discussing the weather – there was a monotony to it. It caused us to wonder what other jobs might be – no matter the circumstance, whether you are a skydiver, a garbageman or whatever – with routine and repetition, will it always stagnate over time? And so we developed a short script throwing the monotony into the hands of two hitmen. Over probably a good three or four months, twelve drafts, a few auditions, and a scatter of production meetings, it came time to actually make the movie. Unfortunately, neither of us had any money. We were broke, quite literally living the life of poor film students. I was driving a rusty old 1996 Toyota Corolla, complete with duct taped window, faulty battery, the whole thing (it just recently died, R.I.P), and so we had to raise the money. Three-thousand dollars, to be exact. We shot a crowd funding video and placed it on Pozible. Over the course of a month we were luckily able to raise the whole amount and so we are forever thankful to our supporters. Without them we wouldn’t have this film.
What kind of reaction have you received to the film so far?
JP: The film was finished and quickly flown overseas in August 2017, we had a bit of a deadline because a film festival in Vermont USA (Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival) was keen to see our next film. My own previous short film, Obsolete, screened there back in 2015 and ended up picking up an award for Best Short Film. They were also great with our new film and actually donated some money to our crowd funding campaign. Thankfully, they enjoyed the film and decided to screen it as part of their 2017 festival. Since then we’ve managed to secure official selection in 12 film festivals and we’ve actually won 3 awards which has been a great surprise. We won Best Director and Best Cinematography at the Los Angeles Independent Film Awards, and also Best Director at the European Cinematography Awards. It has also been a bit of a relief. The film had a production duration of close to 12 months (we shot over weekends), and when you spend so long on a film it’s hard not to become numb to the concept and to the humour. We haven’t had any negative feedback so far but everyone is different. Shaun and I both embrace constructive criticism, anything to sharpen and develop our writing. We’re also absolutely pumped we made selection at the St Kilda Film Festival. It’s a festival we’ve always hoped we would get into, and it’s the film’s premiere in Melbourne. So our friends and family can finally see the film on the big screen.
What projects do you have planned for the future?
JP: Shaun’s actually writing a feature film script. For the last few months he hasn’t left his place, I’m pretty sure he’s at over a hundred pages now. We’re both working on different concepts at the moment; we’re still maintaining similar tones to The Intentions of F. Scott Fitzgerald though. We thoroughly enjoy making comedies with a lasting message.
St Kilda Film Festival – stkildafilmfestival.com.au
Revelation Perth International Film Festival – revelationfilmfest.org
Follow the film on Facebook – facebook.com/intentionsoffscottfitzgerald