Tuesday, June 22, 2010

art gallery dreaming

Since I last blogged, after Dungog, I've been wandering up and down the eastern seaboard, seeking adventure, clarity and creative inspiration. There's plenty to be written about the first two aims, but right now I'm just going to write about the third, and a beautiful exhibit that I saw yesterday in Melbourne, at the NGV Australia.

So Rupert Bunny was a Melbourne-born painter, who spent about thirty years in France, and basically moved between the two countries for his whole life (1864-1947). His style, therefore, sits somewhere in between the two, gently inspired by the ebb and flow of historical context. There's a pretty broad range of styles going across his work, and towards the end it starts to be much more stylised, allegorical and in-your-face.

Admittedly, I was most attracted to the pre-war stuff; when he was evidently creating from a place of contentment, producing beautiful pieces that echoed French impressionism (and therefore many of my other favourite painters). Yet there's something very unique to his work too: it's dreamy, moody and elements of magic realism pop up all over the shop (mermaids, fawns, etc.). See:

He's evidently obsessed with women and femininity - and while there are all sorts of arguments you could make about exotisising the other I prefer to think that he idealises the gender out a place of respect. Pow. I especially love his use of soft colours, that dreamlike quality, and that hint of mystery that he captures in the women's facial expressions.

Here's a quote that accompanied the exhibit, and that I very much appreciated:

"What a period of dreaming!" my mother said. Looking back on in wonder at the unreal psychic state of the feminine world of her youth, she attributed this phenomena to the repressive ideas of the era. "We were the last Romantics," she said. "Novels and embroidery were the drugs of the period, stimulating and tranquillising according to emotional state. Dreaming was our only freedom and way of escape from boredom, and through dreams we managed to create a beautiful, enchanted world."
- Collette Reddin, 1987

Once again, is this a case of idealising repression? Perhaps, but goodness, if you'd seen how beautiful these paintings were you'd probably be OK with that.

xxx magda

Monday, May 31, 2010

dungog highlight #3

HIGHLIGHT #3. Push Bike + other short films

I watched a buttload of short films over the course of this weekend. Some where hilarious, others humbling, some pretty shit (film festival choices so often baffle me!) and a few I will struggle to forget.

Some highlights:
- Vinyl: the story of an African family struggling to fit into Australia. Very little dialogue, no simple charectisation, no flashbacks, no need to explain everything about their tortured background. A story told through images.
- The Wake: a short slice of life piece that didn’t bother with three act structure. It just let us in for a minute, crafted some strong characters and told a bigger story through some snapshot insights.
- Monkey Bar Mafia: a crime film set in a primary school, where the top Mafioso is a greasy haired year seven, the police are the highly organised network of teachers, and the big heist is a quest to retrieve a confiscated footy card from the principal’s office. It’s fun, fast paced, colourful and completely unrealistic whilst still being quite genuinely suspenseful.
- Push Bike: this was my favourite. Like Vinyl, it’s almost all non-dialogue; a story told through images, glances and thrilling performances. It’s dark little film that follows a lonely mother in her late thirties, as over one evening of unfortunate events, she moves through despondence, humiliation and real terror before discovering an unexpectedly gentle, and deeply sensual, connection from a point of absolute fear. I could not tear my eyes away from the at once disturbing and touching story.

Summary: filmmaking is endlessly versatile. Also, I’m kinda now in the mood to make a darker film. Not something about terminal illness or suburban poverty, but something that just moves into darker thematic territory. As the ever wise Freya said to me, as we sat around waiting for Stuffed to screen: “maybe it’s something you have to do, both to help you learn about filmmaking and to help you learn about the darker part of yourself.”

OOOOOH, hella insightful.

Much lovin
xxxx magda

dungog highlight #2

HIGHLIGHT #2. Gillian Armstrong

She’s something of a legend in Australian cinema, and also an inspiration for female filmmakers – having used cinema to make strong feminist statements (My Brilliant Career), tell beautiful female stories (Little Women) and also to just have non gender specific fun (Starstruck). On Saturday afternoon she delivered a panel discussion about filmmaking and her background and her adventures. Here is what I want to remember:

“Don’t ever be intimidated by anyone. If they intimidate you, take them out for a beer or few. Almost everyone in the filmmaking world is mostly alright.”
“You should know whether you love or hate a script after having read ten pages. This test never fails. Also: if you know how it’ll end after ten pages, you should probably throw it away.”
“As a director, you don’t have to worry about technical details: just be a strong communicator with a clear idea. You don’t have to be the one standing there with a light metre, you just have to know exactly how you want that light to hit the person.”
“Story is absolutely the key. Just let story make all the creative decisions for you.”
"Surround yourself in inspiration. Watch films. Also: go to galleries, listen to music, look at photos, see plays, watch dancers, read novels and read magazines. This is the only way to grow as a filmmaker, artist and person."

UM pretty sure there are a hell of a lot more, but I will just edit them in as I remember.
"Someone should have taken a notebook" - Magda Wozniak, 2010

xxx Magda

dungog highlight #1

Last week I flew all across Australia with four other lovely ladies from the WA Screen Academy to attend the DUNGOG FILM FESTIVAL - a weekend of screenings and parties in a tiny rural NSW town of 3000 people and a lot more cattle. One of my short films was selected for the Sunday "whimsical" screening session (what makes a film whimsical? how do you measure levels of whimsy? don't ask me), so that was kinda my excuse for being there, but actually the weekend was amazing for so many other reasons. Here are some highlights, presented across three separate posts for your reading convenience.


I went into this film wanting to adore it. I was already enamoured with all the promotional images, plus it premiered on the festival's opening night - so we were all dressed up, excited and giddy from having just walked across a 2m long red carpet. Truly though, I reckon this one could have screened in a cattle shed, all of us sitting on dirty hay stacks, and I would have loved it equally.

It's about a 11-year-old girl called Louise, who sits on the brink of early adulthood, starting to understand everything that's recently gone wrong for her family. Naturally, she blames her tortured soul of a mother (Emily Barclay - another beautiful woman) for her father's recent departure and for all their consequential financial predicaments. So, when her estranged and befuddled grandfather Doyle (John Hurt) shows up and it's up to Lou to look after him, she sees it as just another case of her mother eschewing responsibility. Of course, though, this is actually Lou's big chance to learn a thing or two about empathy and humility; in short, to grow up.

This isn't a simple relationship, though. Everything that occurs between the two is complicated by the fact that Doyle has Alzeihmer's and he's convinced that Lou is actually the love of his life. So, what you get is a slowly unfolding relationship that is actually almost as uncomfortable as it is beautiful. The film throws out a whole lot of questions about love and growing up and family and beauty - and then it makes you cry because you realise that finding answers ultimately isn't all that important. It's a complex story, bolstered by amazing performances from Hurt, Barclay and of course little Lou who plays angelic pain to perfection. Plus, its soundtrack is lovely, the sparse country vistas capture the mood ideally, and the whole visual style is something I want to steal - soft, gentle lighting, bright pastelly colours, plenty of rainbow lens flares and gorgeous orange skies.

This is very much akin to the kind of film I'd like to make. It's funny in all the right moments, has a really strong visual style, and also a deeply human story. I may have drunkenly told the lovely director Belinda Czajko all of this at one of the parties. Oops?

xxxx Magda

Monday, May 24, 2010

out of her league

Sometimes, when I'm writing something new, I like to jump the gun a bit and consider the soundtrack. In the past I have even gone so crazy as to compile a few "dream soundtrack" playlists. These, of course, are then played on loop for further inspiration/motivation.

In this particular instance, I have selected three potential theme songs/title tracks, as follows:

Note how I become increasingly ambitious with my selections. Still, I'm pretty sure we can get all these artists on board if we try hard enough. I HOPE YOU ARE READING THIS PRODUCER ALEX GILES.

Goodness, now that it has popped into my head, I rather love the image of ole Brucey gettin pumped to go pro bono for some amateur filmmakers from Perth. He'd be keen as I reckon. He's just that kind of guy.

xxx Maggie Mae

Sunday, May 23, 2010

pleasantly surprised

Gosh I love it when commercial TV does OK. This time, I'm delighted to announce that the pilot of Modern Families narrowly avoided the offensiveness hinted at in its trailers (thanks Channel 10, your inability to pick appropriate highlights astounds me yet again).

The first episode was exactly how I like my TV: wacky but tight (incidentally, this is also how I like men, RAWR). It spanned the whole gamut of lolz, from the most outrageously amusing (The Lion King tribute springs to mind) to the more subtly hilarious (mistaking 'Phil' for 'feel'). And, despite leaning on those tired-but-true mockumentary stylings, I think there's enough original thinking here to help this one get by. For starters, it isn't set a work place. Points for that.

I think also it helps that I'm addicted to stories about dysfunctional but well-meaning families. Though I guess the good news is that if this show does OK there might still be hope for "Woz Woz World" after all.


Friday, May 14, 2010


After an intense bout of seemingly endless bout of writer's block, the words are finally flowing. If they continue to flow like this, then the amazing Alex Giles and I will be embarking upon a potentially very exciting creative journey. More details soon.

Current inspirations in picture form:

The amazing "Pumpkin Soup" video, plus: kids' TV production design, portable houses, helium balloons, colour, colour, colour, bright lighting, rose coloured glasses, fringes, big buttons.

Sweet treats, hundreds and thousands, colourful cones, fairy floss, sherbet, neopolitan stripes, melted chocolate, serviettes in block primary colours, candy hearts.

Perth beaches, bright blue skies, vintage swimsuits, parasols with polka dots and stripes and zig zags, perfectly white sand, limestone walls, pink sea shells.

And I already fear that I have said too much.