The work of West Footscray filmmakers Dan and Amelia Farmer is an alchemic brew of imagination, humour, darkness, truth, beauty and the art of storytelling.
The duo behind Farmwalker Films have an impressive and eclectic body of work.
From the hilarious and beautifully dark film clip for King Parrot’s Shit on the Liver, to pitch perfect short doco Doug the Barber, their work takes you on an adventure into hidden worlds, all beautifully shot and masterfully told.
West Art Now spoke with Dan and Amelia about their love of film and how their partnership and collaboration creates cinematic gold.
What makes a good story?
a: It’s all about character. Some people are just vessels filled with unique memories and experiences – and when these are verbalised or communicated they become stories. But it takes craft to pace a story and lead the audience and I think this is also what makes a good story. Not just what you put in but how its handled and directed.
d: I’m big on concept. And I think this maybe goes back to my action film days. I think of films as puzzles. Whether it’s the construction of the film or narrative. I like a solid concept that keeps you engaged, action to inject adrenaline, a philosophical offering, and a genuinely original use of the medium.
What is it like creating together?
d: When working for others we generally begin by debating whether we have an idea that will generate a great film.
When we look at what we can experiment with and where we can go this indicates what the film will look like. So it’s part dreaming and part logistics.
When we collaborate on our own work; micro-budget music vids, short film, online doodles, we just have sparks of ideas in our minds that we run with. There is no process, it’s one foot in front of the other… pure discovery.
a: I don’t know how it happens each time. Dan probably comes up with some outrageous ideas and we discuss how and why that could work/won’t work.
I love working with Dan. I think we are very much Ying and Yang – a good balance of creativity and structure.
How and why did your collaboration begin?
d: Our first collaboration was busting shapes on the dance floor of a nightclub called Cheers. It all started ‘cos I was out for some action and a girlfriend… It appears I got more than I bargained for… I’m blessed.
a: We met when we were 20 years old and both had no idea what we wanted to do with our lives. We made one of our first films together where I stole a man’s kidney. Farmwalker Films just naturally evolved when we started working together.
What do you each bring to the table?
a: Dan brings the creative flare and weird and wonderful ideas. I bring the order and the ‘what if’s’ and the organising and the hospitality, but we both have a big influence in how our projects work out creatively.
We love working together. We feed off each other and I think our personal projects have a good balance. Of course, it’s frustrating at times working with your partner, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
d: Apart from being a great film producer in her own right, Amelia is like my coach: wisdom and reaffirming comments from the sideline as I break bones in the mud.
And I guess I am on a mission to find the unfound. I get sooo excited when something unexpected happens… and the best thing about filmmaking is it’s recorded.
You come across something uncharted and unique and it on camera for the ages. So what I hope to bring to the table is a new piece of work that has never been put on a table before.
Your work is a mix of documentary, music videos, short films and commercial work, if push comes to shove, what sort of work really rocks your boat?
a: I think being able to come in at the conceptual stage of new projects is a big thing for us. This is where the imagination can run wild and we can play in the sandpit.
I love meeting people and hearing their stories and cutting them together is really satisfying.
d: I aspire to make feature films – this is where I am heading. But I really enjoy making music vids now.
You can’t pick which ones will be the most fun to work on until you are in the thick of it but there is a certain amount of play involved in creating a music vid and this seems to dry up a bit when working to a narrative script
You can totally change where you go with a music video to encourage performance or because it gels better with the song. It’s not so easy to deviate from a narrative script because there is a consistency of performance and story that need to be upheld.
How much does the western suburbs influence what you create?
d: My visual style is not very refined. I like rough edges. I like a handmade feel. Honesty, character and the underdog. I like to make things happen by starting with nothing and relying on ingenuity to get the show on the road. These are consistencies of my work and I see these elements around us all the time in Footscray.
a: We moved here three and a half years ago, not really knowing what to expect. And we love this place. There is so much old world, so many characters and a really exciting vibe as more people discover the area.
For more of Dan and Amelia's work, visit Farmwalker films.
words jessica dean + pictures marc eiden