This Director Gets Real On How To Discuss Social Issues
Brett Michael Innes an award-winning writer/director who scooped up the accolades when his film Sink won the 2017 SAFTA award for Best Film. His latest short film Blue Dress explores sexual assault from the perspective of a man, and has catalysed discussions around gender-based violence. Here’s his script for a more creative and engaged approach to life:
I get cold feet when it comes to tackling difficult topics with my partner. Is there any right way to approach talking about complex political or social issues with those closest to you?
Curiosity, kindness, and research. If you’re open to the fact that you could be wrong then that’s a great start to entering a conversation. If you do so with kindness then your motivation is more about exploration than being right. And if you’ve done your research, then I believe you are able to have strong opinions that you can fight for when confronted with someone who may disagree with you.
Your film Sink started as a script, became a novel, and then finally was turned into a movie – how do you know when it’s time for an idea to change course?
You follow the life of the project, and stay open to the idea that – despite all your planning – there may be a better way of doing things than you originally thought of. The most successful people in my mind don’t always make the right choices, but they are the ones who are open-minded and quick to shift gears when they realise they’ve taken a wrong turn. Ain’t nobody got time to go down with a sinking ship!
I’ve got a great a movie idea and a script, but how do I sell it?
Ever heard of a ‘logline’? This is a 50-word pitch that sums up your idea. You want to make sure you hit all the high notes of your concept: your protagonist, their goal, and what’s stopping them from getting there. For example, guess which film this is for: “In 1936, archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis can obtain its awesome powers.” Short, sweet, and to the point.
My kids are growing up and I want to start capturing hi-res memories, but I stink at taking videos. Any tips?
Composition is key to taking good photos and videos. The easiest way to create images that are interesting is to divide the frame into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) and then try to place the subject of the image on one of those thirds. Your iPhone actually has a function under the setting called “grid” which does this for you. Plus, don’t be afraid to move around until you find the angle that looks best. Most people stand dead still, instead of lying on the ground or walking five metres to the left to find the perfect shot.
Last year, the “me too” movement was a wake-up call. What can we do right now?
Unfortunately, gender-based violence has been branded a women’s issue; and as such becomes a topic that men feel they’re unable to have an opinion about, or be part of the solution. They’re either the villain or a passive bystander. Listening is important, but the message that is often extended today is that men must just ‘shut up and listen’ while women dominate this conversation. This only serves to reinforce this belief. In my mind the average guy needs to be actively involved in understanding, unpacking and solving this problem, having opinions and being willing to change them. We may never know what it is to be a woman living in this space; but that doesn’t mean that we sit back and expect women to fix this thing. We need to do it together.
There’s a time and a place for mindless action movies. Sometimes, it helps when a movie makes you think. “These films moved me deeply, and gave me great insight into the human and male condition that prompts me to be better,” says Brett. Here are his picks:
Cloud Atlas (2012) How do one’s actions in the past affect the life of someone in the future? This film tells the stories of multiple characters across five centuries, from a composer in pre-World War II Britain to a genetically engineered labourer in 2144.
Children of Men (2006) It’s 2027, women are infertile, and mankind is facing extinction. A former activist (Clive Owen) is tasked with transporting a miraculously pregnant woman to a safe sanctuary out at sea.
Dan in Real Life (2007) Dan (Steve Carrell) is a columnist who is struggling to raise his three daughters. One night, their fighting drives him to seek refuge at a nearby bookstore, where he falls in love with a woman. The twist: turns out she’s his brother’s girlfriend.