It’s scary to think that you may have to generate your own material to be in work. But it’s also exciting because it gives you freedom and control over the material you work on – Talia Zucker
Talia Zucker and Will Jaymes don’t like to sit idle.
From their career beginnings in Australia when Zucker played a Von Trapp kid in the local production of The Sound Of Music and Jaymes made short films in between law subjects at university they understood that succeeding in film is about creating opportunities as much as seizing them.
“I really enjoy the entire filmmaking process and that alone can be enough to keep me going,” said Jaymes. Despite the everyday difficulties, Jaymes believes that initiating your own projects creates much-needed momentum. “At times it can feel like building a career in the film industry is really hard, but if you continue to work on your own content and just focus on getting better, more opportunities start to arise and things do get easier, ” he said.
The Australian couple who both date, work and live together, recently had a script chosen for the 2016 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, a five-day writers’ workshop held in Utah just before the main festival. The intimate program, held in snowy Park City, is perhaps one of the more lucrative writing events on the US indie calendar and includes just 12 projects with 6 advisors on each project.
Zucker and Jaymes submitted In Vitro, which is being written by her and Jaymes with frequent collaborator Tom McKeith. The story is about a young women kept in isolation on a remote cattle ranch who discovers the disturbing truth about her existence. Zucker said the lab was as much about meeting and being inspired by other screenwriters as developing the script itself. “There was very little writing and a lot of deep thinking, with long chats by the fireplace. It was a special time,’’ said Zucker.
Jaymes agrees, calling it a ‘pinch yourself’ kind of experience.
“You’re there with some of the best screenwriters in Hollywood, just kind of hanging out, curled up next to fireplaces, eating meals together, watching films, taking walks in the snow, and all the while getting to talk to them about your script, ” he said.
This Sundance experience comes after Jaymes’ independent feature Beast scored a premiere screening at the high profile Toronto International Film Festival in 2015. Set in Manila and featuring a solid performance from newcomer Chad McKinney, Jaymes co-wrote the boxing drama with McKeith and his brother Sam, as well as producing and acting alongside McKinney and Garret Dillahunt.
Jaymes said being a producer on Beast taught him about the supply and demand side of the film business and the importance of knowing the marketplace. “I’ve seen how hard it is (to sell a film). That doesn’t necessarily discourage me, but now I have a better understanding of the type of film you’re making, and having clearer expectations based on that.”
Zucker and Jaymes watch films regularly, considering it important for developing their craft. Influences are far and wide, but with a particular focus on European cinema and realism. When discussing film, they are more likely to bring up names like Dardeene or Heneke than a Spielberg or Zemeckis. Zucker said they like to watch as many films as possible, programming a two-person film festival at home, each taking turns introducing the films, dissecting them, especially story and structure now that writing is such a focus for them. Zucker jokes about the mock ‘film festival’ that her and Jaymes hold in their living room. “We take it in turns to act as the programmer for the night, choosing and introducing a film. We kind of just do it for fun and it’s a bit corny, but we end of watching a lot of great films that way.” She added that watching good films also keep her motivated about filmmaking. ” When I watch a good film it makes me want to try harder, ” said Zucker.
Jaymes spent his early years watching the films of the Dardeene Brothers, the Belgian siblings known for Rosetta (1999) and Le Fils (2005). “The Dardeenes seem to be really particular about how they script the action in their films, what characters are doing in each scene outside of the dialogue.” Jaymes reckons they care more about behavior than words. “I find myself doing the same thing now. I’m much more focused on the action rather than the dialogue,” said Jaymes.
It’s hard not to consider Zucker and Jaymes, including the McKeiths, as the millennial generation’s answer to Blue Tongue Films, the successful troupe of Australian filmmakers including Kieran Darcy-Smith, Luke Doolan, Joel Edgerton, Nash Edgerton, Mirrah Foulkes, David Michôd, and Spencer Susser, that are known for being self starters. Zucker says she is particularly inspired by Joel Edgerton for his ability to manage his successful career as an actor and still be able to write and direct his own works, such as last year’s The Gift.
“I’m beginning to understand and appreciate just how hard it is to write a script and so I really respect Joel as he’s able to juggle all those hats, “ she said.