David O’Donnell Tackles Emotional Baggage with New Short ‘Picture Wheel’

As filmmaker John Frankenheimer aptly said casting is 65% of directing. This is a notion that Australian actor, writer and director David O’Donnell knows only too well by casting actor James Hoare in his latest short film Picture Wheel.

Hoare, who also stars in the upcoming remake of Picnic at Hanging Rock, beautifully plays the emotionally-bound lead role of Elliott, who is burdened by actual pictures of his ex girlfriend swinging around his head.

O’Donnell’s producing partner and actor Alex Russell (Chronicle, Carrie, Unbroken) was originally set to play Elliott, but due to scheduling conflicts and the fact Russell was packing a 70s “bushy” mustache for another role at the time made it impossible.

“Luckily, James Hoare stepped in. Though I’ve known of James’ work before, working with him more extensively on this was phenomenal. He brought a beautiful truthfulness to this absurdist world,’’ said O’Donnell.

Picture Wheel is a subtle yet inventive trope from O’Donnell, who graduated from Western Australia’s prestigious WAAPA acting school, set in an alternate future where people wear a mechanical head brace that rotates old photographs.

O’Donnell said the idea for the script came from how people tend to hoard memories, both good and bad, like a homeless man carries around a shopping cart full of personal junk.

“I think often we get very sentimental about the past, and assign identity to some pain or experience. At the time I was thinking how often this stuff can be junk – not to be kept around like musty old clutter,” said O’Donnell.

David O'Donnell

‘Picture Wheel’ writer/director David O’Donnell (right) onset with producer Alex Russell

The film, which recently had its premiere at the Cinequest film festival in San Jose, was shot in and around the LA area, and produced by Russell with Tom Fox Davies and production designer by Carly Larson, who designed the head contraption that was central to story.

“(Carly) is a real bad ass. She could take a concept or rough sketch and realize it beautifully. Basically she can build, fabricate, piece together anything, “ said O’Donnell.

O’Donnell and Russell are part of Five Lips Film, an active startup film and media outfit run with fellow partners Ande Cunningham, James Elliot and Sarah-Jane McAllan. Not surprisingly, O’Donnell said the production was grueling, with an ambitious schedule, minimal budget and location issues.

“I had no more than 3 or 4 hours sleep a night for weeks before and through this shoot. There was a lot to do. But I was completely energized by the end of it. Indie filmmaking has its challenges, but it has its rewards sometimes too, “ said O’Donnell.

Following on from Picture Wheel, David has two features in development. Surf crime drama Sons of Salt received Screen Australia development funding and was shortlisted for the Australians in Film Gateway prize. Gritty romantic drama Under My Skin was shortlisted for the 2016 Cinestory fellowship.