In their feature film debut “The Square,” Australian director Nash Edgerton and his screenwriter brother Joel create an intense noir-inspired thriller centered on an adulterous affair and the incidents that occur when a plan to steal a duffel bag full of money goes terribly wrong.
During our interview, Nash, who started in the film industry as a stuntman, discussed his transition into filmmaking and how he feels about “The Square” taking two years to finally reach U.S. audiences.
What was the motivation behind making your first feature film after so many shorts? Was it just the right time?
Yeah, my brother and I had been working on making a feature for a while. At some point we just felt like it was ready and we should try to get it financed.
Were you worried about making the transition from short films to features?
Yeah, definitely. A short is shot in a few days and you have the whole story in your head and you can shoot the whole thing in order. With a feature, it takes weeks and you’re trying to keep the story together and you’re juggling everything on set and shooting it out of order. It’s quite daunting but very cool.
You started in the film industry as a stuntman. How did that come about?
I got the idea when I was 18 that I wanted to work as a stuntman. I didn’t know anyone in the film industry. I looked up “stunts” in the phone book and I found a number for an agency that represented stunt people. I was just a kid, but I called and kept calling. I wanted to meet stunt people and be on film sets.
Once you made it onto a set, how long after that did you realize you wanted to be behind the camera?
After working in stunts for about four years, I was trying to get more work and I decided to make a reel to show what I could do. I wanted to have an action sequence on my reel that looked like it was from a movie. I wanted people to take me seriously as a stunt man and think that I was already doing movies as an actor. At the same time, my brother [Joel] was trying to get into acting. So, we decided to shoot a movie for his reel, too. Through that, we found this love for filmmaking. We enjoyed the process of making a film.
When you read your brother’s script for “The Square” for the first time, was it obvious that it would be your first feature?
Well, he actually had a draft in 2003. When I first read it, I thought it was such a page turner. I was intrigued to know what was going to happen. I knew right away it was the film I wanted to make.
It’s taken two years for “The Square” to finally get to the U.S. As a filmmaker is this more frustrating or relieving when you take a step back and look at the journey you’ve been on with this film?
I didn’t find it too frustrating. You make a film to be seen by an audience. I guess a film goes on the journey it’s meant to take. It’s just great that people are responding so well to the film. It’s been interesting because I feel like I have more perspective on it now that I’ve had time away from it. It opened in Australia about a year and a half ago. It’s nice to have a fresh audience in a new country.
You’ve been on a number of films sets as a stuntman and worked with different directors. Do you take a lot of what you learn from those directors into your own style?
You can’t help it. When I work on these film sets I’m always observing. You learn from their triumphs and their mistakes. It’s kind of been my film school in a way.
Where else do you pull inspiration for filmmaking?
I think I’m more inspired about how a film makes me feel as opposed to trying to copy the way a film has been done. It’s more about trying to recreate a memory of something than anything else.
Are you a strong believer in fate?
I’m a believer in fate but I definitely think bad choices guide us sometimes. I like to think of Ray (the main character in “The Square”) as a bad chess player. He’s never thinking of the consequences of the moves he’s making. He might be thinking a few steps ahead but never beyond that.
What would you like people to know about the state of the Australian film industry today?
I think at the moment there is an interesting group of people making films. Australia has always made a lot of genre films. You saw that back in the 70s more. I feel more recently there are more genre films coming out. I think my generation of filmmakers is starting to be the leader in making more of these films.