Meet The Director: David Michod Talks About His Journey From Film Journalist To Filmmaker

David Michod
For this installment of our Meet The Director series we’re going back to an interview that David Michod did in 2011 with IndieLondon. The interview made IndieLondon’s Favourite Interviews of 2011 List and it’s easy to see why.
In it David talks about his love of writing and how he learned so much about the business and the craft of filmaking in his job as a journalist.
He explains how he feels incredibly lucky that he got to work with Guy Pearce and also reveals the biggest lesson he’s learned from making Animal Kingdom.

Below are excerpts from the interview:

Q. You’re an ex-film journalist…
David Michôd: Yeah that was weird [laughs]. I actually do remember when I was finishing high school kind of deciding what I wanted to do. And for a moment I flirted with the idea of studying journalism. I really loved writing. But even at that young age I remember going: “I don’t know if that’s how I want to spend my life.” I don’t know what it was about it that made me retreat. But it was very strange.

Ten years later I stumbled into this job on a magazine… a job that I needed because of money and structure. But I threw myself into it and loved it. I’m so grateful now that I had that job, especially at a filmmaker magazine. I learned so much about the business and the craft and I met a lot of great people, all of which was incredibly useful to me when I finally took the leap.

Q. Do you ever second guess yourself at times, coming from a background such as journalism, where you find yourself thinking what might be written about a film or a scene?
David Michôd: I have been so relentlessly surprised that that never enters my thoughts, considering that I consider myself a sensitive being… if not paranoid! I would have thought that I would constantly be thinking about the press and the potential comeuppance – the karmic payback for all of my previous vitriol. But I never have. I’ve just never thought about it. I took the leap into the great unknown of the film world and have never looked back, which again surprises me. I’m always usually second guessing myself for looking for a reason to retreat.

Q. So, what made you decide that the time was right to start making films when you did?
David Michôd: I think it was a mixture of me… I’d been at the magazine for about six years. I’d been editing it for three. At that point, I just felt that I’d given it everything that I had and that me being there any longer was not doing me any favours and it certainly wasn’t doing the magazine any favours. I’d hit a point where I felt like I was phoning it in every month. But it was also about me being aware of the fact that I was now in my early 30s and had gone to film school in my mid-20s to be a filmmaker. And if I didn’t make the decision to do that when I did then there was a good chance that I never would.

David Michod & Guy Pearce on the "Animal Kingdom" set
David Michod & Guy Pearce on the “Animal Kingdom” set

Q. At the other end of the spectrum, you have one of the most experienced actors you could find in Guy Pearce. How did he become involved?
David Michôd: I sent him the script. It was literally like you send the carrier pigeon out into the world and hope that it finds its destinations. That was exciting for me because he responded to us really quickly and really positively. He was my first choice for the role. I knew that having him on board would make the film easier to finance and when I met him it just felt immediately right. I feel incredibly lucky that I got to work with Guy Pearce.To have an actor of his calibre in the film, who is as studious and hard working and generous as he is, was an incredible privilege for me. Sometimes I find myself imagining… Guy had been doing it for some time, he works in the upper echelons… for him to give a first-time director the time and the consideration that he did is, I think, for him probably a gamble. He’s taking a risk when he does a film like Animal Kingdom. But he’s really smart, incredibly generous and I’m eternally grateful to him that he took that risk.

Q. And how flattering is it to find that the film has travelled so well internationally?
David Michôd: I think the overriding hope is that any film will be seen by as wide an audience as possible. The financing of Australian films is, in a large part, dependent on it having some potential for international play because they never make the money they need to make in Australia alone. But you never know. I went into this with my principal aim being not to embarrass myself – to at least be able to come out the back end of it feeling as though I had done an admirable job. For it to land at Sundance, and for the reception to be as dizzying as it was, and for the film to keep travelling has been a relentless string of surprises.

Q. How was winning the Jury Award at Sundance?
David Michôd: It was great, although I wasn’t there. It was weird, I left the day before the ceremony. But everything I had wanted to achieve with the film I had by then anyway. I went to Sundance just hoping that people would like the film and it kind of exploded straight away after that first screening. I remember thinking: “I really don’t care if we win an award or not. My wildest dreams have come true, so I can go home now.”

Q. I read somewhere that there’s generally an expectation placed upon Australian filmmakers that if they are successful, the next step is Hollywood. How do you view that?
David Michôd; I’d like to make films all over the world and that includes making more back home. I think that if you want to have a big, rich and prosperous career as an Australian filmmaker then you need to be mobile. There are examples of Australian filmmakers who have forged themselves solid careers making only Australian films but they’re relatively few and far between. And they struggle. I’d like to make films with resources and, to a certain extent, making a well resourced film requires thinking internationally.

Q. Do you find that the success of Animal Kingdom has started to open doors for you? Has it made it easier to attract funding?
David Michôd: I think it’s absolutely made getting another film made infinitely easier. It will almost definitely make the actual making of it infinitely harder. You know, I feel so grateful that this world of possibilities has opened up to me but I find myself equally recoiling from the scrutiny. But that’s a quality problem to have.

Q. Are you working on something now?
David Michôd: I’ve got a couple of different things that I’m bubbling away on and trying to work out how best to approach the next 12 months. Not just what film do I want to do next, but where do I want to do it, on what scale and I haven’t made that decision yet.

Q. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken away from making Animal Kingdom? And the fondest memory?
David Michôd: Holy crap. The biggest lesson I learnt I think was probably… I’m just remembering all these different lessons I learned [laughs]. I think the biggest one was that the process of making a feature film is so long and drawn out that you need to be able to step back from it at regular intervals and to realise how ultimately unimportant filmmaking is. That if you feel that you’re happiness is completely dependent on the success of any film you’re making, then you will drive yourself crazy. If nothing else, the next film I make I’ll make a conscious and deliberate effort to step away, look at the whole process and go: “None of this actually matters.”

And my fondest memory was while I was at Sundance getting an email from my dad saying that he was proud of me. Because going to film school was like a vein and possible delusional decision that I made when I was in my early 20s and I’m sure my parents spent a while quietly hoping that I would one day get a real job. So, to see that delusional dream turn into a real job at Sundance for them, I think, was exciting, and to say that to me I found it quite moving.

Check out the full interview over at IndieLondon

Here’s a little look at Animal Kingdom, if you haven’t seen it then check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

And if you missed any of the other parts in out Meet the Director series catch up on them by clicking HERE

  • Great insight into David!

    • hey Tink, i was so sure i get all the infos about Rob’s movies on Robsessed, but now i find these blogs more and more helpful and interesting. thanks a lot for your huge support for Rob and his movies. I think you should make posts on Robsessed in which you link to the newest updates from these movie blogs. can’t wait until the new blog about all his movie starts. 🙂

      • thanks! if Rob’s not directly involved in a post, you wont see it on Robsessed but what kate and i can do is give you guys a heads up on certain posts. for example, if we’re doing a roundup post on Robsessed for his films or some other informative post, we can always link you guys to more info on the movie blogs for you guys to go to. thanks so much for your compliment though. it made me smile 🙂

  • MayIsMyFavMonth

    Thanks for posting, it helps to think outside the box (my very own RP box, lol).

  • I consider myself a sensitive being… if not paranoid! […]. I’m always usually second guessing myself for looking for a reason to retreat.

    He sounds just like Rob. I bet they had a fantasitic time together. Thank you so much for this post, it is inspiring really. how he describes his way from film journalist to film maker. I still find myself on an incertain path and often think i am delusional. but we need to do what we think makes us us, and happy. at least i try.

  • whence

    Thank you so much for this interesting blog, dear mods! It is wonderful to get some background information about Rob´s projects and the people involved in it. DM sounds like a remarkable man. I particularily like his answer: “… realise how ultimately unimportant filmmaking is. That if you feel
    that you’re happiness is completely dependent on the success of any film
    you’re making, then you will drive yourself crazy. If nothing else, the
    next film I make I’ll make a conscious and deliberate effort to step
    away, look at the whole process and go: “None of this actually matters.” Wow, I´m impressed by his insight!