When Martin, a South Sudanese refugee, happens upon a bull he believes is his spiritual totem, he decides to rescue it from the abattoir he works in. Once home, the bull begins to jeopardise Martin’s family’s chance at fitting in. Martin is torn between his ancient cultural identity and his family’s new life in Australia.
6 questions with Grey Bull director, Eddy Bell at the half-way mark.
Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
1Hey Eddy! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, what was the initial idea that made you want to make Grey Bull? I always start my writing process with what I call a jumping off point rather than a fully fleshed idea. I then research that world or angle and the film starts to come to life. So for this film the jumping off point was ‘A modern day Ned Kelly story’. Ned Kelly was an early Australian outlaw who’s story was mainly about immigration in that he was Irish in a predominantly English colony. The colony was worried about what the introduction of these Irish families was going to do to the cultural fabric of Australia. Anyway, fast forward 150 years through the Chinese, Vietnamese, the Greeks, the Lebanese etc and you land on The South Sudanese as the newest migrant group that everyone is worried will change Australia. So I started researching South Sudanese cattle culture and found that a lot of South Sudanese men find themselves working in abattoirs when they arrive in Australia. I thought there would be a lot of conflict in that story so I started writing and developing Grey Bull.
2The bull in your film is truly a beautiful animal. How long did it take you to find such to find him and how difficult was he to shoot? Yeah he is incredible isn’t he!? It was about 6 weeks of searching for the right bull. In fact we had two bulls that we trained for 10 weeks leading up to the film. The first was trained to do all the close work with the actors and the second bull was trained to drop to the ground for the final scene.
3I loved the story in this film. What was your writing process like and how long did this script take you to write? The script was written over three months, including plenty of research and then we kept rewriting throughout the casting process. There was quite a lot of input from our South Sudanese family to make sure that we were accurately representing their people. There are so many proud cultures inside the Dinka Tribe and it was really important that everyone felt their story was being told.
4I've heard most places that butcher animals usually don't want anyone with cameras entering. How were you able to shoot there and what was it like? It was really difficult. In fact we had already starting shooting when we finally locked in a location for the interior of the abattoir. In the end we shot exteriors at a cattle yard and then interiors 300km away in a large commercial butcher in Melbourne. It was a super human effort from the Producer of the film Khoby Rowe.
5I love imagery with wild animals in suburban settings. There's something very strange about it that appeals to me. How difficult was it to get the shots of the bull in the house and the bull at the gas station and how much of a scene did it cause? Shooting the various shots of the bull walking through the town was one of the most exciting experiences on set I have ever had. It was just one of those sequences that we had planned for months and there were so many variables. I think it went unbelievably well.
The bull in the living room was much more intense, even though they had prepared the animals for it, anything could have gone wrong. We built a set inside an art gallery in the town so that there were functional emergency exits but still, the phrase ‘bull in a china shop’ was used quite a lot during pre production.
6What's next? I have just finished making another short and that should be at festivals this year. I have no more favours left in the industry to make shorts for love so features is definitely the next step. Next I have two feature films in development. And I make TV commercials through production company ‘Eight’.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
The film with the most fans wins $1,000
For 2017 we are moving on from screening feature films and will be showcasing shorts.
For our Winter 2017 Festival, we are giving away $2,000 in prizes to the top three films.
The film with the most fans.
The film with the most views.
Our favorite film.
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