Meet Pete Circuitt, director of the eccentric and incredibly entertaining short film Twenty One Points. About a guy called Alan, who still lives with his mum, and his best friend Gary, a six-foot skinny green robot.
Originally from South Auckland, New Zealand, Pete completed his post-graduate film studies at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, and from there followed a career in film and production, with his directorial abilities ranging from long form to a 10-second bumper.
We recently had an opportunity to interview Pete about his experiences in making Twenty One Points, here is what we learned.
What was your biggest inspiration to make this film/How did you get involved or attached to the project?
I was living in Mt Albert and there lives a woman who walked exclusively in reverse. Her local nickname was Backwards Lady. I was watching her as she back-strolled past my house one day and I thought . . . what does she do when she gets home? How does she watch TV? How does she get up to answer the phone? Alan became a character cut and spliced from all the unique people that I’ve witnessed in all the communities I have lived.
How did you come up with the title?
The tile of the film Twenty-One points is what it takes to win a table tennis match and the two friends have furiously played each other every day since childhood. But no matter how close the game gets, Alan has always championed 27 years of imaginary table tennis. That is, until today…
As a filmmaker there are many ups and downs in the process, what was your absolute favourite and/or funniest part of making this film?
Lots! The motion capture technology we deployed on the film was essential because it was extremely important for Gary to move in a very human way. We shot the opening scene under the Victoria overpass using a mobile phone to route the wireless motion capture data to save upon a laptop in Realtime. We only had that technology working the previous day before the shoot. .and it worked perfectly.
What does a film festival like the Byron Bay Film Festival mean to you and your work?
It means a great deal. BBFF has a reputation for showing films that are non-conventional. The characters in my film represent the people in our community that are different and unique. Which I think is a nice fit.
Byron Bay Film Festival showcases an array of entertaining, inspiring and thought-provoking films. Do you feel that your film helps people ‘open their aperture’? And if so how?
Alan has a mental illness that is not exactly textbook. The film is a different kind of buddy movie that for the most part is fairly lighthearted, but also finds meaningful dramatic moments, and very occasionally even be a little scary. This is exactly what a mental illness can be like and sheds light on that.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to future independent filmmakers?
Back your instincts but also listen to anybody who has an opinion about what you are doing. It never hurts to listen.
What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process?
Gary is a manifestation of a complex mental illness so even though he was a robot it was important he appears very human. So, motion capture technology was very important to make this happen and designing a pipeline for that to work was extremely difficult.
Any upcoming projects for you, your team or key creatives involved in your film?
Yes, but unfortunately, we can’t discuss any details.
Anything interesting or unique about the filmmaking process for this film, any hiccups along the way, any happy coincidences that changed the film’s direction?
We had a tight budget, so we had to shoot the film very quickly, mostly only having one or two takes per shot. The car we used in the final scene was an old Fiat special and it turns out that an old manual gear stick is understandably tricky to drive once you have got used to modern automatics for 20+ years.
Robyn was discovering this as we set up the shot when Gary gets in the car and it took a few extra takes to get the Fiat into gear to back up the driveway. All that time Dan was lying down under the bonnet with his head right by the front wheels to pull down on the front bumper to simulate the weight of the robot once he got in the car. So, after we wrapped that shot he stood up quickly and the look of relief on his face was classic.
Unfortunately, Pete and crew won’t be attending the festival but are excited for the audience see their film.
You can catch twenty-one-points official encore screening Sunday, 21 October, at Pighouse Flicks Lounge Cinema.