Josh Lawson is set to take up the director's chair with his debut A Funny Kind of Love - a film that has taken eight years to bring to the big screen. The comedy sees him direct, write, and star in A Funny Kind of Love, alongside Bojana Novakovic, Damon Herriman, Stephanie May, and Ben Lawson.
We caught up with the actor and filmmaker to chat about A Funny Kind of Love, making the transition into the director's chair, and what lies ahead.
- A Funny Kind of Love is set to hit the big screen here in the UK at the beginning of May, so can you tell me a bit about the film?
A Funny Kind of Love is about five couples who each have sexual adventures - or misadventures - surrounding unusual paraphilias - it is another word for fetishes really. It is a fun and usual love story and is a new, modern, and kinky romantic comedy.
- You are in the director's chair and have penned the screenplay, so where did this project start for you?
It started a long time ago - it was about eight years ago when I wrote the first draft of the screenplay. It was a long road and it is for many filmmakers to try to get money to make a film, particularly when that film is a little left of centre. Films are expensive and you need investors to take a chance on you and when you haven't directed anything before it is a little riskier for people to invest in your vision.
It took a while for us to find the right fit. In some ways, I am really glad that it took so long because I feel that all the pieces came together in the right way - even though it was a very frustrating eight years when I thought that it would never be made.
- What is so interesting about this film is while you may not necessarily relate to the individual fetishes you can certainly relate to the relationships and imagine some of the funny situations these couples could potentially find themselves in.
That is a really nice observation. Thank you very much for saying that as that was always my intention. I never expected to really connect with that niche audience of people who have those fetishes. It is certainly a very human thing to have sex with the person that you love and to reveal to the person that you love you are into a certain thing.
It is a really an interesting subject matter because it really effects everybody and it effects us all in our own ways. I thought this was an interesting way in dealing with relationship, communication, commitment, and love, so this was an interesting angle to tackle a subject that we really haven't seen many times before. Relationships are so complicated and there isn't a solution to it - there won't be a film that will come out and say 'finally, we have solved the mystery of relationships' it is completely unsolvable. All we can do is keep asking questions and hopefully make something that will shine a light on this great mystery and make us better people.
I think the ultimate goal with any film is to make you think a little bit about your own life. It really just came from the relationships that I had had in the past - I am not saying that these fetishes are mine; my god, these could all be mine (laughs). Certainly, conversations about communication and being embarrassed about revealing things about myself to people who I am falling in love with and in love with is very personal.
- Can you talk a bit about your writing process? Did you start with the characters and relationships or did you focus on the fetishes first? And how much did the script change from the initial idea that you had to the film that we see on screen?
That is a great question. It started with the fetishes first. I went though and found fetishes that I thought were very interesting - and there were a few that didn't even make the film. Then I started to look at what the story would be around these fetishes and what the dramatic conflict would be. I then started fleshing out the characters and thinking about who would be the most interesting in these situations.
Over the years, the characters changed the most as they became more defined and more distinctive as the drafts went on. There were some fetishes that were in early drafts that were changed because the story became a little more sophisticated than the first draft. The first draft was much shallower than it ended up being mainly because as I grew over those eight years, I had so many more life experiences that I wanted to put into the film. I grew as a man as I was twenty-five years old when I wrote the first draft but was in my thirties when I finally got the film made - it was always going to change, as I got older.
There was one thing that never changed and that was the deaf story - from the first draft to the last draft that never changed. It was just really proud of it and I couldn't see how I could make it better. It was very romantic when I wrote it and it was very hopeful when I wrote it and I always wanted that to be the feeling to end the film on; the idea that love is very possible, love is amazing, and now matter who complicated it gets love is worth it. Over the drafts that never changed, I always wanted it to end that way and it always has.
- This is not the first time that you have written but it is your first feature film screenplay and it is your feature film directorial debut. What made this the right time to make that leap? Have you been looking to turning your hand to directing for some time?
If someone had given me the money eight years ago, I would have made it eight years ago - it wouldn't have been the film that is now and it would have been the wrong time to make the film. However, my desire was always there and I was not the one going 'lets not make it yet,' I would have gladly made it eight years ago. Filmmaking is such a collective art form and you cannot do it on your own - it is not like painting where you can make art on your own.
To make a film you need hundreds of people and you need so many planets to align; getting those planets to align is pretty difficult. Why was this the one? I have other screenplays that I am trying to get made. Why did this once connect first? I don't know really, it is just one of those things. I am glad that it was the first one. I wouldn't have changed anything. Perhaps this is the more international and the one that could appeal to the most amount of people and has the most commercial appeal - even though the subject matter is a little challenging for some people. For some reason this connected with the most amount of readers as I was trying to get this made.
- How have you found the transition into the director's chair?
Not too difficult really, particularly because I had written the film and I was so clear on how it needed to look. I was a child actor and so I have been in front of the camera since I was nine years old - that is twenty-five years I am embarrassed to tell you. When you have been in front of the camera for that long, looking at directors and mirroring your favourite directors and memorising what works and what doesn't work as well as what you like and what you don't like, twenty five years on, I was pretty confident that I knew how a set work and I knew how I wanted to the film to look - I was very very specific. Even though the schedule was really tight, that didn't worry me too much because we didn't need many takes and I knew which shots I would use and which shots that I wouldn't - there weren't many luxury shots.
- That does lead me into my next question. This film follows five different couples can you talk about the editing process and the challenge of bringing all of these stories together to make one cohesive narrative?
That was really difficult because the stories are all tonally very different; some are more hopeful, some are more comic, some are more tragic, they all do different jobs in the film and I think that they are meant to elicit different feelings. How do you put them all into one film and not make it feel disjointed? I just needed to make sure that the acting was all in the same universe, so, even though some of the stories were more comic, you could still believe that these people were in the same world, they weren't just comic actors or tragic actors, they were just people who had circumstances who were more funny or more tragic happening to them. The acting really did fuel the fire and I was really lucky to find so many amazing actors who all got the script the way I had written it.
Knowing when and where to cut was a whole new rubik's cube. The editing room had a big wall of scenes and it was such a headache to figure out exactly which scenes needed to go where. The script was written chapter by chapter and was not inter-cut; I felt that it was easier to digest if you read them one at a time. The film was always going to be inter-cut, but it certainly wasn't a walk in the park.
- The movie has been playing quite extensively on the festival circuit - it has played in Sydney, London and Toronto - how have you been finding the response to the film so far? I suppose people could go into this film about sexual fetishes with completely the wrong idea of what they are going to get?
You know what is great? I don't think anyone is going into this film with any expectations at all because they don't know anything about it. I have asked that questions at the Q&A's when I have been to festivals I have said 'how many people have turned up this tonight not knowing anything about this film?' and almost everyone put their hand up. It doesn't have any stars in it and it is not one of these films… what I love about festivals is that so often you can go and see a movie that you don't know anything about. I think that is something you don't do very often in your day to day and you will go and see a movie because you have heard something about it, you know the star that is in it, or you have read a review.
At a festival, that doesn't really happen as you just go and seeing something - quite often you choose to see something because the movie that you wanted to see has sold out. That is what I love about festivals; it is just a collection of strangers who end up watching a foreign film they have never heard of but end up getting this great surprise. The response has just been overwhelming; we have just won the Audience Award in the section at the South By Southwest Festival, we got the audience award in Greece, we also won the audience award in Sydney - the audiences are really loving this film. It is very heartening as a director because I have made this film for an audience and I am very glad that they like it.
- Finally, what's next for you going through the rest of this year?
As an actor, I am still doing a series called House of Lies. As a writer and director, I am working on the next thing and just refining some of the screenplays that I have had in the works for a while and implementing what I have learnt on A Funny Kind of Love into my future projects. Hopefully, it won't be too long before I can reveal my next project. I desperately hope that it is not going to be another eight years.
A Funny Kind of Love will be in cinemas nationwide from 8th May.