For those unfamiliar with the work of award-winning Australian director, Wade K. Savage, you might just be about to hear his name a whole lot more. With a number of ambitious projects both behind and ahead of him, Wade shows no sign of slowing – and that can only be a blessing to our home-grown industry.
Wade was recently kind enough to spare some time for an interview – exclusively for the StageMilk community – on his journey as a director and what he looks for in his actors.
Tahlia Norrish: When did you first realise you wanted to be a director? Do you remember what moment or event sparked that decision?
Wade K. Savage: I’ve always loved telling stories. When I was younger I really wanted to be a comic book writer, but as I got older I fell further and further in love with theatre and film. I was probably around 12 when I realised you could be a director and present your ideas to the world through a myriad of different formats. From this point on, I’ve never looked back.
TN: If you could rewind and give your younger filmmaker self one piece of advice, what would it be?
WKS: Don’t get involved in interpersonal bullshit, and ABC – always be creating. Directors are blessed because we appropriate the craft of a great many other people for our work – designers, writers, actors – but we should always be making something. There’s been patches where I’ve been making heaps of stuff and patches where I’ve done far too little. From here on in, it’s all forward.
TN: What do you find draws you to specific stories and/or projects?
WKS: Primarily for me, it’s character and aesthetics. Messaging isn’t important to me, neither is the exploration of morality. But interesting characters and cool imagery? I’m there. If I can create something with a character that is going to go through some insane development and couple it with images that I love, that is a huge step forward for me.
TN: As a director, what do like to see in the actors you work with? Has anything ever really impressed you?
WKS: I want performers that underplay moments – for example, Tahlia (Norrish)’s work in our film The Owl was very underplayed. I want performers to play entire scenes with their eyes and not emote a lot. I’m also drawn toward actors who are very, very subtle with how they approach scenes and characterisation. I’ve been impressed with every performer I’ve worked with, truth be told.
TN: After over a decade in the business, what keeps you excited about this job and industry?
WKS: The opportunity to create cool things. To tell stories that shock and entertain. The landscape keeps changing, but good storytelling will always be good storytelling. That and I’m always trying to do something different.
TN: In amongst the chaos of a career in the arts, what tips, tricks and hacks do you use to keep yourself in peak mental and physical shape?
WKS: I’d say I’m far away when it comes to peak anything – but self-care should be as important as anything. And I mean that in a tactile sense – exercise, healthy eating, therapy if you need it – these are all constants if you want a gig in the arts. That, and a good job and clear goals. Move away from being vague and hone your mind to be as concise and succinct as you can be. Commit to things.
TN: If every film was erased from history, and you – Wade K. Savage – were responsible for choosing just three to remain for the generations to come, which films would you choose and why?
WKS: The Deer Hunter (1978), because it’s Robert De Niro’s most beautiful performance. Mandy (2018) because it’s the culmination of horror cinema and 80’s synth, and Hold the Dark (2018) just because I love beautiful brutal films that don’t spell everything out.
TN: Finally, what’s on the horizon for you at the moment? Where can people follow you and your work online?
WKS: I’m developing two feature films at the moment (one very low budget and one high budget), designing a game and basically trying to keep creative at all times. You can follow me on Twitter (@WadeKSavage) or on Instagram (@wade.k.savage). Thanks so much.