From Top Gear to dusty Aussie drama
AFTER five seasons working on the popular motoring series Top Gear, director Owen Trevor knows a thing or two about filming fast cars.
But his feature film debut Go!, set on a dirt go-kart track in Western Australia, was a gear change in more ways than one for the Sydney native.
The filmmaker, who cut his teeth shooting ads for AAMI, Pizza Capers and Ford, wanted to tackle his biggest challenge yet – a crowd-pleasing family film.
“One of the reasons I took it on was trying to make a film that appeals to multiple age groups. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Usually I can just focus in to what I think is funny or clever,” he says.
“I watched every Pixar film again just marvelled at the magnificence of them. They ride that line brilliantly. We did it on Top Gear as well. You are trying to do something for the adults but also stupid gags that are largely geared to the child or child within us. It’s much harder than you’d imagine. People would assume it’s not as high a craft, but it’s one of the hardest things I’ve done.”
The film follows Jack (William Lodder), who gets involved in the competitive world of go-kart racing after moving to a small town with his single mother (Frances O’Connor).
Jack’s natural talent catches the eye of track manager Patrick (Richard Roxburgh), who agrees to help the teen learn to control his recklessness.
Setting his sights on the national championships, Jack enlists the help of aspiring engineer Mandy (Anastasia Bampos), whose brother Dean happens to be his biggest competition, and wisecracking best mate Colin (Darius Amarfio-Jefferson).
The leading role of Jack is Lodder’s feature film debut, and Trevor says he had to fight to cast the untested talent.
“I locked on to him early, but not everyone was convinced. He was so raw and untrained, and he does look at bit older (than we wanted for the character), but he just had a presence and a quality,” he says.
“Steve (Worland) the writer said he looks like a movie star, but when we put him with Anastasia their chemistry was great and from there I’d won my argument.
“That allowed us to really play on that tension of being just on the cusp of doing more adult things and getting up to mischief, and the inherent danger of racing.”
Shot in the city of Busselton, which let the production close the Busselton Jetty during the school holidays to film a key scene, the film is set in modern times but has a distinctly retro feel – garnering comparisons to The Karate Kid and Days of Thunder.
Trevor describes the film’s aesthetic, which puts cassette players next to mobile phones, as an “odd nostalgic amalgamation”.
“We wore our overall influences on our sleeve,” he says.
“The Karate Kid and Spielberg’s kids films from the ‘80s were front and centre in my mind. I wanted to make a film that was like what I grew up with, and to look like that as well. We weren’t able to do a film set in the past, so I just started constructing a world I thought was cool. We chose old lenses and lit it in a part way. Also when I met the kids they had an influence on it too. They are heavily influenced by the ‘80s and ‘90s – that’s what’s in with kids at the moment. They were listening to tracks from the ‘60s and ‘80s and dressing like I dressed in 1991. I was like ‘OK this is kind of normal anyway’.”
Go! opens on Thursday (SUBS: Jan 16).