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Sam Gaoa
Occasional Course Language: An Interview with Brad Hayward

"Aussie Filmmaker shoots from the hip with his debut Film" 


Brad Hayward Writer/Director & Co-Producer of Occasional Course Language speaks his mind about the film and the journey it took to get it to the big-screen. Lucky for me (and you), I was on hand to record the details.

The Film concerned is Occasional Course Language an Australian comedy that delights and propels laughter, both thick and thin. It is Brad's first foray into the cinema circuit. Brad's record to date (before OCL) is a short film he wrote, produced and directed in 1996, a self funded French language farcical homage to Bunuel, titled "L'Araignee" (The Spider). It was accepted into the St Kilda short Film Festival.

Occasional Course Language focuses on Min Rogers (Sara Browne), and the events that occur in one week that will change the direction of her life and those around her. It's up front style is synonymous with the title itself. One could regard it as a 'chick flick with attitude'. 
     Excerpt from a Film Review by Sam Gaoa 
Brad Hayward wrote the 157 page script over a long weekend. Determined by a 'failure' rate being the possible outcome for any novice filmmaker, he took a leap of faith which has been justly rewarded. Any aspiring filmmaker wannebe's out there should take note! This is an example of passion, commitment and "sheer bloody mindlessness" in making a feature length movie.

SG: I found the press information about the production a very interesting 
       read. Also, that you were able to churn this out (the script) over a long 

BH: Yeah, 157 pages. As you know when your writing you sometimes get 
        into that subconscious realm, and time has no meaning, it actually 
        poured out. I was actually writing another script at the time (Just 
        finished it). At that stage looking at trying to make it for @ $20, 000 - 
        when I looked at it all up, it was basically impossible to do for that sort 
        of money. So moving on from that I felt that well, if I try and write 
        something fast and fun and sort of dialogue driven, and we shoot it in 
        the same manner, then maybe its energy will be the thing that…you 
        know, will see it through…its energy will be the thing that audiences 
        will relate to, and we might get it (the film) across the finish line. 

SG: You make reference to an article which helped inspire you to make it 
        happen. What was the article and by whom? 

BH: I looked at becoming a director and thought it's an unachievable goal 
        for someone who hadn't been to film school, and had no experience at 
        that sort of thing (before he made his short film). But there is a great 
        journalist/commentator called Phillip {Adams?} in Australia. I was a 
        regular reader of his weekly column for a long time. Anyway, he wrote 
       something one week that summed up everything I was striving to do and 
       be in life…it was about spirit and about having a shot, which is quite an 
       Aussie thing, and I guess a Kiwi thing too. So I felt really inspired by it 
       and just thought well, why not? You know, why not make a film? Having 
       models like The Brothers McMullen and some of those other low budget 
       Australian flicks -my ambition was to be the first no-budget film to make 
       it to the big screen. Unfortunately Love and Other Catastrophes beat 
       me to the punch…which isn't a bad thing, that's the game.

SG: During the preview screening I couldn't help thinking about Love and 
        Other Catastrophes…some things being similar? Still, OCL is quite 
        original in its premise. Did you take any inspiration (ideas) from film's 
        like this?

BH: No not really. What was good about Love Cat's is that it proves that 
        you are able to get a film done with little or no backing (funding), and 
        manage to interest a distributor to get it to the big screen. So, as far as 
        Love Cat's itself no, but more the process of how they stuck it together. 
        It was quite a concurrent thing. I just waited 9 months to be rejected 
        from the funding bodies. Otherwise we probably would've come out 
        around the same time…or maybe a little bit after? -he still would have 
        beaten me to the punch though. The same goes for The Castle. I think 
        they did that one for @ $7-8 million, which isn't huge in terms of 
        budgets. In Australia, at least, anything under $5 million is classed low-
        budget. So for that sort of money -and again it was done outside the 
        funding bodies. It was shot quickly, doesn't look great but it did really 
        well with audiences, who loved the story. My point being, this sort of 
        compelled me with a bit more confidence "Let's you know take a shot 
        at it"

SG: How much did OCL cost all up?

BH: Well, we actually did a version [Beta-cam] for $40,000, with music and 
        the box effects, as well as having the 35mm version (film). Once 
        Village came on board, they gave us completion finance, and it cost 
        $950,000, plus paying the cast and crew. There's also 33 songs 
        (tracks) in the film, a huge music component, and all the post-
        production to blow it up to 35mm, the Letterman sequences etc. Quite 
        a massive post-production bill all up. But still, relatively, that aint a 
        great deal in the movie business.

SG: I know you made a short film previously was it funded by 
       SBS? Or have I got my details mixed up?

BH: No I funded it. It was bought by SBS. It's actually French, and 
        I don't speak French. I was going through this huge New 
        Wave/French phase. I came up with this little scenario, and I 
        thought I can't do this in English, it's got to be in French. So 
        we subtitled it and did the whole thing and SBS loved it, so 
        they bought it.

SG: The film (O.C.L) is a sort of a chick-flick focusing on Min's journey 
        isn't it?

BH: Basically it's Min (Sara Browne) whinging for 90 minutes. I mean 
        that's what the movie is. So the worry was, how do you get the audience 
        to empathise with someone who is basically whinging the whole time? I 
        take it as a personal triumph that we got audiences to latch on to it. She 
        (Sara Browne) doesn't have the most pleasant…voice, it's quite 
        [gnarring?] brittle. We also copped a fair whack of criticism about the 
        language…(Irony perhaps?). People found it very affronting that 
        women were talking like this. Especially male reviewers. Whereas 
        female audiences (Australian) loved it!

Brad's comments about female viewers appreciating the content was noted in the test screenings before it's release in Australia. Another interesting bit of information was the range of age groups that enjoyed the film. 

BH: You know where its really had a good time? With the older women's 
        age group, i.e like 40-50, even 60. I've been in theatres (where the 
        film's screening), and there have been 60 and 70 year olds laughing 
        their heads off. Maybe they see their daughters?….

One can only praise (and admire) the determined spirit of this young at heart film-maker. Brad's determination, passion and commitment are testament to his beliefs and convictions, "grab the bull by the horns" or better still think of the Nike phrase, "Just Do It" and that is exactly what Mr Hayward has done. However, once the script was finished he faced an insurmountable task of trying to get the project funded, through to enlisting a cast and crew for the production. The film was not selected for funding which meant that the project was going to have to rely on other sources

BH: Yeah well what happened: I actually, despite what the notes say, 
        produced the film as well. But since we didn't get the funding I thought 
        OK. So I raised $20,000 through selling my car and a number of other 
        things. I also put $5,000 on credit cards….end result, I was actually 
        So I thought I need help and thought of Trish Piper (Other Producer), 
        who helped to raise the rest of the cash for the production. So what 
        tried to always do was to look at having no (or limited) money as an 
        advantage. And funny enough it was quite freeing in that you are not 
        bound by a studio, or someone over your shoulder sort of saying, 'How 
        about you cast this person?'
        So we tried to look at problems as opportunities to spin the whole thing 
        around. Once we started to get the whole thing rolling it got to the point 
        where we couldn't turn back (jump ship) even if we wanted to. You 
        know, the goodwill from so many people all sort of fed into this train 
        that just kept going. It was kind of a miracle that we actually got it to 
        the big screen I think. And lots of luck. It was a seventeen day shoot, 
        we had no wet weather cover (insurance), and there was not a cloud in 
        the sky the whole time. Lots of things like that made it really happen!

SG: Luck of the Irish perhaps?….and today's St Patrick's day….fitting 
       don't you think! [Brad laughs]. I was amazed at the way things did go 
       your way, you know with the difficulty making a film is, particularly a 
       feature film.

BH: It was sheer bloody-mindlessness. A bit of the inspiration too was that 
        I'd seen a-lot of films (not necessarily Australian)…You know films can 
        have stars and a big budget, but it won't necessarily make a great or 
        successful film. The only thing you really need is hopefully a good 
        script and some good performances to engage an audience. And none 
        of those things really cost much money [unless in Hollywood]. So, we 
        had to spin around the other way and somehow try to engage an 
        audience into this idea, story about Min. So that was the name of the 
        game to get people to try and empathise with Min and have a bit of fun 
        doing it in a modest way.

SG: Getting back to Min - Sara Browne is it?

BH: Yes 

SG: You did a big casting thing, and found her through that.

BH: Yes. We put an add in the Sydney Morning Herald and over a couple 
        weekends (we hired a little room in the middle of the city) we saw 600 
        people. It was amazing. The audition piece was the opening monologue. 
        As soon as Sara walked in and did it…I didn't bother looking for 
        anyone else. So we got her on the first day. I wanted someone who 
        wasn't glamorous, with a bit of weight, and who could look like your 
        normal, average looking sort of person. But who could deliver this sort 
        of dialogue in a realistic way, but with a sense of irony and self-
        deprecating manner, which is quite a tricky balance to achieve. 
        Especially when most of the film is…everything you see is 1-2 takes 
        max. It's like -that's all. Our shooting ratio was like 2-1/2 to 1. So, 
        there's no room for error. It's like; you've got one chance, honey, 
        you'd better make the most of it.

SG: Are the rest of the cast relatively new? I mean do they have any 
       previous experience in film or theatre?

BH: Well most of the actors had never been in front of a camera. Their 
         experienced ranged from either nothing to amateur theatre. Nick 
         Bishop who plays David was the most experienced and he'd just 
         graduated from drama school. So experience wise we were all at the 
         same level on both sides of the camera -literally [Sam laughs]. So the 
         learning curve…by the time it came to half way through production, 
         everyone had relaxed completely, having such a great time. However, 
         it was a shame that we couldn't go back to redo some of the earlier 
         stuff…some of the initial performances were a bit…stiff. God, you can 
         only do so much with one take…It's like any film. You've got to mould 
         a pile of clay and turn it into something. It was quite a challenge.

SG: The post-production (editing) phase must have been a horrendous 
        amount of work, you have stills, montages, the box effects with the 
        internet segments…am I right?

BH: In the edit we had a lot of problems to solve - performance, story - all 
       sorts of stuff. The stills came out of that, the Letterman stuff came out of 
       that, the box [effects] information, that wasn't even in the script initially. 
       That came out of just how the hell do we get this thing to work? We actually 
       started cutting it in a Woody Allen style with a jazzy (sic) tinkering piano, 
       and it was really dull and boring. We also had initial problem cutting music, 
       because at that stage we didn't have the money to use tracks by Madonna or 
       Kylie. Then one day the money did appear, so we had to rebuild the film with 
       music we could afford. One day the editor was on hi way out and said "have a 
       listen to this" [referring to music] CD which was quite in-your-face, and over the 
       top. I cut the opening after Min's speech. The Ed came back the next day and 
       said "What have you got?" I showed him, and he said "Look it's crazy, but why 
       don't we keeping going this way? That's where the style of the film comes from. 
       And then we thought, when someone says something, why don't we cut to a 
       dictionary definition [box effects]. And then we did all sorts of crazy things…
       its like it took a mind of its own.

Occasional Course Language features a dynamic soundtrack (33 songs), boasting a variety of contemporary local artists. The music (soundtrack) features as an intrinsic element in the film. Brad Hayward also had firsthand experience working in the industry as a singer/songwriter, struggling to make a living, with limited success. Aside from this Brad points to the fact that the process of writing and composing songs helped him to write scripts. 

Realising that no rewards were forthcoming as a singer/songwriter he decided to get a regular job within the industry as a promoter. This position proved to be stifling and restrictive to his creative and imaginative side, thus moving him to consider other creative options….film-making was the choice.

 SG: I think the music is an integral part of the film. It's very fresh, vibrant 
        and marries the two (film & music) successfully. You have 33 tracks in 
        the film, that's a lot of songs! Was it difficult to have this many? And 
        why so many?

 BH: The most difficult process was, because it's cut so dependent on the 
        music. It was really a tricky process (editing), especially the opening 
        sequence which is cut to the beat (of the track). By the time the editor 
        had gone I couldn't afford to pay for anymore. I had to do it myself, it 
        was really a hard slog. Some people said it's just non-stop music, and I 
        guess it is (in a way). I think it works; it sort of adds to moments and 
        heightens the comedy in others, but it definitely is a non-stop music-

Brad is currently committed to promoting the film with Roadshow Film Distributors, who are handling its International release. New Zealand is the second country to receive the film, and they are awaiting possible Indie sales in the American film market as well as UK distribution.
Occasional Course Language is screening at the Rialto (Newmarket) and selected theatres in Auckland. 

BH: It's just amazing to write something and then a year later see your 
        work on the big screen, and seeing people having a great time - it really 
        is an amazing experience. It was beyond my wildest dreams, its been a 
        fairy-tale for me!

SG: I do take my hat off to you (re: the film), and look forward to seeing 
       more of your work in the near future. Thank-you for the interview.

BG: Thank-you Sam, and it was nice chatting with you too. 

N.B: Sam Gaoa interviewed Brad Hayward at the Quay West Hotel on the 17th  March 1999. His reviews for the film and the film soundtrack will feature in Craccum Magazine (University of Auckland), Lava Magazine and  "Out and About

Interviewer: Sam Gaoa
Director: Brad Hayward
Film: "Occasional Course Language"
Released through: Roadshow Film Distributors
Transcribed By: Dean Man

  © 1999

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