BY: Bears Fonte
The strongest film in the Slamdance Line Up proved to be Australian comedy THE TAIL JOB, the story of a man who believes his girlfriend is cheating on him with a guy named Sio Bohan and hires a taxi to tail her all night. “A friend of ours was snooping in his girlfriend’s phone,” explains Daniel Millar, Co-writer and Co-director, “because she’d been going in the other room and telling him it was just a friend. He found that she’d been texting a guy called Sio Bohan, he became irate and confronted her, and she laughed in his face and said, ‘It’s my cousin, Siobhan,’ right?” So the Irish name that normal people pronounce shi-VAWN became the leaping off point for a story of mistrust and mistaken identity. The team decided, what if he didn’t confront her, but instead stewed about it, and then went on a rampage. Even worse, what if there WAS someone named Sio Bohan out there, and he was not a nice guy.
THE TAIL JOB is a ridiculous ride through incompetence that hinges on two would-be heroes, a lover spurned and the cabbie after the world’s largest fare. Nicholas thinks he’ll just snap a few pics of Mona, and catch her in the act. Trevor considers himself a bit of professional, having driven around the block a few times, but when they lose her car, they have to resort to other means of locating her and the treacherous Sio Bohan. What would happen if you were looking for someone who didn’t exist? “Instead of clues bringing you closer, because, it’s not really happening,” says Millar, “the clues take you further and further away. And if you thought you were on the trail of something, you actually were on the trail of something completely different.”
And like any good farce, the story becomes essentially a buddy pic, two people stumbling through an adventure together. Craig Anderson, who plays Trevor, was someone with whom the team was very familiar and the role was written with him in mind. “He did some comedy TV shows back in Australia,” says Moses, “and he’s just such a funny looking guy, just so great with comedy, and we knew we wanted him to play the taxi driver.” Nicolas’s character was a little more open-ended. “Yeah, we kind of just wrote him as a stock, charming, handsome leading man, with a bit of an idiot side,” says Millar, “and then we remembered that we knew someone like that.” Of course, they never told Blair Dwyer that, until now; “hopefully he never reads this interview,” says Moses.
“It was interesting,” remembers Moses, “we started pretty much with the start of the film when we shot, and so their interactions are slightly awkward and stilted, but as we continued shooting they became more comfortable with each other.” Of course, being a low-budget film, the actors had to do all their own action, so they are running around with guns, sliding across hoods of cars, having a great time. “Daniel plays the psycho driver in the movie, says Moses. “That was only because there was so many stunts required,” says Millar about his role, “and because we didn’t have any safety, no stuntman, no controlled environments… it would’ve been great if we’d had the balls to ask anyone to actually do it. And when they said, ‘Oh, so what’s the special effect that’s gonna hold me to the car?’ And we said, ‘It’s your Kung Fu grip.’”
Obviously the team did not let minor worries hold them back in making the film, even in the writing stage, which was completed in 3 weeks. They had a shooting date already set and had to deliver the script to meet it. “Dan and I, we’ve worked together for such a long time, we’ve got a great rapport and really similar sense of humor,” says Moses, “and we’d just constantly help each other with this intense focus knowing we had to start shooting. Any time a plot problem came up, the other person would just jump in with a solution.
Farces tend to be more complicated in the writing process than most films, with every joke requiring a set up or three on earlier pages. “We sat in a room together for several days,” Millar says, “writing on post-it notes. Writing scenes, writing beats, writing characters, and moving them around, getting the structure right. Which is actually the first time I’ve done it that way.”
A perfect example of this collaboration is the extended and ongoing discussion that Trevor wants to have with anyone who gets into his car, about Bill Murray being the greatest actor of the current generation. “Bryan and I have had so many conversations about Bill Murray,” explains Millar, “and then I’d get Bryan’s scene – which on the post-it note was ‘Trevor and Nicholas chat in a taxi’ – and then, he sends me a scene where they’re talking about Bill Murray – and I’m like, ‘that was our conversation.’ And then I’d think, ‘Alright well, what else have we talked about? How else can I make Bryan laugh in the next scene?’”
“I think the same thing happened in the edit,” says Millar, “it was really good for the film. I’d cut a scene and then send it to [Moses], he’d cut a scene and send it to me. We’d do any recuts that we felt, then swap back in case he’d say, ‘No, no Daniel I put that shot there for a reason, don’t take that out,’ or whatever.” The two filmmakers have very different editing styles and the film ends up being a hybrid of both. “I’d have all the wide shots in there, and that’s how I’d leave it if I was editing the film,” Millar explains, “and then when I’d get it back from Bryan it’s got all these nice little fast close-ups that make it really dynamic, and I would never have thought to do it like that.” Moses agrees: “and [it was]a bit interesting that you started to do the same thing to my scenes as well.” Says Millar: “yeah, I’d be like, ‘alright, this scene needs a bit of Bryan Moses-ing.”
“I think, in terms of the jokes, the jokes translate fine,” says Millar, “we didn’t write this in some kind of really specific Australian vernacular, you know, Bush dialect that nobody’s gonna understand. There’s one joke in there that falls totally flat because it references a ‘80s Australian pop song that just nobody gets here, they don’t even realize it’s a joke – so that’s fine. But the thing that I didn’t realize until we brought this film to America, was the fact that Australians swear very casually and very often in normal conversation.” The team wants ‘delicate’ audiences to know they we didn’t put any strong language to make it seem tough or to give it a style or anything. “When we started showing this movie around,” says Millar, “we got some feedback, ‘Oh, there’s a lot of swearing in it.’ And I was like, ‘Really, I don’t think there’s a lot of swearing in it.’ The first line is ‘Right, you fucking pricks.’ And it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, there is a lot of swearing in it.’ That’s not deliberate.” When they were choosing scenes to give to the press, they had been asked to select scenes with no swearing, and they we found that quite challenging.
THE TAIL JOB world premiered at Slamdance, keep up with their festival circuit on their facebook page.