:: Spotlight :: Interview with Unfinished Sky star William McInnes
By: Matthew Pejkovic
William McInnes is the lead actor in the new Australian film Unfinished Sky. He spoke to Matthew Pejkovic.
Q. First off, I want to talk about the strong report developed between your character and Monic Hendrick’s character, despite the fact that there was a clear language barrier between the two. Did working with such sparse dialogue within those first few scenes prove to be a difficult challenge?
A. I guess so. Peter Duncan (writer/director) was always letting us know what was going on, and we had a little bit of rehearsal so that always lays down a bit of ground work for what happens. And Monic is a really terrific actor, and I think her performance was very strong and clear. A lot of people you will find are easy to work with, and she was certainly down to earth and she is a terrific actor. So I think her portrayal made that a lot easier.
Q. Monic appeared in the original film The Polish Bride. Did you watch the film before…
A. No mate, I didn’t. (Laughter) I just couldn’t be bothered, to tell you the truth. I probably should have, but it was probably better that I didn’t watch it any way.
Q. You come to the film with a fresh approach.
A. I guess so. It’s probably the safest way of going about it.
Q. When we first meet your character, he seems to come off as the embodiment of loneliness and anguish. Was it difficult to get to and maintain that stage? And did the films rural location help you reach that state of mind?
A. Yeah, I guess so. It was only fifteen minutes out of the town, but it felt very isolated. It felt like you were in the middle of nowhere. But the script was really strong, so that would help an actor mark their way through a performance. And if you trust the script and the director enough then all you got to basically do is stand where they want you to stand and do the things that they want you to do. But it depends on how much you demand it for yourself. Just go with what you can give, because if you hold anything back you’ll be just kicking your own arse. It just doesn’t work, I don’t think. So yeah, we just had to concentrate a bit and know that you had a set plan which omits that you release little bits of information incrementally. So hopefully it will work.
Q. The films and TV shows which you have been apart of have a very high quality to them. Do you place a high level of expectation of the scripts which you receive?
A. Well, sort of. You have to admit I made a lot of crap too! Or stuff that has not worked. But when you can, when you have the opportunity I think you can pick and choose a lot more. And it is sort of hard to do that in Australia. But when you have the opportunity – and I have been given that, I guess – it is really good to be able to do it, because you can invest in stuff which you think is good. And that is a luxury, but you don’t want to bang on too much about it because you sound like you’re up yourself (Laughter). But yeah, it is really good to be able to do that. So I have been lucky.
Q. You are a writer yourself. Have you had any thought abut writing your own screenplay?
A. Yeah, but I guess it’s easiest to write the different forms… book form is easier to write. I have written a couple of TV scripts, but nah mate, I find it hard. It’s hard work; it’s a very underestimated challenge in writing. But, yeah, certainly I have thought about it.
Q. As a veteran of the Australian film and TV industries, do you foresee Australian filmmakers stepping away from personal stories such as Unfinished Sky and move towards more genre inspired films, much like TV has done successfully with Underbelly and Sea Patrol?
A. Well, there will always be successful shows like Underbelly. There was Blue Murder 10 years ago… Blue Heelers, Water Rats, Homicide… I think Sea Patrol is pretty derivative. Underbelly is much more exciting than Sea Patrol, but people really like it. It is very popular. But if you set a film on a patrol boat, you would think, “Too Dumb. Not watching it”. There is nothing wrong with genre films. All films are genre films. And there is a genre which is art house / indie sort of thing, something like Black Balloon which is terrific, and that’s been successful. When you say genre film, I think people start thinking that it’s gonna be a chase or a road movie, and it ends up looking like second hand David Lynch. But I think Unfinished Sky is a genre film. It’s a redemption film. I think the genre net is wide, and certainly when one works it is fantastic. Wolf Creek you could say is a genre film. A slasher film?
Q. Yeah, and the one after that was a monster movie… Rogue…
A. And why did that die? I don’t know, it just sort of stopped dead in the water.
Q. Yeah, I went to a screening of Rogue. And I spoke to John Jarrett about the film, and they all had high expectations for the film. And we also spoke about genre films, and how Rogue could be the first step into a different direction for Australian films, and it didn’t really go anywhere.
A. Yeah. I don’t know why. I mean, who knows? But I think as long as Australian films tell stories that matter, and the problem is you don’t want them sort of to be … I mean, not every Australian film has a message about whales or whatever. I mean, that’s a lot of bullshit made up by who… that sort of bagging of the Australian Industry is peddled by people who’ve got a barrow to push. They want to make money out of the Australian Film Industry. And there’s not that much money in the Australian Film Industry. There is a lot of reward out of it. There is a lot of fun and there are a lot of stories to be told. And you can tell that in road movies, you can tell that in chase movies, you can tell that in adventure movies. You can tell that in comedy. And some of them are good. The problem is a lot of them are shit! A lot of the message movies are crap too. No one wants to watch people endlessly talking to another. But when they work, they’re fantastic. And by a large a lot of Australian films are good. And in fact they are a lot better than some of the crap that gets… you know…
Q. Gets peddled from overseas…
A. …in Megaplex’s. If you had Black Balloon on 300 screens than maybe it would have made more money. It was only on about 30 screens. 20 maybe. That is what was disappointing about Rogue, actually. It arrived on so many screens and I don’t know why… I think he is a terrific director Greg McLean.
Q. Yeah, likewise.
A. It’s a shame. But I just think when you say genre you got to realise that there are lots of genre films played in Australia.