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Nash Edgerton in Sundance

Director Nash Edgerton speaks from Sundance Film Festival about new series Mr Inbetween, casting fellow directors in cameos, and upcoming Charlize Theron feature Gringo.

Mr Inbetween

After director Nash Edgerton and screenwriter/star Scott Ryan premiered their six-part series Mr Inbetween in Sundance on Tuesday, the festival’s presenter couldn’t stop giggling as he hosted the following Q&A. The crowd were whole-heartedly in for the ride as well, so it seems there are no worries about the series’ very Australian humour translating to international audiences.

“It was literally the first public screening,” Edgerton explains the following morning. “I only finished it a couple of days before getting on a plane to come here from Sydney where we shot the series.”

A reworking of Ryan’s 2005 Melbourne-set mockumentary, The Magician, Mr Inbetween has Ryan reprising his Ray Shoesmith role as a hitman/enforcer with family problems. In each episode we see the very droll Ray matter-of-factly confront, bash or kill a variety of people, some of whom are played by famous entities. They come thick and fast and I can’t help but compare it to Ricky Gervais’ famous comedy series Extras and The Office.

“In terms of the format and length that was completely my model,” admits Edgerton. “I loved The Office and Extras. I like the six-episode, half-hour format that the UK does very well.”

Ray even attacks Red Dog director Kriv Stenders, while his Blue-Tongue Films alumnus, Animal Kingdom director David Michod, also appears.

“I just tried to cast people who would be right, actors I liked working with and I personally like casting directors in cameos,” Edgerton explains.

“A lot of directors are good performers and I like having other directors around.”

If the series goes into a second season, might he ask his brother, actor Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby, Netflix’s Bright), to come in and be bashed up? Certainly he thanks him in the credits. “Joel read the script and watched cuts of the show. I’m sure he would be happy to be in it,” he chuckles. In this first season Damon Herriman (from Edgerton’s 2008 feature The Square and fabulous in the US series Justified) plays Ray’s mate while Brooke Satchwell (Packed to the Rafters, Wonderland) is his girlfriend.

Nash Edgerton and Sundance associate programmer Adam Montgomery / Photo credit Jen Fairchild, Sundance

A stuntman since the age of 18 and a director of growing repute, the elder Edgerton brother (by one year) had previously directed Gringo, the first feature fully financed by Amazon, which releases in Australia through Roadshow in May. Given that some of the action takes place in Mexico City, he naturally filmed the Australia-US production there, as well as in the US. “Though I did my director’s cut in Australia. I brought a post team over and cut there for a few months.”

Edgerton admits that his work on the high profile, darkly comedic action film, which stars David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Sharlto Copley and Joel, probably helped Mr Inbetween go ahead.

“I loved The Magician from the moment I saw it and when Scott had the idea to make a TV series out of it I just wanted to be involved,” Edgerton recalls. “I was really keen to work with Scott because I think he’s really talented. He’s a great performer and I really liked the scripts. We’d been trying to make it for a long time and while there were a lot of people who loved the scripts and wanted me as the director, they also wanted a known actor. I wasn't interested in doing it unless Scott got to play Ray so that's why it took a while to get made.”

"A lot of the stuff I make is very boysy, so I like having female opinions on creative [teams]."

Now of course it’s hard to imagine anyone but the instinctual untrained Ryan in the dryly hilarious role. “We played it very straight, there’s humour inherent in the situations. As soon as you start playing for laughs I think that goes against the tension and the drama and ultimately it’s not funny to me.”

Filmmaking is a family affair not only because of Nash’s close collaboration with his brother. When he was looking for a young girl to play Ray’s daughter, his wife artist Carla Ruffino, suggested their own daughter Chika Yasumura (Nash’s stepdaughter) and she is quite the stand-out.

“That was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had directing,” the 45-year-old proud dad notes with a smile. “I was just so amazed at what Chika was able to do. It's the first thing she’s ever been in. I’d auditioned a bunch of girls and I hadn’t found what I was looking for and I wasn’t going to cast her just because she’s my kid. Then she did this audition and I was like, ‘Ok I think I have to cast her’. I was the most scared I’ve been directing anyone because I wanted to make sure it was a good experience for her.”

Generally Edgerton aims to have an equal representation of women working on his films. “I think it’s important. A lot of the stuff I make is very boysy, so I like having female opinions on creative [teams]. I think it’s good to have a mix of heads of department. On nearly everything I’ve done I’ve had a female producer. On Mr Inbetween Michele Bennett [who produced The Magician as well as Chopper] was my immediate sounding board for any creative decision. Then it filters down.”

Other female department heads include:

  • Kirsty McGregor casting
  • Ruby Mathers production design
  • Alice Lanagan art direction
  • Alice Gracie location manager
  • Sophie Fletcher costume design

Mr Inbetween received funding support from Screen Australia and will air on FX Channel – on Foxtel – in 2018.

Also at Sundance

For two years in a row young Australian women have starred as Americans in the two biggest US pick-ups: Danielle McDonald rapped her heart out in last year’s Patti Cake$, while Odessa Young is exceptional this year in Assassination Nation. Both were bought for around US$10million.

Australian director Claire McCarthy who is in town with Ophelia, her sumptuously filmed feminist take on the bard (shot by her Australian cinematographer husband Denson Baker), thanked Screen Australia for being “fabulously supportive. I wouldn’t be here without them. They financed my first movie, they financed a short for me, they put money into a low budget feature I made and they've even helped me be here in Sundance.”