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Podcast – Stevie Cruz-Martin: from Pulse to The Tailings

Director Stevie Cruz-Martin breaks down her collaborative approach to lighting, post-production and working with actors.

The Tailings still spliced with headshot of Stevie Cruz-Martin.

The Tailings, Stevie Cruz-Martin

Find this episode of the Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, SpotifyStitcher or Pocket Casts

Stevie Cruz-Martin had been warned about the fast pace of Australian television when she signed onto direct all six episodes of short-form drama series The Tailings for SBS.

Cruz-Martin’s background had been in commercials and as cinematographer and director on the award-winning 2017 low-budget feature Pulse.

“And it was - it was really, really fast,” she says. “But I also felt that I was able to take some of my experience and history from feature filmmaking and still put that into the way that we were making The Tailings.”

The Tailings is a 6 x 10 minute series that follows Jas, a teenager searching for the answers behind her father’s suspicious death. Filmed in Tasmania during 2020, Cruz-Martin explains how she worked with DP Ashley Barron ACS on a naturalistic lighting style that would maximise the amount of shoot time they had with the actors.

“We had no overtime on this shoot. It was 10 hours a day and that included travel time, and we were sometimes travelling 30-45 minutes [to set],” she says.

“And for me, especially because we were working with some actors that had never done screen work before, I needed to have as much time with them as possible on set…

“That's why I opted for smaller lighting set ups… There's a beautiful light already in Tasmania and so we were really able to use that. Then I tried to get Ash to do one lighting set up and that was kind of it… it was a real guerrilla-style, this one.”

On the latest episode of the Screen Australia podcast, Cruz-Martin also explains the importance of rehearsals, having the backing of a producer like Liz Doran, and why she found it beneficial to have writer-creator Caitlin Richardson alongside her the whole way through the process of bringing The Tailings to screen.

“I know that some directors don't like that and don't want them on set, and once the script is handed over, that's that,” she says. “But I always find, and especially for this, because [Caitlin] is a writer that lives in lutruwita in Tasmania and she had this first-hand experience in working in regional towns and spending time there… that's such a beautiful oracle to go back to all the time right throughout. So we had her on set and I was going to her in the post as well.”

Collaboration is key in Cruz-Martin’s approach across the board. Throughout the episode she reflects on what the actors and various heads of department brought to the table, including costume designer Yolanda Peart-Smith, production designer Alicia Clements, director of photography Ashley Barron ACS, editor Grace Eyre and composer Helena Czajka.

“A lot of people think that there can be a hierarchy and that directors are the sole leaders, but [my advice is] to be open to collaboration and knowing that there are such great team players out there that are wanting to tell your vision, that then it becomes our vision.”

Watch The Tailings on SBS On Demand now.

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