Interview – ‘Everything In Between’ director, Nadi Sha, on creating his first feature film

Directed by Nadi Sha and shot on location in Sydney, Everything In Between is the tender and engrossing story of a lonely teenager who doesn’t fit in and has nothing to live for – until he has a chance meeting with a mysterious older woman, with whom he immediately bonds.

Depressed 18-year-old student Jay (Jordan Dulieu) has had enough of life.  Inveterate 28-year-old world traveller Liz(Freyja Benjamin) cannot get enough of it.  As Jay stands on a cliff contemplating an end to his privileged but meaningless existence, Liz lands in Sydney for her latest adventure backpacking the globe.  A sliding doors moment brings this unlikely pair together, upon which they form a deep bond – much to the chagrin of Jay’s jaded socialite parents (Martin Crews & Gigi Edgley).

Unfortunately, Liz’s laissez-faire lifestyle is brought to an abrupt halt by a life-threatening mystery illness contracted on her travels and, as Jay becomes more and more entwined in her plight, all four are forced to come to terms with their world views.

I had the chance to sit down with the filmmaker behind this story, Nadi Sha, to discuss his personal inspirations behind this story, and how he brought it to life.

Nick: For those who haven’t seen the movie yet, can you touch on what the film is about?

Nadi Sha: Essentially, this is a film about a lost and lonely teenager who’s simply put, had it with life. And to me, it’s about not taking life for granted. It’s more of an invitation of self-reflection. Even as the film touches on heavy topics of mental health and also familial dysfunction, which is quite a sensitive topic these days, it [this movie] doesn’t solve these problems, nor does it pretend to. It’s just simply a little slice of life, to try and just talk about these subjects. That’s all it is.

Nick: There is also a love story here, but beneath the surface of that are incredibly important themes surrounding mental health and family dysfunction, like you stated. I’m curious to know what came first for you in the screenwriting process – the idea to tell a love story, or to create a film that explores those themes? And how did you then weave the other elements into your script?

Nadi Sha: It was more of an idea of ‘why do we exist’? Truth be told, it actually came after a period in my life where I was going through an existential funk, or you know, call it a spiritual crisis, call it depression, there’s many terms for it. And of course, when you’re going through it, you don’t realise it. Or in my case, I was part of the hamster wheel, the rat race.

I guess, the seeds of the story was about a guy who is feeling life isn’t for him, and it follows the journey from there. And the romance element could’ve been anything, it could’ve been friendship, a job, or a hobby. It just so happens that this story was a romance, with the supporting parts including the family and all that.

I should probably add that it was probably also indirectly influenced by a quote from a book called The Prophet – “think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if its finds you worthy, directs your course”. So that definitely inspired the film.

Nick: That quote really is a throughline for this story! And with the themes this film explores, and with what you’ve just told me about your reasoning to make the film – was this a cathartic process for you? And why do you feel films and art in general are such great vehicles to explore these themes?

Nadi Sha: It was definitely a cathartic process. However, I tried as much as possible to not make the film about me. I tried to turn this into a universal story. I know it’s ambitious, but it’s a story for the world, even though it was shot locally and, on a shoe,-string budget. Physically, it’s close to my heart. But thematically, the focus was to make this as universal as possible.

And we’re seeing the results of that! It just screened at the Beijing Film Festival and China’s just given us an offer for distribution. And the reviews that came out of it—it was something out of the ordinary! In other foreign countries, these guys realised the pain and joy of youth. It is incredible stuff.

And of course, it’s hard not to bring some of myself into the story.  The journey of making this film, the actual physical process, was very personal. We shot in my bedroom, in my office. Friends were filling in supporting roles left, right and centre. We had a drama coach for the non-professional actors. There was such a strong sense of community and I had to pull every favour I could.

Nick: Even as you say that this film was created on a shoe-string budget, the opening scene really caught my eye with the visuals of the fire and the stars moving in Elizabeth’s hallucination. Can you talk me through the shooting process and visual effects for that scene? Because they look incredible!

Nadi Sha: That scene was probably the most challenging scene for me in the whole film. I was purposefully trying to shoot the film in order because it was my first film, and I’m learning as I go.  Sure, I shot a short film, but my God, the learning curve that I had to go through to make a feature!

So, I purposefully set this shot to be towards the end of the shoot. It was the last big day that we had on the main shoot. We shot this movie in 23, 24 days, and this scene was day 21. I needed that though, because it sounds crazy, but I was still learning how to become a filmmaker and I knew this scene was going to be quiet challenging. We had 30-40 extras on set, plus 60-70 crew working on it, it was a big day!

I didn’t want to shoot it on a full moon, that’s just me, but what you see on film is actually natural. It wasn’t effects or anything. We were blessed to have VFX partners, Stage 23, work on other parts of that scene, and who were invested into this story. They had worked on Three Thousand Years of Longing, so we were one of their little babies! We were very lucky to have their expertise.

In terms of the actual sequence – you know, I’ve sat in on ceremonies like that, and I don’t want to say it was easy to replicate, but it did help. And that’s the thing with this story, I’ve actually experienced all the things in the films. The hospital rooms, university, Uber’s.  I know it sounds trivial to say, but it helped so much as a first-time filmmaker to not shoot a scene on Mars or a city I’ve never been to. I’ve kept it simple and that first scene, it was just all real to me.

Nick: To finish off, you’ve stated that you want this to feel like a universal story, and that comes down to your script, but also to the actors who are playing your characters. How did casting Jordan Dulieu and Freyja Benjamin as your leads come about?

Nadi Sha: I was so blessed to have an incredible casting director, Alison Meadows, who literally guided me through the process. The strategy was, with Jordan, to start with the protagonist. We wanted to discover the next up-and-coming star. We threw the net out wide, and to be frank, we had 400 applicants. Then by the time I started watching auditions, we were down to 100, and we narrowed it down and down, but he stood out. He was incredible and magnetic. It was all during COVID, so we met over Zoom and I literally got goosebumps when I saw him the first time.

Then with Elizabeth, we had about 20 high profile actors and Freyja stood out as ethereal and very natural to the role and I loved that about her. The camera loves her and I thought she was fantastic. And then we did the chemistry tests with a few actors, and Jordan and Freyja just felt like Jason and Liz.

Thank you to Nadi for his time and for speaking so candidly about his film, Everything In Between. The film is in cinemas now, expanding to many other cinemas across the country on Thursday the 26th.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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