A labour of love and passion for over a decade, filmmaker Samuel Gay began production his feature film debut, A Guide to Dating at The End of The World, all in Brisbane, Queensland, back in 2011. After 11 years of editing, festival screenings and interviews, the romantic comedy (with a touch of good measured sci-fi) is gracing the screens of Brisbane’s Palace Cinemas for it’s first set of viewings that have been made available to the public!
For one weekend only (August 26-28th), at Brisbane’s independent and arthouse home of cinema, Palace Cinemas, Gay’s film with be showing along with Q+A screenings featuring Samuel Gay, and the film’s lead co-stars, Kerith Atkinson (Alex) and Tony Brockman (John). Thanks to Label Distribution and ThinkTank Communications, I had the chance to chat with Samuel, Kerith and Tony about the film and their experiences working on it over a decade ago!
Nick: Well, firstly, thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. And congratulations on the release of the film! I’m very curious to know why Brisbane was chosen for the story’s setting! So many Hollywood movies are now, I guess since COVID especially, are now filming in Australia and disguising the landscape as other locations around the world. Was filming in Brisbane and having the film set in Brisbane some that was important to you, Sam?
Samuel Gay: Look, Nick, to be honest, I wasn’t specifically trying to showcase Brisbane. But at the same time, I certainly didn’t want to disguise it or try and make it a generic city. We tried to get as many Brisbane icons as possible in, you know, like the Story Bridge. We never did get up to Mount Cootha though, which would have been good! It was all about just embracing Brisbane as a city. People set stories all over the world, they say this is the city it’s been set in. And I think Brisbane scrubs up really! Do you remember back in the 90s when they shot Mission: Impossible The Series, they shot it here in Brisbane…
Tony Brockman: I was an extra on that! At the age of six, or something! I can remember being on Roma Street Station as an extra as a train pulled in.
Samuel Gay: That would’ve been doubling as Russia!
Tony Brockman: Every week, Brisbane would transform into another exotic country around the world! I remember thinking that was just brilliant. That was great!
Samuel Gay: I was saying the other day, apart from the city skyline, which has changed a wee, wee bit since then, it’s the little things like, fashion that hasn’t changed. If you look at the film, you wouldn’t think: ‘Oh, that’s so 2010’! Smartphones still look the same. There are a few shots where it’s got a smartphone, and I mean, there’s no close ups of it, but it’s clear that it’s a touch phone, you know? It’s not given away with the old Nokia or anything like that. So even though it was shot a long time ago, I think it’ll hold up.
Kerith Atkinson: The soundtrack really helps with that too!
Samuel Gay: Yeah, the soundtrack is really great!
Nick: I guess touching on that, for you, Kerith and Tony – you both have had careers that feature projects that cover many different tones and genres. Was there an appeal to join this film knowing it was taking place in Brisbane? And also, making a movie that is a love story with grounded characters, but with a fun sci-fi twist?
Kerith Atkinson: Oh, yeah! It was really delightful. Things have changed a little bit in the last 12 years, but particularly back then, I think there was still very much a bit of a cultural cringe around the industry here [in Brisbane] and Brisbane art in general. Whether that’s, you know, across a sort of spectrum, maybe? It was really lovely to just be celebrating Brisbane! Correct me if I’m wrong, Sammy, but I think the entire crew, the entire cast, like everyone involved in it from start to finish was a Brisbane based artist who made the decision to stay here. Which is a tricky decision to make, because so many of us– Brisbane just kind of bleeds creatives down to the southern states. So, I was really chuffed to be able to be a part of it.
Tony Brockman: Yeah, it’s funny to thinking about that idea. About how many people and how many creatives leave Brisbane, and just how amazing this cast and this crew was that we got together. One of the other actors in this movie, I was talking to her recently because she was in a show called All My Friends Live in Brisbane, and that was the maybe a few years before this, but that was the feeling, that you couldn’t make a career in Brisbane. You had to leave Brisbane to make a career and then suddenly we had all of this group together for that period of time and it was amazing being there with that group of creatives.
Samuel Gay: I went to school in Cairns [Far Northern Queensland], and the big dream was to leave Cairns and head to the big smoke in Brisbane! And then suddenly, everyone is graduation from uni and going to Sydney!
Nick: It’s funny that we’re talking about this because I recently spoke to one of the producers on Elvis, and he mentioned that South East Queensland is really becoming a hub for films. Maybe you guys can claim ‘trailblazer’ status by having made this movie! Setting the standard on making movies here in Brisbane!
Samuel Gay: Trailblazers! That’s going to be the slogan for the movie now!
Nick: I’d love to know about how the film’s concept came about, and what was the initial idea! Were you interested in making a movie about the aftermath of if the Hadron collision went wrong, or was the idea of having to spend the apocalypse with a bad blind date the first thing you began working on?
Samuel Gay: I’ve always loved post-apocalyptic films, you know, films where everyone disappears. Stephen King wrote a novel years ago called The Stand, and I love that book. Not so much the supernatural content, but just this idea that everyone’s gone and what would you do in that situation. That just led naturally to this movie and what would you do if the next person you met was someone you couldn’t stand, but it has been done before.
When we decided to make the film, the story, it all came together very quickly for us, which meant we could have a small cast, we could have a small crew, we could avoid filming random people by finding quitter locations and shooting around things, which was a lot easier than actually trying to organise extras and large locations. So, it actually lends itself to the to the genre. It felt really good, it felt like everything fell into place.
Nick: Kerith and Tony, something I’m curious about with your respective characters is that they have to initially be quite antagonizing to each other, but still battle for the audience’s empathy. How do you approach that in a singular sense as actors, but then use that to help each other’s performance?
Kerith Atikinson: Yeah, that’s a tricky one! For me, it’s about playing the moment and just really committing to that. Letting the story take me where it needs to go, rather than trying to have this bigger picture sense of what I’m trying to do, if that makes sense. Just letting it all naturally happen, but also committing to a character who’s got flaws and many different aspect to him, just like a standard human being. They can be snappy and condescending one minute, and really warm and generous the next. It’s about letting that stuff do the job of bringing the audience to the character, and that’s something the script does nicely.
Tony Brockman: I think that was the best thing about the script, from a character perspective, just seeing how these characters kind of redeemed themselves. And you asked the question about what is it like playing that antagonistic character to start with, and the two of them are in a situation where they’re kind of forced to be these antagonistic characters to each other. And so, as an actor that makes it easier when your character is playing a different role. So, when you’re coming back to the lovable characters that they become later on, it makes it much easier to go back into that empathetic or sympathetic character that you want to be.
Samuel Gay: It was tricky. I mean, at the beginning you have to be antagonistic. Kerith had to play it as: ‘I’m so sick of being set up on these blind dates with these people’. But we didn’t want to go too much. The same with Tony, we don’t want him trying to being too much of an idiot. Balancing whether his character is being a bit too harsh.
Nick: I have a bit of a random question, but there is a plot point within the story0 – and I won’t give too much away – regarding how an orgasm can change history, so to say. Is there a movie character that you think could’ve changed their cinematic history if they just had a good orgasm?
Tony Brockman: Oh god, I don’t want to name names!
Nick: Look, to give you an example, I said Anakin Skywalker. I don’t think he would’ve killed all those people in Episode III if he just had a good orgasm!
Tony Brockman: This is like destroying cinema history! [laughs]
Samuel Gay: Perhaps, The Godfather? [laughs]
Nick: It is a tough question! This is the scathing sort of interviews I run, obviously! While you’re thinking about it – how did you work that into your script so well?
Samuel Gay: I mean, it was just right for this story. You asked before about whether the script started with the Hadron. We didn’t start with the Hadron, but it was about how are we going to make people disappear. I didn’t want to be a disease, that’s a bit depressing. But , everyone’s gotta go. We don’t want to see corpses everywhere, and even that idea changed, because my idea was that everyone disappeared a bit like, you know, the bodies disappeared and just clothes were left around. There’s so much you have to think about to try and satisfy. We did have to set a rule, and then you have to really follow that rule the whole way through it. And you know, what we’ve just been talking about, I guess, it was silly. I like the idea of something silly, but also something we don’t talk about that much.
Nick: I’ll wrap up on this – what are your feelings going into the premiere on Thursday night! It’s a Brisbane-based film and I’m sure your family and friends will be there. People asking questions at the Q+A! Are you excited? Nervous? How are you all shaping up going into the premiere this weekend?
Kerith Atkinson: I think actually the 12-year interim is really cool because I think we sort of know what the film is. It’s screened in front of an audience before and they really enjoyed it. So, I think that gives us the opportunity to just celebrate, just celebrate the fun of this film. I feel really relaxed about it, and obviously you want people to love it, but I think they will. It’s just so much fun. It’s just a really feel-good, escape the moment, fun film.
Tony Brockman: It’s very exciting being in a room in which the place is filmed. And so, the reaction that people have to seeing those places that they know, and I’m purely relating this to having kids and watching Bluey, and seeing New Farm Park or South Bank and going: ‘Hey, this is filmed where we are’ – that’s cool. I’ve been there and knowing that’s going to happen as well for our film, I think that’s really exciting.
Samuel Gay: Look, just massive relief. But like Tony said, it’s just great to be able to see it on a big screen with lots of people, because, you know, so many films now will go straight to streaming. Certainly much larger films that this too! So it’s a bit of an honour to be able to have it seen in this format.
Thank you so much to Samuel, Kerith and Tony for their time, and thank you to Label Distribution and ThinkTank Communications for giving me the chance to chat with them!
Head to https://www.aguidetodatingmovie.com/ to find out more information regarding the exclusive Q+A screenings happening at Palace Cinemas Barracks and Palace Cinemas James St, in Brisbane between August 26-31.
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