TRISTAN McKINNON - ALFRED J. HEMLOCK
Actors Pulse student, Tristan McKinnon shares some valuable insights from the recent, incredibly exciting success of his film, Alfred J Hemlock. The short has garnered him a Best Actor Award at the Hollywood Dreamz International Film Festival as well as picking up multiple other awards across US festivals and is now headed to Screamfest.
DT - How did you get cast in Alfred J Hemlock?
TM – There’s a saying... "work begets work". Couldn't be more true in this case. Edward Lyons who directed Alfred J Hemlock had seen my acting work in a previous short film when he was studying at UTS. Coincidently I reached out to him on social media when I saw that he was working with the same producer who cast me in the UTS film. I sent him a Facebook message wishing him well with his upcoming project. Shortly after he replied, saying that he had a role for me in another short film he was working on. We went out for coffee and he handed me the script. I didn't audition. He had already seen my work and had complete confidence in me.
DT - What made you do it? Was there anything special about the script or the project on first reading and thinking about getting involved?
TM - At this stage I was still just doing any project that came my way, saying yes to everything. But I knew from meeting Edward that he was a serious filmmaker. The script was extremely well written, and from the start Edward gave me complete freedom to develop the character. He totally trusted me. And I trusted him and wanted to work with him. I also researched Edwards past projects and felt confident that I was working with a director who wasn't just talk, this was a guy who followed through on his vision.
DT - What was the production process like?
TM - Edward comes from an acting background. So we got to rehearse a lot. I could call him anytime to talk about the character. We would spend hours talking and fleshing out Hemlocks motivations.
The production itself was at a professional standard. We shot weekends in a back alley in Marrickville from about 5pm - 6am. We faced some pretty big obstacles, the first weekend we had a rain storm which halted production, so we had to reschedule. Then we had a technical malfunction which rendered all our footage unusable, We finally got the film in the can on the third go. We shot this film three times!!
DT - What have been the highlights of the festival run?
TM - Since having our world premier at the Academy Award qualifying Bermuda Film Festival, Alfred J Hemlock has been selected by over 20 festivals around the world. So far we have won 7 awards including Best Horror Short, Best Director and Best Actor. We have recently announced our official selection into Screamfest Horror Film Festival, which is dubbed "the Sundance of Horror". This is an incredible accomplishment, as Screamfest is the most prestigious, largest and longest running horror film festival in the United States.
DT - What have you learnt from the journey as an actor?
TM - Having the success that we have had with the festivals has taught me a lot about the business side of the industry. Its not enough to make a good film, you have to rally behind it and market it. The film industry is all about relationships. The people you work with today, could be the break-though you need 5 years from now. The biggest break-throughs on my journey have been because of the relationships I’ve built over the 13 years of being an actor. There are no short cuts.
DT - Any tips for others wanting to create their own work or emulate your success by getting involved with indie film-making?
TM - I did close to 40 short film projects before I saw any success like Alfred J Hemlock. Everyone has a different trajectory with their career. Put yourself out there. Be consistent and reliable. Find student directors and work with them! Foster life long friendships with them. You never know who will remember you later in their career. Always put your best foot forward. And leave your ego at the door, at the end of the day it’s about the work. And remember to have fun!
DT – Where to now for Alfred J Hemlock?
TM - The wheels are already in motion for the feature film. So that is incredibly exciting. Also I have used the success to secure representation in Australia, and will be setting up meetings with managers when in LA in October. So lots on the horizon!
Interviewed by Dean Tuttle