In Victoria at the moment - Noble Park in particular - there has been a lot of debate over the anti-hoon laws with a focus on rev-head cultures place within Australian identity. Do you agree with the laws and what is your opinion on the way the hoons have dealt with the enforcement?
As I type this I can hear cars screeching to a halt outside my Footscray flat. There's what's called a 'Double Whammy' at my intersection. It's where the government in all of there wisdom has placed a speed camera joined with a red light camera. This adds the extra spice of catching people speeding to get through a red light. Catch 22 eh, so what happens is every half hour or so, someone tries to beat the red only to notice the speed camera and grinds to a halt. Each day there's broken bits of car littered around the place so there must be quite a few rear-enders sent to the panel beaters on the corner.
I use my local intersection as an example of how law enforcement mad we are becoming. It seems quite obvious that there is going to be a backlash against it. We are living in a world of fear and deep seated paranoia. Gone is the spirit of the Larrikin only to be replaced by the Hoon. Larrikins have fun in an innocent kind of way without hurting anyone yet when they break the law in a car they become Hoons. (Hoons tend to act up solo where in a group I'd say they are called Bogans).
The Anti-Hoon legislation appears to be aimed at defeating the Aussie Larrikin in much the same way as SOS (Save Our Suburbs) attempts to kill the inner city music scene. The tough music and even tougher car define what it is to be Australian. What kind of country outlaws 'testing or contesting the skill of a driver'? We all accept that seat belts must be worn and no-one will argue that keeping your body in the car whilst moving is a good idea, but smokin' them up or a bit of mild racing in a car that yells 'Look at me' in a safe area doesn't warrant a separate piece of legislation. That's what the Federal Safety Laws of 1972 were about.
When Mad Max was made they used genuine drag strips in Melbourne's West. They didn't ban the film because it depicted immitatible scenes in notorious Hoon country. Metal Skin wasn't derided over car racing at the Docklands in Chargers (a true muscle car). People in Noble Park are just acting upon a natural masculine urge. Whether it's on horseback, motorbike or in a car, Aussie blokes just want to be able to show off. It isn't about money it's just pride. This is why they took to the police. It wasn't some sort of 'hey I'm an L.A gangsta I'm gonna gank some 5-0'. It was 'hey you're trying to take my life mate. This is all I have and I'm proud of it.' I guess most blokes are Ned Kelly at heart, It's just a shame that the Noble Park Boys had to get caught on film (security and YouTube). It's best to live as a myth and keep the spirit underground in this day and age.
How do you see the current state of the Australian film industry?
I was just about to carve the date into its headstone when Kenny came out. Recently I've been amazed at what's been released and championed as great Australian Film. There were all of the poorly written films at the turn of the century where I guess the screenwriters copied and pasted their scripts from an Idiots guide to film writing. They followed a very simple formula; set up a demographic, add half an hour of the main characters staring out at their landscape, main characters have a difference of opinion...return to looking at landscape then resolve it by returning to the family unit. Maybe it's what the Baby Boomers pine over seeing that they are signing the cheques for this crud. Too much money is spent on this kind of film I'd have to say. Have a look at The Magician as an example of getting blood from a stone. It was shot really with yesterday's technology and edited on the day before's and yet this has to be one of Australia's best films in recent years. Is it the acting, the directing or the story-line? It certainly isn't the production values or landscape that keeps me watching it over again. It has to be the passion of Scott Ryan that oozes from every scene. The Magician is guerilla film making at it's peak. As Stanley Kubrick said, 'if you want to learn how to make a film, go and make one'. Ryan did this successfully and it has been followed by Kenny in much the same way. Both films were made from the heart not from the (or for the) hip pocket. It's films like these that inspire me with my video works. They are made without compromise. No-one can tell you or dictate to you what you can and cannot do (within the law of course) with your art. You should not be forced into a happy ending if you want the lead character to die. See The Proposition for another example of what I'm talking about except with a lot more dosh.
Has growing up in the Western suburbs of Melbourne played much of a role in your art practice?
I grew up in an armpit of a town west of Melbourne. Even now I cringe at the thought of going back there and this isn't even a cultural cringe it really is that bad. I always thought of myself (most skateboarders in the 80's and 90's thought the same thing) as being above the bogans in our town. They hated me and everything I stood for. They didn't understand individualism in music, sports or lifestyle. Culture or knowledge in general was looked upon as thinking you're better than them and they were right. I'd sooner die poor, happy and busy than mortgaged, commuted and bored. It's this part of my life that I feed from in the art I create. The no good Johnnos and Bennys all dreamt of being someone else. The Walter Mittys of the West. Yet no matter how flat the town, how car reliant or footy dependant it was, they still had the myths and the icons which they admired. It's this place that I go to in order to source my ideas. Melton has the hardcore bikie drugs thing going on and the cousins of the bodyguards of the honoured Society living amongst them. There's a hit there every three months (and I don't mean one from a syringe) and most of the 88 thousand inhabitants are oblivious to that kind of reality. Why would you bother when there's another Scary Movie released or Slipknot album to copy off a Johnno's sister. I try and make art that they appreciate or at the least have some sort of connection to. Most artists don't ever mention their home town let alone if it's a shit hole like Melton. It seems we all come from Fitzroy or Carlton and grew up drinking soy lattés. I just mine their versions of Australian culture and in some ways take it on myself.