Greta Nash - Inside ACMI X
Stories & Ideas

Tue 18 Apr 2023

Ep 16: Making Short Films with Writer/Director Greta Nash – Inside ACMI X

ACMI X Art Industry Interview
Amber Gibson

ACMI X Community Coordinator

We speak to Melbourne-based writer and director Greta Nash about why they make short films, and their pathway into the screen industry.

Greta Nash's most recent short film, Heart Throb (2023), is about an 18-year-old, Gray (Gabriel Cali), whose love for his best friend Angelo is complicated by his desire for TikTok stardom. Last year, Greta underwent a Director's Attachment on Run Rabbit Run, funded by Screen Australia, and in the year prior, they wrote a polished draft of their first feature, School Camp, funded by Screen Tasmania.

Greta wrote and directed the winning Tropfest film Two Piece in 2018, and their previous short film Locker Room premiered at the 2017 Melbourne International Film Festival and has since had over 9 million views online.

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Amber Gibson: Welcome to Inside ACMI X, a series where we discuss TV, film, video games, creative technology and art with practitioners in Melbourne. Each episode, we interview a resident that works at ACMI X, ACMI's screen-focused co-working space. I'm Amber Gibson, the community coordinator.

Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, on whose we record this podcast here in Melbourne. And I extend that respect to any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people listening in. Always was, always Will be Aboriginal land.

Today, we're chatting to Melbourne-based writer and director GN. In 2017, Greta's short film Locker Room premiered at Melbourne International Film Festival and since received over 9 million views online. Then in 2018, Greta wrote and directed the winning Tropfest film, Two Piece. In 2021, they wrote a polished draft of their first feature School Camp, funded by Screen Tasmania, and have completed two director's attachments on Preacher in 2019 and Run Rabbit Run in 2022. This year, Greta completed their latest short film Heart Throb.

So in this episode, we're going to chat about making short films with GN, who has made a few themselves. Welcome, Greta.

Greta Nash: Thank you, Amber. Happy to be here.

AG: What first influenced you to make films?

GN: Actually, I think it was my mom who steered me towards filmmaking. She's an opera singer and a director with her own opera company, [inaudible 00:01:50]

AG: Wow.

GN: Yeah. And my dad as well is a stage manager, so I grew up in a very artistic, performancy environment. In high school, I had the misguided idea that I wanted to be an actor. And I love being in musicals and plays, but I think my mom, speaking from her own experience of being on the auditioning side of things, the performance side of things, was just very encouraging that I should try and get onto the other side, the more creative side, so the side where you are the one making the work yourself. And she may have misled me somewhat because she was like, "It means you won't have to be auditioning your whole life." But I still feel like I am auditioning my whole life because I'm pitching and asking for money from people.

AG: Yeah, it's actually interesting that you had that insight from your mom early on, who was able to guide you. And in terms of the subjects you tackle, your films focus on adolescents. What makes you explore this age group?

GN: I mean, I wasn't always making films about adolescents. When I was at film school, I was making these stylized comedies, I guess, very much influenced by Wes Anderson, who was my hero of the day. Just a lot of replicating stuff that I thought was really cool because I was young. I went straight into film school at the age of 18, and I didn't really have a sense of what stories I really cared about. I just knew what I liked watching, and so I'd try and mimic that. But it was after I graduated, I wanted to make something more personal and I wanted to make something that felt important, something that mattered to me.

And so I made Locker Room, which is about a 15-year-old girl who is best friends with a group of boys from the school football team. She's a bit of a tomboy, but discovers that those boys have been keeping this secret chat going with the other boys where they're sharing videos and pictures of girls from her year level and rating them and making unsavory comments. And she has a bit of a crisis of where she stands and yeah, what her responsibility is in that situation.

So that was quite a personal film, and the experience of making it was really good. It was scary because it was the first time I'd tried to do anything serious. Up until that point, I didn't really take myself very seriously. But the response to that film and the fact that it came out just prior to the Me Too movement, and it was inspired obviously by a string of private school scandals here in Melbourne that reminded me of things that my friends had been through, things that I had witnessed and experienced, and yeah, it was just such a rewarding thing, making that film, having it be personal but sharing a point of view I think that maybe hadn't been discussed so much in the conversation. Because generally, a lot of the media around that kind of locker room behavior was either from the boys' perspective or from the girl or the victim, the person who's the subject of maybe photos and videos that are being shared.

But yeah, I think it was also just part of being not so sure of my gender and my position within girlhood itself. I wanted to make something about being in that gray area.

AG: Yeah. Hearing the reason you created Locker Room, it's really interesting.

GN: Yeah, I think I just wanted to do something that felt true to my own position and my own experience. Because I think at that time, I was fortunate not to have had those things happen to me, but I still felt so affected by it on behalf of the friends of mine who had gone through that sort of thing. And I think that experience and getting to see how people responded to it, young people, young girls in particular, who would send me Instagram messages after having seen the film or emails or would come up to me after screenings and talk to me about how they related to it, it was just such an amazing thing.

And so I think then I was like, "All right, there's something here in sharing parts of myself that I feel like haven't been seen on screen before." I know when I watch a movie that makes me feel seen, it makes me feel less lonely. So I think that's been my driving force ever since. It's like what do I feel is a part of myself that I want to acknowledge and I want to share with other people in the hope that they will also feel acknowledged?

And so I think that's why it's been mostly adolescent stuff because that's just what I... I mean, I'm not that young. I mean, I'm 28. But I think as I age, probably my characters will age up. But in terms of what I've made so far, I've been really drawn to stories about adolescence. There's just something about being a teenager. You just do unhinged things. You make the worst choices imaginable, and you feel everything so deeply. So I think from just a drama perspective, it makes for a good movie.

AG: Yeah. And you create these films with your best friends, Gillian and Gabrielle. Was that the first film you made together?

GN: Well, locker Room, actually I made with a producer, Honeylyn Lisson. Gabby worked on the film, but Gillian was in France. So actually, the first film that the three of us collaborated on was Two Piece, which we made in the same year as Locker Room. We made Locker Room in March 2017, and then we shot Two Piece in December right before Christmas.

AG: And for those of you who haven't seen Two Piece, Greta wrote, directed and edited Two Piece, which was the winning Tropfest film. It also won best actress for its lead, Freya Van-Dyke Goodman, and got a nomination for best screenplay.

Audio: Do you like this one? Ooh, it's 50% off.

And it looks like something a nana would wear.

A nana with style, maybe?

No, a Nana with cankles.

Well, it would help if you could tell me exactly what it is you think you're going to find.

What about this one?

Shut up, Wally.


Just trying to help.

GN: Two Piece was really fun to make. It was super quick. Two Piece actually came directly out of an experience I had while shopping for something to wear to MIFF opening night.

I was shopping with my mom, shout-out to my mom, and we went to Chadstone, which is always a great idea, and I was just trying things on. And being size 16, I'm on the end of the classic sizing in Australia. And I was just having this crisis of trying things on, finding things I liked but then they wouldn't look good, and I just... With my mom, who just obviously clearly couldn't see the imperfections that I was seeing. It was just this funny tension between us, and I think I reverted back to being a 14-year-old. I became really sulky and snappy with her. It just made me think, "Oh God, I'm regressing."

And so Two Piece is literally just that experience, but placed back in that era of being 13, 14. Your body's changing. You want to feel grown up, so you're trying to dress grown up but you don't really feel it. You feel uncomfortable. So yeah, Two Piece is about a 13-year-old girl going shopping for her first bikini with her mom.

So we made the film with no money, the last of my money, genuinely the last of my money. I had to borrow a couple hundred dollars from my parents to actually get up to Tropfest for the ceremony. But it all worked out, obviously, because then we won, which was just the most shocking thing to happen to me in my life, and so embarrassing that it was televised as well because that's out there now. But I got a hug from Susan Sarandon on live television.

AG: So good.

GN: Which I think to this day is probably my finest moment.

AG: And so then after that, you formed GGG Films?

GN: Yeah, basically. So Gabby, Gillian and I actually met while I was at film school. We were friends before we really worked together on anything. But yeah, we just had such a good time making Two Piece.

AG: Yeah. It must be so nice to have that support with close friends producing your work.

GN: Yeah, and I think the fact that we are friends is what makes it work. I think we all have different kind of skill sets. Gabby and Gillian are producers, but Gillian's also a fantastic writer and Gabby is amazingly positive and practical.

AG: And what makes you make short films? Is that something that you discussed with Gabby and Gillian, or is that something that you want to do as part of developing your directing skills?

GN: I ask myself the same thing, because short films are quite expensive and there's not really any funding for shorts anymore. But I love short films. I think as well, because I want to be making feature films, the majority of, I guess, the concepts and the ideas that I'm working on, or the ideas that come to me, are generally for feature films.

AG: Right, so you're thinking in feature film brain, but you are condensing it to create a short story because that's how you can get your work produced.

GN: Often, yeah. I mean, that's definitely the case with Heart Throb, our recent short film. I wrote a feature-length script with the same characters, and I was just looking at it thinking, "Oh, is there a section of it that I could turn into a short?" And I basically just took the first opening act, condensed it down into 15 minutes, and that's what we ended up shooting. And in shooting it, it also clarified a lot about the feature for me. And it has been super helpful in the writing of the feature. They've worked together quite well.

AG: And how do you fund your shorts?

GN: So when I made Locker Room and I made Two Piece, they were self-funded. I was working in hospitality. I was working at a magazine shop and I was just saving money. I was lucky. I was living at home, so I wasn't paying rent.

And then with Heart Throb, that cost a bit more just because the crew and the cast, they're a bit more experienced. I'm more experienced. My friends are more experienced. They're out there working whereas when we're making locker room and Two Piece, it's like we're all pretty fresh out of uni. It was our second year out of uni, and some people were working but some people were like me, sitting around, twiddling their thumbs and happy to jump in and work on a short film for free. So yeah, with Heart Throb we had this difficult challenge of making it as cheaply as possible, but still trying to have that professional feeling to it.

AG: And that's what happens when short films aren't funded as well. That's one of the only avenues to do it. Just quickly, can you describe Heart Throb?

GN: Yeah. So essentially, Heart Throb is about an 18-year-old boy named Gray who desperately wants to be TikTok famous, but he's also in love with his best friend, Angelo, who he spends all his time with. Angelo's basically his only ally in his mission to becoming TikTok famous. Or I guess his desire for TikTok fame and his desire for his best friend, they're not compatible so it creates complications.

Audio: Oh. Dude, check this.


Who's that?

This dude, I think he lives in [inaudible 00:13:31], he started making videos in lockdown and now he's about to hit 5 million followers.


He can do whatever he wants. He can travel wherever. He goes to all these events, hangs out with all these other famous people and he gets paid to literally just vibe.

I mean, you do look like him.

AG: The actors in the film, William McKenna and Gabriel Cali, they have such a genuine chemistry. How did you choose the cast?

GN: The chemistry was lucky. I was nervous. I was so nervous because usually when I'm casting, I'm not really thinking about how the actors look. I generally am very opposed to that. But for this one, because the main character has to look like a TikTok star, he has to look like a model. He has to look like he can get famous for his face alone. So that narrows it down a little bit.

But I was looking through Showcast and looking at people's show reels, and I found Gabe through there and he was just perfect. He looked exactly as I'd pictured the character. But more importantly, he was just an amazing actor. Fresh out of VCA, had just graduated I think the year before. So I met up with him, but he just seemed so sweet and so earnest and so open. And I think I'd put in the script that this character had golden retriever energy, and Gabe had that in spades. So it was a perfect match.

And then with Will, I'd seen him in a play at the MTC. I'd seen him in Admissions, and he was so breathtakingly good. He had this 10-minute monologue that just is unhinged, but he pulled it off and it was some of the best acting I'd seen live.

AG: Does he usually do films?

GN: I mean, I think he does short films. He's got a TV show coming out.

AG: Oh.

GN: He's the lead in an ABC TV show, The Messenger.

AG: Cool.

GN: So very excited to watch that. But yeah, I just reached out to Will's agent and was like, "I think he's probably too good for our little short film. But if he's interested, it would be really great to work with him." And then he said yes. And he was filming in Sydney until the day before we started shooting. So when you talk about the chemistry, obviously in my mind, that was the number one most important thing. And so I'd cast these two amazing actors separately, but they had not met until the day before. So I was nervous.

And then yeah, the day before we started shooting, I think we're shooting on a Saturday and a Sunday, and we had a rehearsal basically all day on the Friday. And they met and they got along and they were so cute together, and I was able to relax. But yeah, we spent that day building their relationship because I needed them not only to have this romantic sexual tension, but also this real comfort that comes from having been friends with someone for a really long time.

So both of them are 22. They've been out of high school for a few years, so of sat down and I just asked them questions about their high school experience. I got them to tell each other about their first kiss, talked about the parties that we went to in high school.

AG: Nice. So do you have any favorite scenes or one that you feel really achieved your vision?

GN: I am really happy with the film overall, but the scene that sticks out to me the most is... It's this three-minute long dialogue scene in the middle of the film where the characters are at a party and they're chatting, and the lead character is third wheeling his best friend with the birthday girl. And they're flirting and he's just bulldozing his way into the conversation. And as the conversation progresses, it twists and turns and stuff gets revealed, and the power in the conversation shifts between them.

Audio: Hey.

Oh my gosh, you made it.

Happy birthday.

Ooh, thank you for coming.

[inaudible 00:17:42].

[inaudible 00:17:44].

Oh. No, totally. Yeah, no, I expected him to bring you anyway. How are you?

Yeah, I'm good. Happy birthday.

Thank you. You should try this. I don't know what's in it, but it taste like a Fruit Roll-Up.

AG: You've also done some director's attachments. So you did a director's attachment in 2019 on Preacher and then most recently on Run Rabbit Run. What are some of the skills you developed there that have helped you become a better director?

GN: Yeah, so my director's attachment on Preacher was interesting because that was a TV show. And that was in its fourth season, big budget, all shot on a sound stage in Docklands. And that was only a three-week attachment, so that was very observational. And it was really good, but it was hard because when you're there you just want to help. But that was fascinating. I learned a lot about how a big professional set runs. I just got to see how that works because I'd never been on a professional, big-budget set before.

And then my last attachment, which I did just over a year ago on Run Rabbit Run, I was attached to Daina Reid, who is just the most incredible, inspiring person ever. I'm a bit obsessed with her. And that was amazing because I actually started working on that as a runner, but I was driving Daina around so I was like her driver.

AG: Is that how you got the attachment?

GN: Kind of. I was gearing up, actually, to tap out because I didn't... Being a runner is really hard. And I was enjoying driving Daina around, but I was preparing to go and talk to the production manager and the producers and be like, "Hey, I'm really enjoying being here, but I would love to come back as Daina's assistant. Otherwise, I might go back and do what I was doing beforehand."

But then Naomi, the production manager, pulled me into her office and she was like, "Hey, would you like to come back after Christmas as a director's attachment? Because we got a list of names from Screen Australia, and you are on the list. And I feel like you're already here. You might as well do it." And I was like, "Yes, thank you. Yes, please.

AG: Good timing.

GN: It was really good timing.

AG: Got to meet Sarah Snook.

GN: I did get to meet Sarah Snook. And I was so weird because I'm was the biggest Succession fan, and she's just so normal and cool, incredibly talented, funny, laid-back, and so naturally I was just super intimidated.

AG: Yeah, we're all watching Succession at the moment.

GN: Oh my God, her... Yeah, she's just amazing.

AG: And so GGG Films is also in late stage development on your first feature-length screenplay, School Camp. Congratulations. Can you tell us about that?

GN: Yeah. So School Camp has been in the works for a few years, and it's basically about two 14-year-old girls, Eddy and Tamar, who are best friends, but Tamar is starting to feel like maybe her wings are being clipped a bit by Eddy. And so their friendship is tested and pushed to breaking point when they head off on a pretty grueling school camp in the Tazzie wilderness.

Screen Tas have been super, super supportive of us. It's been so great. They've given us two rounds of development funding, so we've been able to do all sorts of stuff not only just developing the script, but also we got to go down to Tazzie for a week, scout locations. We had a two-day acting/casting workshop with 28 teenagers from Tazzie. So going through scenes from the script with them, doing improv, chatting to them about their school camp experiences, it's been amazing. So we're in the process now of trying to get the financing going, which is a bit of a challenge, but I'm super proud of where the script has landed. And if it does get made, it'll be really wonderful, I think.

AG: Well, congratulations on getting those two grants. That's awesome. We do have to wrap up, but I'd love you to give any advice that you have to emerging writers or directors who are considering making short films to hone their craft or to tell their stories.

GN: Yeah. Number one is don't worry if you're not good yet. I made short films all through film school, but none of them were really anything to write home about. So just keep making them. Don't be discouraged. Just keep going.

But also, work with your friends. Work with your friends because they're the people that will want to support you. And you'll get some really rich working relationships out of that if you can work with people that you're already comfortable with.

And just don't be too ambitious. You can do a lot by starting small, keeping it personal, working within your means. Don't bankrupt yourself, essentially. But yeah, keep making shorts. I love shorts, so I want more people to make them.

AG: Thanks for joining us on Inside ACMI X. If you would like to find out about Greta and her work, please visit the show notes of this episode. To learn about ACMI X and keep up to date with the latest episode, follow us on Twitter at @acmiXstudio.

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