AVIVA-Berlin: After having made some short films "Somersault" is your first long feature film. It has already been showered with prizes and awards. How are you dealing with its success?
Cate Shortland: It┬┤s really a weird feeling because you feel really proud of the work and proud of the people who worked on the film. But it is also a scary feeling because people┬┤s expectations for the future become unrealistic and also because it is a little film. It is not a big film, so you want people to go and see it knowing that it is a small film, a small story about emotional issues not this big action. So, I find it hard, but it is also really positive because it helps the film, and it helps the film go to many different countries which is fantastic.
AVIVA-Berlin: It will probably help you for your future projects, won┬┤t it?
Cate Shortland: Yes, it will. I just hope that my next film is good.
AVIVA-Berlin: Are you working on anything right now?
Cate Shortland: I have just started working on a film while I am in Berlin.
AVIVA-Berlin: Regarding the title of the film "Somersault" (deutsch: Salto), do you see Heidi┬┤s journey as being a somersault, no hand, no foot touching the ground, or how do you interpret the title?
Cate Shortland: Yes, when I looked in the dictionary it said, "somersault" is to fall forward and to land on your feet. And that reminded me of adolescence because you are continually falling over without any idea of harming yourself, and you always get up.
AVIVA-Berlin: Besides being the director, you are also the author of the film┬┤s storyline. During your creative work on it, did you build up some sort of emotional relationship to your main character: Heidi?
Cate Shortland: I did. In the last draft, when the writing was going really well, I was writing in my apartment in Bondai which is near the beach in Sidney. When the writing was going really well, I didn┬┤t want to see other people, or be around other people. Like sometimes I would be at a dinner or something and other people would be talking and I just think: "Oh, I just want to go home and talk to Heidi or talk to Joe", which is a really strange feeling, but they feel so real to you that you don┬┤t need other people. Once a strange thing happened, I was working on my computer writing a scene and someone knocked on my door and I thought: "Oh, that┬┤s Joe" and then I realised, Joe doesn┬┤t exist. So it becomes a part of you which is really great.
AVIVA-Berlin: Was it hard to leave them behind?
Cate Shortland: No. You love them so much, and you want to get it right. But in the end you have seen too much of them and you want to get away from them and they want to get away from you.
AVIVA-Berlin: When watching the film I felt that men in general don┬┤t come off very well in it? Do you think that men are just cold and horny with no morals? Joe might be the exception.
Cate Shortland: Well, what about Richard, the gay older man?
AVIVA-Berlin: Oh, yes, you are probably right. He shows some moral beliefs when he resists going off with Joe.
Cate Shortland: For me the most together person in the film is Richard because he is the most anchored and he feels strong in his emotions.
I think the film takes place in a ski resort town so it has got this influx of people passing throug. There is a lot of young kids who are taking drugs and have been drinking. And I don┬┤t think people are always nice in those situations. I don┬┤t think Joe is a horny, unemotional person. He finds it really hard to articulate his feelings, and he finds it easier to have sex with somebody than to speak openly about how he feels. So, I actually think that it is more complex than all men are bastards. I am trying to say that at that age and in a rural town people are not like us. They don┬┤t talk about psychology, they don┬┤t analyse things, especially in Australia.
AVIVA-Berlin: I thought that about the character of Heidi as well. Because she knows she has a certain sex appeal and she never shows much hesitation when using it for her purpose. And I also thought that might be because of her age. Would you agree?
Cate Shortland: I would disagree. I think she is completely unaware of her sex appeal. It is almost like she is a child trying on her mother┬┤s clothes, trying on her sexuality and trying to play with it, trying to work out what it is. In America they kept on using the word "manipulative". "Oh my God, she is so manipulative." Whereas I actually think it is the opposite. That the only way she thinks she is gonna get love is if she has sex with someone. So I think it is the opposite of manipulative, I think it is placing herself on the bottom of the pile, whereas manipulative means that you are above and you are manipulating a situation.
AVIVA-Berlin: "Heidi" is Abbie Cornish┬┤s first leading role. Why were you convinced, that she was the perfect cast for Heidi?
Cate Shortland: When she came to the casting she didn┬┤t flirt, she didn┬┤t play the character as a Lolita. She kind of intinctially understood that Heidi was damaged and inarticulate and wanted love but couldn┬┤t express herself and had a lot of subtlety and depth. Some girls came in and played this kind of flirty manipulative thing. But then it would have died, it would have been terrible. Abbie kind of had the strength of character and the maturity to see beyond it. So, it was really, really great to work together.
AVIVA-Berlin: The Australia shown in the film differs very much from what we Europeans imagine the continent to be like. Is the Australia in the film the "real Australia"?
Cate Shortland: The whole film is shot in Australia, so it is Australia.
AVIVA-Berlin: But what you showed us were those depressing little towns. Is that what Australia is really like?
Cate Shortland: Australia is so big. It is as big as America. We have big, glitzy cities and then we have shithouse boring little towns. But I love those shithouse boring little towns because this is where my family is from, and that is why I have a really strong connection to rural culture and rural people. What you see in a tourist brochure is never the reality of a country. What I see in a tourist brochure about Germany has nothing to do with Germany. It is a way of selling, marketing Germany. Every country has so many different subtleties and layers to it.
AVIVA-Berlin: You have always worked with Anthony Anderson as producer. What makes it special working with him?
Cate Shortland: He is like my brother in a funny way. We are such old friends. We argue all the time. We are quite different. We met as pedestrians on a traffic island at 2 in the morning. We have known each other since I was 20, so for 16 years. He is really open and emotional and he wants things to be a bit more reserved on the page. So he opens up the scripts, and he forces me to work. We have been very good for each other, I think. But it is not always easy, it is like brother and sister. But I really love him. He is amazing.
AVIVA-Berlin: You mentioned a film you are working on right now as a future project, what is it going to be?
Cate Shortland: I am doing a TV mini-series with Jan Chapman, who was the executive producer on Somersault and who produced The Piano. Then I am going to try and write another film.
AVIVA-Berlin: Does it make a difference to work for TV or the cinema?
Cate Shortland: I have been working for TV for three years and it is hugely different. When it is film, especially when it is your own script, you want every single piece to be right. It is so much about what I wanted. Whereas with TV it is a team. The producer is part of the team, and it is more of a group. Not so much pressure for the director. You are anonymous and don┬┤t really matter. You let the the boob swing over, kind of like the camera man you are part of the crew, which is quite anonymous. Film making is more painful, more difficult, because it is your baby and you are so worried all the time if everything is going okay. But in the end because it is yours it means that much more to you.
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