MONSTER PICTURES “GRYLLS” ANDREW TRAUCKI!
Andrew Traucki’s THE JUNGLE will be premiering at Monster Fest this year (Saturday 23 November). In what is sure to be a highlight of the festival, Traucki himself will be in attendance to answer questions from the audience. We caught up with Traucki to talk about THE JUNGLE and his career thus far. On the phone to the director we catch him outside, wind howling. He excuses himself to find shelter. Where is he I wonder; a deserted beach somewhere, scaling a precarious mountaintop, his backyard perhaps?! Having watched his films, one can’t help but entertain the idea that he’s somewhere isolated. His manner is suggestive of a man who takes everything in his stride, irrespective of the challenges that may lie ahead.
Originally from Argentina, Traucki moved to Australia when he was very young. He has lived in Sydney for much of his life and spent his youth surfing and enjoying the outdoors. “We had a holiday house on the coast where I’d surf a lot,” he says, “I was interested in nature growing up – fascinated by David Attenborough and [Jacques] Cousteau. Later I got into a lot of survival stories. Reading these stories I would often wonder what I would do if I was put in a similar situation.”
Having secured himself a communications degree at University, it would be a chance encounter with a friend working in film, which would turn his head to other possibilities. “I went to pick a friend up from a film set and got the opportunity to look around. It was as if a giant curtain had been raised, revealing this magical world before me.”
As the head of his own production company, Traucki would begin his career making music clips and corporate videos. A leap into television would see him produce and direct off the wall series, Rocky Star. Originally a 1950’s radio serial, Traucki and his team filmed 100 minutes of live action footage to accompany the original recordings. Filmed in black and white with a 50’s aesthetic, Rocky Star was a fun conceit which showcased Traucki’s talent for story-telling and visual expertise.
“I can’t say I’m much of a gore hound. I prefer psychological horror. I’m a big fan of Hitchcock – I like the Coen Brothers and David Lynch.”
A self-professed genre fan, Traucki wrote script after script until eventually, Black Water would get the green light. Inspired by the survivalist stories he had read about growing up, (and one notable incident in 2003) Black Water would tell the tale of a family of three, who set out on a fishing adventure with a local guide. Veering off course to find a better catch, the four unsuspecting Aussies find themselves victim to something lurking beneath them!
Released in 2007 (the same year as Greg Mclean’s Rogue), Black Water would distinguish itself with the use of real crocodile footage. By compositing his actors on location with real-life crocodile footage, Traucki and his team were able to deliver something unique and daring.
The film didn’t just rely on visuals either. Together with co-director David Nerlich, Traucki would show great poise as a story teller. The tension was palpable, the characters clearly defined and sympathetic – leading to some great performances by Maeve Dermody and co.
The Black Water production would stay predominately in house. Traucki has since branched out into web design and digital media. It was clear he had the tools and the skills (along with his team) to bring his pet project to the fore.
And what of working with crocs? Surely the money saved on creature effects and Hollywood-style pampering would be needed for insurance? Traucki laughs!
“You may have seen the clip with Stumpy, the croc who almost devoured our camera (on Black Water)! One of the sharks got a hold of a camera on The Reef too. Yes it’s dangerous – but it’s controlled danger!”
Click on the picture to see Stumpy in action!
Three years later Traucki would release The Reef. Another tale of survival based on true events (Ray Boundy survived a similar incident in 1983).
Three close friends accompany lead character, Luke, on a delivery of a luxurious yacht. Joined by an additional deck hand, the fancy free group set sail to Indonesia. Running aground on the Great Barrier Reef, the crew are faced with an upturned yacht with no keel. With no land in sight and the current pushing them further out to sea, they are left with a terrifying dilemma – stay with the upturned vessel (which is likely to sink) or swim for it!
The Reef was incredibly effective! Once again Traucki decided upon the use of real-life shark footage. The compositing technique used to such great effect on Black Water would be mastered here, as Traucki merged fanciful trickery with the machinations of his audience, to create a nerve-shredding experience like no other. Traucki believes the use of real animals is essential in creating a more plausible and frightening experience for the viewer. “A lot of the time it comes down to whatever the project determines. If your purpose is to make something look as realistic or as dangerous as possible then you want to use something that’s genuinely threatening.”
The production of The Reef would once again remain in-house. In a bold move, Traucki would stream the making of the film as he was shooting. In an effort to stay one step ahead of the curve, the director was keen to take advantage of the new trend in digital and social media. It was a vital marketing strategy which ultimately paid dividends.
Last year Traucki contributed to horror anthology The ABC’s of Death The directors segment, G is for Gravity gave a first person perspective of a surfer facing peril in the open ocean. “Yeah, that was an interesting project to be involved in. But it was hard to pitch your film, unaware of what the other 25 directors were making.” Project co-ordinator Ant Timpson gave the director loose, but ultimately freeing specifications. “It was simply a case of shoot it and send it in!”
For his latest feature Traucki has moved away from the shores of Australia (save for some shooting in NSW). Unable to find a real-life tale of survival to capture his imagination, Traucki looked to Indonesia and specifically the experiences of Tribesmen in Java. “I was keen to get out of the water after Black Water and The Reef – and hit upon the jungle. As it happens we had torrential rain while we were filming. It was incredibly muddy – certainly a more difficult shoot than anticipated. I think one day I’m just going to do a drama, set indoors!”
For THE JUNGLE, Traucki decided to try something different and present his film as a found-footage account. “In terms of budget it’s easier, but in an effort to make it believable, you have to really consider what you want to try and capture (in camera) and what you want to leave out. Certain thriller tropes aren’t always befitting a found-footage film. There’s no music in a found-footage film (for example).”
In an effort to raise completion funds for THE JUNGLE, Traucki turned to digital media once again – this time with notable crowd-funding site, Indiegogo. “We were able to raise about $15,000 which went towards a higher level of post-production. It has ensured a better sound and clearer visuals. It was a great experience and something I’d be keen to do again in the future.”
Wishing him all the best with his new feature and thanking him for his time, I bid Andrew farewell – leaving him to return to the elements. Regardless of where he is in the world, he’s successfully posed the very same question to his audience which he’s been asking his whole life, “What would you do in a situation like that?” I for one can’t wait to see THE JUNGLE. I’ll be the one sinking in my seat with my heart in my mouth, knowing with upmost certainty that I’d most likely die within the first few minutes!