THESE FINAL HOURS is a film about the last day on Earth set in Perth, Western Australia. Since we at AccessReel are based in that fair city, we decided to find out a more about the filmmakers who decided to destroy our mutual hometown for the big screen. It would be cricket at this point to disclose that I know both the producer Liz Kearney and the writer-director Zak Hilditch, but that didn’t prevent me from asking them genius questions about their debut feature film. Phil Jeng Kane
Liz Kearney – Producer
I have been influenced by many different films. I loved Richard Lowenstein’s Dogs in Space – I watched this film over and over when I was younger and thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen AND it was Australian!
Before These Final Hours I worked in the West Australian film funding agency ScreenWest and for the Film Television Institute. I also worked in various crew roles on various WA productions – from the worlds worst 3rd AD (Assistant Director), to runner, extras coordinator and production manager. I bounced around getting experience whilst developing my own projects in the background.
Zak and I have been working together for about six or seven years and in that time we have made some short films – most notably one called Transmission – which was made as a ‘calling card’ for These Final Hours. I began working on the These Final Hours when Zak came up with a shorter version of the idea in 2008. Together we developed the film into a feature length script and through various workshops and with a variety of feedback, we got it to a stage where we could try and find some money to make it. We were unashamed in setting the film in Perth and didn’t shy away from mentioning many places and suburbs – my favourite would be the ice rink in Malaga – that usually gets a good reaction form anyone in the audience who is from here.
The film was invited to Cannes as part of the Director’s Fortnight and that was an extremely surreal experience. I am such a Hollywood and film tragic that being on the Croisette was like being in my version of Disneyland. Having the film screen in Cannes is incredibly nerve-wracking as the French audiences are renowned for letting you know quite vocally if they don’t like your film. Thankfully I didn’t hear any audible boo-ing!
Zak Hilditch – Writer/Director
For myself and the producer Liz Kearney, we were lucky that the planets really aligned from the moment we submitted the script for funding as part of the Springboard scheme that Screen Australia was running. We developed it in the right way with the right people to get it up to scratch for further funding. Liz and myself have worked on the film for five years now.
My mother raised me and my sister. I was very lucky, Mum was a big cinephile. TV and movies is what she loved and as a result, at a very early age I was allowed to sit up late with her watching television, everything from Alfred Hitchcock Presents, to The Twilight Zone to Remington Steele to every American soap you can imagine and everything in between. I got to watch movies and TV probably more than any child should have at that age (laughs). So when I decided want to do when I grew up, movies were always there.
At Curtin University I was learnt what went in to make a film, what the different roles were, but more importantly there was building networks of people to make movies with. That incubation of university is great. If you have the right mentors and tutors it helps to instill what kind of filmmaker you want to be.
Just after University I did three backyard features on the smell of an oily rag. These Final Hours is my first funded film. In some ways it’s both my first feature and my fourth. The first three were my training ground, but to finally get one funded meant being able to pay people and everything that goes with properly developing and “cooking” your film. While I was looking to fund my films, I did many jobs. I worked in displays. I worked a delivery job. High pressure cleaning. You name it. I did everything but retail (laughs).
Eventually I came up with the idea of These Final Hours which has a universal question – what would you do on the last day on Earth? Imagine you can see the thing coming and there’s nothing you can do to stop it, but you have time to prepare. That would strip everything away and make you question everything. Who you truly love? Where do you belong? What would you do? Where would you be?
James is the main character and he’s a thirty-year old man who is lost in this world, he doesn’t know where he belongs. The fact it’s the last day on Earth heightens that and forces him to make a decision. He’s lived a shambolic lifestyle and he doesn’t have any self-worth, basically he saves a little girl Rose and he has to make a decision to either go to the party to end all parties and write himself off or do one good thing with the last day that he has. That’s the dilemma that he faces. It’s a bleak subject to explore and you have to go to some pretty dark places, but I feel those elements are outweighed by the journey that James and Rose go on. That journey is a beautiful one. The theme of the film is that it is never to late to find redemption even in the face of the apocalypse.
We discovered Angourie Rice who plays Rose, when we made a short called Transmission. She was a local actress at the time. She has the aura and spirit of a 40-year-old woman, but she’s a ten-year-old girl. Everyone else was found through an intense audition process across Australia. I had never met Nathan Phillips who plays James. I watched the test that he sent from Los Angeles and it blew me away. He had the right level of being able to handle himself in a fight, but also the vulnerability and sensitivity that character needed as well. He demanded the role by what he put down in that test. Angourie and Nathan hit it off. They were the yin and yang on set.
The film was invited to Cannes for the Director’s Fortnight and that was an amazing experience. We had three screenings for the official competition and the reaction over there was incredible. The French really seemed to dig it. We weren’t sure what to expect, but it was electric. There was audience interaction throughout the screening, there was cheering and hollering. All kinds of stuff going on. That was a real thrill.
The AccessReel THESE FINAL HOURS review is here.