ADAM Zwar spoke with the man behind new Australian film Nitram, screenwriter - and former teacher - Shaun Grant.
"Sean's debut film Snowtown, about the infamous Snowtown murders in South Australia in the 1990s, won multiple awards and screened at Critics' Week at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival," Adam said.
"That's where Sean's career took off, writing the feature films Jasper Jones, Berlin Syndrome, Penguin Bloom, The True History of the Kelly Gang, and Nitram.
"He also wrote for David Fincher's Mindhunter on Netflix, and one of my favourite Australian miniseries Deadline Gallipoli.
"He's possibly Australia's most in-demand screenwriter, known for his willingness to tackle the weighty emotional subjects that others might see as too dangerous, or too difficult to make.
"Nitram premiered at Cannes a few months ago where the response to the film was unanimously positive... and that's where my conversation with Shaun started...
"When I asked him when he was most happy, he said 'now,' and he wasn't just referring to his professional success, which he credits as being partly due to his continuing working relationship with the director, Justin Kurzel, but also the fact that he recently got married."
To the interview!
1. When were you most happy?
"I clearly remember a moment where I felt joy like I'd never felt before," Shaun said.
"My happiest moment in time...starts not that happy. I learned that [my first wife] was having an affair on the morning of the AFL Grand Final. Hawthorn, my beloved team, were playing Geelong.
"There was a moment...in the second half where Buddy Franklin hand-balls to Stuart Dew and he slots one from the boundary, and I knew we had won, and I felt a rush like I'd never felt before... I just needed it on that day.
"Muhammad, Jehovah, God, whoever... gave me that, because I needed it that day more than anyone else, and I just remember feeling this electric bolt of happiness for that split second."
2. Who would you like to apologise to, and why?
"If I had to pick one person, I'd dare say my wife Annabel. I think the people that you spend the most time with, that you're closest with...they get the best and the worst of you.
"I'd like to think I treat people as I'd like to be treated and therefore haven't put too many noses out of joint."
3. What is your greatest regret?
"I've got no regrets.
"Things happen for a reason, good and the bad.
"All of them add up to where I am now, and I'm in a really good place, so I think that's all that matters."
4. What do you still need to do to live a satisfactory life?
"I'll feel it's pretty satisfactory if I can keep doing what I'm doing, retire at a grand old age in my 60s, having continuously worked on projects that I was really passionate about," Shaun said.
"I was 12 years old when I knew I wanted to make movies, and at the same time, I knew I wanted to be a dad.
"I've done one, and I haven't done the other, so if one day I could be a father, that'd probably sum up life and I could die a happy man."
5. Who is the person that most influenced you, and how?
"I was raised by a single mum, and spent a hell of a lot of time with her. I've probably got a lot of her traits, good and bad.
"I think my father's absence probably influenced me... My dad was a really ambitious guy. He liked to travel... I guess I have some of those traits as well.
"My grandmother, Vera...was one of my best mates, and she had a wicked sense of humour, which hopefully I've inherited somewhat, despite writing typically serious stuff. I'm usually up for a laugh."
6. When was the last time you cried and why?
"To get me to cry, it's death or breakups. Annabel and I suffered a pretty significant loss earlier this year, and that was probably the last time I cried.
"I'm from a very working class, rural family, where crying didn't really exist, to be honest. If it did, it happened far too late.
"Crying doesn't come easy for me. I wish it did, because I know that the few times that I have, I felt better for it."
7. What is your current state of mind?
"It's one of contentment and joy.
"It's been a frustrating time, but I'm very fortunate that I can write, and my job hasn't been hampered as much as it has for so many other people in the country.
"I'm in a pretty good state of mind, which is nice."
8. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
"Getting where I am...from where I've come from. I'm pretty proud of that," Shaun said.
"I didn't know anyone in the film industry when I broke into it. I came from a town where filmmakers didn't exist.
"I haven't been given anything or gifted anything. I had to work pretty hard for it all, so I'm pretty proud of that. I think that's probably my greatest achievement.
"Individual projects that come to mind would be my first film Snowtown, and my most recent film Nitram. They were the only two spec scripts I've ever written. I'm really, really proud of those achievements."
9. Who would you like on your side in a battle and why?
"Personally, I'll say Annabel, my wife. We'd die, but we'd die laughing.
"Professionally, I'd say Justin Kurzel, my co-collaborator... Making a film is like going to battle, and having gone to battle with him three times, our relationship's stronger after each one.
"I'd happily stand in a trench with Justin.
"Perhaps any of the 1989 Hawthorn Grand Final team, because Dipper played with a punctured lung, Brereton a broken rib... Just the toughest bunch of men..."
10. What would you like your last words to be?
"Mine will be serious and sentimental.
"Having had a lot of sudden deaths occur in my family history, if I can die really old, lying in bed, surrounded by loved ones... My wife's there, my kids and my grandkids...
"'Thank you. I love you.' Done."
Shaun explained that writing the story of Snowtown was like unpacking his own relationship with his late father.
"He only knew me as a school teacher. He took his life just before I started writing Snowtown.
"If you watch Snowtown, it's about a boy trying to find a dad. Before he passed, [my father and I] were kind of trying to come back together.
"Off the back of that, it's not surprising that I found this Snowdown story in this story of Jamie in particular, who was looking for someone to guide him and sadly found Australia's worst serial killer."
Did you know you were drilling down into that relationship with your father when you were writing it?
"I knew it. I knew. That was what was interesting to me," Shaun said.
"I'm not a true crime guy. Up until that point...I'd never read a true crime book.
"It was not the murders that I was interested in. It was...that boy and that father figure type relationship.
"If you look at the three films I've done with Justin Kurzel...parenting is a massive aspect of all those films, and people trying to find a father figure, or a mother figure, or whatever it may be."
Nitram is a Stan Original Film, now streaming on demand.
Adam's book Twelve Summers: Being a life-long fan of Australian cricket is harder than it looks, is out now.
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