J-Wire meets Emile Sherman

September 16, 2015 by Roz Tarszisz
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J-Wire’s Roz Tarszisz talks with film producer Emile Sherman about two of his latest releases.


Emile Sherman [2nd from right] receives his Academy Award from Steven Spielberg [left]

Sherman is a Sydney-based producer of independent films and television. In 2010 he received an Oscar for his role in producing the multi-Academy Award®-winning The Kings Speech.  His company See-Saw Films is based in  London and Sydney.

RT: See-Saw films has produced strong biopics in recent years – Kings Speech, Tracks and now Life.  Are you planning any more?

ES: We don’t see them as traditional biopics. What we try to do, as in The Kings Speech and Life, is to find a particular moment in time and capture that.

With Life we felt that the relationship between these two young people – one older than his years and one younger, represented the birth of popular youth culture. James Dean had to decide what kind of actor he was going to be and it was that point which had our interest.

RT: Is there a lot of travel involved or do you find that you are able to achieve a lot over the internet?

ES: We have offices in London and Sydney with 200 people working across film and tv and use internet, Skype and phone. At any given time someone in the company is travelling – film festivals, film markets or working on a movie.

RT: Are there difficulties producing big budget movies without a Hollywood base?

ES: Not really.  Few films are made in LA these days: you can shoot films anywhere in the world. England is a most convenient base for us.

There is always an Australian element in our films – a director, actors, storytellers. The biggest hurdle is finding Australian stories that will translate internationally. Post-production on Life was done in Australia.

RT: Both Life and Macbeth where shot in the northern winter. What effect, if any, does that have on the actors and crew?

ES: It is sometimes a question of when particular actors are available. When casting an independent film we find that many actors are often available over the (northern) winter months. So we go with that. Everyone copes with the weather.

In Life we needed to show snow so we filmed the Indiana scenes in Canada’s winter. Sometimes it was shot outdoors in howling winds. Much of our TV series Top of the Lake was shot outdoors, although not in deep winter.

With Macbeth, we didn’t want to make a filmed theatrical version but wanted one which was dramatically grounded. The winter weather was an important part of that.

RT: Do you think an audience will have any difficulty with the broad Scots accents in Macbeth?

ES: The language Shakespeare used is strong – the words needed to be grounded in the cinematic experience.  The intention was to make it visual, visceral and dramatic and I think people will connect with that.

RT: Is the script 100% true to the Shakespeare?

ES: Yes but a bold view was taken in the way scenes are interpreted.  Part of the focus was that Macbeth was suffering post traumatic stress after returning from war – a hot topic these days. The effect of being away at war for some time coupled with the loss of a child was something we wanted to bring to the fore.

Our scriptwriters stayed true to the play’s spirit by adapting and crafting the work without making up lines.

RT: In Life Robert Pattinson’s character(Dennis Stock) saw star qualities in DeHaan’s character (James Dean). Did you see star qualities in DeHaan?

ES: Absolutely we did. He is a very fine actor.  The brief was not to recreate Dean but to show him as a free spirit pushed towards the studio machine. It was up to DeHaan to bring out a fully fleshed character.

RT: The Kings Speech, Life and Macbeth reflect remarkable choices in casting. Did you participate in the casting for Life and Macbeth?

ES: Yes, as producers Iain Canning and I worked closely with the director in the casting process.

RT: See-Saw has released four movies so far in 2015 – Slow West, Mr Holmes, Life and Macbeth.  Will there be more before the end of 2015?

ES: No, Macbeth is the final release for this year.

RT: Any thoughts on the potential of an Oscar with Life?

ES: One thing we have learned is how many variables there are.  You never know where a film will lead.

 RT:  What can you tell us about Lion?

ES: Lion is now in post production. Shot in India and Tasmania, it’s based on the true story of Saroo Brierley (Dev Patel) who became accidentally separated from his family as a young boy. Eventually he was adopted by a Hobart couple – played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham. The story is about his search as an adult to find his Indian family.

Life is in cinemas now. Macbeth will be released October 1st.

Roz Tarszisz reviews Life

Roz Tarszisz review Macbeth

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