A lifelong cinephile and lover of story, Dave Cairns directed his first film in 2000, bringing together his love of drama and photography to form Marley’s Ghost Productions. As a director, Dave had a fairly humble beginning, working with a group of friends and a camcorder. But even in those early years, there was a strong desire to make engaging stories and relevant social comment.
In the fifteen years since, Dave has directed numerous short films and won several awards for writing and directing. In addition to his work with Marley’s Ghost, in 2011 Dave became the producer and director of Salvo Studios, the media production unit of The Salvation Army in southern Australia. Dave has a passion and commitment to film as a tool of personal and social challenge, firmly believing that the stories and characters of film can tell us something of the truth of our world and ourselves.
Q & A
If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in? Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?
Given that the world of Telepathy is an oppressive dystopia, I can’t imagine wanting to live there. If there were a sci-fi world I buy a one-way ticket to, it would have to be Star Trek. Nice ships, everyone is taken care of, Tribbles! What more could you ask for?
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?
Rey from the new Star Wars is a character I really relate to. Talent but very unsure of her talents. A bit of a loner but with a heart for people. Plus, force powers.
Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?
Part of me would like to reserve judgment until I have met an AI in person, but I can’t help but think they really won’t hold humans with any value (especially after they see video of us kicking robot prototypes). If they were going to make their own sci-fi films, would they end up being human real life? Is our world, they’re sci-fi? Like Anne of Green Gables or something?
In 1996, Bugs Bunny recruited Michael Jordan and Bill Murray to form the greatest basketball squad of all-time, the Tune Squad; you’re Bugs, who’s on your Sci-Fi Tune Squad?
Sigourney Weaver, Ron Cobb, Rey and BB8, and Data.
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
I go through a lot of story notes to try and filter the bad ideas. With Telepathy, the beginning and end were always clear, but the middle went through three or four different versions. I always come back to the questions of what am I trying to say and what’s the best way to say it?
Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?
Filmmaking, whether sci-fi or not, is a very communal experience. Part of being a director is sharing your vision, not just with the audience, but with the people who are going to help you bring that vision to life.
Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?
I’m a pretty digital person and, for the most part, have a love of technology. But I think we always have to be careful that we don’t let technology enable us to treat others badly. Technology should heighten our humanity, not diminish it.
When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
I’m a real cinephile, so I will often look to other films and TV shows for visual inspiration. Which is really helpful because there’s then a place a can point the Art team too. But, for me, there needs to be a degree of purpose or narrative meaning in every design. In Telepathy, we gave the telepaths a very stark, utilitarian design because we figured people who can read minds don’t need to express themselves with clothes or art. When design makes sense in the story, it usually works best.
Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Both. Philip K. Dick. Practical as much as possible. Dystopia is more fun to write. A bit of both.