Pejkovic: Congratulations with the film (Hey,
Hey It's Esther Blueburger). I watched it last
week and I quite enjoyed it. I want to talk about the script for
the film. You first wrote the script in 2002
Randall: I started writing it about then, yeah.
and on the strength of that script you received numerous
accolades, a scholarship to Los Angeles
MP: What I would like to know is with the script in development for
such a long time, and with a lot of it based on your own personal
experiences, when it came to filming was it hard to let it go?
Were you continuously adding to it during filmmaking?
CR: No. I didn't change a line of the script during filmmaking. The
script changed during the writing process, but once we started
filming it stayed exactly the same. I think I changed some of
the Hebrew, because I got it wrong. But that's it.
MP: One thing that really struck me in the film was that Esther -like
many other Jewish, Muslim and Christian teenagers in Western society-
reaches a point in her life where her secular and religious worlds
clash,culminating with confusing and exhilarating results. How
important was Esther's Jewish faith in the film? Was that an important
element to the context of the story?
CR: It was important because it was another factor that set Esther
up as an outsider, because (Hey,
Hey It's Esther Blueburger) is an outsider
story about a girl trying to find her place in the world. There
aren't that many Jews in Sydney (or Australia), and so because
she is Jewish she is an outsider, and it also feeds into her family
identity and how they operate as a family, and the traditions,
and the culture, and it was more a device which to tell an outsider
story. It is a good question, and one I haven't been asked to
MP: Well, I find that a lot of people tend to side step the subject
of religion. I am Catholic, and when I was younger I went through
the same thing so I can relate. Especially when I was hanging
out with kids from public school, and I attended an all boys Catholic
school, so the differences between us in a religious and cultural
context was quite glaring. So I liked your approach to Esther's
faith. Another thing that took me by surprise was your approach
to the increasing sexuality of today's adolescence, which was
done in a very upfront yet tasteful manner. A scene that really
shook me - and I think it is a scene which a lot of people will
talk about - is the group felatio scene. Did you have any apprehension
approaching the scene? And how did you come about structuring
CR: Well the scene is about how far Esther is prepared to go in order
to fit in. It's about the fact that there is a lot of peer pressure
on kids to do so many things, and there is a lot of peer pressure
to start experimenting sexually at an early age. And I did not
want to shy away from that. We had four weeks rehearsal process
and even prior to rehearsal I was talking to my cast for month's,
and maybe in Keisha (Castle Hughes) case years before about stuff
like that, and we were very open about sex. Because - and I am
not saying that teenagers every where are giving group blow jobs
- but exploring issues of sexuality is what teenagers are doing,
and so I found it very easy to talk about this stuff openly with
them. And for them to act
they really understood what the
essence of the scene was about, what the dramatic and emotional
ramifications of this scene were, and it's really the sequence
of point scoring and one upmanship with Suni (Keisha Castle Hughes)
and Esther (Danielle Catanzariti) and there is a lot of bluff
and a lot of - like a game of truth or dare - a lot of initiation.
And all of that stuff is very real to them, it's very real to
any teenager that I have spoken to, and I spoke to a lot of teenagers
when I was developing this film. Not saying that they all go out
giving group blow jobs, but the issues around that, the motivation
for doing that, they can all understand that sometimes you do
extreme things that you regret because you are under a lot of
MP: When I saw that scene my heart broke, because - as her mother
says to her in later scene: "You were an angel" - and
when I saw that scene it felt like she was falling from grace.
Do you think it is a generational thing
. a theory I have
is because of the advancement of technologies -especially in regards
to the internet - things like that are much open to teenagers
these days, without a filter to stop them from viewing certain
things. I know when I was younger the internet was just about
to break, and now it is apart of the mainstream, it's everywhere
CR: It is everywhere. You know teenagers are unbelievably sophisticated
in their knowledge. It is amazing. Younger and younger they are
picking up new stuff, and I found that they taught me a lot and
I don't think we give them enough credit for being
able to talk about stuff at an early age. Also, it's not just
the internet. It's magazines, it's television
CR: Yeah, everything is so highly sexualised. Watch Video Hits and
all of those video clips. It's everywhere, so we can't expect
there to be certain boundaries when it just does not exist in
the mass media.
Hey It's Esther Blueburger was your directorial debut. There are number of scenes
- especially during the films opening - that seem to be very well
choreographed. Did you use storyboards for the film?
CR: I did use storyboards. I actually have been collecting images
for many years, and compiled a book of concept art. I worked with
my production designer and my DOP for months before we started
shooting to compile what we called "The Bible", which
showed the look of the film. I did not physically storyboard myself,
I got someone else to do it, but I did storyboard in a very rudimentary
fashion because I was doing all the pre-production in Sydney -where
I did all of my storyboarding - but we shot the film in Adelaide.
So I storyboarded the kind of how I saw the blocking of certain
things in my mind, but I couldn't story board exactly, because
we didn't have locations, we didn't have any of that, so quite
often I had to throw the story boards out and start again. But
with the opening with the cart wheeling, that was all exact to
MP: There was a certain rhythm where you could almost click your fingers
to it. Final question: Lead actress Danielle Catanzariti - who
I thought was amazing - she was only 13 years old? Or 12 years
old during filming?
CR: No. She was 14 playing 13, and she just turned 16.
MP: OK. With a lot of the things her character goes through -which
are very adult oriented - was she inquisitive with a lot of these
themes? Was there a lot of dialogue between you and her, especially
in regards to the scene we talked about earlier?
MP: Yeah we did loads of talking. All of us, kids, adults, the whole
cast and myself, we spent a lot of time talking with Danielle.
She is very inquisitive. She is also very intelligent, and she
has got a lot of craft skills
we did a lot of preparation,
because she is also Catholic and had very little exposure to Jewish
people. So I took her to synagogue a couple of times, we had Jewish
classes for her and for Christian (Byers) - who is also not Jewish
- and plays Jacob. So we did Jewish school; Hebrew school
we had break-dancing lessons. All kinds of stuff, because they
had to learn a lot of practical skills in order to play a character
that far from themselves, because Esther is very different from
MP: That was my final question. Thank you very much for this interview.
CR: Thank you.
WITH KIND PERMISSION FROM MEDIASEARCH.COM.AU)