Berlinale 2017 Filmmaker Profile: Neil Triffett (Emo: The Musical)


Emo Ethan has just been expelled from private-school after attempting suicide in the courtyard. On his first day at his new school – the dilapidated Seymour High – he meets Trinity, a totally naive but cute Christian girl who is desperate to convert him to Jesus. But joining the Christian evangelists is the last thing on Ethan’s mind….

‘Emo: The Musical’ is a quirky, Australian teen musical comedy. It’s Director Neil Triffett won a Special Mention at Berlin in 2014 for his short film of EMO THE MUSICAL, which has since developed this full-length feature.

‘Emo: The Musical’ screened as part of Berlinale 2017’s Generation14Plus programme over the last week. Here, we present Neil Triffett’s own introduction to the film.

Find all information & tickets for ‘Butterfly Kisses’ at Berlinale 2017 HERE

What was the most challenging aspect of expanding your 2014 short film into a feature length?
There were the regular things that were needed, like raising the stakes, which was done through giving the characters deeper back stories and motivations, as well as inserting a classical high-school movie device, a rock concert, which we knew was ripe for doing something new with. With those aside, the biggest challenge was expanding the universe of the short film. I created eight characters, and weaving their separate journeys throughout the film was challenging. Where to set-up and pay-off their arcs almost became a science. But I’m glad I did it, as the colour and movements of the side-plots are some of the most enjoyable moments in the film.

Describe the visual strategy behind the film? How did your approach to the film’s photography develop over its production? Was there ever a moment of significant adjustment from your original vision?
We planned on keeping the movie visually interesting through contrasting the worlds of the Emos and the Christians. The Emos hang out in dark, boldly-coloured places, while the Christians hang out in broad day-light with soft, pastel colours. Having Ellery Ryan as our cinematographer offered many different ways of looking at the film, especially in introducing a visual arc for the lighting. The film begins quite bright and fun but, as it gets more emotionally turbulent, the image gets kind of weird. By the time we get to the rock concert at the end of the film, we’re almost in an outer-circle of hell with our shadows and odd colour pallete. This was something that Ellery Ryan was able to introduce that I may not have fully had my head around as a first time director.

With the film hitting Berlinale, describe how you plan to further expand its accessibility to wide audiences?
We are opening in Australia on May the 4th but are hoping to get more territory sales while in Berlin. We are also hopeful for a video on demand sale, as we think this film is just as likely to be found online as in the cinema.

Can you talk a little about the design aspects of the film’s branding…for example, choice of font, color, and the development of its poster. How do you view the branding strategy of the film?
Yellow has always been a colour that stuck to our concept – it might be because it’s such a contrast to what people perceive Emos to be – but it also signposts that this is a film for a broader audience than just Emos. We wanted the poster to emphasise the elements that other films, especially films for young people, would be too scared to feature in a comedy. Elements like nooses, knives, and crucifixes are part of the concept, and, though this is a high school movie, we wanted to signal we would be dealing with some pretty twisted ideas in it. It was also important we signposted this was an ensemble film with an exciting cast of fresh-faced young people, so we’ve always wanted to have as many of the cast on the poster as possible. The font is a bit messy and home-made, with the aim of reminding viewers that it’s a film about young people, and doesn’t aim to be pristine.

Finally, if you could describe your film in one word, what would it be?


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