Winged Creatures: a true independent

Rowan Woods and Forest Whitaker, Winged CreaturesRowan Woods wanted to create a true American independent film. He succeeded, and received both the good and the bad that comes with that. Miguel Gonzalez reports.

Why would a renowned Australian direcor sell his house, take his family on a ‘world safari’ for six months and then relocate to Los Angeles to craft an independent American film?
If you ask Rowan Woods, of The Boys and Little Fish fame, the answer is simple. Adventure. Understanding. Learning.

After Little Fish, it was his intention to do a foreign film, so once the family finished an extended trip around the world and finally arrived in LA, the director’s plan was to look at scripts until he found one that felt right. That script came through 21 Grams producer Bob Salerno.

“[Salerno] had a heartfelt connection to the material, having been through 9/11, which is related to the subject matter of the script,” says Woods of the story, which presents a number of diverse characters trying to come to terms with the shooting they’ve just survived.

Winged Creatures is based on the eponymous 2008 novel by Roy Freirich. The script attracted a strong cast (including Oscar winners Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson, as well as Dakota Fanning, Kate Beckinsale and Guy Pearce) to the project.

“It was a great opportunity for me to meet virtually anyone I wanted to meet, and also to explore the American system at large.

“I wanted to make an American independent movie in the way my favourite directors made theirs; understanding the community in which I was setting the story (which was moved from the Midwest to LA).”

It took about six months to finance the project, a time that Woods defines as a steep learning curve in which he had to cast and crew a film, “with the best the American system could offer”.

It was then that Woods learned that, if they like a script, many Hollywood stars are willing do to independent films for very little money, but he also discovered that even in the strongest film industry in the world, without government money and with a price tag placed according to the value of the cast, financing can be very difficult.

Perhaps the hardest lesson came when Woods’ statements about Dakota Fanning were blown out of proportion and turned into a tabloid feud between them.

“You have to be very careful with misquoting and in what context you express certain truths about the filmmaking process,” he says.

He also avoided creating an “Aussie club”; Guy Pearce was called because “he’s a great actor, rather than a great Australian”.

“This whole whether or not you’re Australian, that’s baggage we tend to have here in Australia, but I try to avoid it.”

Woods knew that, in spite of its cast, Winged Creatures was “difficult to release” [in the US], and like some of the work by the independent directors he admires, it ended up suffering the straight-to-DVD release treatment from Sony in the US, under the title Fragments. It will be theatrically released in Australia by Icon on July 9. ■


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