Student Critic Patrick Dalziel interviews Andrew Lee, director of short film Melon Grab, at EIFF 2017
Andrew Lee’s latest short film Melon Grab is a beautiful examination of friendship, separation and skateboarding. I was lucky enough to get five minutes talking with Lee about the film and his previous works.
Melon Grab has a strong focus on emotion, backed by powerful central performances, with the familiarity between the two leads feeling almost improvisational in tone. Was this the case?
The skateboarders in the East Coast of Australia all know each other because it’s a very small community. I paired them up specifically, because I saw they had some connection. They don’t live in the same town, one lives in Sydney and one lives in Newcastle, but when they auditioned together I could tell they were friends. I put them together and there was just the right kind of chemistry. There was some improv, such as where I sat down with Noah Regan (Corey in Melon Grab) and we discussed his first girlfriend. It was improv I suppose, but also mildly scripted.
The cinematography from Dane Howell creates a lucid atmosphere in the film, how did he come to your attention?
We went to film school together, but had never actually worked with each other directly. Both of us skateboarded and would talk about doing something together. We graduated two years later and then I pitched him this film, because he lives near my father on the central coast. So, we skated around and thought up this escape drama. It’s crazy we actually made it, and got funding for it.
The story has a very personal element to it with the themes of divorce and separation, how much of it was taken from real life?
When I was younger my parents split up, not exactly like the story here though. I did have to change schools and move suburbs. It’s a very traumatic thing to happen, and it’s tough to process it at a young age. Especially having to leave someone who is the most important person to you outside of your family at that time. It just so happens that Noah Regan’s family went through a divorce and ended up moving from Sydney to Newcastle, starting a new life. Which is a big thing for fourteen-year-old.
It's interesting how the story draws away from the importance of friendship rather than focusing heavily on the inevitable. Was this always the direction you wanted to take on the film, or did it develop as it went on?
No, that definitely was the direction. Jaxon, who’s the goofier character, his main role was to cheer Corey up whenever he was feeling down. He was always trying to make him laugh. If boys see their friend is down you know you’ve got to give him shit, or poke him in the eye!
It’s very close to a brotherly connection at times.
Yeah, definitely! Most the guys that watch this can relate because it’s just goofing about and that’s how they deal with situations like this.
You have an extensive number of films on imdb, spanning a few genres. Is experimentation important to you?
I’d say I’m just practicing. I’m originally a production designer, and I designed so many films, to the point where I started getting paid for it and getting big jobs, that was kind of a training ground. This is my first funded film, the ones before that were just student films as I tried to figure it all out.
Patrick Dalziel is 20 and studies Journalism at Edinburgh Napier University.