Fred Schepisi’s ADG Keynote: Collaboration is the most important thing

"I've just realised this conference is about the digital age."

And so legendary filmmaker Fred Schepisi, AO, began his keynote address at the Australian Director Guild Conference: Directing in the Digital Age this morning.

During his articulate yet largely off the cuff address, Schepisi covered many topics prevalent in the filmmaking landscape today, beginning, no less, with the switch from film to digital.

"Unfortunately, film is dead," he stated. "It's absolute history. Sorry. There will be no cinemas showing film in a very short time."

Though he expressed great sadness at the demise of film, Schepisi also said it was time for directors to stop picking holes in what undoubtedly the way of the future.

"[Digital] filmmaking has been a long time coming," he said.

"And one of the things that has held it up is people's attitude. There has been a lot of time spent complaining about what's wrong with it and not enough about what's right with it."

Which is not to say he wasn't aware of problems that arose from digital filmmaking. One of the examples he gave was the harshness the quality can sometimes have on its subjects, particularly women.

"Digital is extremely cruel on women," he said. "For blokes it doesn't matter. We look like sh*t and we can stay that way… But [with digital] you can stand next to a woman who has no flaws whatsoever… but the high quality of digital will bring out things you can't see with the naked eye."

"You want to see how bad it is? Use Facetime," he advised.

Of 3D, Schepisi lists the recent film Gravity as an example of how the medium can not only work for, but enhance, a film.

"The man [director Alfonso Cuaron] did not allow the technicalities to stifle his creativity. He twisted digital and CGI to fit what his creativity needed, not the other way around."

"Use the medium. Don't let the medium use you."

Schepisi also urged directors to make use of the talent that surrounds them on a project and to make peace with the fact it is not a one-man-band.

"You're not working in a vacuum. It's not just you as a director doing these things.

"It's like a diamond and there are many facets to the diamond… You must create a situation where people can contribute."

"You must collaborate. Collaboration is the most important thing you can do."

But at the heart of Schepisi's address was his passion for the unique voice of Australian filmmakers. He warned those who had experienced some success on their home shores of the Hollywood interest that would most likely come knocking.

"They don't want us to make unique film," he said. "They want us to freshen up their genres."

Later he noted, "Australian films succeed… when they're not trying to be something else, or a Hollywood version of something."

"Don't try and make international films. Make unique films with your own voice. With an Australian voice."

The ADG Conference was officially opened this morning by Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, Attorney General and Minister for the Arts, and will conclude tomorrow afternoon.

It is being held at the Sebel Pier One in Sydney.