After achieving success on the festival circuit with short film Lost Boy, director Peter Skinner has begun early pre-production on his debut feature, Two Ugly People.
Set in a highway motel, the psychological romance details a chance meeting between two strangers who find they have an instant connection. As their stays go on, the nature of the encounter is brought into question.
The film will star Skinner’s long-time collaborator Michael Sheasby as the male lead, with the female lead yet to be cast.
Producing are Robbie Miles and Kaitlyn McMurtry, with Lost Boy director of photography Calum Riddell also set to work on the project, expected to shoot across 4-5 weeks towards the end of this year.
Skinner told IF he began writing the script at the beginning of 2021, taking inspiration from his own body of work, as well as films including Lost In Translation, Paris, Texas, and French film Year at Marienbad.
“The project is an accumulation of all the short films I’ve made up to date but also a very contained and manageable first feature to make that will explore my ability as a filmmaker without having to stretch me too far in terms of having to find $10 million to make it,” he said.
“It’s been a year to get to this point but I feel it’s very doable and very manageable but also very exciting because it’s exactly the first feature I would love to make.
“As a filmmaker, I’m very inspired by films but I obviously don’t want to think that I’m just taking from other films because art is being inspired by something and then going and finding your own way to make it.”
Skinner will be hoping the film can resonate with audiences on a similar level to 2020’s Lost Boy, which won the top prize at the 2021 St Kilda Film Festival and has also been submitted for consideration in the Best Live Action Short Film Award category at the 2022 Academy Awards.
The 33-year-old said the coming-of-age drama, which is available to watch on ABC iview as an AFTRS Festival Favourites selection, had served to create more awareness of his work as he sought to fund Two Ugly People.
“I’ve got a few people who are very interested in the executive producer role off the back of Lost Boy,” he said.
“People who have seen that on ABC iview have recently reached out and said they would love to be involved in what I do next.
“[The funding] will probably be a mixture of self-financing, private investment, perhaps looking for crowdfunding, and – depending on the level we are looking at – Screen Australia elements, such as the producer offset.”
The RSL and leagues club culture at the centre of Lost Boy is also the inspiration for a series Skinner is writing titled Juniors.
While initially planned as a feature, the prospective project has since evolved to become six one-hour episodes detailing the perspectives of RSL workers.
Skinner, who worked at Souths Juniors for four years, said he wanted to explore the “kaleidoscopic microcosm of Australian culture” that the clubs offer.
“Looking at Australian television, I think there could be a place for it on a streaming service such as Stan, so once I have something tangible, I’d love to be talking to people like that,” he said.
“There is something about the Australian RSL culture that is so unique but universal in its emotion and I don’t know why that hasn’t been explored before in Australian culture.
“It just seems so interesting to me.”