April 6-7, 2024
Psychological thriller/mystery Burning Kiss made quite an impact during Supanova Comic Con & Gaming Melbourne, with director Robbie Studsor giving fans an inside look at the upcoming film during the event.
Burning Kiss is the story of disgraced former detective Edmund Bloom, who has spent six years investigating the car accident that paralysed him and killed his wife, Juliette.
When the perpetrator arrives on Edmund’s doorstep, guilt-ridden, the pair hatch a plan that will allow Edmund to catch him and become the hero of the story.
Studsor watched a lot of film noir and old detective movies while writing Burning Kiss. From there, he became inspired by the idea of building a mystery in reverse, which became his movie’s main plot. “I wanted to create a ‘wacky’ sort of detective film.”
Filming Burning Kiss in Studsor’s home state of Western Australia presented the production with some special challenges. “The landscape of WA is very unique, so there are a lot of things you can’t do.”
For example, big city scenes were not an option. However, this uniqueness came with the bonus of forcing the film’s production team to be creative, using the locale to add to the film’s kooky, eerie atmosphere.
THE ART OF DIRECTING
Burning Kiss is Studsor’s directorial debut. Before beginning his work on the film, he watched featurettes and interviews to get a sense of how other directors worked. He took inspiration from cult directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder, but, according to Studsor, the most important thing to remember when directing is to stick to your own personality and vision.
“I think you find that the directors who don’t do that, who let too many other influences in, those are the ones who run into problems.”
THE CASTING PROCESS
Liam Graham, the lead actor in Burning Kiss, is a well-known name in WA’s indie film scene, so he was given the part outright. The rest were found, as Studsor said, “Through good old-fashioned auditions.”
Alyson Walker, who was cast as the female lead, showed up to her audition with props. While directors would not expect that level of effort from every auditionee, Studsor offered this advice to any hopefuls: “Always come prepared.”
“Most of your directing should be done before filming begins.”
Particularly on a small indie film where time and money are precious, you can’t have an actor taking a character off on a path the director didn’t want them to go, with no time to course correct. All the main points about a character should be hashed out between the actor and director before cameras roll, leaving just minor tweaks to be made thereafter.
Studsor also emphasised the importance of a director getting to know their cast as individuals: “One person might get it perfect on the first take, another on the third.”
A director needs to know the strengths and weaknesses of their actors to know how to get the best from them.
“Getting the film shot, getting it in the can is great, but that’s just the start.”
For a movie like Burning Kiss, Studsor said a lot of work is done in post-production to really craft the atmosphere of the film. Studsor spent a lot of time working with composer Christopher de Groot on the film’s dark score, which worked together with the film’s sound design to build its bizarre feel.
Meanwhile, the film’s visual effects took five years to complete, with an effect used nearly every thirty seconds. The visual effects work put the film slightly over budget, a trap Studsor warned budding filmmakers not to fall into themselves.
“Usually, it’s best to work within your means.”
INDIE FILM CHALLENGES
A movie like Burning Kiss doesn’t have the big-name actors that usually fill cinema seats. So, how do indie directors like Robbie Studsor get people to see their film? Studsor says it is vitally important to find the right team to help promote the film, like sales agents, and a good distributor. FilmInk is distributing Burning Kiss, and Studsor credits the company with helping to get the film out there, even attracting overseas interest.
Burning Kiss was filmed back in 2012, so Studsor has had plenty of time to think up ideas for his next project.
“I’m working on an idea for a film similar to Taxi Driver, but with a female protagonist. I’m interested in exploring that female world.”
WHERE CAN WE SEE BURNING KISS?
Burning Kiss should see a limited release in a few small boutique cinemas sometime this year. If you miss these screenings, the film will also receive a digital release. Follow FilmInk, or Robbie Studsor’s production company, Caltiki Pictures, on Facebook for more information on when these releases will happen.