Interview with Tim Barretto

by Daniel Tune


Daniel Tune (of moviejuice) interviews film director Tim Barretto about his debut feature film

This interview was first published in the
zine BassenZine, designed by
Emily Pottinger and Gabriel Bath, which was released in conjunction with moviejuice's screening of Bassendream on January 20, 2024 at Rewind Studios in Adelaide.

Many thanks to Daniel, moviejuice, Emily and Gabriel for granting permission to Pure Shit to re-print this fantastic interview.

- ed, Bill Mousoulis



We shot over two Summers, 2016 and 2017, even though it’s set over one day. But the film was first conceived about five years previous. I made a prelude short as my uni graduate project called BEFORE THE DREAM, which was set in the '70s. That was much darker and much more of an art film, but it was very well received, and the success of that short gave me the confidence to start scripting a larger scale project with a similarly freewheeling structure.


We shot about 30 percent of the final film in the 2016 block, and then I revised the initial script based on that first round of shooting, expanding the role of some characters and contracting others, and then taking the finalised script into the 2017 shooting block. That’s not something you can do in most scripted productions, the freedom of going “pause, assess, redo”. It was good being able to work in that way for my first feature, where the non-narrative approach and the way the edit progresses gives you more room to move.





The film was never intended as an exercise in narrative filmmaking, it was about capturing the essence of the time and the place, that was the main thing. We put narrative constraints in - having the film be set over one day and inserting little narrative threads that come in and out, just so you go on a journey, but it was all to portray the essence of how the suburb felt at that point in time. Shooting it on that camera, that format [16mm], using video, it was all about evoking that point in time. 





We never did dark for darkness’ sake, or just for the sake of drama. I really wanted the film to have a big tonal shift after the sun goes down, because that’s what it feels like in the suburbs. Shit gets real, you have to face the music. 


Respecting the community in this kind of filmmaking is crucial. Don’t leave them on the outer, don’t think what you’re doing is better or more important than their lives.



I call Bassendream a little kid’s Magnolia. Altman and Short Cuts in particular were also very informative for me, as well as Mike Leigh, who I’m a big fan of, and his use of character-based improvisation, a mix of constraints and freedom for the actors. Gummo as well was a big influence, it felt like real suburban representation, raw and organic. Harmony Korine’s approach in general was very influential to me, though I’m probably a bit kinder in my approach than he is (laughs). I always gravitated towards social realist dramas, even as a kid, and though I have a lot of respect for genre filmmaking and the craft that goes into it, it was good with Bassendream to be able to steer away from that mode and to put both my own voice and the voice of the community into the film, without needing to worry so much about the traditional constraints of commercial filmmaking - if it needs to go slow, it can go slow. 




The community was so involved in this movie. Lots of my family still lives in Bassendean. I cast locally as much as I could. I got the council on board so I could get access to any community space that I wanted to. The film ended up being quite a big production in the end because so many people from the community were very supportive and wanted to be involved. Because I grew up there, and I’ve still got family living there, I could basically just knock on doors and get all kinds of production support. People did the production a lot of favours, and for the actors on the film there was a very friendly atmosphere. I love working with non-actors, I think they bring a fresh style to their scenes. I also love working with kids, because they’re unpredictable. For them it was a joyous, fun experience, but for the key creatives, it was pretty brutal (laughs). The production was very rigorously organised, and that’s due to my partner and producer Mel, who always kept things at a professional level. It was a mix of playfulness and seriousness. 




Respecting the community in this kind of filmmaking is crucial. Don’t leave them on the outer, don’t think what you’re doing is better or more important than their lives, don’t act as if there is a hierarchy, because there’s not. People need to get on with their day to day, and it’s about respecting them even when the pressure is high on the production. We would always chat to people around the production, listen to stories and get input on what we were doing. So many sets are intimidating and are designed that way to keep that hierarchy, but I tried to push back against that, I always wanted to get more people involved. I think respecting the community is important in the actual content of the film, being honest and authentic about the feelings that you experienced in that time and that place. You’d go out and play during the day and have the best time, then you’d come home to your parents. And now you think “I don’t know what you guys were up to, but I’m sure you were having a miserable time. You guys never looked happy”.





Lots of people in Bassendean attended a local screening and it was a good response. Obviously, it’s not a traditional, easily consumed movie for lots of people, and maybe the portrayal seems harsher than the reality for some people. It’s not intended to be harsh. The movie is a love letter, it’s just trying to be true to the vibe. I think most people appreciated that and overall people have been very positive.


I think the screen agencies are a bit scared that all this independent cinema is coming out outside of them .... the way things are now really narrows people in at bigger budget levels.




I think the screen agencies are a bit scared that all this independent cinema is coming out outside of them, the memorable stuff, the stuff that gets analysed and talked about. We’ve been so caught up in screen agencies as places to produce a certain level of quality, but it’s quality only in certain aspects. I’d love to see younger creatives get more opportunities to actually play and express themselves, but the way things are now really narrows people in at bigger budget levels, and by the time you get the chance to make something with a screen agency, you have no confidence to play again. I’m kind of over the idea of an auteur, but the industry right now is breeding producers, not directors. I still think there’s something in the director being a little wild, rather than just people coaching performances. We’re losing that by making every director act like a producer, we’re missing the artistic people who should go into film but who feel too intimidated by the norms of the industry.





Daniel Tune is is a programmer, filmmaker, and writer. He is a founding member of the Adelaide-based film collective moviejuice, and has recently completed his first microbudget feature, entitled MALLS.

Published May 2, 2024. © Daniel Tune, Tim Barretto, Emily Pottinger, Gabriel Bath, 2024