Leigh Whannell’s Words of Advice For Aspiring Filmmakers

Leigh Whannell

As part of Oz Comic-Con’s 2018 festivities, Australian director/writer/actor/altogether good guy Leigh Whannell held a panel this past Sunday where he gave an insight onto his background, his current work, and his observations on the film industry.

It goes without saying, Oz Comic-Con was amazing this year – it is every year, of course, the team at ReedPOP are world class event organisers, and their selection of talent came from every walk of life (shout out to the speakers of the Headlocked: Comics and Wrestling Worlds Collide seminar for their excellent discussion about the state of professional wrestling in Melbourne and abroad). But if you really want to delve into the mindset of the people behind your favourite projects, it is imperative that you take in as many of these discussions as you can. David Sobolov’s was particularly poignant, as he spoke about the voice acting industry with such knowledge and passion; you really learned something, at no additional cost.


Basically, if you are interested in entering a particular sector of arts or entertainment, it behooves you to attend these sessions. Sure, you can get your kicks out of the typical fare of ‘what’s your favourite X’, or ‘can you say the funny line from Y’, but those who actually want to make a go of these cutthroat industries need to be spongelike.

If you’re a Melburnian sponge interested in entering the film industry (and I don’t mean sponge as in a drain on society, we’ve already got enough of those), you should have attended Leigh Whannell’s talk. If you didn’t, at least pay attention to the biggest takeaway. Don’t worry, I won’t even hide it behind a paywall.

Near the conclusion, one young man asked him for advice on how to enter the movie industry, an industrial question for a man whose background very much reflects many of our own. For perspective, Leigh Whannell grew up near Glen Waverley and studied film at RMIT; the success of Saw, as he put it, kept exceeding their expectations, growing bigger than they ever could have anticipated and eventually claiming honours as one of the top-grossing horror franchises of all time.

Whannell’s response was direct and clear: ‘Pick up a camera and make things. Right now.’

He pointed out that things were different back when he was a student in the 90s. Video cameras were cumbersome and footage was physical, rather than digital, so nothing was disposable. Once upon a time, walking around and recording family films was a novelty that only your offbeat wealthy uncle could enjoy. Now, almost all of us have a digital camera in our pockets at all times. Our phones may be used for trivial things like Instagram and Snapchat, but their potential is so much deeper than that: you can create media whenever you want.

It really hit home the idea that opportunities have to be made, not found. Saw originally started as a collaboration between himself and colleague James Wan while they were still at university, with the notion that a movie about two people in a room was the most affordable. They self-funded the original short film (known to many now as Saw 0.5), and the ball got rolling from there.

It came at a cost of several thousand dollars, but yours may not. Whannell went on to emphasize that if an idea is good enough, it will find an audience. Write it, film it, submit it to any festivals that you can. Whether it only gets a minor run in a local indie festival, or goes as far as Toronto and beyond, you will be taking another step further.

So I posit the question to you, budding Spielbergs. Have you got a project in the pipeline that has been stewing for quite some time, and you’re just waiting for the opportunity to get it off the ground? If so, grab your iPhone or your Android or your Nokia 3310. Start shooting, and make it happen. The visual quality may not be industry standard, but if the content is good enough, that won’t matter.

Unless you happen to be one of the Nokia people, in which case I suggest using it as a brick to fling through the window of electronic stores and nab some sweet gear.

Did you manage to make it to Oz Comic-Con this year? If not, keep your eyes here on Nerds4LifeBlog for more great content! Be sure to check out our interview with Christopher Larkin, star of ‘The 100’.