Can 10 juvenile detainees conquer Macbeth?
Interview with Director Jack Yabsley
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
When I heard that Bell Shakespeare were running a drama program in juvenile detention, I knew I needed to find a way to tell that story! Thankfully, they allowed us to come into the centre and film the whole process over three months. I am a strong believer in the power of art – be it music, drama, visual or film – and its ability to be a rehabilitating force, so the project meant a lot to me from day one.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
This film is funny and heartbreaking. It’ll make you think, and laugh, and maybe cry. The film opens up the world of the young men in juvenile justice centres and allows them to tell their stories. It also shines a light on the importance of arts-based programs to enrich the lives of young people.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
The themes of persistence and passion run strongly through the whole film. James and Huw, the guys who run the Shakespeare workshops face hurdle after hurdle in getting and keeping a cast of young men to stage the production. But what shines through is that they care so much about these teenagers, and the importance of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. The other primary focus is exploring the stories of the young men in juvenile detention – the way they reflect on their experience, what they hope to do in the future, and how they are challenged by the Shakespeare program. What we discovered is that they are mostly just vulnerable young men – funny, insecure, angry at times, but ultimately not unlike most other teenagers on the outside.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The stories of the boys have really connected with audiences, just as much as the journey of James and Huw, the professional actors who run the program. Recently I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in with some high school audiences and holding Q&As afterwards, and that’s been so exciting to watch the film in a new light with people the same age as the boys in the centre.
It was interesting to see which characters they sided with, and what parts really clicked with them, in comparison to our general public screenings. Overall, I think people really respond to the light in the film – there are lots of laughs and moments of levity to break up the seriousness of where the film is set, which was important to me as a filmmaker to honour the truth of the situation. The boys can be really funny at times, and often humour is the best way to communicate in tricky circumstances.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I’ve been thrilled with how people have responded. I think for a lot of our audience, the world of juvenile detention is a long way from their experience, so it’s been so interesting chatting to them after the film about their preconceptions, and how they’ve changed their viewpoint after watching it.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
Of course, every filmmaker wants as many eyes to see their film as possible. What I hope comes out of this film is a greater understanding of why these programs - whether they’re in prisons, schools, or the wider community – are so important, and what kind of benefits they can provide to people from all walks of life.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
The key for us now is getting the film out there to the right people. With that in mind, we would love to get it in front of as many educators as possible, hoping they show their students. Obviously we would be keen for it to travel internationally at festivals, but the key for us is to see more arts programs introduced in justice centers and so getting the film in front of key opinion makers is crucial.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I’d love people to leave this film feeling uplifted. If we could ignite other artists and teachers to think about how they can engage with young people in creative ways, I think that would be a huge win. I know that for me growing up, having music and putting on plays, and making short films were invaluable in making friends, finding a community, and generally living a creative lifestyle.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What is the best way to care for young people in detention? Should centres be punitive, or rehabilitative?
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Two of my comedy short films, Super Nice, and The Virgin are on the festival circuit, and I’m currently working on serialised doco concepts for TV.
Interview: June 2018
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, supernatural, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Kings of Baxter
Can 10 juvenile detainees conquer Macbeth?
Director: Jack Yabsley
Producer: Claire Yvonne Evans
About the writer, director and producer:
Jack Yabsley is an award winning Sydney based filmmaker who works across documentary, comedy, and kid’s TV.
Claire Evans is a creative producer with a passion for all things digital. As well as making films, Claire is the Managing Director of the 20-person creative technology and content studio, Grumpy Sailor.
Key cast: James Evans, Huw McKinnon
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists):
Social media handles: #kingsofbaxter
Made in association with: Grumpy Sailor, www.grumpysailor.com
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month?
- Foxtel Arts