Stanley Joseph is a filmmaker who likes to challenge pre-conceptions and set some considerable benchmarks. Impressively, the Indian-born, Sydney-based producer-director shot his two recent feature films, My Cornerstone and Love You Krishna, simultaneously within 37 days, using the same cast and crew. Both films are east meets west dramas and are the first Australian-Indian crossover films to be made in Australia.
My Cornerstone concerns a beautiful Indian nurse, played by Zenia Starr (Backyard Ashes), who travels to Australia to care for an elderly lady from a rich Indian-Australian family. The film is about the adversary and social prejudices she faces from the family during her time there.
The film was shot and set primarily in Sydney and the director describes it as a very intense family drama, conveying messages of faith, love and hope but where comedy is used during particularly tense moments in the story.
“It's a very good story for Indians and for multiculturalists,” says Joseph. “It's the first Australian-Indian crossover film to be made in Australia. There's been no other movie made on similar grounds. Bend it Like Beckham was a crossover film made in Britain and this is the first to be made in Australia using an entire local cast and crew. We shot 90 percent of it in Australia and the other 10 percent in Mumbai.”
During the shoot, cast and crew huddled together for 26 days in a house in Coogee, Sydney. “It was like family, there were 20 or 30 people. It was long working hours but an amazing experience,” he says.
Along with his positive approach to the filmmaking process, part of the key to Joseph's economy appears to be his flexible creative spontaneity. “When actors have had issues on the set I've created scenes on the spot, which weren't even in the script and often they become key scenes in the movie,” he reveals. “Both of these stories were mine so I could concentrate and improvise on scenes and get rid of lines that weren't relevant.”
A winning collaboration with his scribe James Morcan was pivotal to this economy as well. “He is a fantastic screenwriter and was open to suggestions and ideas. We really worked well together as we think alike,” Joseph says. “There were no ego clashes, no attitude clashes. I've heard stories from cast and crew where they worked on feature films that haven't seen the light yet because of internal ego clashes, and where the film is shelved half way through and so forth,” he continues. “My attitude is that we have a target so let's make it happen! Of course, we had good times and bad but it was a learning experience and I had an excellent and supportive crew.”
Joseph's similarly themed drama, Love You Krishna also involves an Indiana-Australian family with prejudices. “It's based on the same themes of fate, love and hope but it's got a different twist to it,” he says. “It's about this girl who comes to Australia but she's got this past and that past is basically something they don't accept about her. It's about the torture of an Indian by another Indian in a foreign country.”
The Australia-loving filmmaker first came to Sydney in 1997 and produced and directed his first music video, 'Merry Christmas', then started scoring music for commercials, TV films and documentaries. He says that while he does target Indian crowds for his film, he has geared it to appeal to a broad Aussie audience too. “I'm targeting most of the Australian people because the Aussies have started loving Bollywood, they love the head bobble and I've got those funny elements in the movie as well.”
Joseph also has greater ambitions. “I want more Australian movies, equal to what India is doing and Hollywood is doing,” he says confidently. “I want to bring Hollywood actors here with an Australian story. I don't want to be known as just doing crossover films.”
It's clear that Joseph likes to shake things up and get people talking. His first feature, Newton's 3rd Law, (shot in 2010 but yet to be released), was an action movie concerning terrorism and criminal behaviour in Australia and centred on Newton's titular theory that every action has an opposite and equal reaction. “I based it on the feeling that why should only terrorists be branded as terrorists when criminals are also terrorising the community?” he explains.
Then there's his next project, a local comedy currently in development called Curry Munchers, which similarly plays upon certain preconceptions. “It's a totally different concept, and with only Australians,” he explains. “People will think there should be more Indians in it; why is it called Curry Munchers then? So it's misleading. It's Curry Munchers but it has an Anglo Saxon community acting in it. How's that possible? Well, I've got a different take and there's a twist to the whole story so let's make it!”
My Cornerstone will be released in April; Love You Krishna is set for release near the end of the year.