A former English teacher, Heath Davis switched careers and is now a prolific independent filmmaker. Over the past few years, he has written and directed a number of low-budget films including Broke as well as the wonderful wry comedy Book Week (derived from his teaching experiences), and the high-energy outback thriller Locusts (2019).
Tell us a little about your film, Broke.
Broke wasn’t actually meant to be my first feature. But I had a horrible Hollywood experience with my first script, which pretty much saw me go through the ringers for a decade. So Broke was to be a follow-up film, set in Las Vegas. After getting very close several times (and even getting deep into pre-production) that film fell over and I’d finally had enough. But whilst I didn’t get the film made in that time, I learned how to make one and who I was as a storyteller and person. I did a lot of maturing in that period, which gave me the confidence to essentially become a producer. So I went home, reworked Broke and set it in a world I knew and took control. It was the best thing I ever did.
Watch Broke now at SBS On Demand.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve just finished the latest draft on the next feature we want to make. It’s a comedy/drama about a grieving elderly man who takes in a stray greyhound, which disarms him. It’s a beautiful, life-affirming and funny script called Dishlickers. We are about to commence casting. Who knows when we will be able to film. I’m also working on a script set around the summer bushfires called Blood Red Sky as well as an experimental project about isolation.
How are you coping with self-isolation?
Like for everyone, it has been a real challenge. A few gun-for-hire jobs have been put on hold indefinitely. I kind of overcommitted at the start of the year, so now I’m glad I did. The social distancing and isolation I’m used to because as a screenwriter you’re always in some form of lockdown. However, not having your go-to places open for distraction and inspiration makes it hard. I’ve been running these weekly Write Club classes online to help the creative community keep inspired and connected in this trying time, which is helping both myself and the classmates. I encourage everyone to get involved. It’s become like one giant creative family of soul brothers and sisters. It’s a beautiful thing.
What are your 5 favourite films at SBS On Demand?
SBS On Demand has so many terrific titles. I thought I’d chat about the ones I like, which can provide some insight, escape, joy and hope whilst we are all at home in isolation.
Director: Alexander Payne
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein
I’ve seen this movie over and over. It introduced me to Alexander Payne who is certainly a big influence of mine. He’s a master of mixing humour with pathos, which he does so well here. Plus, as I used to be an English teacher, I can certainly relate to this world.
Watch Election now at SBS On Demand.
Director: Peter Farrelly
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Vanessa Angel
This is perhaps one of the least successful Farrelly Brothers movies but for mine it’s their funniest. Just the thought of Bill Murray and Woody Harrelson in this movie makes me laugh. The first time I saw it I laughed so hard that I think I have asthma now because of it.
Watch Kingpin now at SBS On Demand.
3. Toni Erdmann
Director: Maren Ade
Cast: Sandra Huller, Peter Simonischek
Who says comedy doesn’t translate? This is hands down one of the best comedies in recent years. So much heart, humour and truth at its core. And it’s German. It’s not every day I find myself laughing whilst reading subtitles. What a wonderful, larger-than-life, central character.
Watch Toni Erdmann now at SBS On Demand.
4. The Fabulous Baker Boys
Director: Steve Kloves
Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeff Bridges, Beau Bridges
The film that solidified my teenage girl crush on Michelle Pfeiffer (I did carry a magazine photo of her in my wallet, LOL) and my man crush on Jeff Bridges. Man, this movie is so cool. I wanted to live in this world. Music and films are my two loves, so this really spoke to me. However, looking back it’s the story of brothers (I am one of three) and artistic struggle that really connected with me.
Watch The Fabulous Baker Boys now at SBS On Demand.
5. The Straight Story
Director: David Lynch
Cast: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Jane Galloway Heitz
This is David Lynch’s most unconventional, conventional film ever and it’s one of my favourites. It’s classic storytelling at its finest. Anchored by a beautifully subtle lead performance by Richard Farnsworth, I wanted to hug this movie for its earnestness. It makes you feel good to be alive and hopeful in the decency of humanity; something we all need right now.
Watch The Straight Story now at SBS On Demand.
These are not so uplifting.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly