A tween sports film might be a bit of a lateral leap for Australian womantic director Louise Alston (Jucy, All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane), but it’s certainly one that she’s been able to slip past the goalie. With Back of the Net opening in time for school holidays, DAVID O’CONNELL spoke to Alston.

Did you direct this film for your teenage self?

I did. The whole point of the film was, I wanted a movie that I would’ve wanted to watch when I was 11… and secretly that means me now. It’s got to be a fun movie, it’s got to be funny, it’s got to be gripping, and it’s got to be something that doesn’t talk down to young people.

Did you have to adjust your directing style, or approach, to achieve this?

If I’m directing anything, it’s about the characters. I love the character Sofia Wylie (Andi Mack, Marvel Rising: The Heart of Iron) is playing. She’s a really smart interesting girl, a fish out of water. All the characters around her are interesting, and the problem is that she has found herself in completely the wrong place at the wrong time. To have a good story, it’s got to be about a character you’re rooting for under pressure. For this I wanted things to be bright and fun, because it’s a soccer camp, and that’s bright and fun.

What was it like playing around with those teen film tropes; the nerdy girl, the mean girl, and the criminally negligent parents?

(laughs) Aww… they’re not criminally negligent.

OK, they are not as bad as Home Alone, but you know what I mean…

She’s being looked after, she’s in safe hands (laughs). It was great, all the different actors brought different things for different characters. They were already developed on the page, but when you cast them, you develop them further, and they really come to life.

Were there any films, either sport or teen films, that you drew inspiration from?

I love Bend It Like Beckham, of course, and I’ve always loved Strictly Ballroom, which is a sports movie if you think about it. It’s also a romantic comedy and a family film.

What was it like to film those sports sequences? Obviously having access to a drone was key to making it look dynamic on the screen…

When we were doing the soccer days, we actually had four different cameras. We had one set up to track behind the goal, we had one that we mounted on a small car driving up and down the sidelines, we had a third camera about on a harness, and we also had the drone. We had 80 hours of footage for those soccer days.

And then there’s all the time you spend editing it together…

Absolutely; Charlotte Cutting, that’s the name of my editor, she cut very well. I love her instincts for the sport montages and combined with music, it becomes of a really beautiful story.

The car mounted camera, the steady cam, the drone… that’s a few different decades of techniques and sports coverage there. I guess what I’m leading to is how technology is evolving and changing things…

It’s always moving. I love cameras moving, when I design a shot, I like movement of the frame or in the frame. And as cameras become smaller… and digital film… it means things become lighter, it’s making more dynamic shots possible. We can see that in sports coverage. So we had a big model for the soccer field and were looking at how we can design coverage. What I wanted to do was shoot everything, all the action stuff, at 120 frames. Which meant that we could slow it right down, to slow motion, or can speed up going really fast, and then slow right down – to really home into the emotion of the action shot.

What themes were you looking at in Back of the Net?

Well friendship, of course, and really believing (that) what we bring is good enough. That’s the story, to come to soccer camp thinking she’s got nothing to offer, but she’s got this great skill, she’s able to bring her scientific brain and make a terrible team really great.

What other things do you have in production at the moment?

The Stage Mums web series, the second is in development at the moment. I’m doing another web series called SLUT which is a romantic comedy/ musical. I’ve got several projects in various stages of development. I’ve got another script that Sofia Wylie has now read, and liked, and is attached to. I’ve got a couple of things in the teen and family world.

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