Tom Furniss was a stand up comic and has moved into the world of filmmaking, if you get a chance to see this magical film then you will be glad he did! Rustling has nominated for the highly regarded Oscar-qualifying film festival Palm Springs and tackles the important subject of toxic masculinity. Furniss shares with Just Celebrity Magazine why he chose this particular cast, his upcoming feature film that he is shooting this year and more.
Congratulations on creating such a powerful film and being brave enough to tackle the subject of toxic masculinity, what was it about this subject that inspired you to create such a compelling story around it?
Thank you! It was very much about me examining what it means to be a good man. New Zealand is kind of an incubator for tough rugged men, particularly rural New Zealand. I guess I’ve always felt unable to live up to what I was lead to believe a man should be. I was never strong, or brave, or tough. So I wanted to tell a story that showed being a good man can be just as much about empathy, love, protection.
What does being nominated for Best Live Action Under 15 Minutes at Palm Springs mean to you?
First and foremost it means people, in a cinema, getting to see it. A lot of people worked very hard up in a New Zealand paddock for four days straight to bring this all together. And to have more people, all the way over here in Palm Springs, sit in some seats and watch the fruits of our labour, is special. If it wins, it will mean a trip to iHop and many celebratory pancakes eaten.
The cast are perfect for their respective roles, what was it about these actors that made you choose them and were they hard to find?
We knew early on that casting for young roles is not a quick endeavour. It would take time. But we had an extra challenge in that there was only one window in the year we could shoot in, which was lambing season — as we needed a young lamb. In our first year after getting financing, we hadn’t found our human talent yet and so had to push till the following year. It ended up being the best decision because it meant we had time to find our young talent. We found Eden (who played younger brother Blue) through another production in which he’d just missed out on the role but the casting director knew he was great and recommended him. And Billy (who played older brother Hoss) we found by going from school to school in rural Auckland, and he was the only kid who told me he loved cinema. Plus he could act and he had empathy — which is everything.
Why did you choose to make the father a single parent?
This was a story about masculinity, and it always made sense to therefore remove the female presence from this world. In fact, at my producer Morgan’s advice, we decided that even the memory of the mother who once did live in this home should be gone. That way we were able to shine the spotlight on the stark masculinity in this place. Perhaps more practically, the loss that occurred some time prior in this household, absolutely shaped the toxic male environment that this story finds itself in.
What feedback have you had from audiences who have seen the film?
It has never played in front of an audience, Palm Springs Int ShortFest is its world premiere. Even the crew haven’t seen it. My wife loves it though, I showed her. Oh, and the festivals that have accepted it, I guess they have had a positive reaction!
Was the film always planned as a short or would you consider making it into a feature?
It was always a short. I’d love to find a short that could extend to a feature, but I find them to be very different writing endeavors. A short tends to be about one single moment of magic, a feature about a character in need of many little moments of magic strung together. That said, there were elements of the short that correlate to a feature that I wrote that is going into production later this year.
Can you tell us more about your upcoming feature?
I was very fortunate in that my producer Morgan Waru is also a producer for Piki Films, the makers of Jojo Rabbit and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I had a script, they loved it, we developed it concurrently with this short, and eventually found an incredible director in Rachel House who loved it too and jumped on board. We’re shooting in November in New Zealand, it’s an adventure comedy about a group of kids who run away to climb a Mountain that is supposed to have magical properties. It’s going to be full of heart and kiwi humour, with some pretty cool mountainside action set pieces too.
Margaret Brown, Film Reporter for Just Celebrity Magazine