Exclusive: Outlaw Justice and Outlaw Filmmaking – A Conversation with OUTNUMBERED Director Emmett Adcock

By: John M Jerva

In the new western from down under Outnumbered, this newest entry is a good looking and beautifully shot movie in the classic genre that has been relatively hit or miss in the film industry over recent years. After being released in its native Australia, the movie brings back old school Western vibes and is now ready to take the U.S. by storm.

The movie has been in the making for almost a decade and features real life Australian Outback cowboys who bring an aura of authenticity to the movie.

In this exclusive interview for Action-Flix, the film’s director Emmett Adcock, who also served as director of photography and editor talks about his experience making the indie film as well as bringing his incredible vision to the screen, shooting action on a budget, capturing the breathtaking Australian landscape, implementing real life cowboys for authenticity and the westerns that inspired his movie. It’s outlaw filmmaking at its finest and here’s the man who made it happen.

Outnumbered Director Emmett Adcock

1) Hi Emmett, thank you for taking the time to chat. First off, tell us how you got into the filmmaking business. Was it something you always wanted to do?

Filmmaking was always something I was interested in, ever since school. Unfortunately, as a teen I didn’t actually know anybody else who was interested in filmmaking or acting, and since this was before the internet existed, I had to figure things out on my own. So for this reason my first steps into film making began with stop motion films in would shoot in the familys backyard, often using toys I had available such as Lego and GI Joe soldiers. They were hilariously bad by any standards, but that was my first taste of filmmaking.

2) Outnumbered is a pretty ambitious western. What attracted you to the project?

Chris Mauch and I had previously made a short film together a few years earlier, that film was only around 12 minutes long, but it ended up being such a great learning experience for everyone involved. From there It wasn’t long until we began to discuss the idea of working together on something larger, and somehow over the next decade that idea slowly grew into “Outnumbered”. I had made a number of short films over the years but had never really considered attempting a feature.

Growing up, I always saw “Feature Films” as something that only Hollywood made, something that cost millions of dollars and took hundreds of people countless months to complete, so therefore I had never even considered it before. However, the more I seriously thought about it, the more I began to wonder if it might actually be possible, so I guess the challenge of trying to simply complete a no-budget feature film, was what initially drew me to the project.

3) What, if any, westerns inspired you for Outnumbered. Do you have a personal favorite?

I couldn’t honestly say that any one film helped inspire Outnumbered, but I have do have a lot of western films I love, all which probably subconsciously impacted the decisions I made on this film in one way or another. In terms of my favourites a few that spring to mind are Unforgiven, 3:10 to Yuma, Tombstone, Open Range, Django Unchained, No Country For Old Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Young Guns … the list could go on.

4) The beautiful Australia setting is featured prominently in the film. What were some of the challenges in making the film there and how important was it to portray the landscape the right way on film?

Having grown up on the Darling Downs of Australia, I knew there would be no shortage of amazing scenery to capture, and we were excited at the prospect of using the genuine Australian countryside as the backdrop to our story. So often when we think of Western films, we picture the iconic landscapes of midwest American, such as the dusty plains of New Mexico or the towering red sandstones buttes of Monument Valley, so it was a point of pride that our own local backyard could feature so strongly in the visual telling of our story.

The greatest challenges in capturing the beautiful scenery were purely technical in nature, and often simply related to the sheer workload on set for a “one man crew”. Usually lighting a scene isn’t too difficult when it’s all I have to think about. You can normally just look at the monitor and simply ask for a particular light to be moved this way or that, but having to set up camera, sound and lighting by yourself, as well as working with the actors, can be quite tricky and time consuming, especially when our timetable was so often dictated by mother nature.

We certainly spent alot of time ‘chasing the light’. On top of that we had some challenging setups, such as exterior night scenes involving multiple actors, lit with multiple lights, involving weapons, action and live fire effects, all being powered by a small noisy diesel generator situated a hundred feet away, which then creates problems for sound etc. So

5) Talk about using real cowboys for the film. How important was it for the authenticity of the film?

The real cowboys we used in the film were initially more of a product of circumstance than a strict desire for authenticity. Chris and Matt, our two lead actors, are both true blue ‘cowboys’ in every sense of the word, which was vital when the film featured so much horse riding / handling etc. So when those guys put the call out to their friends to see who would be interested in starring in our little film, it was a good chance the guys who responded were probably going to be cowboys themselves. It ended up being a huge advantage to the whole production, as they really did add a genuine air of authenticity that the film benefitted greatly from. Ontop of that, if we made any last-minute changes to a scene while on set, for example a scene suddenly now required one of the actors to jump on a horse and ride off, that was no problem for most of these guys, where as somebody else would either require a double to perform the act, or need weeks of practice in advance getting comfortable with the animal.

6) I enjoyed the action set pieces a great deal. How challenging was it to create the shootouts and action on a budget?

I knew we had virtually no budget going into the film, which helped manage my expectations for what we could achieve. As much as we would have loved to be able to utilize more practical effects on set, such as squibs and blood packs for the bullet hits, it would have slowed shooting down and meant we needed multiple copies of each costume for the actors, which simply wasn’t something we had available, so at least we had the advantage of knowing that going in, and being able to plan accordingly.

I believe film making is all about problem solving, so we tried to simply make the best of what we had available to us. That said, Chris and Matt our leads actors both gave 110% to the action scenes, whether it was being launched backwards into a 2 inch puddle of water, or diving headfirst off a raised porch onto the hard ground, they went take-after-take without any complaints. They’re dedication to capturing the best action we possibly could was certainly admirable, and an inspiration to the rest of the cast.

7) You not only direct but you served as cameraman and editor as well. How was it to wear so many hats on the production and tell us which aspect was the most demanding.

The hardest part for me personally was managing the workload on set each day, and then accepting the compromises that comes with making a no-budget feature length film. In my normal day-to-day film work, my primary responsibility is directing and cinematography, sound recording is something I may do when a jobs calls for it, along with things like editing and post production, but I’m certainly no expert in all those areas.

In fact making this film has really given me a renewed appreciation of all the work that goes into each and every role on a film crew, and I was reminded again why good filmmaking really is such a collaborative medium. That said, attempting to make a period western feature film, with me, a first-time feature director working as a one-man crew, using first time actors and limited production resources, meant that not every scene we shot was going to turn out exactly as we would have hoped.

Accepting these limitations and reaching a compromise was something I found necessary to get a film like this completed. If we had kept going back till every aspect of the film was perfect, it would have never seen the light of day, so accepting some of those flaws was tough at first, but I believe we’ve still completed something that I think we can all be proud to put out name on.

8) This film was a decade plus in the making. How was it for you to finally see the finished product? How do you think it stands up to other westerns in the past?

Outnumbered was certainly a long journey from initial concept to completed project. After 10 years, to finally be able to sit in the cinema and see your completed film play on the big screen to an actual crowd is truly something special. Having completed my first feature film I now have a renewed respect for anybody who has actually managed to bring their vision from page to screen, no matter the outcome, because it truly is a huge undertaking, and just getting to the finish line in one piece of often a pretty worthy achievement in itself. On that note, for the sake of our own self esteem, I dont think we’d dare compare our small project to other films in the Western genre.

9) Talk about the stunt work involved. In this day of CGI, it’s refreshing to see practical action and stunts in a film. Is there a particular favorite scene you have?

We knew going into production that we simply didnt have the budget for any real CGI effects, plus on a personal note I’ve always felt that CGI and Western films don’t really go together, it just always felt wrong to me for some reason. Maybe it’s because so many great westerns were made before computers even existed, so we know you don’t NEED CGI to make a great western, but it was never really something we considered anyway. When it came to the stunt work in the film, we tried to find a good balance between what would look good on screen, but also be safe for the actors to perform on set.

The last thing we wanted was to have someone injured on set, so although we would have loved to have filmed more stunts involving things like a chase on horseback, or people being shot and falling off horses etc, it simply wasn’t something we felt we could do and be confident that nobody would be hurt in the process. Obviously those sorts of stunts require a trained team of professionals and a much larger budget, so it might be something we can put on the “wish list” for the next project.

In terms of my favourite scene, apart from a few particular pieces, the film was actually shot in roughly a linear order from beginning to end, and I personally feel like we all got a bit better at our jobs each day as the process went along, so my favourite scenes all appear towards the end of the film.

10) What do you want audiences to take away from seeing the movie?

We aren’t professional actors or filmmakers, and we aren’t trying to compete with Hollywoods next two hundred-million-dollar blockbuster, so if the people who come to see “Outnumbered” can walk out of the cinema with a smile on their face and say they had a good time watching the film, the that’s all we could ask for!

11) Talk about working with Chris and Julie Mauch. This was clearly a passion project for all involved. Talk about what they brought to the table.

Anyone who has ever spoken to Chris Mauch in the past decade has likely heard about “Outnumbered”, his passion for the project is abundantly clear within moments of meeting the man. The film would have never seen the light of day if it weren’t for the drive and determination that Chris has for the project. Infact if there was such a thing as “too passionate” then that might more accurately describe him, because in some sort of weird role reversal to the typical actor/director relationship, he was often the gas to my brakes during the making of the film. For example, he would be throwing out suggestions such as “what about if the next scene was on a ship at sea”, whilst I desperately tried to figure how on earth we could possibly make that happen with our limited resources and time. His enthusiasm for the project knew no bounds and everyday was a new adventure with him.

Julie Mauch was truly the silent achiever on the film, although she’s never seen or heard, she worked harder than anyone to bring the film to life. She personally handled all the constume work herself and did an incredible job. I believe she made some pieces herself, whilst sourcing the others from all sorts of difference places, I think she even went as far as ordering some items, such as gunsbelts, holsters etc, to be shipped all the way over from the United States. I really never had to worry about the costumes on set as Julie did such an amazing job. She would simply ask me which scenes we would be shooting on the upcoming weekend, and I would let her know.

Then once we arrived, she always had the costumes prepared and ready to go for the days shoot, she was especially resourceful when we would throw some last minute changes at her, always managing to rustle up a new cowboy hat or pair of boots from somewhere when they were needed. Then on top of that, once she’d finished getting the costumes ready, she would disappear into the kitchen for a few hours only to return at lunch with honestly the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten on a film set.

12) If you could describe Outnumbered in one sentence, what would it be?

If you have as much fun watching the film as we had making it, then you’ll be in for a good time!

13) Finally, what is is about westerns that makes the genre stand the test of time?

I feel like westerns were such a defining genre of the Hollywood film industry that they’ll always have a seat at the table. Like any genre their popularity has risen and fallen over the decades, but its hard to picture a time where the Western will no longer have any place on the big screen.

Although the genre probably isn’t as popular today as it was back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, it does seem to be making an invigorating comeback thanks to a slew of more recent “20th century westerns” such as the Cohen brothers “No Country for Old Men”. Basically, I think as long as they keep telling great relatable stories in a western setting new or old, there’ll be an audience to keep watching them.

A big thanks to Emmett for a great interview and when you can, definitely check out Outnumbered when it hits the U.S. It’s a worthy addition to the classic western subgenre.

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