Apricot is a Spaghetti Western.
This is a little odd considering a. I'm not too sure that apricots were a common food item in saloon bar fridges and b. what in Man with No Name's name do I know about this genre made famous by Sergio Leone in Italy in the 1960s?
Well, I know that this genre was made famous by Sergio Leone in Italy in the 1960s. I also know that it was a genre that revived a flailing Italian film industry. And I know that Clint Eastwood is sexy as hell but I digress.
So why did I decide to write Apricot as a Spag-West, you ask?
Once Upon a Time in the West.
The date was June-something 2016. I was sitting in an AFTRS screenwriting workshop run by the talented Jonathan Ogilve. Now, Jonathan wasn't new to the rodeo having been a Tropfest winner and Palme d'Or nominee, and writer/director of The Tender Hook starring Rose Byrne, Hugo Weaving, Matt le Nevez. So when he showed us the opening scene from Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West and claimed this to be one of the most powerful opening scenes in a film, I believed him.
(Watch the scene here)
Imagine, a seven-minute opening sequence. An arid semi-desert. Three rough and raggedy men wait at a train stop. Nothing but the sounds of a pestering buzzing fly, dripping water and a squeaky, needs-it-some-oil wind turbine. Still camera shots fixating on each character for long periods of time. Repetitive action.
I'm not gonna lie, it tested my patience. All of our patience really. At around the four-minute mark, we all begun to get restless in that classroom. Make it be quicker, we were all trying to say. Give us some action, some talking, something, But, we persisted. And I'm glad we did.
What that opening scene did was challenge our expectations of what film was meant to do. That rather than exhilerate and motivate, it forced us to slow down and observe, to appreciate the nuances of a man's interaction with the world, and take nothing - no sound, no action, no movement - for granted. Possibly the greatest lesson that came out of our viewing of Leone's opening sequence to Once Upon a Time in the West was that when it comes to film, if you can't make it work without dialogue, partner, you're not gonna make it work with. There was not one sound uttered by the three hired men in that scene. But golly did they say a lot with their actions. Piss off, fly. / I'm thirsty. / Where the fuck is this train? Among other things.
As I moved through the various drafts of Apricot (up to number five now) each one edged closer and closer into Spag-West territory. I found myself deleting a lot of the dialogue, concentrating more heavily on diegetic sound, and describing the smallest of objects in greater detail and with heightened importance.
I had been bitten by the Leone Bug. And there was no going back.
So at a time where Westerns seem to be making a comeback (Westworld, Golden Globe-nominated Hell or Highwater, and Assasins Creed which so happened to be filmed in the Spanish town of Almeria, one of Leone's popular shooting locations) this ole' little Spag-West o' mine might just have arrived into town at the right time.
And at first, it may seem that a movie like Apricot - a short film set in the western suburbs of Sydney about a young wise-cracking girl wanting to claim her stake in the ground - might not suit the Spaghetti-Western genre.
Or then again...
Apricot is currently in pre-production and is set to be shot in early 2017.