Spending eight years and a lot of his own money, writer/director James Vaughan wanted his acclaimed debut ‘Friends and Strangers’ to “feel like a film about nothing” – even though it’s obviously not

Director James Vaughan: wrestling with the absurd side of modern, white Australian life.

While in Melbourne for the film’s premiere screening at ACMI, writer/director/editor James Vaughan was kind enough to take a seat to discuss the film and take some direct questions about what it’s all about.

As timing would have it, the event coincided with a major Fashion Festival shebang downstairs. We did what we could to get away from the ruckus, but there is still some background noise (most of it reverb), so please excuse.

Having spent eight years on the self-financed project, James Vaughan was in high spirits over the film’s Australian release, its release on Mubi and its festival favour, which includes winning the Special Jury Prize at the 2021 Jeonju Film Festival and Best Film nominations at the Valencia, Rotterdam and Beijing Film Festivals.

It’s a very lively, enjoyable, free-flowing chat.

Please enjoy.

Interview index
00:00 What it’s about, broadly;
01:20 Why choose such a non-conventional style;
02:45 “I wanted it to feel like a film about nothing”;
03:53 Use of jump cuts;
06:20 Who he’s taking your cues from; editing style pointers;
09:30 Use of humour;
10:40 Use of white culture and white privilege – the wedding video job;
11:55 Presenting two aspects of Australian society;
13:00 Addressing the Colonial Project;
14:00 How people deflect issues;
15:00 Use of unresolved mysteries;
17:00 The ball sequence;
19:00 Igniting conversation with and about the film;
19:35 “It’s a thought-terminating film”;
20:30 Absurdist approach;
21:07 Background and its influence on the film;
22:51 Describing the private school “factory” for privileged citizens;
23:32 “I guess I was a defective product of that factory”;
24:20 The life of the film so far;
26:00 Next.