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By: - at June 5, 2013

The Movie Wolf Creek is an Example of Great Script Analysis & Performance

Scene from the movie Wolf Creek:
Scene from the movie Wolf Creek

Film making is a process that involves and relies upon numerous elements that need to be heavily considered so that when they come to together they collectively achieve the unified goal of producing a successful feature film. Script analysis and performance are two such crucial elements, that a director must thoroughly consider and carefully implement both before and during the production of a film and television project. For this article, I’ll analyze the directional choices made in relation to the performance approach, casting, production design and visual language of the film Wolf Creek (2005) to illustrate the importance of script analysis and performance in the film and television industries.

The film tells the story of three young backpackers, traveling across the Australian outback, who get stranded and fall victim to a serial killer. The directorial decision for the film performance genre is straight horror. With this in mind, the actors playing the three backpackers subscribed to the Misner school of acting, which involves living truthfully under their imaginary circumstances. By far, the most interesting performance approach for the film is from the film’s villain, Mick Taylor, portrayed by John Jarret.

wolf creek script film

While Jarret usually subscribes to and applies the Strausberg school of acting in regards to method acting, he found he could not approach this particular role from the same angle. Upon reading the script and signing onto the project, he refused to hear or read any notes about the character as he didn’t want to know anything about the character of Taylor other than what was written in the script.

Ultimately, this led Jarret to forget about doing any research for the part and essentially just mentally write the prequel to the film in his mind that explained (if only to himself) just why the character thought, felt and reacted as he did in each and every scene.

Mick Taylor:
Mick Taylor from Wolf Creek

Casting just the right person in the role of Mick Taylor was another integral element of the film. As the three backpackers in the film are pretty much stereotypes – young, naive, innocent youths – which was clearly a creative choice that would allow the audience to identify with them on a emotional level and empathize with their fear and desperation, the roles of the backpackers were pretty much interchangeable with any other young actors.

The casting of Mick Taylor, however, was integral to the film’s success. While the character could easily have fallen into a clichéd Freddy Krueger-type character, Taylor was never intended to be a bogeyman, but instead, a realistic monster. The casting of John Jarret in the role was the perfect choice, as it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Jarret portraying Mick Taylor. In fact, given how terrifyingly real Jarret’s performance was, one is reminded of something that Malcolm McDowell who once said of his casting and performance of Alex in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) – that while there are hundreds of roles an actor with play throughout their career, he believes that there will be three roles that they (and only they) will be BORN to play. If that’s indeed true that John Jarret as Mick Taylor is one of his three.

Production design was another element of the film that was integral, particularly in regards to bringing Mick Taylor to life and establishing him as a realistic monster. Despite drawing inspiration from classic Australian exploitation films from the 70s and 80s that were full of horror movie clichés, McLean was clever about the decisions he made in regards to the film’s production design.

Wolf Creek's Mick Taylor

While there was always the risk of going over the top with the production design, particularly in regards to Mick Taylor’s home – with overly elaborate torture devises, satanic imagery etc. – production design was kept basic. Ultimately, this rang true to the character of Mick Taylor and his realistic evil, whose ominous possessions and look would be downplayed in real-life not ostentatiously accentuated.

McLean’s creative decision, coupled with the cinematography of Will Gibson, to utilize the Australian outback as a character was another clever decision and great use of visual language, as he juxtaposed the visually beautiful with its ominous and unforgiving capabilities regarding life and death, which is also reflected in the characters of the film, as a constant theme throughout the film.

Wolf Creek - Mick Taylor and Director McLean

With the numerous directorial decisions to be made and the multitude of options to choose from, the options that a director ultimately decides upon for their film are integral. One bad choice regarding performance approach, casting, production design and visual language can be fatal to a film’s success. Given the careful consideration that first time director Greg McLean took in regards to such elements of Wolf Creek it was time well spent.





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The Movie Wolf Creek is an Example of Great Script Analysis & Performance

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