WRITERS' ROOM Q&A: TONY AYRES
Tony Ayres is a founding partner of Matchbox Pictures before establishing his own company, Tony Ayres Productions. Over the past 20 years, he has written and produced such titles as Clickbait, Stateless The Slap, Devil's Playground and Nowhere Boys. Tony’s first feature film, Walking on Water, won the Teddy Award at Berlin in 2002, and five AFI awards, while his second feature, The Home Song Stories, premiered at Berlin and won 24 Australian and international awards, including eight AFI Awards. His third feature, Cut Snake, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2014 and screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Who are you heroes in writing?
In my professional life, I have a bunch of writers I always want to collaborate with - Louise Fox, Belinda Chayko, Elise McCredie, Jac Perske, Kris Mrska. They're all class acts who I feel creatively in sync with. I also hugely admire some newer writers like Anchuli Felicia King, Osamah Sami, and Phil Denson. They're enormous talents who represent the future of our industry. Of course, these are just the first names that popped into my head. There are many other writers i deeply admire, and i'm fortunate enough to be working with many of them. To even have a career in this precarious industry is kind of heroic.
As a fanboy, I guess it's hard to go past Jesse Armstrong. "Succession" is a masterclass! I'm also forever indebted to Vince Gilligan for opening my eyes to the possibilities of series television. "Breaking Bad" remains my favourite TV show of all time.
Favourite piece of screen dialogue?
I had to google some ideas for this because quite honestly, nothing came to mind. It might be a function of my age. I can recall some great screen moments, and some lasting scenes, and some extraordinary characters. But anything they said? Blank. Maybe it points to my feeling that the greatest screen drama is more about what's unsaid, the interplay between image, scenario and set up.
Best excuse you’ve used (or heard used) for missing a deadline?
I've never heard of an excuse that I haven't believed.
Worst note you’ve ever received?
Wow, there's a top ten here. I guess the stand out is a show I worked on where the commissioner was so scared of doing the wrong thing re: identity politics that they didn't let me mention the cultural backgrounds of the characters in the show at all! So I could have a Muslim character but I couldn't mention 'Ramadan'.
What song best represents your career?
Matt Alber "The End of the World". At least that's how I feel sometimes.
Favourite cinema hero and villain?
Benjamin Braddock from "The Graduate", Otis from "Honey boy", Mavis Gary from 'Young Adult". My favourite characters are both hero and villain.
If not a writer, what would you be?
I spend my time oscillating between writing and executive producing, so technically my answer is the latter. However, if i wasn't in the entertainment industry I suspect that I would have ended up in academia. That was certainly my career trajectory before I was sidetracked (for the rest of my life) by screen writing.