Shane and Clayton Jacobson were relative unknowns until they entered the Australian public consciousness with their breakout hit ‘Kenny’, in which Shane, directed by Clayton, starred as the erstwhile plumber. Most recently – and with a significant departure in tone – the Jacobsons have created ‘The Brother’s Nest’, which will be showing at the Gold Coast Film Festival this month. We got the chance to pick the brain of actor and director Clayton on the ways in which the film hits home for him.
‘The Brother’s Nest’ seems like an interesting commentary on family dynamics, what made you want to be involved in such a project?
I always saw it as a tragedy with humour, but that kind of awkward humour where you feel guilty for laughing – because it’s close to the bone – the humour is honest and says something uncomfortable about ourselves or the circumstance.
What attracted me to the script was the opportunity to make it with Shane. I just knew we could both throw ourselves into this with total abandon.
How is Jeff, as a character, similar or different to yourself?
I hope we are not similar at all – he is a psychopath at the end of the day. But where there are connections for me, is concerning his feeling towards being an older brother. Shane is my younger bro and there are dynamics with brothers that are complex – there is that protective quality Jeff has of Terry. He does love Terry but unfortunately he has been used to calling the shots for too long, and that has become unhealthy.
It’s a fascinating dynamic on screen – because here we are exploring that dynamic and revealing its failings while at the same time I’m actually his older brother and the director / producer – we were both a little nervous about how that might play out – particularly knowing we stayed together in the same house during production as well. My son who was on crew was there as well to act as mediator should things get hairy.
Saying anything more would be speaking out of school – but things were the complete opposite off set than what you’ll see on film. We also gave each other permission to exercise our demons regarding each other, sometimes to the shock of those watching on.
What will surprise audiences about the new film?
The raw truth of how these boys feel about each other – their pain and suffering is exposed in very different ways – I don’t think anyone has seen Shane like he is in this film. He is wonderful; and I’m not just saying that because he’s my brother.
In what ways was this project unique to anything you have been involved with before?
We shot the entire film in sequence which was fantastic.
What were the challenges you faced (as a director as well as an actor) bringing the script to life?
I’ve never directed and acted in the same film to this extent before – it was a huge gamble, but Shane kept insisting I play the part – I guess he either really thought I was perfect for it – or he was just looking forward to hurting me on a grand public scale as written in the script – I’ll never know – but either way I’m grateful for his insistence – I can’t imagine the film without us both in it.
What is the experience like directing as well as starring in a film? Can you describe it?
On a logistical level – I had to rely on vision splits more for the first week until I got comfortable sensing the differences between good takes and bad on my behalf. Also I had my son (Jesse) doing vision split and both Jesse and Shane were my harshest critics – nothing like family to tell you when you are missing the mark or not – but jokes aside it was a glorious experience and a truly immersive one – I think audiences will enjoy watching the chemistry.
The setting of the film looks particularly unique, how did this come about? Was it difficult to find a set that matched your creative vision?
Great question because it’s always a challenge finding locations that have only existed in one’s mind. But I usually take a different approach to many directors. While I’ll have a clear vision of what I want – I’m always on the lookout for something that might enhance and skyrocket the film to a different place: even something that might bring the film into a tangent of sorts. We really struck gold with our location. It is such a great character in the film. All those old radios and cars and cob webs were there. At first I discarded the place as being too hard to work with because the cost of moving everything out of the house would blow our art department budget. Then it hit me that there was an element in the script that centred on an old radio and I went back and actually wrote the radios into the script and the car graveyard – In fact, I went back and purpose fit that location in a way I’ve never done before, and I just love the results.
Lastly, who do you think should see ‘The Brother’s Nest’?
Anyone that’s ever had an ill thought towards a family member or anyone who ever wondered how different life would be if the sibling rivalry was just shifted slightly to the left. The film is a great ride and one with a few twists and turns – anyone that loves a good yarn should see it.
You can buy tickets for Clayton and Shane’s new film ‘The Brother’s Nest’, as part of the 2018 Gold Coast Film Festival here.