Yianni Warnock has the kind of probing eye that has a knack for uncovering the essence of people, often before they even know it. Couple that with his love for the unconventional characters that salt and pepper our world, and you have a short film-maker whose portrayals of humanity strike resonant chords with his viewers.
Warnock’s first film Playpals was accepted into the MIFF’s programme last year, merely seven days after it was submitted. This year, Man on Earth, which he actually produced before Playpals, is set to feature on the MIFF circuit as part of the collection of Australian Shorts.
Man on Earth follows its solitary protagonist throughout a day in his life; as he goes about his daily business, we watch him attempt to make connections with people, to find some kind of meaning in his otherwise lonely existence. The title of the film, is a nod for the audience to look at humankind objectively, to make up their minds about the current state of how we interact within society.
Although many see both Man on Earth and Playpals as a unique take on masculinity, or a ‘portrayal of male angst’, both films seem to comment on the loneliness of the human condition that strikes us all, male or female. This is something Warnock sees as corroborative of the society we live in. “I think we live in times of insane isolation, anxiety. I think we live in selfish times,” he says. “It’s very tense.”
Meeting Warnock at the Preston markets where Man on Earth was filmed, is a return of sorts; the last time he was here was when shooting the film. One of the reasons he chose to set much of the film here he says, is because it is teeming with ‘characters’. He scans the eclectic early morning gatherers, his eyes settling on the people who featured as extras in his film, that still work here. “I wanted to shoot here because I like the light,” he tells. “The light is really beautiful. I mean what you have here is a fully built film set with a thousand extras.” With a budget of only $750 in both pre and post-production, an already built film set is somewhat of a godsend.
Warnock relies on instinct in casting for his films, spying his actors on the street, on trams, and cafes. His actors are the centerpieces from which the films radiate out from, it’s their own existing traits which he draws out into the film’s theme.
During the course of film-making, Warnock tends to become personally involved with his actors, creating a lasting connection that evokes trust and elicits performances from his untrained cast that would not be possible without it. Not only does he cite Shane Gardiner (the main actor who appears in both Man on Earth and Playpals) as his best friend, but after spotting the Vietnamese takeaway vendor who makes a cameo in the movie, he makes sure before he leaves to find a spare DVD to copy the film onto, so that the fleeting star has his own personal copy.
What makes Warnock’s films tick, is that he is unafraid to have his camera witness moments of sheer awkwardness, as his characters spew emotion across the screen. “If you look at my films, in a way they’re all about people who have anxiety, and then finding release from that,” Warnock says. Though his films are low on dialogue - he admits to not having much of a script, the way each shot is framed creates layered meaning that speaks much louder than words.
On the horizon, Warnock says that his next film will be looking into the life of female international students in Australia, examining the language of social media and how it tends to exaggerate the realities of our lives.
As we walk away from the markets, still deep in animated conversation, Warnock is scolded by an older gentleman after accidentally bumping into his trolley, his mind obviously elsewhere, perhaps ticking to his next film.
Man on Earth premieres at MIFF on August 3, with a second screening on August 10. Tickets are available here.