Sarah Watt first met William McInnes 15 years ago when they argued about beer. Now married with two children, they shun the celebrity life in favour of their chaotic life in Melbourne.
SARAH WATT: I went to art school, not quite out of school but after a few years of trying other things and failing miserably. I went to art school and failed reasonably miserably at that, for about 10 years, but, and then went to film school, did a year of animation and just loved it, took to it, you know, and haven’t stopped since.
I made the film, Small Treasures, after, I’d made my student films and it was kind of the first big film that I’d made. I got funding, I wrote the script. It was a kind of a personal story and so it was something that I really wanted to craft which is the mood you need to be in to make animations, ’cause you sit there day after day after day just drawing and painting cell after cell or frame after frame after frame. It’s 15 minutes long and is, you know, 12 drawings per second so it, it was an incredible amount of work but I love it with animation because I, you know, you have days when you’re really creative and you really want to paint something gorgeous and so you can paint a background or you can get the feeling of movement, or something, and then you have days when I just want to sit there and do really boring work like just the craft of it. It’s like knitting, you know, you just colour in and just listen to story tapes and music, it’s great.
Small Treasures is about a pregnancy, I suppose, and it’s kind of written in a diary form, sort of, follows a pregnancy through, and it’s, and it’s about a baby that dies, doesn’t make it through the birth and, you know, which is a fairly common thing, horribly common still, that women go through and I, I kind of made it, you know, sort of, autobiographical in a way, but I kind of universalised it. I’ve looked at a whole lot of other stories of women that have been through, or, you know, people that have been through the same thing and just, you know, kind of, made a hybrid story about that ’cause at the time I really felt it was unspoken about and although things had improved, it was still something a bit under the, under the bed, you know, shove your emotions under the bed and get back out and have another baby and, and it’s a lot harder than that, it’s a lot harder on relationships. It’s kind of a real death and I wanted to make a film about that, yeah, but not a depressing one, I hope.
SARAH WATT: William and I, our first baby died during the birth, which was, you know, pretty traumatic. Absolutely standard pregnancy, everything going pretty well but then, you know, one of those bad things of fate, I suppose, and a cord prolapsed and, you know, all over Red Rover, I ’spose that’s a bad way of putting it. So, but that was 13 years ago now, so, you know, we’ve got two lovely other children so, it’s fine.
SARAH WATT: The best way to make a living as an animator is to have a partner who does television drama for five years, so in other words, not. I looked at, you know, making short animation films as, you know, I did get funding to make them. I used to have to pay for my art materials and when you’re making an animation film you don’t actually have to pay for your art materials but you still, it’s neutral, you certainly couldn’t make a living out of it, I don’t think, in Australia.
There probably is a certain type of person attracted to animation. I’m not sure I’m it. I’m not very in with the animation world but they’re probably, I don’t know, looking at myself I think, yes, boring, stay at home a lot, able to just keep doing the same things, so it’s kind of a weird mix of being very creative and very, you know, dull and embracing routine, I suppose, so it’s probably just the weird thing that only kicks in in certain people to have that combination.
Both animation and writing fit in really well with domestic life. William is often, you know, gone and away and I can colour in during the day, I call colouring in doing animation, when the kids are at school. I think I wrote this feature because I had a year of insomnia and, you know, I’d just end up giving up on sleep and so I wrote it pretty much between 3:00am and 6:00am.
SARAH WATT: I probably make films that are autobiographical more because I think they make better stories because they’re real and therefore more likely to, sort of, touch other people and pull other people into the story and into the drama than, than I think it, that it would help me as some kind of therapy. When I go and see films or look at paintings or whatever, I want to be moved and touched and, and usually it’s coming from something personal in the, in the artist, so, that’s why I probably raid my own life a bit to, to make films.
SARAH WATT: I must have met William, I don’t know, it must have been about 15 years ago. He was unemployed, I think he, he might have done few things which left me completely unimpressed. I just assumed, most of my friends at the time were actors or musicians or artists and we were all pretty useless at, you know, we all had other jobs to try and, you know, get through the day. So I just assumed he was just one of those actors who was never going to get a real job acting, you know, ’cause none of us, kind of, did, that was those other special people. So, yeah, and he didn’t for quite some time either, so yeah, we were on second baby before he got a kind of a steady job. So at first, it was me that financed the relationship. He did Country Practice pretty early on, that was pretty funny and that gave me no confidence at all that he was ever going to get another job
SARAH WATT: I think William’s a really, well I think he’s a good actor but, it’s probably a bit biased. I think he’s a character actor and he’s a really, he just lives acting, you know, he really, that’s all he can do and I don’t mean that meanly, but he’s, he’s truly, you know, an actor actor. He doesn’t like a lot of the, kind of, actor world stuff and he gets embarrassed by it, I think, so he doesn’t talk a lot about what he likes doing and stuff. So for me to see William I have to watch his work and see what he can do and some of it, I think, just has been great. I’ve always thought that he perhaps wasn’t getting enough challenge and also was frustrated by some of the lack of challenges that he was getting and so that’s why it was really good to be able to write this film with William in mind for one of the roles because I felt he could do it, and I felt he could really, I don’t know, give a lot more to a role than, than, than perhaps he’d done previously, but he’s done some, I thought he did a great job on Shark Net and, you know, My Brother Jack, they’re amazing performances, yeah.
SARAH WATT: I wrote Look Both Ways pretty much for William. Not, not like as a, as a great big, you know, gift, just for him, but just as a, you know, ‘I’ll write you a role, I’ll get you, I’ll get you a part’, and we never really thought it would get up. We thought, for a while we might try and make a no budget film and, you know, just so he’d, he’s have something out there and just shoot it on mini DV or something, but I just kept writing and people were interested and just sort of, kept going and then all of a sudden, it was happening.
SARAH WATT: Oh, when we met, we decided we’d have a fling and I think the fling joke kind of was still probably going about three years later, so we still, it probably took that long. I don’t know, he, I was older than him and I ’spose he used to accuse me of having all this stuff, you know, like a television and, you know, a job, stuff that he could, you know, come around and watch the TV and stuff, whereas he just had, you know, a futon on the floor and three old magazines, as far as I could figure out. So, I ’spose there was a part of me still pretty conservative and was thinking maybe it would be nice to meet somebody who had a video recorder to go with my television, that certainly wasn’t William. But the TV broke down and we both ended up with nothing for a while so that, that actually worked, so we just kind of stuck, rather than saw each other and thought, ‘this will be good’.
SARAH WATT: We probably didn’t really settle into each other until we had kids. We didn’t buy a house until after we’d had our first baby and then, you know, we bought a pretty crappy house but that was just such an amazing thing to do, to buy, and really only ’cause we got kicked out of our awful rented house. So I ’spose, you know, the babies are what really makes you stick together as a couple, and now, yeah, now we have stuff, ’cause we used to move every six months and now we haven’t moved for, you know, 13 years and stuff collects.
SARAH WATT: Dogs and books and junk and William accusing me of having stuff when he met me was hilarious ’cause once I sort of, first visited his family home and I saw the true meaning of stuff, he couldn’t accuse me again of having too much.
SARAH WATT: William and I are both completely useless, I think, domestically. We, we’re so bad a being domestic that we can’t even get, you know, even when we’re doing okay financially and we think, ‘Let’s get a cleaner’, we have never managed to keep a cleaner for more than about, you know, six weeks, because we can’t even keep the house clean enough for the cleaner to clean. It, we just, and so we have to do it ourselves and, yeah, it’s that thing of, you know, William’s their youngest child so he’s really good at that thing of doing the dishes really badly and breaking things so one of his older sisters would shove him aside or his mother would say, ‘Get out of here, I’ll do it’, and he tried it on me for quite a while but I’m, you know, I was wise to that and I have my, sort of, lazy streak as well. We both duel for the creative diva, useless role, and hope that the other person will, kind of, come in and fill the vacuum, but many years later the vacuum is still there. We have high hopes for Stella, our daughter, that, you know, coming good, but having seen her room lately, I think we’ve failed there.
We probably haven’t actually spent that much time in the same house, at the same time, being creative. William’s got his little room up the back which, you always had to learn, learn parts and stuff, you know, so he could shout, so he got the one outside so he could shout, and I got, you know, well I had the garage and then that fell down so now I’ve got the lounge room and we’ve only had small times when he’s been writing and I’ve been writing, so usually we’re, I think we’re both more productive when the other person’s out somewhere but, you know, ’cause there’s too many cups of tea consumed on the days when we’re both home. It’s kind of like the minute you think, ‘Oh, I’ll stop’, there’s someone there to procrastinate with so I think it doesn’t work that well to try and both write at the same time.
SARAH WATT: We live, where we live is in the inner western suburbs of Melbourne, next to a railway line, it’s the railway line that has the goods trains, the country trains and the suburban trains – we get a lot of trains – and we moved here originally ’cause it’s the only place that we could afford, cheapest housing in Melbourne, but we’ve just stayed through inertia, probably, and just gradually, just really learning, you know, just loving the area and making friends and it’s got a lot of really good things about it. It’s not, when I first came here, you know, it was really ugly, but I’ve grown to kind of find a beauty in it and it was a beauty I wanted to celebrate when I made the film, but it is, got that ugliness also that I think inspires you to make beautiful things. I lived by the sea for 10 years and painted about three pictures, I think, so maybe a place like this is good for creativity and stuff, as well, but it’s, I don’t know, pretty much everybody lives here in levels of socio-economic success or failure and any country you can name. It’s just a really rich, diverse area and yet, and yet, you know, we’re only about five kilometers from the city and yet we’ve got chooks, I mean, where could you get all that, it’s a great area.
SARAH WATT: I think the role in SeaChange did really suit him. I think when his wife died in the first couple of episodes, you know, he’s had to start out as this sort of, with, with a tragedy, so he had to kind of, go deep but, have a lightness about it that wasn’t going to sort of, bring the whole show down and I think he sort of, and then he had to kind of, all of a sudden, still be back in romantic comedy mode with Sigrid, so I think he sort of balanced that really well, but I don’t actually think, I actually think William’s probably best thing is comedy and still nobody’s given him that. I’ve abused his ability to go, you know, in, into deep emotional stuff in the film, oh, and, a little bit of comedy, but I think William’s actually really funny and, you know, waiting for a big funny film.
SARAH WATT: I can hardly watch Sandy Freckle in Kath and Kim because William used to do this character at home, it was one of the ones he does do at home, and he does it on purpose to annoy me because it just gives me the shudders, it’s a kind of, ‘Give us a kiss’, kind of, it’s just revolting, and Sandy Freckle’s just a little bit too much like this character at home, so I think it’s hilarious, but I can’t, I don’t, I try not to watch.
SARAH WATT: We’ve talked, you know, over the years we’ve talked about trying, going, living somewhere else and so William can do the whole door knocking thing, both in America and the UK. But when you do the research of the people that have done that, they’re, the ones that have broken though, have, you know, amazing perseverance abilities and many were younger when they started trying to bang all those doors. It’s hard to do with kids, we’ve done the sums and it just doesn’t add up for very long to, you know, you just, to, to be able to just go and relocate and be, you know, ready to knock on doors for a year, and also most people say that unless you’re going with a film, or you’re going with something that’s, that’s being released over there, there’s not a lot of point, you know, there’s, it, there’s perfectly good actors there that they’ve already got, they don’t need another one. Maybe it is just our inertia and the fact that we like our little lives, and we like dagging around with the kids, that does stop us being braver. But, you know, I think William would love it if he could, films, and just go over and do them and come home, but, but until he, you know, would get offers, he can’t do that, and, and it just hasn’t, sort of, seemed to be worth risking just going over there and camping and trying. But, you know, maybe that’s laziness or poverty or the children or the dogs, I don’t know
SARAH WATT: When I first met William he was writing poetry, I’m no judge of poetry, so I can’t comment on what it was like, but I think he has always been a writer, he just, like all of us, didn’t, sort of, have much to do with it and then when he started writing the little articles for the Courier-Mail, and I think it just clicked in, and he has such an ease about his work that I think that comes across in the writing style, and I’m totally envious of it because William will just go off and write an article and then say, ‘I’ve written it’, and then it’s finished. I’m endlessly editing and rewriting but William can just write, it comes out kind of like a good, funny story and then it’s just done, so I think it’s just, he’s, he’s a good, natural writer.
SARAH WATT: No, I haven’t actually read the finished book. I’ve read the articles that led to the book, but, yeah, I don’t know, William didn’t show me. No, and then he did, and then I didn’t read it, and, and, you know, it’s become a kind of family joke now that William’s got a book coming out and I’m, you know, one of the few people that haven’t read it, so, we’ll see how long we can, maybe I’ll get if for Christmas and read it then.
SARAH WATT: I think William’s completely sentimental. He’s sentimental about his childhood, sentimental about his home, sentimental about his children, sentimental about, I don’t know, everything. But it’s kind of a good sentiment, it’s not a fake, you know, sentimental, you’d even call it like, a, a loyalty and, and an appreciation, it’s that kind of sentimental thing. William sees things, you know, reasonably truthfully and can still be sentimental about, about them.
SARAH WATT: William would spend just as much time, I think, talking to Clem about poetry as he talks to Clem about cricket and, you know, that’s quite a lot of the time they talk about cricket, and William will go to, you know, William would go to the art gallery probably just as, more often than me. He’d, I don’t know, he does, he crosses, he crosses all those things pretty well I ’spose. I think a lot of Australian society now is still pushing that blokey, sporty, thing to such a point that it’s becoming really, I don’t know, it’s an insult, in a way, to men and the depth that they could have and that you either have to choose to, sort of, say, ‘Well, I don’t follow the football’, as a sort of, reaction against that over-hyped Aussie bloke or, or embrace it and then, and then not, not have the other cultural aspects, you know, that I think all good personalities should have, an appreciation of, you know everything the world’s got to offer. William actually does 50 per cent of the parenting, so even though he might go away and stuff a lot, you know, he makes school lunches and he knows how to hang the washing out, and, you know, is that parenting, yes, I think it is. Yeah, but he spends a lot of time with the kids and, you know, he was on the school council for a few years so, you know, all that sort of stuff, I think it’s really, well it’s great and, you know, you would hope that there were lots of people out there like that.