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City Of Lost Angels - Michael Pigott Interview

Author: Darryn King
Thursday, 22 May 2008
For a place that's referred to as the City of Angels, things can get pretty hellish. Christopher Johnson's play La La Land centres around Terry, an independent filmmaker from Australia who's trying to make it in the states. Darryn King spoke with director Michael Pigott about show business in LA. Apparently there's no other business like it- certainly not in Australia.

It sounds like LA itself is a character in this play... How does she come across-

Yeah, LA is a strange town, as I'm sure anyone that's been there knows. Most of it is there to make movies, one of America's biggest exports. It's unlike any other town in America - it doesn't feel fake exactly, but it does feel strange. You walk into a bar and everybody turns around to see if you're famous. When they realise you're not they go back to eating or drinking. We wanted to capture how surreal that is.

Also the way they do business in LA is so different to the way they do business in Australia. They're quite happy to scream down the phone at someone [in LA], and then have lunch with them 20 minutes later and it's all fine. A pretty high-octane people all the time. But incredibly, overly nice. They've got these lovely smiles but they'll yell at you as soon as things aren't going that way.

So Terry's a small-time filmmaker, in the city where everyone's trying to hit it big- Is this play a bit about selling out one's art-
Yeah, I think so. It's about the process and how he has to make concessions.
I guess the other thing is, these people who are doing creative things, at some point they need recognition to be able to do that all the time. Terry realises that making concessions means that you can do what you want later on- but if you make those concessions you will never end up doing what you intended to do, because you'll get caught up in making concessions for everyone all the time.
So yeah, in that sense it does definitely examine the artistic process. It's about him taking this movie that he loves and seeing it changed before his eyes, because people are talking about making it with the biggest superstars in the world, everyone wins an Oscar, it makes five billion dollars-

It's lovely the way Chris has written the play. This character arrives in LA and what would happen over months and months has been condensed into this very intense week. He starts the week a little bit hungover - and it gets worse. It's sort of like he's going through this world where he has no control over what he's doing. The play looks at the way he tries to regain control over his own art.

You've worked with playwright Christopher Johnson before, and just looking at the titles of his previous works, Backpacker!, Barnesy, The Harbour and You, there seems to be a preoccupation with Australia and notions of Australia- Is that accurate-
Yeah, I think so. When we think of Australian plays there's this sort of 'Australiana' attached to them, but Chris explores a more contemporary world. He's definitely attached to the idea of what makes us unique as a country. Backpacker, Young Tycoons and this one all explore Australians who are in the wider world.

I think you're right on the money in saying it does explore Australian themes, but this is the first one that's set somewhere other than Sydney. It's been very Sydney until now, so it's lovely for me to go, 'All right, let's explore another world.' It is very much an Australian's vision of what LA is. We see it through the main character's eyes, where the movie business is the only business.

Apart from all that, it sounds like a deeply funny play-
This is one of the funn