Buddhist monk turned filmmaker Clarke Scott on the set of his debut movie. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer Clarke Scott, in 2008, when he was a Buddhist monk named Loden Jimpa. Photo: Justin McManus
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The last time Clarke Scott appeared in this newspaper, he was bald, and he went by the name of Loden Jinpa.
Then a Buddhist monk, Scott had been admitted into a PhD in philosophy at the University of Tasmania after writing and submitting an honours thesis in the space of eight weeks.
But his career in academia was derailed when a chance encounter with an Australian filmmaker in the Indian Himalayas set him on a different path.
Scott had already been struggling with his PhD. “My intuition was telling me, this is not going to work out, you’re burnt out … all your colleagues who have already finished their PhDs who are better, brighter, smarter, more academic than you, they can’t get a job, how can you get a job?” says Scott.
His chat with the filmmaker while on his morning walk reignited Scott’s creative spark (he had been studying jazz at the VCA before finding Buddhism and quitting the course) and he decided to return to Australia and pursue a career in film.
For the next four years, Scott took what he calls the “P.T. Anderson approach to filmmaking.”
Paul Thomas Anderson, celebrated director of films such as Magnolia and Boogie Nights and the recent Inherent Vice, went to film school for two days before dropping out because he knew he could teach himself better than his teachers could. Scott spent at least 60 hours a week studying film, “watching movies and deconstructing them, watching directors’ commentaries”.
His background in computers (his lama encouraged him to get a job in IT so he could support himself while studying to become a monk) meant Scott picked up the technical skills quickly. He got a job at a video production company and then started his own boutique digital agency, where he’s done “everything from really bad corporate video to shooting commercials” while making his own short films on the side.
Now he’s shooting his first feature film, a love story shot in the style of Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine using natural light, documentary-style shooting and just two characters.
Shot on a shoestring in Essendon, Barwon Heads and on the Great Ocean Road the film, A Thousand Moments Later, follows a young couple attempting to reconnect after some time apart.
At this stage, Scott can’t afford to pay his actors, or himself. “Everyone’s working on the back end,” he says. “Once we see profit we’ll start divvying it up.”
As a first-time, unknown feature film director, Scott knew the chance of securing a distribution deal was unlikely. So he plans to take the finished film on the festival circuit. “They’re set up for distributors to find films,” he says. “I see this as my first feature film, and certainly not my last feature film.”