Hailing from Adelaide in Australia, Tom Goodall is a stand-out filmmaker, having been involved in several Hollywood blockbusters. From working at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank to his own directorial debut, Tom Goodall is quickly becoming one of Hollywood’s quadruple-threat filmmaker.

Film News caught up with Tom to talk about his thriller film ‘Overpower’ that he wrote, directed, produced and edited for the big screen – inspired by true events.

Congratulations, we loved the movie! Can you tell our readers in one sentence what ‘Overpower’ is about?
Of course – Overpower is about two airline pilots who fight the central computer of a highly automated plane to try and keep it from crashing to the earth.

How did you get involved in the movie?
This movie was my baby, I served as writer, director, producer, and editor. It’s hard for me to imagine directing something without also having a very big involvement in producing it, and this is especially true on this film.

What inspired the story?
I wrote this script after hearing about the tragic crashes of the two flights that were brought down by the overpowered flight system on Boeing’s new 737 MAX planes. Pilots are so incredibly well trained, masters of keeping these massive hunks of metal in the sky and bringing everyone on board down safely thousands of times a day. These planes were designed so that the system could overrule the pilots. I could only imagine the terror and confusion of those pilots who could so easily prevent these accidents, but they were unable because the plane itself was confused. The plane thought they were in danger and, by forcibly trying to save them from themselves, it ultimately killed everyone on board. I knew I wanted to tell a cautionary tale about the dangers of over automation and show how vital the human element is in certain professions, none more so than pilots.

Can you explain some of your process for the making of the movie?
Every directorial decision you make in planning for a shoot has logistical consequences. The more you understand those, the better you can wield them to make your vision a reality. It may seem very unsexy for directors to worry about how something will be achieved, how best to schedule it or how much it will cost, but these directors are missing massive opportunities. If you’re designing how to shoot a scene, but with a mind for the logistics, you will find ways to achieve your vision in more efficient ways, leaving you more time and money to get more shots or do more takes. These things end up directly improving the quality of the finished film, and so makes a better experience for the audience.

What were some of the challenges you faced making the movie?
This movie had some unique producing and directing challenges. The entire film takes place in a plane cockpit, so you only need to find one location, but it needs to be high quality enough to sustain the entire story, and you need to film it in a way that never feels boring. By wearing both the directing and producing hats, I was able to simultaneously design the shooting of the movie to be the most creatively effective, while also factoring in every logistical tool and trick we could use to maximize the utility of this single location. We designed a custom lighting rig that would simulate a plane moving and turning, so that the seeming position of the sun would rotate around the cockpit, creating the illusion of a plane in flight. More importantly, this meant that lighting changes were much faster between shots, allowing us more time to perfect the shots we wanted to get. These scenes all had to be carefully planned to ensure that each section of the film felt different, visually distinct from everything before it, but also giving a sense of escalation as the story’s crisis worsens. Because this escalation was so precisely designed, I also edited the movie myself.

While having a separate editor on a film can be very beneficial, allowing them to see uses for the footage that you would never have thought of, this movie was not set up for that. Every shot, every camera angle, was designed to be deployed at a particular turning point in the story, to keep the film feeling unrepetitive and thrilling. As the one who designed it this way, I knew that assembling the material myself was the best way to see the design realized.

Wearing the producing and editing hats simultaneously was also pivotal because nearly every shot of the film showed a cockpit window, meaning some kind of VFX would be needed. To manage that many shots that all needed to look seamless but on a short film budget was never going to be easy, and so taking personal charge of the producing calculations and editing choices was the only way to ensure we pulled it off. Ultimately, everyone on a movie project can do their job much better if they understand the jobs of everyone around them. If you understand your place in the greater machine, you know how to best serve your purpose, and help others achieve theirs, to make the best result for the audience that you can. Short films like this force you to exercise every filmmaking muscle, from the logistical to the creative, and it’s incredibly rewarding when it all pays off.

How can people see it?
The film is now available to view on Short Frame. Leave a comment on the video to share your reaction. Just don’t watch it on a flight!

How can people keep up with you online?
You can follow me on Instagram, or find my work at IMDb or tomgoodall.com