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June 27, 2024

Emotion lives in returned expat’s debut film

After 15 years living in the UK, director Pete Williams has returned to Adelaide to make his debut feature film Emotion Is Dead, exploring the aftermath of the Holden factory closure.

  • Word: Charlie Gilchrist
  • Graphic: Jayde Vandborg

The thriller was shown at the Adelaide Film Festival last year but a newly edited version will premiere at the Capri Theatre this Friday, to be followed by an Australian-wide release.

A free double pass to the Capri premiere is also being offered to anyone who worked at the old Holden factory because “the film is dedicated to them – the men and women who made Holden cars,” says Pete.


Emotion is Dead Launch Party X World Premiere
Capri Theatre
141 Goodwood Road, Goodwood 5034
June 28, 6-9pm




“It wasn’t just cars. It was beers and anything that was big mass production in Adelaide – it seemed to disappear within a decade.”

Pete tells CityMag he struggled to get a feature film off the ground before he landed on the idea for Emotion is Dead.

He was living in the United Kingdom, where he moved in 2006 to study at the MetFilm School in London and pursue his lifelong passion for making movies.

“I was born in Elizabeth and my grandpa was a cameraman, so I would borrow his film equipment from a very, very young age and make most of my school projects, which were little films – very bad ones,” says Pete.

He had numerous commercials, TV shows and a full-length documentary under his belt, but a feature-length film always remained elusive.

“I’ve written script after script and nothing worked, like I couldn’t get funding for anything,” he says.

“In all sincerity, I felt like the stories I was writing weren’t completely true to me either. They were set in the UK or the USA and didn’t touch on my authentic understanding of humanity, which was basically Adelaide, South Australia – Australian stories.”

But after chatting with friends and family affected by the Holden factory closure in 2017, Pete knew he was onto something.

“What just kept repeating itself to me is, this is a very significant part of our culture, we were so proud of the cars we made in Elizabeth…[and] all of a sudden, we weren’t making them anymore,” he says.

“It wasn’t just cars. It was beers and anything that was big mass production in Adelaide – it seemed to disappear within a decade.”

Pete says he put all of his learnings into a single lead character, Brock, “who’s a 17-year-old skateboarding emo punk kid who’s into petty crime”.

“If you look at Brock side-by-side with me and my mates at 17, there are a lot of similarities,” he Pete.

The film stars breakthrough actor Jude Turner as Brock, alongside Tatiana Goode as his emo ex-girlfriend Kylie and Adam Tuominen as Wayne, an evil drug lord.

It follows Brock as he sets out in his mission to earn $1,000,000 and become financially independent.

Brock devises a unique money-making scheme to earn his riches, but an encounter with Adelaide’s criminal underworld leaves his life in serious danger.

“The thing I really wanted to look at was generational inequality, the fact that young people, Gen Z’s and even millennials are finding it very hard to get on the housing ladder, finding it very hard to survive in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis,” says Pete.

He tells CityMag that the film’s title, which references the 2000 emo album Emotion is Dead by the Juliana Theory, is a metaphor for Brock’s struggle to reconnect with his emotions after the suicide of his father, a former Holden factory worker.

“He became addicted to becoming rich as a solution to his problems and it’s only through those who love him that he’s able to come back to feeling again,” he says.

South Australian iconography is another motif that features strongly in the film – there’s the Holden Factory, the Big Rocking Horse in Gumeracha, iced coffee and the Balfour’s Frog Cake.

“I was 15 years away and then coming back to South Australia in 2020, I just basically fell in love with all the icons of South Australia that I’ve missed and loved nostalgically from I was a kid,” says Pete.

The biggest challenge of making the film was working with a small budget.

“I was doing a lot of the departments myself, so we had maybe 10 people on set every day,” Pete says. “I think next time I really want to focus on the directing.”

But there was one moment where he knew he was a “real filmmaker”.

“I think the most amazing day for me, the day I felt like a real filmmaker, was when we filmed at the Elizabeth Housing Trust house for a 10-day shoot,” he says.

“There was the makeup station, lighting crew, camera assistant crew… that’s when I felt like this is actually a real movie we’re making here and the energy on set was just amazing.”

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