Interview – Jordon Prince-Wright: The Decadent and Depraved

Rhys Pascoe

A five-year production from pen to paper to premiere, The Decadent and Depraved has been making waves with audiences across the state since its big unveiling last December. The first idea came about while director Jordon Prince-Wright was still at high school. Twelve months later, Prince-Wright pitched the idea to co-director Axel August, with whom he had recently completed a short film.

The rest, as they say, is history, and now the directorial duo are knee-deep in a winding regional tour that intends to showcase the film to as wide and as varied an audience as possible. Not just a hit here at home, The Decadent and Depraved has been garnering acclaim overseas as well, recently receiving five accolades from the Los Angeles Film Awards.

Taking a break from the regional tour, Prince-Wright – a self-described underdog from Morley Camerahouse – took some time to chat with Hooked On Film about the production of WA’s biggest independent film to date.

“We were filming while I was 19 and 20, and a lot of people were telling me it wasn’t possible,” Prince-Wright said. “I didn’t really know what was involved, but I did know what was involved, if you know what I mean. It was a real learning process on set.

“I initially envisaged The Decadent and Depraved as a showreel piece – that’s what I set out to make. It turned out to be one hell of a showreel piece and sort of snowballed from there. What started as a quirky Western turned into a full-blown feature film.

“It was halfway through shooting, while I was sat on the verandah of this big manor house in Yalgoo with the 200 cast and crew, that it actually hit me. It was a real ‘holy crap’ moment – what have I gotten myself into.”

The Decadent and Depraved Teaser Trailer from Prince-Wright Productions on Vimeo.

 

Hooked On Film: The traditional Western isn’t something we see much of nowadays, nothing like the volume of the classic studio era – what prompted you to dive into this genre?

Jordon Prince-Wright: I grew up watching classic westerns as a kid. The old black and white films of John Wayne were my childhood, as opposed to superheroes and cartoons. I grew into more spaghetti westerns and high content rating western films, as I grew older. So the western genre has always been a genre I’ve been fond of and adored. In saying this, I watch many other genres, but anything that is not set in today’s era and is a period piece is definitely my forte.

I mean I’ve been getting offers to direct and produce other films since high school, all of which are period pieces, so the reputation for what I am good at is out and the next film coming up is going to be even closer to my heart, not only because it’s a WWI film, but also because it’s based on a true story of Western Australians from regional WA who went to the Somme and the Western Front.

HOF: The Decadent and Depraved takes a distinctive genre – the Western – and supplants it into a local setting. Was it a challenge to take the rich American iconography – Stetsons, spurs, and bandoliers – and give them a distinctly Western Australian spin?

JPW: I had the upper hand with all the amazing locations up north. Once we were there and looking at the amazing wide shots with the red dirt it was distinctly Australian. When WA people see that on screen, they know right away that it’s WA. We’ve got a lot of the stereotypical stuff in there – the spurs, the hats – but it still looks like WA.

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HOF: A core theme of the film is “upholding morality in an immoral world”. Can you tell us about any classic Westerns that may have inspired The Decadent and Depraved? Or maybe something else entirely?

JPW: I love my old school films; The Magnificent Seven, Sergio Leone films, John Wayne. I would say names like Yul Brynner, John Wayne, Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen and my friends in school wouldn’t know who they were. I would even go to school dressed as a character from a western and they would ask if I was Woody from Toy Story!

The thing is, all those characters in those films were in a way ‘one layered’ and to the audience it was simple separating the protagonist from the antagonist. Yet when you really look into it, I always would question why both were committing murder and stealing while roaming the vast landscape. What made their choices any better than the other? Both were killing for what he believed was right. With The Decadent and Depraved, I really wanted to blur the lines between good and evil with my characters. Throwing them into a world of corruption just made that all the more real.

HOF: A key consideration during the shoot was minimising the need for ‘CGI tricks’ and preserving that gritty Western aesthetic. Why?

JPW: I have a real love for old school cinema. With this film, throwing in camera tricks and CGI would have ruined some of the classic storytelling I was looking for. They didn’t have them back in the old days, so we weren’t going to cheat.

Also, it’s a western. As an audience member going to see a western, or any period piece for that matter, I am going to see something ‘real’, to be transported into a whole new world, and I think CGI in a way ruins it as we are just creating a world in a computer as opposed to putting thought and energy into actually recreating in real life.

In The Decadent and Depraved, there were no replica firearms. All of them are original 1860s firearms, all of which fire black powder with no CGI tricks. The actors are riding horses and the stunts are real. When you combine this with shooting in -5°C and rain, it all creates an epic aesthetic, which is something the entire cast and crew endeavored to get right.

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HOF: How important was it to uphold historical accuracy and authenticity on this production?

JPW: Our job as filmmakers is to entertain. We can make people think, laugh, cry and jump in their seats, but it all comes back to being entertained. If you’re not entertained as an audience, the film most likely won’t stick with you. It probably sounds obvious when you state it, but sometimes I think filmmakers get so roped into making their film exactly how they envisioned it or how it must be exactly historically correct that they start to lose the audience. Therefore, yes the backbone of the story was to keep this historically correct, but when we felt we needed to, we pushed the boundaries. I think this has paid off extremely well in entertaining those who would not normally watch or be entertained by a genre like this.

HOF: There are some truly stunning WA landscapes featured in the film – what was the scouting process like when you’re such remote locations?

JPW: Long story short, at the premiere of my previous short films, the Shire of Yalgoo were present, as I had got them on board with Red Dirt a few years ago. At that premiere they asked what was next – of course I mentioned the western and what I was after. A few weeks later they flew Axel and I up, and away we went looking for locations. Before you knew it I had neighboring shires contacting me about their possible locations, sites, landmarks that we could use the film, and it all just flowed from there.

HOF: You’ve been touring the film around rural Western Australia over the last few months, from Cue and Leonora to Yalgoo. What has the response been like from the locals?

JPW: It was the scariest thing ever. We had WA’s largest premiere. Lots and lots of people. I can’t remember the premiere at all, actually. It’s just a blur. These were the guys who had a hand in making the film, whether that means helping us out in kind or shooting in their backyard – literally, because their backyard is this huge rural station.

In Yalgoo, 80% of the audience was indigenous and some of them were in tears at the end of the film. They were so overwhelmed and emotional. In Cue we had 200+ people all dressed as cowboys – that was one hell of a night. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, you get to Sandstone and they all bring a plate of food, real country-like. In Esperance, they were laughing at things that I didn’t think were funny. It’s really interesting seeing what different audiences respond to.

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The Decadent and Depraved will screen at Orana Cinemas in Kalgoorlie, Busselton, Albany and Geraldton on Wednesday August 29 as part of its ongoing regional tour. Visit www.princewrightproductions.com/screenings for more information and to book.

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Aardman Animations – The Kings Of Claymation

Elle Cahill 

“Get off me cheese! Get off!”

When I was young, my mum would jokingly say this line while flapping her hands at us kids when we touched something we shouldn’t have. Needless to say, I was brought up on a healthy diet of Aardman Animations, first with the Wallace and Gromit short animations, and then their first feature film Chicken Run  – which is also endlessly quote-worthy.

Now, nearly 30 years since they first released Wallace and Gromit’s A Grand Day Out, their latest creation Early Man is due to hit cinemas. Despite its humble beginnings in Bristol, UK in 1972, Aardman Animations has continued to make breakthroughs, not only for stop-motion animation, but also for computer animated films, commercials and television programmes, all whilst staying true to their English roots and love of clay.

Founded by Peter Lord and David Sproxton, it wasn’t until 1976 that they produced their first piece of professional work. They continued to do small commissioned pieces of animation work for television programmes until 1989. After recruiting Nick Park in 1985, they were commissioned by Channel Four Television to create a series of five-minute animations called Lip Synch. This inspired the creation of similar content using clay figurines and stop-motion, including Park’s 1990 Academy Award-winning short film Creature Comforts.

From this point Aardman Animations cemented themselves as the leader in stop-motion animation. Their second Wallace and Gromit short film in 1993 The Wrong Trousers also went on to win the 1994 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, as did the third film A Close Shave which took home the same award in 1996.

Aardman Animations have continued to go from strength to strength. Whilst their output doesn’t match that of larger animation studios like Pixar and DreamWorks, they have continued to have box office success with each new offering – well, with the exception of 2006’s Flushed Away, but let’s sweep that one under the rug.

Aardman aren’t afraid of embracing new technology, and despite their love of the traditional clay aesthetic, the company’s willingness to test and adapt to new technology has kept them in front of their competitors. This can be seen more in their advertising division where, for example, they recently made VR projects for Google and BBC. Once tested in their advertising work, they will often integrate new technology into the making of their feature films in any way they can.

It’s this natural embrace of new technology that has also helped Aardman to be fearless in their different business pursuits. Apart from being the first British content producers to partner with iTunes, they also established a deal with YouTube where they made all their work available on the video sharing site, and in return YouTube regularly monitors and removes any videos of Aardman productions that aren’t uploaded by them. Another business milestone for Aardman was when they managed to crack the Chinese market in 2010 with their popular children’s show Shaun the Sheep, despite China’s resistance to Western content.

Aardman Animations continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible with stop-motion animation with each new film. They currently hold three Guinness World Records, including the record for the largest stop-motion animation set, and most plasticine used in a feature film (Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit used 2,844.9 kg of plasticine). To this day, Lord and Sproxton continue to have large creative roles in Aardman content and are the main driver’s behind ensuring that Aardman are always embracing new and upcoming technology. This formula certainly seems to be working for them, so it will be interesting to see where Aardman continues to move in the future.

Image courtesy of Aardman Animations & United International Pictures from Wallace & Gromit’s The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005). Source: IMDb 

Movie Review – Power Rangers

Looks like somebody forgot to pay the power bill.

⭐ ½
Josip Knezevic

Forever young. I want to be, forever young… where did it go so, so wrong?

Power Rangers was meant to be exciting. It was meant to be fun, yet gritty. Humorous, yet dark. The child within me ached for all of this and more. In the end, it didn’t come anywhere close to this, but nevertheless, I’m still hopeful that a future sequel can one day recuperate what has been lost.

For the uninitiated, Power Rangers follows a team of young superheroes who are tasked with protecting the fate of Earth against the many evil forces of the universe. The history of these rangers dates back to the dinosaur era, and we pick up the story with a new batch of heroes who are suddenly recruited in order to prevent the oncoming end of the world. And I truly do mean new: the entire main cast is made up of fresh faces against a backdrop of Hollywood A-listers in Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks. Perth’s very own Dacre Montgomery landed the lucrative role as lead red power ranger, but more on him later.

Let’s break it down.

Power Rangers follows in the footsteps of other failed reboots. It takes an original idea that worked the first time, then throws in some uninteresting characters and ridiculously gimmicky plot devices. Audiences come along to see their favourite characters kick ass in colourful spandex tights, then stay to see these heroes work together and grow together as a team. This is where Power Rangers goes so fundamentally wrong – it offers little opportunity for this team dynamic to unfold.

Amidst a storyline that follows convenience after convenience, none of the characters are as charismatic or charming as our beloved Marvel superheroes. Instead, we’re given a team of Power Rangers who are generic, unfunny, confusing and just downright annoying. Yes, this is the first time we see superheroes from the LGBTQ and autistic communities, but I just wish they were more engaging. Montgomery’s performance is probably the best out of the five (though RJ Cyler as the Blue Ranger has his moments), but this isn’t saying much. The blame inevitably lands with director Dean Israelite (Project Almanac).

Israelite is far too focused on experimenting with different Dutch angles from absurd distances to worry about a little thing called storytelling. For example, moments that were intended to be dramatic accidentally came off as comedic. I couldn’t help but laugh at Elizabeth Banks’ performance with her overacting and horrendous dialogue. Just thinking about it right now makes me crack up.

If you’re after a far better and more worthy reboot to the franchise, YouTube Joseph Khan’s film, which is infinitely more impressive and only 14 minutes long.

Power Rangers is available in Australian cinemas from March 22

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

Flickerfest 2017

Josip Knezevic

60 Shorts. 1 Academy Accredited Award for Best Australian Short Film. Yes, it’s the 26th Flickerfest Short Film Festival: a showcase from Australian filmmakers to Australian audiences. Compared to Australia’s most popular short film festival Tropfest, which displays 16 films each year, Flickerfest has the ability to boast a larger catalogue, which will be sure to please anyone’s genre tastes.

But with a larger array of films, it can be more challenging to decipher which ones are worth your time. Never fear: Hooked On Film is here to help. If you do get a chance to see the festival, be on the lookout for these four, which are bound to impress you with what Australia has to offer. While there may be a series of international films also available in the festival, we’re only looking at the Australian entries today.

4. I’m Raymond (17 mins)
Produced by Lib Kelly, Catherine Williams
Written and Directed by Eddy Bell

03 March - Flickerfest Im Raymond
Distorting the lines between fiction and reality, I’m Raymond takes a trivial idea and extorts it to the highest of consequences. 8-year-old Raymond Banks starts a name and shame campaign against his family’s company on the sole basis that they are responsible for jeopardising his future by contributing to global warming. Soon a drug-addicted model becomes involved, an official case is lodged and Karl Stefanovic reports it on the news – see what I mean by the highest of consequences?

Whilst the ludicrousness of the situation escalates on screen, a deeper meaning subsides the visual conflicts. Ultimately this is what elevates Bell’s short film to be in top 4 of this list. It becomes a message not about global warming or climate change but one that deals with the relationships between children and adults.

3. Face (13 mins)
Produced by Luke Tierney, Michelle Hardy
Written by Luke Tierney, Henry Nixon
Directed by Luke Tierney

03 March - Flickerfest Face
Speaking of distorting lines, Luke Tierney’s Face takes it to another level. The pitch: James urgently needs to get to the pharmacy by midnight to receive his “mysterious” pills otherwise his face will literally fall off. Unfortunately it’s 11:30pm and the only one who can drive him is his weird neighbour Steve. OK, let’s go.

What I enjoyed the most about Tierney’s experiment was the way the film was shot and presented. There’s a real lucid like feel to the whole drive and it works incredibly well with the overall tone of the short. It’s strange, but that’s what makes it great. The humour is unique and unsuspecting and you can’t help but be completely induced by its trippy presentation. It’s a stoner’s idea for a movie but thankfully it’s one that holds up to its absurdity and is enjoyable to watch.

2. Fish With Legs (10 Mins)
Produced by Nikos Andronicos, Tania Frampton
Written by Nikos Andronicos
Directed by Dave Carter

03 March - Flickerfest Fish with Legs
Short but bittersweet. Fish with Legs effortlessly brushes through the conflicts of science and religion with humour, emotion and beautiful animation to leave a lasting impression long after the credits roll. The story follows a school of fish who awake to discover that everyone in their society has now grown legs. A young enthusiastic preacher of science takes this as the proof he’s been waiting for and declares that evolution is occurring and it is now time for them to take action and move forward out of the seas. What lies ahead is short film that is smarter that what it appears to be.

Andronicos’ script carefully weaves logic with faith to present an array of meanings to take away. This is not a short film bashing those of religious faith over those in the scientific community; it’s a presentation of how these ideas would have manifested in earlier times and how they still reflect the reality of today. Steadied with the careful eye of Dave Carter at the helm, Fish With Legs represents a rare but well overdue gem of Australian animation.

1. The Eleven O’Clock
Produced by Derin Seale, Karen Bryson, Josh Lawson
Written by Josh Lawson
Directed by Derin Seale

03 March - Flickerfest Eleven Oclock

It’s hard to argue against the winner of the Flickerfest festival, Josh Lawson’s The Eleven O’Clock. A cleverly written, sharp and fast paced film that packs memorable lines of dialogue – I can’t wait to watch this short film again. Following the footsteps of iconic comedy routines by Abbott and Costello, the setup involves a delusional patient of who believes he is actually a psychiatrist up against his “real” psychiatrist. As they attempt to treat each other, a battle of wits begins with all glory going to the winner and a tragic end to the loser.

The best part about Lawson’s script is how actively it includes the audience in its story. You become the detective trying to solve the very puzzle itself of who’s who and this is what makes it so much fun. Up until the very last minute, you have no clue on what the outcome is going to, be but looking back, the subtle foreshadowing will make you kick yourself. Truly an equally funny film as it is smartly written.

Images courtesy of Flickerfest

Top 4 – Tropfest 25

Cherie Wheeler 

Around this time last year, we were all left shell-shocked by the threat of Tropfest becoming extinct, but 12 months later, against all expectations the festival has endured. Sensitive topics of lawsuits and the mysterious disappearance of millions of dollars have all be swept under the rug… and maybe that’s a good thing. With the behind-the-scenes controversies shoved firmly into the shadows, this year the spotlight has been rightfully turned to shine on the competing filmmakers for the 25th anniversary of Australia’s largest short film festival.

Tropfest celebrated its quarter of a century in style, with a televised event held at Parramatta Park where the 16 finalists were screened. This year’s short films had to incorporate a pineapple as part of Tropfest’s tradition of the signature item, and as always, there were varied interpretations of this; from subtle inclusions, to cringe-worthily obvious plugs.

Overall, this year’s top short films were a bit hit and miss; some of the weaker productions made me question whether many filmmakers even entered the competition, given the ambiguity surrounding the festival’s continued existence. On the bright side, however, there was a notable number of female filmmakers among the top crop, with roughly half of the finalists directed or produced by women.

Despite being a bit of a mixed bag, of those short films that did hit the mark, there were some truly outstanding displays of storytelling. So without any further ado, here’s my top 4 from this year’s finalists.

4. THE WALL
Story by Nick Baker
Animation by Tristan Klein

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It always blows me away when amateur film festivals produce high quality animations. With absolutely stunning 2D visuals that bring to mind the early films of Georges Méliès, The Wall is like a children’s picture book for adults. Inspired by the plight of today’s refugees and Trump’s absurd proposal for a Game of Thrones-esque Mexican wall, Nick Baker’s short animation tells the tale of an elderly grandmother trying to survive in a tough reality. Narrated with a mystical quality by David Wenham, and supported by an emotive score from Helen Jane Long, The Wall does fall into slightly preachy territory in its final third, but its bittersweet ending more than makes up for this.

Going Vego was another animated finalist that at first appeared to be for children, but had very strong adult themes. Although boasting some amusing dialogue and excellent comedic timing from the voice talent, The Wall just pipped this one at the post in my humble opinion.


3. TALC
Directed and shot by Jefferson Grainger

02-february-tropfest-talc
In the short runtime required by Tropfest, this mini documentary only just gets to scratch the surface of what could potentially expand into a much broader narrative. Living alone in the outback, Talc is a deeply intriguing artist with a very strong worldview. At times, it’s difficult to tell whether he’s completely insane or a total genius… perhaps he’s both, but Jefferson Grainger’s exploration of this real-life character does not judge or manipulate opinion. It simply presents this incredible man through a beautifully shot and edited journey that will leave you deep in thought as you consider Talc’s fascinating theories and way of life.


2. SERVICE UPDATE
Produced & Directed by Olly Sindle

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“I smile, you smile, the whole world smile”.

These are the words of Carl Downer – a Jamaican man who has carved an unexpected career out of bringing joy to any who cross his path in the London Underground. Service Update, like Talc, is another gorgeously shot documentary that’s based around a compelling character. While Talc intrigues, Service Update is imbued with the glorious feeling of pure, unadulterated happiness. It’s a viewing experience that will leave you grinning from ear to ear, as if you’ll actually float away out of your chair from the sheer elation. Carl Downer is a beautiful soul brimming with love for his job, other people and life in general. His story is a definite mood booster if there ever was one.


1. THE MOTHER SITUATION
Written & directed by Matt Day

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The winner of Tropfest 25, and also my top pick, The Mother Situation is easily the most cinematic of all the finalists. Starring experienced Australian actors Sacha Horler (Offspring), Harriet Dyer (Love Child) and also writer/director Matt Day (Rake) – this short film is really in a class of its own. It’s a little unfair, really. Tropfest has always been a showcase of amateur filmmaking by emerging storytellers, and these three are well-seasoned in comparison to some of the other entrants. But Matt Day’s script is so fucking fantastic that it’s hard to sit here and complain too much. Channelling similar vibes to 2014 winner Granny Smith, The Mother Situation is a black comedy that’s best watched with as little knowledge of its concept as possible. Find it. Watch it. Enjoy it. That is all.

Another dark comedy to reach the finals was Meat & Potatoes, but while it featured some great banter between its leads, and some wonderfully absurd situations that bring Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet to mind, it just falls short of my top 4, despite being the runner up of the whole competition.

Images courtesy of tropfest.com.au 

It’s almost time for CinefestOZ!

Chantall Victor

It’s almost that time of year when film fanatics, Australian filmmakers and industry experts collide at CinefestOZ Film Festival in Australia’s Southwest to view short films, attend workshops and walk the red carpet at feature film premieres. Add in food, wine and great company, and you have the perfect combination for like-minded people to come together. Located in some of the most beautiful wine regions of Western Australia, Cinefest offers a five-day getaway to explore Bunbury, Busselton, Dunsborough and Margaret River.

Here’s some of the highlights to look forward to:

On the opening night, Bunbury will host the Australian premiere of French film Up For Love and will also feature the WA premiere of the Mel Gibson led Blood Father. There will also be a free community screening that focusses on Australia’s female filmmakers and also the premiere of TV series Upstart Crow.

Up For Love
5:30pm, Wednesday 24 August
Grand Cinemas, Bunbury
Get Tickets

08 August - Cinefest 1

CinefestOZ: When successful lawyer, Diane (Virginie Efira) gets a call from the man who found her mobile phone, she is immediately intrigued and charmed. As she and Alexandre (Jean Dujardin) chat and make plans to meet, it becomes evident that the chemistry between them is great. However, when they meet the next day it turns out there may be one small problem. A perfect match in every way but one, will this new couple be up for the challenge?

Blood Father
5:30pm, Thursday 25 August
Grand Cinemas, Bunbury
Get Tickets

08 August - Cinefest 2

CinefestOZ: Action and attitude meets humour and humility as Gibson stars as John Link – an ex-con trying to embrace life on the straight and narrow. When his estranged daughter Lydia is caught up in a drug deal gone wrong, she reaches out to the last man she ever thought she’d need – her father.

Upstart Crow
6:30pm, Friday 26 August
Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre
Get Tickets


CinefestOZ: This BBC TV series is the latest from comic genius, Ben Elton, which humorously chronicles the life of William Shakespeare before he became famous.

In Conversation: Girl Asleep
8:30am, Saturday 27 August
Deck Marina Bar & Restaurant
Get Tickets

08 August - Cinefest 4
Chat to the filmmakers behind Girl Asleep. CinefestOZ: Navigating puberty in 1970’s suburbia, Greta doesn’t want to grow up. Her mum is embarrassing and her sister disinterested. Geeky Elliott is her only ally. Greta’s surprise 15th birthday party is on track to be the worst night of her life – until she’s flung into an odd fairy-tale universe with a warrior princess. 

Hotel Coolgardie with Q&A
12:00pm, Saturday 27 August
Orana Cinemas, Busselton
Get Tickets

08 August - Cinefest 5

CinefestOZ: Attracted by the idea of saving much-needed travel funds whilst enjoying an authentic outback experience, two Finnish backpackers find themselves the latest batch of “fresh meat” en route to live and work as barmaids at the only pub in a remote Australian mining town. Confronted by a culture of insularity, insults and impunity, and relentlessly harassed and harangued, their working holiday rapidly deteriorates into a test of endurance – as they discover that to meet expectations they’ll need to do more than just pour drinks! Amusing, shocking, and unexpectedly moving, Hotel Coolgardie is a wryly-observed warts-and-all journey into an outback Australia rarely depicted on screen.

There are many other great events to attend from Busselton to Margaret River, with a little bit of everything for everyone. I will be attending from the Friday until Sunday evening so stay up to date with my whereabouts via the Hooked On Film twitter account and come and say hi!

Images and film synopses courtesy of CinefestOZ 2016 & Icon Film Distribution

Revelation Film Festival -Get Your Shorts On!

Revelation Film Festival crowd-pleaser Get Your Shorts On! came to town last week. Here’s the lowdown on the best of the best in short filmmaking in WA right now.

Josip Knezevic

Get Your Shorts On! encompasses the very best of what Perth has to offer in short films, and this year eight spectacular productions screened at Luna Leederville to showcase the creativity and skill of our local filmmakers. Of these, there were three standouts that I’d like to single out for Perth’s most promising talent.

3. Normal People
Producer:
Jenna Dimitrijevic
Director:
James Pontifex

Contrary to its title, this RAW Nerve funded short is anything but normal. An unfortunate party goer misreads an invitation and rocks up dressed as a panda only to discovers she is the only one in a costume. That is until she meets a man in a penguin suit…

Normal People is certainly an original piece of filmmaking, with some nice moments of quirky humour. My only disappointment is that it only runs for 7 minutes. Given more time on screen, I think these two loveable characters could have been fleshed out even more. Additionally, the concept is loaded with comedic opportunity that could have been further explored in a longer version… So the only question is, when do we get to see the feature film, guys?

2. Outline
Producer: Jess Parker
Director: Cody Cameron-Brown

Successfully funded by Pozible, Outline tells the story of a grieving young artist who seeks redemption in an unlikely place. She uses her craft to recreate her fallen friend in remembrance of her spirit and by the end of the film, you truly get the sense that this was an incredibly personal film for its creators. A simple idea that works marvelously on screen, I thoroughly enjoyed this 6-minute short with its beautiful artistry and emotional touches. Clearly others are being won over as well; the short was selected to appear in the Short Film Corner at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

1. The Shapes: Cool Rock Video and I’m A Genius
Producer: Lauren Elliott
Director: Matt Lovkis & Henry Inglis

Hot damn, this was awesome! The Shapes: Cool Rock Video and I’m A Genius is my favourite from this year’s Get Your Shorts On! selection. Yes, on a technical level, this 3-minute animation is fantastically well crafted, but what puts this project in first place is it’s success as a musical. Its catchy beats are filled with ridiculously self-aware, funny lyrics; on my way out of the screening I could still hear the addictive songs in my head. With a joyous colour palette and eye-catching transitions, this short and sweet animation is a must watch!

 

WA Short Film – Setting Them Straight

Corey Hogan 

Filmmaking is a tough nut to crack here in WA, but with the right team, some funding behind you, and, of course, a promising idea, you might just have a film festival hit on your hands. Writer-director Kaleb McKenna knows this; his satirical short comedy Setting Them Straight is currently doing the rounds internationally. With a popular webseries (Four Quarters) and the upcoming feature film OtherLife under his belt, Kaleb is hard at work setting his next projects in motion and securing further festival fanfare – everything is a learning experience, as he’ll tell you.

I sat down with Kaleb to discuss how he established himself as a writer-director, his process and experience of the short film and its festival run, and his advice to local up-and-coming filmmakers.

CH: To start with, could you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and what made you get into the filmmaking scene?

KM: I’ve always enjoyed telling stories, so getting into filmmaking was a kind of natural movement from that. I did a Bachelor of Commerce at UWA, which was good because I met a lot of people and I did University Drama and Theatre Productions. I started being in shows and I directed a show, and from that I decided to go to Curtin and did my post-grad in Screen Production. I made some university films that had some success, and that led to getting Setting Them Straight funded straight of uni.

CH: You made your debut in 2013 with two short films – Dinner Date and He Was a Good Boy – how did you make that leap to the point of being able to write and direct your own projects?

KM: It’s all just university – to tell you the truth. The best thing about university is that you get to choose what you get to do; they kind of give you… enough rope to hang yourself. In Drama Production – the class that we were doing – five people wrote scripts, four films got made; my script for Dinner Date was chosen to be made. From there, if you wrote it then you got to choose who you wanted to direct it, so I directed it. I was lucky enough to have some great people to work with on that and it was successful – Dinner Date won the National Campus and WA Film Festivals in 2013.

CH: And how was that whole first-time filmmaking experience?

KM: Daunting. It was really daunting. It took a lot out of us, but we unknowingly at the time did a couple of things that really helped us a lot. We all put in extra money of our own to make sure that we were feeding everyone properly, that we could spend enough on production design, and that we had multiple venue options. The one thing we really made sure to do was to get people who were really good actors. It wasn’t a friend of a friend acting, it was people who were well trained in the craft – and I’ve done that from then on.

CH: Since then has there been a general approach or process you tend to take in making a short film now? Do you feel your skills are honed or improved with each film?

KM: Yeah, absolutely. My skills, definitely, and my organisation; all together my knowledge of what goes into a film is always expanding. I was lucky enough to be the director’s attachment on a feature film called OtherLife, which was shot in WA; doing a project that scale, the organisation kicks up a level. That’s due out later this year, but I can’t say too much until it’s confirmed; features are always changing their release schedule.

CH: Your big hit at the moment is obviously Setting Them Straight. How did that idea come to fruition? Was there a personal aspect, and what creative steps did you take in realising your vision?

KM: It was just a funny idea I came up with, I don’t really know how it happened. I just thought it was a funny premise – that a guy would come out of the closet as straight, and from there, Brett Dowson – who produced, co-wrote and is in it – we got together and we wrote it late 2012, just after we shot Dinner Date. It was one of those things we were going to film with friends but that fell through, so it ended up being this script we both loved that we were searching for an avenue to make. Luckily in February 2014 OOMPF! came along with their one-off filmmaking fund for FTI members, and they really liked the script so they put it up. The only real change it underwent since its conception to shooting in October 2015 was the move away from a funny idea, to instead drill into the reality of why it was funny. The film is showing how ridiculous it is that these parents wouldn’t accept their son because of his sexuality, when in essence it has everything to do with who they are and nothing to do with who he is. We took a lot of care with the film’s message and its importance because we want to give those communities a voice, but we don’t want to be their voice

CH: How are you tackling the whole experience of worldwide premieres and festival touring? What advice would you give to up and coming filmmakers now having been through that?

KM: Save a lot more money so you can actually go to the festivals, and look into travel grants and travel funding a little more. The film cost roughly $7,000 to make; the budget was $5,000 and we crowd funded $2,000, and then spent an extra $1,600 on marketing for its festival run. I would say to anyone doing that run make sure you’re in a financial situation where you’re able to attend as many festivals that will play your film as possible. We’ve had a lot of great experiences at festivals but we would love to have gone to the Raindance Film Festival, who gave us our world premiere in Palm Springs. Both Brett and I were on feature films at the time so we couldn’t go, but that’s one thing I’d hammer in – definitely try to get to the festivals that are lovely enough to show your film.

CH: Who are some of your biggest influences and how do they shape your projects, and what is the next stage for you?

KM: John Hughes and Richard Curtis are my two big ones – Hughes being able to tell such a big story with elevated stakes in small environments and situations. Planes, Trains and Automobiles has so much happening for a guy on a cross country trip and The Breakfast Club in the microcosm of a school – he can tell these larger than life stories in such condensed ways. And I love Curtis’ ability to make these honest romantic comedies, the way he explains love and a broken heart I’ve always taken on board – he’s sincere, but never cringe worthy. Oh, and Edgar Wright, I want to be able to write really fast paced comedy like he does.

Feature films are obviously the long-term goal, but there’s so much going on with television and online stuff now – being able to have a continuing or long-form format is really fun as a writer. We’re not as isolated as everyone thinks here in WA, we’re a community and we’ve got each other’s skills to utilise – there’s a whole group of young, really good filmmakers coming out of Perth at the moment. Get together; that’s how you make better stuff. It’s fun.

Behind The Scenes: PINCH

Tom Munday

Australian filmmaker Jeffory Asselin now has an extensive list of achievements to his name. The part-time filmmaker and Murdoch University media production manager has fuelled his career with several renowned short films including Three to One and Strike. His production expertise, extending from directing to screenwriting, producing and editing, makes him one of the industry’s most resourceful and cunning individuals.

In November 2012, the opportunity for a locally driven feature project came to fruition, and Asselin brought the industry and Murdoch’s brightest minds together for his first feature film, PINCH. The idea for the coming-of-age crime-drama came from his own unenviable life experiences. Growing up in a regional state-housing project, his imagination gave him enough inspiration to pursue his passion.

This Year’s WA Screen Awards placed a swath of high and low profile artistic endeavours in the spotlight. In the Best Feature – Drama category, PINCH  took on Kill Me Three Times, Paper Planes and The Reckoning, and in a historic, upset victory, Asselin’s production snatched the top prize. Placing local, salt-of-the-Earth cinema back on the map, the micro-wonder is set to trample through WA’s film festival circuit later this year. Hot off the presses from its world premiere at CinefestOz, the independent film will be coming to Perth at an event held on September 7 at Luna Cinemas, Leederville. Chatting with me on a Saturday morning, Asselin was eager to share his love and enthusiasm for cinema, his career and home state.

Get tickets to the PINCH Perth Premiere Screening here

PINCH won the WA Screen Award for Best Feature – Drama this year, how has the win influenced your idea of success in the industry?

I regard myself as an artist, and I never really went into filmmaking with stars in my eyes; I never really bought into the celebrity side of things. For me, success would be having my next project financed because of the competency of this project. That’s why we made the film because we all said right from the beginning – look, we can’t compete with the big boys. What we can do is make the best fricken film we can make, and prove to funding bodies and investors that next time we can make an even more cracking film if you give us a chance. Until that happens, it’s nice to be acknowledged and respected among your colleagues as a decent filmmaker. For us, it was really about proving ourselves as filmmakers, more so than going in with any view of winning prizes.

You beat major productions like Kill Me Three Times and Paper Planes; do you think the industry will gravitate towards story and character rather than scale?

The irony here is that we have a real crowd pleaser on our hands, but we’re struggling to get distributors on board who understand that. It’s a funny, fickle business, let’s put it that way. We’ve toppled three huge, flagship projects that have all got distribution – some are doing well, some aren’t, and here we are struggling to get someone to take it on in Australia.

You have to question the distributor’s mould. They were all screaming murder last year because all of these films failed, including Son of a Gun, I mean – look at the people they had on that! Son of a Gun was lucky to pull $100,000.00 at the box office. I’m just looking at it from a logical point of view that perhaps that mould isn’t working. We’re always being told you need an A-lister attached to sell your film, but I disagree with that. I actually think if you make a bloody good film, and you know who your audience is, I think you can make a film just as good, and make a profit out of it. We know from history that a lot of critically acclaimed films that come out of nowhere haven’t always had big actors in them. Or the other strategy is that you pull an actor out of retirement, dust him off, and put him back in the game.

I’d like to see Australia make more of these lower budget films, and not have to rely on the government funding, and create more of a business model, not a charity system. The Australian film industry at the moment is under pressure to go and compete with Hollywood, but we just can’t do it, and we have to be honest with ourselves; we just can’t do it with our budget.

The WA film industry has gone through several major changes, how do you see it developing over the next few years?

I think we’re going to see more of these low budget films because of the way technology is at the moment. I imagine there are going to be more films targeting video on demand, as opposed to theatrical release, and I think there’s more money in that.

You worked to bring Western Australia’s film industry and Murdoch University together with PINCH, how did they collaborate throughout the production?

Most of my other director colleagues work freelance, and do ads to make their bread and butter. I made a decision a long time ago that I didn’t like the ad industry; it wasn’t really my thing. I wanted to be within the educational realm, so I got a job early in the piece working in a studio with a university, and I still make educational media products. I actually come from a very strong multimedia background as well, so I was fortunate that I got the job there, and then I eventually took over the studio and built it up, and chipped away at my short films on the side. Murdoch has always supported me in doing that because when you work for a university most of the staff are generally doing PhDs or some form of staff development. It worked out for me because I would utilise the resources there, and then if we picked up a couple of wins it would put some attention on the university, so it was kind of a nice little marriage. Especially with the PINCH project, it’s really put a lot of positive energy into our university, and I don’t think you can pay for that sort of publicity.

You filmed around Perth and regional WA, how did these locations accentuate the film’s tone and atmosphere?

One of the tips I always give to students is – don’t slouch on your location. I treat my locations like another character in the story. People tend to take the easy route when it comes to locations, and go, “hey – let’s just shoot there because it’s convenient”. I’m always looking for visually aesthetic backdrops, and I treat it like a paint palette.

Some of the places where we shot, you can’t go there by car. We went hiking up there because I would see these hills and think – hang on, I know you can’t get up there by car, but I bet there’s a nice shot up there. It’s little things like that, looking for places around Perth that people haven’t shot. All the big budget movies play the same tune – they go up to Broome, or they go down to Margaret River, but I find your dingier areas are more interesting that your clichéd, tourist attractions.

Lead actors Craig Hyde Smith and Alla Hand stand out immediately, how did their dynamic develop on and off screen?

I’ve worked with Craig before, and because I had no money, I had to try and find the best option. I always had Craig in mind, and I knew that he was capable of pulling off a feature, and I knew that his parents would allow me to take him for 7 weeks and take time off school because he was 16 at the time. For his age and his experience, he was just a treat to work with.

We ended up auditioning probably 50 girls for the other lead, and then I met Alla by pure accident. I was auditioning the Rhonda character at the studio, and I went out to grab my next talent, and screen test them when I saw her sitting in line with all of the older actors. She was obviously in the wrong line and I said to her, “you must be auditioning for another film because I’m casting for older characters here,” and she said, “yeah, I’m here for a student film”. So I walked her down to where she had to go, and I looked at her and thought – oh my god, she looks like my girl. Anyway, I told her I was screen testing for this role, and it turned out that she really captured me through the camera, and straight away I was like, “yep, she’s the one”. She hadn’t done a lot as well, and I kind of took a risk on everyone on the film because they all didn’t have a great deal of experience. I guess it’s one of those things; it’s a director’s intuition. I just had a hunch that these guys could do it.

I have to say it was one of those projects where I felt like with all the momentum I had behind me that it was meant to happen. Some projects you do – you’re just hitting walls constantly, and although we had our fair share of challenges with the project, I had this feeling… that we were doing this film for a reason, which you don’t often get.

All media courtesy of PINCH & Jeffory Asselin

Get Your Shorts On! – Top 3

To mark the end of this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival, here’s a selection of my top films from the Get Your Shorts On! screening, which featured six WA-made short films that were each funded by ScreenWest & FTI.

By Courtney Loney

Eighteen years ago, in the basement of Perth jazz venue the Greenwich Club, what is now known today as one of Australia’s most vibrant and eclectic independent film festivals began. This year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival certainly did not disappoint with screenings held at venues from Leederville through to Fremantle showcasing a wide array of feature films, documentaries and short productions from every country imaginable.

We were lucky enough to check out some of the outstanding films on offer (Quick Picks – Revelation Perth International Film Festival: Feature Films, Quick Picks – Revelation Perth International Film Festival: Documentaries) and last week I was given the opportunity to view some of the greatest short films to be produced in WA in recent years at the regular festival screening category Get Your Shorts On!

Sadly, we will all have to wait until next year to be able to once again have the chance to see so many unique, independent films made both abroad and in our own backyard, but in the meantime, here’s my top 3 short films from the Get Your Shorts On! collection.

3. Setting Them Straight
Director:
Kaleb McKenna
Starring: Brett Dowson, Greg McNeil & Sarah McNeil

In a society that is finally paving the way for legal same sex unions, Setting Them Straight offers an unorthodox angle on sexuality.

As the title suggests Setting Them Straight  follows Josh (Dowson), a young man who reveals to his parents that he is actually straight after living the majority of his life as gay, or as he says “on the spectrum”. While most filmmakers choose to tiptoe around serious subjects, co-writers Kaleb McKenna and Brett Dowson dive in head-on to create a current and satirical story about the absurdity of sexual discrimination.

With the shift in our society’s tolerance in regards to Marriage Equality and Gay Rights, most parents these days are loving and accepting of their children, but judging from Josh’s parents response to the news, maybe they were a little too understanding of his homosexuality… possibly to the point where they actually like him better because of it! His parents – whose on screen chemistry can be thanked to their real life relationship – openly poke holes at their own marriage in the belief that the arrangement itself is flawed.

Setting them Straight was a great audience pleaser, and a nice way to open the Get Your Shorts On! category by challenging the status quo, and sharing a gorgeously over-the-top, yet humorous reaction toward a shift in point of view on a hot social issue.


2. Love In A Disabled Toilet
Director: 
Ruben Pracas
Starring
: Miley Tunnecliffe, Liam Graham and Claudia Cirillo

What do you get when you take an awkward situation, add a dash of sexual tension and top it off with toilet humour…?

Another film that executes such brilliance with its comedic devices is Love in a Disabled Toilet. It’s New Year’s Eve, and everyone seems to be having fun in the club, except for Dana, who is having a terrible time, which only becomes worse when she finds herself stuck in a disabled toilet with her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend!

Produced by Jess Black and directed by Ruben Pracas – whom were both nominated for Young Filmmaker of the Year at this year’s WASA awards – this hilarious short film, starring writer/producer Miley Tunnecliffe, mostly takes place within the toilet cubicle. The clever use of the disabled toilet as the transactional context for essentially a Boy-Meets-Ex-Meets-Current-Meets-Ex also acts as a subtle homage to the “Sh!t Happens!” scenario. The walls literally appear to close in on the characters throughout the film creating a deepening claustrophobia, and awkwardness to the unraveling situation.

Each of the three key characters manage to move through a very quick series of emotional and physical changes, and bring out the best in some well-written snappy dialogue that was sure to keep the audience amused. Without spoiling the short film for any future viewers the key relationship twist literally depends on a single word, err, auto-corrected word that is!


1. Dark Whispers
Director: Ngaire Pigram
Starring
: Naomi Pigram

One of the richest and most ambitious films on the program is producer Kelrick Martin’s Dark Whispers – one of three Indigenous dramas from Spear Point Productions at this year’s festival.


Written by Ngaire Pigram, Dark Whispers is the story of an Indigenous woman grieving the death of her two sons who finds solace in the sweet song of the Magpie, or “Burrugarrbuu”. This film is imbued with symbolism of the magpie throughout; while you hear it mentioned in the traditional language, it is also a significant metaphor for the joy and grief experienced by the main character Debbie (Naomi Pigram). With a particular emphasis on sound in this film, one of my favourite scenes is where we hear the warbling call of the magpie in the morning, juxtaposed with images of the smiles of Debbie’s children.

The dreamtime stories credit the magpie with creating the very first sunrise, and perhaps this film holds some extra significance for those who relate deeply to this cultural symbol. The burrugarrbuu’s song is a poignant reminder for the mother of her love for her children, and also of her loss, but also that the world comes alive again every dawn when greeted by the laughing magpie.

With beautiful cinematography, and a heartfelt performance from Naomi Pigram, who was nominated at this year’s WASAs, Dark Whispers is not just telling an important indigenous tale, but is a showcase for the industry, which evidently paints a bright future for all WA Indigenous filmmakers!


Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival, Red Mile Stone Productions & Spear Point Productions