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!

 

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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

Recap – 27th WA Screen Awards Gala

Perth has always relished in its reputation as a casual city, but if this week’s WA Screen Awards are anything to go by then the West is certainly upping its game, and starting to get just a little bit fancy. Perth – #stayclassy

By Cherie Wheeler
Featured Image: Michael Caton and Lauren Brunswick – Young Filmmaker of the Year

Now that, my friend, is how you run an awards ceremony! FTI and Muse Bureau, I bow down before you and kiss your feet – the 27th WA Screen Awards gala was nothing short of sublime.

From the moment Perth born comedian Joel Creasey stepped out on stage to present the awards with the apologetic announcement that we would have to endure his extremely camp voice for the remainder of the evening, I knew we were in for a jolly good time. He ensured the laughs flowed freely all night with his cheeky quips, and amusing anecdotes offering a nice interlude between each block of awards. Thanks largely to this event, I would have to say that the State Theatre Centre has cemented itself as the ultimate Perth venue in my books; from the elegance of the Heath Ledger Theatre and the foyer areas, to the heavily mirrored, almost maze-like bathrooms that made me feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole (or maybe that was the champagne?) I was thoroughly impressed, and that was before the canapés even started to circulate.

But on a more serious note, it was a truly humbling experience to be surrounded by such a vast number of talented artists; from seasoned professionals through to fresh faced filmmakers just embarking on their careers, all in the room displayed sincere passion toward producing affecting cinema.

In previous years there has been a tendency to reward higher profile films with substantial budgets (in comparison to their competitors) and distribution deals, with Red Dog and The Turning each taking out Best Feature Film -Drama in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Whilst deserving of their accolades, these wins have given rise to the impression that it would be a David vs Goliath-type feat for a modest film lacking noteworthy names to take home this major prize… well, ladies and gentleman, David has arrived.

Cast and Crew of Pinch

Cast and Crew of Pinch

Amongst a field boasting titles such as the Simon Pegg led Kill Me Three Times, and the family friendly Paper Planes, which received nationwide release, it was Jeffory Asselin‘s low budget crime drama Pinch that was selected as the winner; a decision which I applaud. It seems like only yesterday that my social media newsfeeds were filled with posts from this passion project beseeching contributions to its crowd funding campaign. During his acceptance speech Asselin essentially admitted that the production was built on blood, sweat and tears – the three core ingredients of any WA made film. Our local industry is comprised of practitioners who are not afraid to dig deep, and get their hands dirty for little or even zero monetary gain, so for all these reasons and more, I feel that Pinch is a far more accurate representation of what constitutes a Western Australian film, and am overjoyed that it has received such recognition.

The Indigenous sector of the WA film scene was also afforded the opportunity to bask in the spotlight with multiple beautiful stories presented in fictional and factual formats raking in nominations in a variety of categories. Unique documentary Prison Songs collected a whopping 4 awards, while short film Karroyul, one of our top picks from the films in the running for the People’s Choice Award, took home Best Editing – Short Form and Best Short Film – Drama. These acknowledgements of our Indigenous content were preceded by a touching Welcome to Country from Barry McGuire whose haunting singing voice alongside the clacking sound of his boomerang never fails to mesmerise audiences.

Winners, nominees and Barry McGuire (front right)

Winners, nominees and Barry McGuire (front right)

Whilst Top Knot Detective was another favourite of ours from the People’s Choice selection, surprisingly, it did not win as many awards as we expected. It did, however, blitz the race for Best Production Design – Short Form with designer Matt Willemsen confessing it was an ironic win considering his brief was to make the film look “hilariously shit”.

Good ol’ Greenfield (which premiered last week, if you missed it you can check out our interview with the filmmakers here) also put up a good show with stars Ethan Tomas and Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik sweeping up the acting categories, and I must say, Marthe — dayum gurl! She looked absolutely stunning, rocking her baby bump in a glamorous, low cut cocktail dress.

Liam Graham and Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik from Greenfield

Liam Graham and Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik from Greenfield

FTI CEO Paul Bodlovich intimated in his introductory speech that our feedback from the night would be carefully considered in order to improve the awards for the following year, but honestly, besides perhaps adding yet another use to the already multipurpose trophy statuettes – currently the list sits at disco light generator, paper weight and violent weapon — I don’t see how the night could have been any better. Since Bodlovich took the helm of the not-for-profit organisation several years ago, FTI has truly flourished, seeming not at all deterred by the cuts to its government funding, and determined to soldier on by diversifying its funding streams. I think I speak for many when I say that I am eager to see what FTI will get up to next.

Til next year…!

Images courtesy of FTI

FULL LIST OF WINNERS & NOMINEES

McKenna Hampton Young Filmmaker of the Year
WINNER: Lauren Brunswick
NOMINEES: Jess Black, Joe Henderson & Ruben Pracas

Curtin University Best Feature Film – Drama
WINNER: Pinch – Jeffory Asselin
NOMINEES: Kill Me Three Times – Tania Chambers, Laurence Malkin and Shane Stallings
Paper Planes – Robert Connolly, Maggie Miles and Liz Kearney
                    The Reckoning – Deidre Kitcher and John V. Soto

The Backlot Perth’s People’s Choice Award
WINNER: Emily – Iain Appleyard

Cinefest Oz Best Short Film – Drama
WINNER: Karroyul – Jaclyn Hewer, Melissa Kelly and Kelrick Martin
NOMINEES: Greenfield – Daniel James Tenni and Robert Livings
OnO – Georgina Isles and Lauren Brunswick
Top Knot Detective – Lauren Brunswick, Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce

WA Screen Academy at ECU Best Feature Film – Factual
WINNER: Frackman – Richard Todd, Trish Lake, Simon Nasht and Kate Hodges
NOMINEES: The Lloyd Rayney Storey – Michael Muntz, Brian Beaton and Celia Tate
Artemis International and Stellar Promotions
The Waler: Australia’s Great War Horse – Marian Bartsch

WA Screen Academy At ECU Best Short Film – Factual
WINNER: Naji – Jodie Bell, Kimberley West And Terry Hunter – Ramu Productions
NOMINEES: Olga Cironis: Embodiment – Tenille Kennedy, Georgina Isles and Melissa Hayward                       The One and Only – Is Sharing Caring? – Karla Hart – L’unica Productions
The One and Only – Kurrunpa Kunpu – Perun Bonser – L’unica Productions

Central Institute of Technology Best Student Film
WINNER: Pale Blue Eyes – Cameron Whiteford – Murdoch University
NOMINEES: I am No King – Karl Lacambra and Rob Gibbon – Central Institute of Technology
Jennifer’s Coming Home – Georgia Landre-Ord and Dawn Jackson – WA Screen Academy
at ECU
Water – Shelby Shaw and Poppy van Oorde-Grainger – WA Screen Academy at ECU

Media Super Best Performance by an Actress
WINNER: Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik – Greenfield
NOMINEES: Emma Diaz – Water
                     Naomi Pigram – Dark Whispers
                     Nina Deasley – Indefinite

Media Super Best Performance by an Actor
WINNER: Ethan Tomas – Greenfield 
NOMINEES: Ben Sutton – OnO
                     Clarence Ryan – One Fine Day
                     Liam Graham – Greenfield

ADG Best Direction – Long Form
WINNER: Prison Songs – Kelrick Martin
NOMINEES: Frackman – Richard Todd
The Reckoning – John V. Soto
The Waler: Australia’s Great War Horse – Russell Vines

ADG Best Direction – Short Form
WINNER: OnO – Lauren Brunswick
NOMINEES: Little Darling Director’s Cut – Damian Smith
One Fine Day – Kelli Cross
Top Knot Detective – Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce

AWG Best Script – Short Film
WINNER: Madhouse – Bill Scheggia
NOMINEES: Maap Mordak – Dot West
OnO – Lauren Brunswick
Setting Them Straight – Kaleb McKenna and Brett Dowson

Lot 20 Best Animation
WINNER: God Squad – Troy Zafer and Nicholas Kempt
NOMINEES: Game Over – Gareth Lockett and Michael Redfern
Reflections – Damian Smith
The One and Only – When I Look At The City – Samantha Johnston – L’unica Productions

FTI Best Interactive Production
WINNER: Dinosaur Discovery Augmented Reality Experience – Hungry Sky and WA Museum
NOMINEES: Choose Your Homage: Chinchilla Hunt – Hayden Fortescue and James Pentecost
#emilywasted – Shelby Shaw and Briege Whitehead – WA Screen Academy at ECU –
Theatrical Response Group – Red Tiki
The Dark Room – John Robertson, Jon Hayward and Jetha Chan

FTI Best Game
WINNER: Drumbeat Quest – Holyoake
NOMINEES: Catnips – SK Games
Square Heroes – Gnomic Studios

Frog Management Best TV Production – Factual
WINNER: Prison Songs – Kelrick Martin and Harry Bardwell
NOMINEES: Birthplace of the Giants – Jodie De Barros, Leighton De Barros and Jonathan Rowdon
Enigma Man – A Stone Age Mystery – Andrew Ogilvie
Who Do You Think You Are? Andrew Denton –  Celia Tait, Brian Beaton and Margie
Bryant – Artemis International and Serendipity Productions

Ultimo Best Visual FX
WINNER: The Amber Sky – Andre Chang Fane and Peng Fu – Rockett Launch
NOMINEES: Enigma Man – A Stone Age Mystery – Mike Dunn – Phimedia
The War That Changed Us – Mike Dunn – Phimedia
These Final Hours – Nathan Stone and Stuart Campbell – Double Barrel
Top Knot Detective – Dominic Pearce, Robert Woods and Steven Hughes

Colonial Brewing Co. Best Music Video
WINNER: Stone Cold Sober – Mathas – Lauren Cleary, Dominic Pearce and Aaron McCann
NOMINEES: Too Much Time Together- San Cisco  – Robert Livings and Luna Laure
The Weapon is Sound – Thundercracker – Dominic Pearce and Luna Laure
Willowbeats – Merewif – Lauren Brunswick, David Vincent Smith and Daniel Craig-
Matsu Photography

Revelation Perth International Film Festival Best Original Music – Long Form
WINNER: Pinch – Ash Gibson Greig
NOMINEES: Enigma Man – A Stone Age Mystery – Ash Gibson Greig
The War That Changed Us – Ash Gibson Greig

Revelation Perth International Film Festival Best Original Music – Short Form
WINNER: God Squad – Ben Chase
NOMINEES: Karroyul – Ash Gibson Greig
Maap Mordak – Lorrae Coffin
The Parting Gift – Andrew Clarke

Best Sound – Long Form
WINNER: Prison Songs – Kim Lord and Glen Martin
NOMINEES: Pinch – Ric Curtin
The Reckoning – Ric Curtin, Glenn Martin and Scott Montgomery
The War That Changed Us – Ric Curtin, Glenn Martin, Ash Charlton and Owen Hughes

Best Sound – Short Form
WINNER: God Squad – Ben Chase
NOMINEES: Karroyul – Ric Curtin and Glenn Martin
Pale Blue Eyes – Ben Nockolds
The Amber Sky – Mathew Dwyer

Happs Best Production Design – Long Form
WINNER: Paper Planes – Clayton Jauncey
NOMINEES: 8MMM – Emma Fletcher
Kill Me Three Times – Clayton Jauncey
The War That Changed Us – Emma Fletcher

Happs Best Production Design – Short Form
WINNER: Top Knot Detective – Matt Willemsen
NOMINEES: Bloom – Onna Evdokimoff
OnO – Alana Starcevich
Wanderer – Sarah Ryan

ScreenWest Outstanding Contribution to the Industry
Gail Pether

Sandbox Best Editing – Long Form
WINNER: Prison Songs – Merlin Cornish
NOMINEES: Birthplace of the Giants – Jonathan Rowdon
Enigma Man – A Stone Age Mystery – Lawrie Silvestrin ASE
The War That Changed Us – Lawrie Silvestrin ASE and David Fosdick

Sandbox Best Editing – Short Form
WINNER: Karroyul  – Lawrie Silvestrin ASE
NOMINEES: Pale Blue Eyes – Joe Henderson
The Amber Sky – Andre Chang Fane
Top Knot Detective – Steven Hughes and Dominic Pearce

Canon Best Cinematography – Long Form
WINNER: The War That Changes Us – Jim Frater
NOMINEES: Birthplace Of The Giants – Leighton De Barros
                     Pinch – Antony Webb
Prison Songs – Torstein Dyrting ACS

Canon Best Cinematography – Short Form
WINNER: Litter Darling Director’s Cut – Damian Smith
NOMINEES: Karroyul – Torstein Dyrting ACS
Pale Blue Eyes – Joel Crane
Top Knot Detective – A.J. Coultier

27th WASA’s People’s Choice Award

By Rhys Graeme-Drury

Last week I had the privilege of attending the People’s Choice Award screenings for the 27th Annual WA Screen Awards. Across three exciting nights, 22 locally produced shorts received their time in the sun courtesy of the big screen at The Backlot in West Perth, with all manner of genres accounted for.

From killer robots, to spiritual journeys of discovery, and irreverent cult comedy wannabes, the entrants covered cinematic tastes of all shapes and sizes. With the winner to be announced shortly, let’s take a look at the cream of the crop – here are my Top 5 picks from the People’s Choice category.


5. One Fine Day
Director: Kelli Cross
Starring: Clarence Ryan & Rarriwuy Hick
Spear Point Productions


What starts as an unassuming insight into a typical, everyday family of four blooms into one of the more poignant and affecting entries from this year’s collection of shorts. One Fine Day is about nothing more than two parents, and a trip to the hospital, and yet, it crams so much emotion into its short runtime that it’ll stick in your mind long after the credits have rolled. Kelli Cross’ direction is gorgeously executed, and supports a rich narrative that explores themes of love and loss that isn’t just deeply personal to her, but to everyone and anyone watching. It’s a touching story told in a simple and subtle manner; Clarence Ryan’s heart-breaking performance has gone on to earn a Best Actor nomination, which says a lot when the script only works dialogue in when absolutely necessary.

We also loved One Fine Day when it screened at Flickerfest earlier in the year, check it out here.


4. High Tide
Director: Kimberley West
Starring: Taj Jamieson & Synae Lane

Bathed in the bronze glow of the hot Broome sun, High Tide is an enchanting story of childhood romance that’ll transport you back in time to your own adolescent courtship days. Directed by Kimberley West, the story centres on Jamie (Taj Jamieson), a boy with his heart torn in different directions by two loves; the girl of his dreams, and fishing trips with his uncle along the coast. When he falls hook, line and sinker for Trudy (Synae Lane) and they take a trip to the movies, Jamie struggles to keep his mind from wandering back to the boat. Interspersed with some gorgeous time lapses, and dreamy editing, High Tide is a slick production that will bring a warm, sentimental smile to your face.


3. Karroyul
Director: Kelrick Martin
Starring: Chanelle Hawkins & Bruce Martin
Factor 30 Films & Spear Point Productions

Karroyul is the tale of an Indigenous girl who, feeling lost and empty after the death of her mother, discovers her past in an unlikely place. Accompanied into the bush by her uncle, Kelly (Chanelle Hawkins) soon finds that her surroundings are rich in Indigenous culture, with the stories of her ancestors waiting amongst the trees ready to be uncovered.

This short film has been showered with WASA nominations this year, and it’s easy to see why; from Ash Gibson Greig’s ethereal score, to Torstein Dyrting’s haunting cinematography and Lawrie Silverstin’s sublime editing, every technical aspect of this production is excellently crafted. The use of sweeping crane shots lends a sense of clarity, as well as drinking in some gorgeous bush scenery. The message might feel a little on the nose, but by highlighting the importance of Indigenous history and heritage, this isn’t a short that should be ignored.


2. Pale Blue Eyes
Director: Joe Henderson
Starring: Ben Mortley & Maddy Culver
Image courtesy of Tanya Voltchanskaya


A man walks into a bar, but what happens next is anything but a witty punchline. Pale Blue Eyes is a heart-pounding thriller from Joe Henderson, and it follows the events of one tragic night at a roadside diner in rural Western Australia.

Through a mixture of creative camerawork and pulsating sound editing, this chilling short builds a thick atmosphere of tension through even the subtlest of details; from the mismatched clothing, to his undisclosed motives, an air of mystery envelops our main character from the moment he steps foot in the claustrophobic setting.

It’s also a film that communicates so much in its short runtime. Like any captivating thriller, Pale Blue Eyes leaves you piecing together all the clues and making sense of it all at the very end. Slick and smart, this David Lynch inspired short balances both substance and style.


1. Top Knot Detective
Director: Aaron McCann & Dominic Pearce
Starring: Toshi Okuzaki & Masa Yamaguchi
Blue Forest Media
 

What do you get when you take a cult 70’s cop show, add a dash of Dan Harmon metahumour, mix in influences of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, and top it all off with lashings of tongue-in-cheek documentary filmmaking? Well, the end result would be something akin to the multi-WASA nominated short film, Top Knot Detective.

Top Knot Detective oozes creative thought, and a deft understanding of genre from the very first frame. From the Roger Moore Bond inspired opening credits, to the goofy file photos, and flimsy sets that wobble, it’s a hilarious unpacking of numerous genre conventions that film fans will lap up.

I’d like to say it was a close fight, but it wasn’t; I loved every second of this inventive short, and never second-guessed its inclusion at the top of this list. Do yourself a favour, and check it out – you won’t regret it.

WASA poster courtesy of FTI

Behind The Scenes – 54 Days

By Tom Munday

54 Days is the latest Australian production counting down the final hours to Judgment Day. The story kicks off, in true alien invasion/para-military strike/nuclear thriller narrative fashion, with a fun get together between our plucky leads. Nick (Michael Drysdale) is seeing Michelle (Michela Carattini) behind her husband Anthony’s (John Michael Burdon) back, whilst Dirk (Gregory J. Wilken) and Liz (Dianna LaGrassa) are caught in the middle. After a biological attack on Sydney, the five become stuck together in a bunker.

Inevitably, 54 Days becomes a swirling vortex of anger-fuelled egos and shocking revelations. Executive Producer/Writer/Director Tim R. Lea establishes himself as one of Australia’s most promising auteurs. His crowd-funded romp is worth praising for sheer determination alone. Sadly, whilst watching this flick, it’s difficult not thinking of preceding post-apocalyptic schlockers, from Skyline to These Final Hours.

Lea’s direction overshadows most of 54 Days’ flaws. His style, making the most of the single-setting format, crafts a wholly discomforting atmosphere throughout. His first feature, though not perfect, foreshadows a successful career for everyone involved. The film has already received immense acclaim, winning such honours as Best Low Budget Feature at the Film Society of Little Rock’s Fantastic Cinema Film Festival 2015, Special Jury Prize for Outstanding Achievement at 30 Dies Festival.

Working off ideas expressed in the short film version, Lea and co. set about the exhaustive transition from short to feature filmmaking with blistering precision. Lea, having begun in corporate finance before the transition, knows the industry’s high and lows first hand. His impressive 12-year screenwriting/producing/directorial resume features 7 feature film works, 3 shorts, and 10 short plays. Lea chatted with Hooked on Film about everything from the feature film process to the world’s inherent misfires.

Still from 54 Days

What challenges did you face transitioning from short film to feature film production, and how did you overcome this?
The biggest challenges we faced were making the plot different, and to explore more of the characters; after all why would an audience pay to see the feature version if it is the same as the short film? I actually wrote 16 different endings, and through improvisation let the characters themselves find the natural ending. Equally, given the movie is in one location for 85% of the time; how do we make it sufficiently interesting so that we are not just filming a stage play? To this end, the plot twists and turns, and there are emotional highs and lows that take the audience on a journey.

You received funding from crowdsourcing opportunities, how did you set up this process? How did it differ the production from preceding projects?
We raised crowdfunding through the Aussie portal Pozible, and had a launch party where we showed the short version of the movie. We served free popcorn and a complimentary glass of wine from our product placement partner Rosnay Organic Wines, and held a Q&A afterwards with a talk from screenwriting guru, Karel Segers as well as an auction of donated gifts. The campaign was launched to raise $54,000 in 54 days, but it was hard work I have to say. Previous productions had been self-funded from credit cards and savings.

How did you find your lead six actors? How did they impact the production process?
Three of the leads I had seen, and had worked with in the theatre. One came from a film making buddy of mine; I met her at one of my mate’s barbecues and the final actor (the lead) we held auditions.

What was it like filming in such small, claustrophobic locations? How did you set up each major shot e.g. the final shot of both rooms?
We shot in a small studio in a Church complex and at one time had 35 people on set. The shoot was only 13 days, so the claustrophobic nature of the location was not too bad, but the small size of the studio did make it feel tight, and the actors felt tight in the space; so it added to their performances. As for the final shot, we took down the flats at the rear of the set, and set up a slow tracking shot, so much so that the director of photography and his team finished up deep into in the carpark. We then played with After Effects to matte out any nasties and apply that magic dust…

The team behind 54 Days

With apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives hitting their strides in Hollywood, how important is this topic to the zeitgeist?
We are in very turbulent times from a geopolitical viewpoint, so it is not surprising it fits with the zeitgeist. That said, the level of paranoia is markedly less than the cold war from the sixties. We have had most support for 54 Days in the US with several references to the “preppers” in reviews and articles… so that says something about the US zeitgeist.

The Australian film industry has been through many recent highs and lows, what could be done to bring bigger audiences and financiers in?
This is a very expansive question….Aussie films do not perform well at the local Box Office; not because they are bad films per se (although there are a few shockers), but because of the power of Hollywood. When you consider the average international marketing budgets for the big studio films now average $200 million, the studios are essentially buying eyeballs. How can an Aussie film hope to compete head-on with Hollywood movies? Fundamentally, it is all about good stories told and executed well, but because the industry is so small, any significant talent has to go overseas to make inroads, and get the better gigs. The way forward would be for more money being put into script development to build better stories. I think also by reducing the thresholds for the Producer’s offset (where you can get 40% of your local expenditure back) would see more local films financed, as there is less risk for equity providers.

Finally, the issue of finance and financiers is not just an Aussie phenomenon. When we were in the US for our premiere, all producers were moaning about cash, or a lack of it. The film industry as a whole is going through massive change at the moment, and the returns on film are generally poor, so if one can make films cheaply there will be more chance of films getting made. So for Aussie films to succeed, like any market, we can’t compete with the big boys. Instead we need great quality genre movies that smaller audiences will see locally, but that also has a wider world market.

Still from 54 Days

Images courtesy of 54 Days Productions

Behind The Scenes: The Angry Man Series

By Corey Hogan

Ever wanted to say something to a rude or disrespectful person in public but couldn’t bring yourself to? In The Angry Man Series, regular guy Andy does just that – standing up to the litterbugs, bad parkers and shirtless of society – there’s no breaker of social etiquette he won’t tackle.

Shot in Perth over a breakneck two days and an independent budget, the webseries stars local comedians Ben Sutton (as Andy) and Sian Choyce. In the vein of Seinfeld, Arrested Development and The Office, the creators of this comedy have taken a different approach and decided to release all six episodes simultaneously online last month in order for maximum distribution and to gain as large a following as possible. I sat down with writer/director Aaron Moss and producer Maya Kavanagh (pictured above. Coproducer Meg McPherson was unable to attend) to discuss the comedy of the production, the challenges of local filmmaking on a micro-budget and the growing potential of online marketing.

CH: First of all, congratulations on The Angry Man Series, can you tell us a bit about how the idea originated and the early stages of production?

AM: I thought it’d be interesting to watch someone speak out when most people want to speak out, but don’t. All of it came from me being angry; I thought to have a character that stands up to people about their social etiquette would make a good series. It might have started with a parking situation actually – I saw someone double parked and I was like, “Do I say something?” then I didn’t, and I wish I had. I knew Maya from other projects we had worked on, so I pitched it to her and she dug it.

CH: The series was self-funded on a relatively small budget, what kind of benefits or challenges did this present, and did it affect the subject matter at all?

MK: The good thing about the ideas Aaron had was that they were all relatively easy to do. They were personal, using real locations and a small cast. The main challenge was how long we shot for; most allow weeks to film a series, but we were on a tight budget so we decided to cram everything into a two day shoot. That was probably more difficult for Aaron than anything else. We decided to shoot three episodes per day then we’d have to move on to the next without thinking “Have I got this shot?” If it wasn’t planned we didn’t do it.

AM: You can’t plan for everything, I guess. A lot of it was in the writing as well; we realised there were a lot of things we couldn’t do as we were restricted on time and money. I wasn’t going to have a scenario where Andy got in a fight or a punch-up as that would get complicated. We had that in mind in the writing stage, so we made a plan and wrote to our budget. I think if we do six more -which we really want to do, and I hope we can get the money for – we would have higher concept ideas in there, and maybe longer episodes. It helped to have restrictions though; it made it easier to write to a budget. That’s how I realised we could do it; it’s just a guy in everyday situations.

Behind the scenes of The Angry Man Series

CH: Did this speedy process of completing filming in two days work in your favour to heighten the comedic value?

AM: Well we stuck to the script as we didn’t really have time to alternate things, but I think more time would have been good because we could have used more improv, and spent more time with the actors. But we cast it well; the actors knew the style of the show so we mostly shot how it was scripted.

MK: The cast all have stand-up backgrounds, so they knew to use their comedy within a timeframe. We organised them based on what episodes and situations would work in a two day shoot, and using that mindset to discover on the day what best suited the cast. We would let the actors improvise when we could, and if it felt more organic than the script we would change it.

AM: I think the scene that changed the most was the one involving the ATM; we let Ben cut loose on that one. That, and the episode with the shirtless man, didn’t have a lot of dialogue on the actual script, but that was good for Ben, as we knew that he would be able to act something out in that scenario. We whittled it down from eight episodes; we went as far as to location scout for one that involved the Angry Man stuck in a car behind a cyclist, but we realised that wouldn’t work into the two days. The ATM scene replaced that one.

CH: What were some of the biggest influences on creating the series?

AM: I looked at a lot of comedies that inspired me; a lot of Ricky Gervais shows like The Office and Extras – that awkward confrontational type humour. Moments you can relate to with anger at someone who does something rude. It was very situational; we wanted as real a reaction as possible. Wanting to act on something that really infuriated me in real life really helped the writing.

Behind the scenes of The Angry Man Series

CH: You’ve taken the increasingly popular Netflix approach in releasing all six episodes at once as a tactic to gain a following. Did this affect the production at all and in hindsight do you feel this decision has been successful?

AM: We planned the production and marketing around that structure; I’d seen other web series that had released an episode per week, and I felt if they were longer episodes people would tune in to the concept. It’s okay to release Game of Thrones once a week, but online you’re clicking away at different websites, and it’s easy to become distracted. Early on we decided to release them all at once on YouTube, then space it out a bit on Facebook, posting one episode at a time.

MK: We didn’t want to restrict the audience in how or when they viewed the series, whether it be one week or six weeks after the launch. When you don’t have a budget or a large fan base yet you have to grab their attention, and get it out there. The episodes are designed to be watched in any order; the idea is that they could circulate the internet, and still be relevant at any time. They’re not referencing an event or year so any audience can connect, and this was made much easier by releasing them all at once. With this strategy you’ve got to factor in the restrictions that professional companies wouldn’t face – we’ve relied a lot on friends and family sharing it and getting the local media involved, and we’ve averaged about a thousand views so I’m very happy with that.

CH: You’ve mentioned that you’d like to continue the series, what would be its future and will you continue to experiment with different methods of distribution to gain exposure and a large audience?

AM: It’s hard to say now, we’d have to wait and see. If we were to make six more we’d do it with money behind us this time, and explore some higher concept ideas since Andy is a character you can place in any situation and watch what happens. You could have it open in say, a football stadium, and think “Okay, what’s going to happen here?”

MK: Anything you do a second time you want to be bigger than the first, so that would be our objective. It would be good to involve the cast more in pre-production, and to really become a part of the online environment. Australians tend to be a bit behind in that area, they’re more dependent on television for comedy. I think that would be the next stage, finding the budget to air on television so Australians will take notice.

Aaron Moss was a recent Top 10 Finalist in the Screencraft Screenwriting Fellowship in L.A. for his first feature screenplay Holly & Tyler. Maya Kavanagh has just been accepted as an intern at the Cannes Film Festival in France. All six episodes of The Angry Man Series are available to watch now at the website, YouTube channel and Facebook page.

theangrymanseries.com

Behind the scenes images courtesy of Mac1 Photography