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With his director Jonathan Taggart, producer Phillip Viannini spent two years documenting the off-grid existence of the sustainable communities in some of Canada’s most extreme wilderness. The result is Life Off Grid, a picturesque and profound insight into the commitment needed to live disconnected from the accepted fossil fuel-driven culture of western society. A Professor and Research Chair at Royal Roads University in Victoria, Canada, Viannini (pictured, below) spoke to SCREEN-SPACE about the vast range of personalities his lens captured, the harsh realities of off-grid living and what Australia can do to further the off-grid cause…

When did you first become aware of the Lasqueti Island ‘Off Grid’ movement, whose residents are central to Life Off Grid?

I visited an off-grid home for the first time in 2008 whilst researching small island lifestyles and I became fascinated by the idea of living in such a different home. Where I live, the Salish Sea archipelago, many islands are off-grid and even those on-grid make use of renewable energy and practice sustainable living. I was first exposed to the Lasqueti community by a student of mine who, incidentally, now lives in Australia. When Jon and I travelled to Lasqueti for the first time I had already visited a few homes on Vancouver Island.  

Via beautiful widescreen images, you capture some extreme locales at their most photogenic. How did you settle on the aesthetics of your film?

Jon and I discussed the aesthetics of the film throughout our travels. We operated on a very small budget and, like many off-gridders--we had to make virtue out of necessity and sought beauty in simplicity. Everything we needed had to be carried by us, on our backs and hands. To get places, we had to bike, canoe, kayak, skidoo, walk, or fly small bush planes. We often stayed at off-grid cabins that we rented for the duration of our travels. Recharging batteries at the end of the day wasn't always easy so we had to carry as little equipment as we needed to recharge. So what you see is the result of a ‘Spartan’ aesthetics: one that would be as mundane as the images and sounds we captured, and therefore one as unassuming and genuine. That's why we have no aerial scenes, no camera tricks, no flashy stuff. We just let our eyes and ears dwell on what was before us--whether that was a live tree or a piece of firewood--and let that come to life. 

How has off-grid living benefitted the Lasqueti community in a ‘human’ sense? How has this living improved their outlook on life?

Practicing an off-grid lifestyle teaches anyone that life isn't easy. It's not meant to be easy. The notion that easy living, extreme comfort, and constant convenience are somehow a modern right--a cornerstone of consumer society and culture--makes absolutely no sense when you live off-grid. Whatever you get, you have to work for. And that has an interesting effect: work's results are more pleasant, easier to enjoy. Anyone who grows their own food will tell you the same thing: vegetables and fruits taste better when you work hard to grow them yourself. Living off grid is not simple, at all, but it allows you to enjoy and cultivate the simple pleasures that your labour yields. 

Has experiencing such commitment to the cause changed your views on the sustainable, off-grid culture?

It has taught both Jon and I that everything has a cost. Before I began this project I would give no thought whatsoever to simple domestic acts such as using a toaster or a microwave. Now I know how many watts/hours those appliances draw. And I am aware of the sources of electricity that generate those watts. I can tell you the precise dams that feed my house. And I know what those dams do to the local ecology.

Some of your subjects are intellectuals, academic types, who have embraced sustainable living philosophies largely because they are financially able to do so. Is off-grid ever going to be an option for the layman?

I can only recall one academic we interviewed. The reality is that most of the 200 or so people we spoke with are carefully self-taught. They're DIY craftsmen and craftswomen who have taught themselves how to wire their house or collect water or build a compost toilet. Some of these people were financially stable. Others lived below the poverty line. Most were middle class. Off-grid living is an option for anyone who is willing to (learn), regardless of income. If you want 50 coastal acres in British Columbia and require a 4 KW/h system to answer your every domestic wish then you'll need a substantial amount of capital. (But) if you can live on a 10acre lot in the prairies and can get by with less than 1 KW/h, you can still live below the poverty line but have richer existence than most people who live on the grid.

Australia seems ideally suited to off-grid acceptance. What are the steps that government bodies and commercial interests can take to inspire action?

Having just visited Tasmania, I was impressed by the solar panels I saw everywhere. I know how much Australians have worked to make their water consumption sustainable. Like Canada, Australia has a densely concentrated population in a few regions and beyond that, there are massive rural and remote lands where the grid simply isn't an option. With the acceptance of a couple of provinces, Canada does little to encourage renewable energy generation, yet it still subsidizes and promotes fossil fuel harvesting. Australia could learn from Canada's bad example and invest more, much more than Canada can possibly do, in the biggest source of energy it has: the sun. Last time I checked on my travels, there was a lot of that.

Life Off Grid will be released in Australia via TUGG Distribution on simultaneous theatrical and VOD platforms on February 4.



The Revenant and Mad Max Fury Road took boasting honours after the nominations for the 2016 Academy Awards were revealed at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles at 5.30am, PT.

Cheryl Boone, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, actor John Krasinki and directors Ang Lee and Guillermo del Toro announced contenders for the 88th annual Oscar feting, to be hosted by Chris Rock on February 28.

Alejandro G. Inaritu’s survival epic led the congested field with 12 nominations, including Film, Director, Best Actor for Leonardo Di Caprio and Best Supporting Actor for Tom Hardy. Mad Max Fury Road, Australian director George Miller’s long-in-gestation reboot of his iconic ‘road warrior’ anti-hero, earned 10 nominations.

The wide-open race for industry top honours led to a Best Picture category of eight nominees, with The Revenant and Mad Max Fury Road duking it out with The Martian (7 nominations); Spotlight (6); Bridge of Spies (6); The Big Short (5); Room (4); and, Brooklyn (3). Despite earning 6 nominations in key creative categories, Todd Haynes’ Carol was a Best Picture no-show, as was the year’s biggest commercial success, JJ Abram’s Star Wars The Force Awakens, the space opera up for John Williams' score and 4 tech categories.

20th Century Fox earned studio bragging rights, with a whopping 26 nominations across all categories; that figure includes 6 shared with Disney, who took second spot with 14 mentions. Warner Bros (11), new indie powerhouse A24 (7) and Oscar veterans The Weinstein Company (9) were next in line, although Carol’s failure to secure a Best Picture nomination does mean brothers Harvey and Bob don’t have a dog in that fight for the first time since 2007.

The most prominent no-show is director Ridley Scott, shut-out of the Best Director race despite across-the-board attention for The Martian. Also feeling unloved would be Fury Road's Best Actress hopeful Charlize Theron; Paul Dano (Supporting Actor sure thing a month ago for Love & Mercy); Michael Keaton (early Actor front-runner for Spotlight); Aaron Sorkin (a Golden Globe winner and WGA nominee for Steve Jobs); Kristen Stewart (Supporting Actress Cesar winner for Clouds of Sils Maria); Jacob Tremblay (the breakout star of Room); and, Johnny Depp (denied a sentimental Best Actor slot for Black Mass). Others long in the face this morning are Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies); director Alex Gibney (Scientology doco Going Clear); 99 Homes writer/director Ramin Bahrani and star Michael Shannon; Original Song hopeful ‘See You Again’, from Furious 7; the visual and sound effects supervisors on 2015's other survival epic, Baltasar Kormakur's Everest; and, the creative teams behind animated hits The Good Dinosaur and The Peanuts Movie.

The ‘Selma Snubbing’ of 2015 and the editorial outrage that followed did not seem to have any noticeable impact on Academy members; no African-American actors feature in any of the acting categories, despite the likes of Will Smith (Concussion), Michael B Jordan (Creed), Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation) and Samuel L Jackson (The Hateful Eight) all in the running, as were urban-themed pics Straight Outta Compton (1 nod, for Original Screenplay) and Tangerine.

The full list of 2016 Oscars nominees:

Best motion picture of the year:
The Big Short - Producers: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner
Bridge of Spies- Producers: Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger
Brooklyn - Producers: Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey
Mad Max Fury Road - Producers: Doug Mitchell and George Miller
The Martian - Producers: Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer and MarkHuffam
The Revenant - Producers: Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Inarritu, Mary Parent and Keith Redmon
Room - Producer: Ed Guiney
Spotlight: - Producers: Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin and Blye Pagon Faust

Performance by an actor in a leading role:
Bryan Cranston in “Trumbo”
Matt Damon in “The Martian”
Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant”
Michael Fassbender in “Steve Jobs”
Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl”

Performance by an actress in a leading role:
Cate Blanchett in “Carol”
Brie Larson in “Room”
Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy”
Charlotte Rampling in “45 Years”
Saoirse Ronan in “Brooklyn”

Performance by an actor in a supporting role:
Christian Bale in “The Big Short”
Tom Hardy in “The Revenant”
Mark Ruffalo in “Spotlight”
Mark Rylance in “Bridge of Spies”
Sylvester Stallone in “Creed”

Performance by an actress in a supporting role:
Jennifer Jason Leigh in “The Hateful Eight”
Rooney Mara in “Carol”
Rachel McAdams in “Spotlight”
Alicia Vikander in “The Danish Girl”
Kate Winslet in “Steve Jobs”

Achievement in directing:
“The Big Short” Adam McKay
“Mad Max: Fury Road” George Miller
“The Revenant” Alejandro G. Iñárritu
“Room” Lenny Abrahamson
“Spotlight” Tom McCarthy

Adapted screenplay:
“The Big Short” Screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
“Brooklyn” Screenplay by Nick Hornby
“Carol” Screenplay by Phyllis Nagy
“The Martian” Screenplay by Drew Goddard
“Room” Screenplay by Emma Donoghue

Original screenplay:
“Bridge of Spies” Written by Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
“Ex Machina” Written by Alex Garland
“Inside Out” Screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Original story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen
“Spotlight” Written by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy
“Straight Outta Compton” Screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff; Story by S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff

Best animated feature film of the year:
“Anomalisa” Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson and Rosa Tran
“Boy and the World” Alê Abreu
“Inside Out” Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera
“Shaun the Sheep Movie” Mark Burton and Richard Starzak
“When Marnie Was There” Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura

Best documentary feature:
“Amy” Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees
“Cartel Land” Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin
“The Look of Silence” Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
“What Happened, Miss Simone?” Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby and Justin Wilkes
“Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” Evgeny Afineevsky and Den Tolmor

Best foreign language film of the year:
“Embrace of the Serpent” Colombia
“Mustang” France
“Son of Saul” Hungary
“Theeb” Jordan
“A War” Denmark

Achievement in cinematography:
“Carol” Ed Lachman
“The Hateful Eight” Robert Richardson
“Mad Max: Fury Road” John Seale
“The Revenant” Emmanuel Lubezki
“Sicario” Roger Deakins

Achievement in costume design:
“Carol” Sandy Powell
“Cinderella” Sandy Powell
“The Danish Girl” Paco Delgado
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Jenny Beavan
“The Revenant” Jacqueline West

Best documentary short subject:
“Body Team 12” David Darg and Bryn Mooser
“Chau, beyond the Lines” Courtney Marsh and Jerry Franck
“Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah” Adam Benzine
“A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
“Last Day of Freedom” Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman

Achievement in film editing:
“The Big Short” Hank Corwin
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Margaret Sixel
“The Revenant” Stephen Mirrione
“Spotlight” Tom McArdle
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling:
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin
“The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared” Love Larson and Eva von Bahr
“The Revenant” Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score):
“Bridge of Spies” Thomas Newman
“Carol” Carter Burwell
“The Hateful Eight” Ennio Morricone
“Sicario” Jóhann Jóhannsson
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” John Williams

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song):
“Earned It” from “Fifty Shades of Grey”
Music and Lyric by Abel Tesfaye, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala Quenneville and Stephan Moccio
“Manta Ray” from “Racing Extinction”
Music by J. Ralph and Lyric by Antony Hegarty
“Simple Song #3” from “Youth”
Music and Lyric by David Lang
“Til It Happens To You” from “The Hunting Ground”
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga
“Writing’s On The Wall” from “Spectre”
Music and Lyric by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith

Achievement in production design:
“Bridge of Spies” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo and Bernhard Henrich
“The Danish Girl” Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Michael Standish
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Production Design: Colin Gibson; Set Decoration: Lisa Thompson
“The Martian” Production Design: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Celia Bobak
“The Revenant” Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Hamish Purdy

Best animated short film:
“Bear Story” Gabriel Osorio and Pato Escala
“Prologue” Richard Williams and Imogen Sutton
“Sanjay’s Super Team” Sanjay Patel and Nicole Grindle
“We Can’t Live without Cosmos” Konstantin Bronzit
“World of Tomorrow” Don Hertzfeldt

Best live action short film:
“Ave Maria” Basil Khalil and Eric Dupont
“Day One” Henry Hughes
“Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)” Patrick Vollrath
“Shok” Jamie Donoughue
“Stutterer” Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage

Achievement in sound editing:
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Mark Mangini and David White
“The Martian” Oliver Tarney
“The Revenant” Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender
“Sicario” Alan Robert Murray
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Matthew Wood and David Acord

Achievement in sound mixing:
“Bridge of Spies” Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Drew Kunin
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo
“The Martian” Paul Massey, Mark Taylor and Mac Ruth
“The Revenant” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Chris Duesterdiek
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson

Achievement in visual effects:
“Ex Machina” Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams
“The Martian” Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence and Steven Warner
“The Revenant” Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould



To inspire her 2016 programming choices, Brisbane Underground Film Festival (BUFF) director Nina Riddel has drawn upon the wisdom of alternative culture icon John Waters. “I like the word ‘underground’,” the legendary film maker once said, “’independent’ carries a stigma of whininess. ‘Underground’ means a good time.” And the 6th edition of BUFF, launching February 5 at the New Farm Cinemas in Queensland's state capital, ensures all manner of ‘good times’, with films offering unique riffs on cannibalism, baby-making, white-trash auteur cinema, dismemberment and non-sequel sequels…

“You're likely to be challenged, be it viscerally or intellectually,” says Riddel, a Brisbane native who now calls New York City home. “Underground consists of both high-brow, (such as) experimental film and video art, and low-brow exploitation & amateur cinema, but avoids the palatable middle where most entertainment resides. I would say that most films (at BUFF) this year consist of a combination of both.”

Since the inaugural festival in 2010, the festival’s reputation has helped to secure such international counter-culture classics as Dogtooth, Hobo With a Shotgun, White Reindeer and You Are What You Eat. The line-up has most often reflected the modern definition of underground cinema as a decentralised force. “It's not just a scene in New York or Chicago, and digital technology has encouraged way more untrained, gung-ho people to make work which I find very exciting,” says Riddel. “I think the internet has changed which boundaries are still there to push, but people will always have something - often something truly odd - to say. BUFF is a place for that to be heard.” (Pictured, right; Nina Riddel)

Although her festival’s scope for admissions is borderless, Riddel is firm in her belief that the event reflects its origins. “BUFF's identity is defined by the film scene (of Brisbane),” she explains. Her programming ethos reflects, “what local filmmakers are doing, what features are missing from cinemas here that might be uniquely relevant to our political or artistic landscape, and my own personal taste.” She has established a strong network with the programmers of respected underground film events such as those in Boston, Sydney and Chicago (“We don't always play the same movies but we share the same interests”) and determinedly networks with key figures to ensure her sessions bring the latest in alternative film visions. “Underground film people are so approachable that you can see a legendary movie, idolize its creator, and very quickly be getting drunk with that person and seeing pictures of their baby on Facebook,” she points out.

The six features filling the bill over the 3-day 2016 edition represent the dark corners and individualistic artistry of independent cinema. Opening night honours go to Todd Rohal’s Uncle Kent 2, in which star Kent Osborne (as himself) desperately searches for someone to love his pitch for a sequel to Joe Swanberg’s little-seen 2011 film, while contemplating ‘The Singularity Apocalypse’. “It's silly, it’s fun,” enthuses Riddel, “the strangest, most exciting film I've seen in a long time, and you don't have to have seen Uncle Kent; I haven't!” Hollywood outcast Adam Rifkin (The Dark Backward; Detroit Rock City) directs the grimy, ‘Dogma’-esque trailer-park black comedy, Guiseppe Makes a Movie; Chilean auteur Sebastian Silva (The Maid; Magic Magic) helms an against-type Kristen Wiig in the NYC-set Nasty Baby; Onur Turkel’s Applesauce features Dylan Baker as the talkback jock being stalked by an unhinged fan (Says Riddel, “It feels like a smart New York comedy which happens to contain a lot of severed limbs.”)

Perhaps most confronting for Brisbane patrons will be writer/director Caroline Golum’s debut feature A Feast of Man, a searing social satire that asks ‘How far would you go to inherit a billionaire’s fortune?’ (hint: the answer is in the film’s title.) “It illustrates how utterly devious upper-class people can be,” says Riddel of the film, which has its Australian premiere at BUFF. Closing out the festival on Sunday 7th will be Gabriel Ripstein’s 600 Miles, a tough two-hander starring Tim Roth as a captured ATF officer and Krystan Ferrer as the small-scale drug runner delivering the agent to his drug lord boss.

Australian talent comes to the fore in the short-film selections, with works from Matthew Victor Pastor (Valentine’s Day, 6 mins); Sam Sexton (Drack, 7 mins); Riley Maher (Your Summer Dream, 4 mins); and, co-directors Sam Rogers and Nick Harrold (Prey for Rain, 7 mins). The other short slots are filled by New Zealand director Natasha Cantwell’s Lauren (2 mins) and the VFX showcase Double Blind No 1 (2 mins; pictured, top) from the LA-based collective of Zenon Kohler, Jasper St Aubyn West, Ian Anderson, Ricky Marks and Raoul Teague.

By definition, ‘underground films’ rarely come with marketing budgets or high profiles attached. But Riddel is adamant that is precisely why such films need the theatrical exposure that BUFF offers. “I like undiscovered gems, movies that need help getting seen,” she says. “It's tempting to believe that the movies with huge marketing budgets and national releases are the only ones worth paying attention to. But there's a whole world of other stuff out there that's better, (made by) people excited to get their movies seen. It makes their work purer.”

Full ticket and venue information for the 2016 Brisbane Underground Film Festival can be found at the official website.



It would become known as ‘Black Saturday’, the day in February 2009 never to be forgotten by Australians. In the hinterland of the southern state of Victoria, bushfires decimated acres, laying to waste rural communities like Marysville, where 45 lives were lost. Filmmaker Anne Richey knew the area well and was devastated by the destruction. In the wake of the disaster, she was inspired to tell a story filled with hope and human spirit; and so was borne The Weatherman’s Umbrella, a fairy tale adventure bringing to life the unique artistry of a Marysville landmark, Bruno’s Sculpture Garden….

“I first visited Marysville for the National Screenwriters’ Conference about a year before the fires,” says Richey, ahead of a public screening of her film at Federation Square in Melbourne’s CBD. “I fell in love with the gorgeous little town.” Central to its charms was the work of Bruno Torfs, a South American-born artist who had crafted unique life-sized figures that greeted guests who walked a rainforest track in the heart of Marysville known as the ‘Sculpture Garden’. The artist’s estate was all but destroyed by the ‘Black Saturday’ flames. Recalls Richey, “I kept returning to the images over the following year or so, and when I heard that the garden had reopened I visited the town to see if Bruno would mind if I wrote a film inspired by his gorgeous garden.”

Richey’s narrative framework uses much that family audiences will recognise from fairy tale lore. “Sarah’s journey echoes stories like Alice in Wonderland or The Secret Garden,” she admits. Played by ingénue Lily Morrow (pictured, top), our heroine encounters various eccentric denizens of a mystical forest as she helps a dithering weatherman (local identity Daryl Hull; pictured, right, with Morrow) find his lost parasol. Unlike the evening news variety who merely report and predict, Sarah’s new friend creates weather, and without his umbrella the region will go without rain.

Early in the script’s development, Richey organised a reading for the Marysville community in which Australian acting great John Wood voiced the titular role (the actor’s prior commitments prevented his casting in the film). “It was very important to me that it be done this way. I wanted to make sure that everyone was okay with the content of the story before we began making the film,” says Richey. “Fortunately, we didn’t receive any negative comments, and I think it helped that people knew about the storyline (before) helping out.”

Ineligible for funding via both Screen Australia and Film Victoria, a determined Richey moved ahead with the shoot regardless, employing a no-budget work ethic that utilised non-pro actors (with the exception of industry veteran John Flaus, as Sarah’s Great Grandfather; pictured, right, with Morrow and co-star Jacob Vulfs) and crew drawn from the township and its surrounds. For Richey, this bare-bones approach proved a godsend. “It seemed as though every time I vaguely mentioned needing something, it (not only) appeared but was in a form which was so much better than I could have imagined,” she says. “It was a very lucky shoot in so many ways. When there’s virtually no budget, everything needs to be done creatively, and because of this it became a real community effort.”

It may be the ‘community effort’ - the spirited sense of small town unity that the 16-month weekend shooting schedule captured - which proves to be The Weatherman’s Umbrella greatest legacy. “It’s a film which showcases the amazing talents and extraordinary landscapes around Marysville,” Richey says, who fostered the sense of family by using key locations and props that held special meaning for locals in the wake of the bushfire disaster. “While we were making the film, quite a few people told me that (we) had arrived at the perfect time. (Our) film didn’t have anything to do with the fires but was just about making something fun. People had rebuilt their homes and I think were looking for a way of moving forward.”

For Richey, whatever positive energy the people of Marysville draw from her film merely reflects the unwavering commitment that they contributed. “It’s been great to see so many people in the area helping the film along its way,” she says. “The people involved in the film were so welcoming towards the project, and they were so inspiring. They’re such a generous, talented and kind group of people.”

Footnote: Bruno’s Sculpture Garden has been fully restored and now features over 120 of Torf’s original works; it was recently included amongst the 100 ‘Essential Experiences’ tourist sites in Victoria by the travel website Experience Oz. In The Weatherman’s Umbrella, Torf can be seen in the role of ‘Bearded Man’ (pictured, above).

Anne Richey will present The Weatherman’s Umbrella at a special event screening on Thursday, January 14 at Healesville Memorial Hall, Victoria. The film is available for community screening bookings via Fan-Force.



Michael Paré is a rare talent, embodying the phrase ‘a great character actor in a leading man’s body’. His iconic roles – Tom Cody in Streets of Fire; Eddie in Eddie and The Cruisers; David in The Philadelphia Experiment – are recalled with reverential glee by a generation of moviegoers. Since those heady days, the Brooklyn native has worked ceaselessly, alongside such eclectic filmmaking talents as Roland Emmerich (Moon 44), Eric Red (Bad Moon; 100 Feet), John Carpenter (Village of The Damned), Uwe Boll (BloodRayne; Seed) and Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides). His latest is The Shelter, writer/director John Fallon’s dramatic psychological-thriller. Following the film’s recent screening at A Night of Horror Film Festival (ANOH) in Sydney, organisers determined that the time was right to honour Michael Paré for his contribution to cinema; he became the inaugural recipient of the event’s Career Achievement Award.

In the wake of the honour, Paré spoke with SCREEN-SPACE editor (and ANOH Jury President) Simon Foster from his LA home about his latest film, the actors who still inspire him and the time he spent Down Under…

Before we focus in on The Shelter, I want to ask you about Undercover, an Australian film you made what must feel like a hundred years ago. How did you end up in director David Steven’s comedy about women’s underwear?

(Laughs) Well, David was in LA casting and I got sent the script, right after I’d done Eddie and The Cruisers. I thought, ‘Wow, a period piece,’ but one that   wasn’t rock’n’roll and wasn’t action and seemed like a lot fun. I met David but I was a day late for the audition, he was getting ready to leave to fly home. And he gave me the job. It was my first job outside of the US. I needed to get a passport to make this film on the other side of the planet. I loved the experience; it was great time. I wish I could get back to Australia to work again. (Pictured, right; Paré with co-star Genevieve Picot in 1983's Undercover)

The Career Achievement honour at A Night of Horror was inspired by your performance in The Shelter. The complexity of your performance reflects a dedication to the craft nurtured over time. It is among your best work…

Thanks a lot, it was a great pleasure. It was a thing of love, not something that anyone thought was going to be very commercial. But it is a very dramatic story, great cinematography and a very impassioned crew and cast. It was a great experience.

Your character, Thomas, goes through a vast arc - guilt, grief, corrosive memories, the quest for redemption. Tell me about your impressions of the character when you first read John’s script…

The pain and suffering that a person can bring on themselves, the cost of not being aware of the impact of your actions on others; that misery and suffering and despair and guilt and remorse. These are incredibly powerful and painful emotions to experience. And they were brought on Thomas by his own actions, his own weakness. Not to pontificate, but a lot of pain and suffering is brought on by one’s own behaviour and it’s very sad. Nobody has to punish you, (yet) you often do it to yourself. It is an amazing thing to see. It is an interesting thing for me to explore, because I play a lot of heroes, cop stuff and detective stuff. But this was a small movie, filled with humanity.

How close did your interpretation of Thomas mesh with John’s vision?

The facts were all in the script. How they were going to manifest through me, the actor, hadn’t been worked out, of course. But John had seen a lot of my work and we were kind of buddies. He was there when we shot Bad Moon; he was with us in Hungary when we shot 100 Feet. Our mutual friend, Eric Red, and John and I have spent a lot of time together. So just talking with him about this subject matter, John could tell that I understood what he was going for. (Pictured, right: producer Donny Broussard, director John Fallon with Paré on the set of The Shelter)

I know your acting heroes are Brando and Dean; am I right in observing there is some of their dedication to character in your performance?

I didn’t try to imitate any other actor but I admired their performances so much and that they gave up so much of their souls to be photographed. So when you see such a powerful guy like Marlon Brando collapse in front of the apartment in A Streetcar Named Desire because he is so lonely and desperate and hungry for Stella, to see this brute is also such a baby. To find this strong, physical guy is so emotionally handicapped (means) a strong similarity between Stanley and Thomas exists. And in Rebel Without a Cause, Dean has that great scene when he’s watching his parents fight and he has that great line, “You’re tearing me apart,” because he cant figure out what is right or wrong anymore. Yeah, that’s inspiring. That’s Jimmy Dean, the coolest man in the world at the time and he’s willing to show this incredible vulnerability. So, yes, inspiration but not imitation.

Whether it’s the big studio pictures like The Lincoln Lawyer or the Uwe Boll stuff or smaller, prestige pics like The Shelter, 121 IMDb credits suggests an incredible work ethic. How would you sum up your philosophy of your craft and the industry you’ve been part of for so long?

It doesn’t matter what size the budget is, my job as an actor is the same. I have to do my preparation, be on time, hit my marks and create a performance. The tape on the floor isn’t that expensive (laughs). Whether it’s a $50,000 camera or some little handheld thing, my job’s the same. Ask any thespian; when they step on stage in some little town in the middle of nowhere, it is the same as stepping on a stage anywhere. The audiences might be big or small, the projects are never the same, but the job is always the same.