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The name Kristen Condon doesn't register with the numbed masses of middle-class suburbia. But for the counter-cultural types that embrace the alternative edge of our national cinema, the actress is one of the brightest, most enigmatic stars in their dark, often disturbing universe. At the 2015 Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF), Condon features in no less than four films from directors at the forefront of subversive cinema. “Many of the best filmmakers to come out of Australia have their roots in this community,” Condon tells SCREEN-SPACE, “It is an invaluable talent pool to be involved with and an integral part of Melbourne’s alternative culture.”

Kristen Condon has built an impressive resume of indie sector roles (The Beautiful and Damned, 2010; Ricky! The Movie, 2010; Start Options Exit, 2014; Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla, 2014) and been seen by 2million YouTubers as co-star of the 2013 Tropfest runner-up, Makeover. That experience affords her unique insight into the low-budget filmmaking process, knowledge that she drew upon when asked to recall her time shooting the four movies in which she can be seen at MUFF 2015… 

Under a Kaleidoscope (Dir: Addison Heath; 2014)
Addison Heath’s directorial debut features Condon as Beatrice, the abused neighbour to oddball shut-in Caleb (Kenji Shimada). The pair bond through their adjoining wall and form a friendship that draws Caleb out of his home and ultimately himself, albeit into the violent world of Beatrice’s gangster boyfriend.
Says Condon, “This was my most challenging role to date. From the start I knew Beatrice’s story had to be portrayed with the upmost respect for victims of intense physical abuse. I tried to bring a dimension to the character that people could empathize with. At it’s core this is the tale of a girl who feels trapped. I can relate to feeling trapped, in other ways to Beatrice, and this feeling was what I believe anchored my performance. Addison is an exceptional filmmaker and human being.  

Sizzler 77 (Dir: Timothy Spanos; 2015)
Alt-sector heavyweight Timothy Spanos’ indulges in some retro inner-city criminal (and comedic) mayhem, with hookers, pimps and undercover cops all decked out in the afros, platforms and bell-bottoms of the Summer of ‘77. Condon brings the funny as Vivian; in one memorable, she goes laugh-for-laugh with Tim Burn’s outrageous underworld kingpin, ‘Bossy Jim.’
Says Condon, “The two best things a comedic actress can be given are a script with a clear objective and an objective that is too great for the character to achieve. Tim is an actor’s director; he directs, acts and edits in his head on a shoot. It was apparent he knew precisely how he would cut the scenes together. This ability to see the big picture makes it easy to trust Tim. And trusting him is especially important when I am asked to don an afro wig, silver platform boots, a revealing halter neck dress and scream ‘PIG!!!!!!!’ multiple times in a suburban street.”

The Second Coming (Dir: Richard Wolstencroft; 2015)
Part 1 of his wildly experimental take on W.B. Yeats classic poem, MUFF Festival Director (and Condon’s real-life partner) Richard Wolstencroft presents his sixth feature as a ‘Special Event’ screening. In a cast that includes seemingly free-form acting contributions from the likes of adult industry identities Michael Tierney and William Margold, bad-boy rocker Pete Doherty and writer Gene Gregoritis (of ‘Sex & Guts’ magazine fame), Condon appears fleetingly ahead of an expanded role in Part 2. She was, however, present for much of the five-year shoot across several continents.
Says Condon, “Richard wanted to push things with this new film, to do something he hadn't done before.  Adopting techniques used by the likes of Paul Morrissey, Kenneth Anger and Terrence Malick, Richard wanted to try some more experimental methods of working. This approach is refreshing, fascinating, if sometimes at a little scary. It’s an entirely improvised story; Richard would wait until moments before rolling to tell me a scene and what it was about. Working as an actor that, not knowing how all the scenes would fit together, can be challenging.”

Lesbo-A-Go-Go (Dir: Andrew Leavold; 2003)
A decade before his obsession with Pinoy cinema led to the cult doco The Search for Weng Weng (also at MUFF 2015), Andrew Leavold unleashed upon the world this mockumentary chronicling the tawdry, debauched, hedonistic-fuelled downfall of 60s pornographer Doris Wishman. For the youthful, impressionable Kristen Condon, it was only her second time on a feature film set. (Also screening is Jarret Gahan’s making-of account, Gone Lesbo Gone: The Untold Tale of an Unseen Film.)
Says Condon, “Back in 2003, when I first entered the doors of Andrew’s legendary cult video store Trash Video, I had no idea what I was in for.  I just wanted to borrow a video, yet somehow became a part of his bizarre and wonderful film. Andrew is as fun and spontaneous a character as he is a director. I am so pleased to have been part of his first feature. I am only in Lesbo–A–Go-Go for a moment though, so blink and you’ll miss me.”

The 2015 Melbourne Underground Film Festival runs September 11-19. Ticketing and session information can be  found at the official website.

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