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Thursday
Nov072013

WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE: THE ANDREW TRAUCKI INTERVIEW

Andrew Traucki has waded knee-deep through swamps to convey the terror of a crocodile attack in Black Water and plunged into the open ocean to capture the horror of being stalked by a Great White Shark in The Reef. His latest on-location horror shoot is The Jungle, a supernatural thriller that pits two Australian men (lead actor Rupert Reid and Traucki himself) against an unseen force in the Indonesian rainforest. Ahead of his films screening at Monster Fest, SCREEN-SPACE delves into the filmmaker’s love for wilderness stories, shooting on location in Indonesia and the skills needed to pull off his first found-footage film…

How does The Jungle fit thematically with Black Water and The Reef? Is there a common thread that binds your man-vs-nature trilogy?

The film sort of has a man-vs-nature theme, but the creature in The Jungle is more of a supernatural human predator. This film plays more like a man-vs-man film. Honestly, The Jungle is a very different film to Black Water and The Reef. They were both based on true stories and have more to do with survival and luck. The Jungle examines pride and hubris, albeit in a dangerous, wilderness setting.

How specifically do the local Indonesian customs play into the narrative? Were you conscious of integrating the folk-lore of the region?

I did considerable research into the supernatural and contemporary shape-shifter myths. There are specific influences that stem from cultural beliefs inherent to Indonesian lore (pictured, right: actor Rupert Reid, right, with local cast members).

There was a hand-held component to your past films, but a straight-out found-footage film is a new aesthetic for you. What had to be done right and what were the pitfalls that had to be avoided?

I found it a huge challenge. The form really subverts conventional filmmaking in many ways. For example, trying to keep the story as ‘real’ as possible meant it was very hard to come up with a story that had all the beats and structure in a conventional sense. Also, there is no music, which thrillers rely on heavily. In many ways, you are throwing out all that you know about filmmaking and starting again.

Mastering the found-footage coverage was one of only a handful of challenges you faced. You step in front of your own camera for the first time; you direct in dense Indonesian forest; your film was independently financed. In hindsight, what was the toughest element of the film’s production (pictured, left; Traucki)?

There were many physical challenges, especially given that at one point, it rained for a week during filming. There was so much mud! Ultimately, I think the toughest challenge was trying to make a film that was engaging and compelling using the found footage format. When you are trying to make a film that feels brutally honest and real, it can be very hard to stay true to your story and get genre tropes into the film that don’t feel fake. There are times when you have to make the decision ‘Do I go for story tropes?’ or ‘Do I keep the film feeling real?’

Monday
Nov042013

THE KILLER INSIDE ME: THE DUNCAN CUNNINGHAM INTERVIEW

He created Foresight Killer Instinct, the Ozploitation sensation that spins modern riffs on the age-old vigilante killer theme. But writer/director Duncan Cunningham (pictured, below; far right, with key cast) is an old-school B-movie producer at heart; unprompted, he describes his film as “born of my twisted thoughts, perished on paper, resurrected by my minions, killed onto film and manipulated in a particular order to spawn like the rotting corpse of a zombie from hell.” Subtle. Ahead of its screening at Monster Fest 2013, SCREEN-SPACE spoke to Cunningham about the Aussie classics that inspired him, shooting a no-budget film over six years and what it took to get the film seen by 200,000 webheads worldwide…

What is it about you and your relationship to your film that kept it alive all these years?

I am in love with the process of creating a world full of characters that didn't exist. And to see what you have created in a moving picture is phenomenal. I envisioned it back in 2008 with just an idea and I had to stick with it and get it made and get it out there otherwise no one would see it. I made it to be seen. I didn't want to see it die after all my years of hard work. If people like it too, all the better; if not, it's still out there, something that I have created from nothing. I wanted to see my wicked, twisted baby spawned into the world. 

What are the influences that come thru in your script and direction?

A lot of the influence is from Australian films like Mad Max and Stone (pictured, right) - gritty, dark, revenge-driven police and biker films. The anti-heroes like Batman, The Punisher and Wolverine were also influences. I read a lot of true crime books and watched documentaries about serial killers to come up with the killers in the film. I also wanted the characters to have (clear) mental disorders. Det. Lance Steel, we had a ball with (going from one) extreme to the next.

Describe the onset environment. How did you inspire the actors to maintain such an energy throughout the shoot?

I put in a lot of effort and lead by example. I was the first one on set and the last to leave, then I'd go home and watch the rushes to see what we had and then up again the next day. I gave lots of reassurance and positivity, I was a bit of a counsellor on set too (laughs). Oh, and lots of energy drinks and free food! (pictured, below; on-set photo of key cast and crew

It looks like a lot of post work went into creating the look and feel of the film. Describe the different energy needed to be creative in that environment compared to the energy of the location shoot?

You have to be able to self motivate. It was (largely) just me in post, editing and chatting with my visual effects guy. (There were) a lot of late nights, trying to get things right and watching it over and over again. If I didn't do that, it wasn't going to get made. Onset was more fun and exciting; post was like putting a jigsaw together, very time consuming but fulfilling as well as your seeing your creation coming to life. 

Finally, the YouTube numbers. It's likely there'll be AFI award winners that don't get seen by that many people. Can you hold FKI up as a frontrunner for a new distribution model?

I got to a point where I just wanted people to see the movie, regardless of accolades or profit. I was astounded that just putting it up on YouTube (meant that it) got 200,000+ views before being flagged and taken down for content inappropriate (laughs). But that didn't stop people wanting to watch it from around the world. It went on the torrents, being subtitled in different languages, downloaded thousands of times and with people creating different DVD covers. It's pretty cool.  

Read the SCREEN-SPACE review of Foresight Killer Instinct here.
Check the Monster Fest 2013 website for screening details.

Saturday
Nov022013

OVER THE TOP: TILT 2013 SET TO GET HEARTS PUMPING

It takes a lot to get the thrillseeking extreme sports enthusiast off the slopes or away from the waves. But the TILT Action Sports Film Festival has found a way – bring together some of the most cutting-edge sports action cinema in the world for 5 nights of indoor exhilaration.

TILT is the brainchild of Michael Lawrence, owner of the on-demand sports movie supplier, Garage Entertainment. As Festival Director, he oversaw submissions from all over the world before settling on the nine films that will screen nationally from November 11.

“We felt we needed a lightning rod of sorts to attract international filmmakers to what we do at Garage,” Lawrence says. “An opportunity to have their works shown on the bigscreen as part of a countrywide festival has proven a huge drawcard” The films will all be available for viewing online a week after the festival wraps.

Lawrence also points out that the availability of ultra-lite digital camera technology, such as the Action Cam range from the event sponsor Sony, ensures footage is not only totally immersive but also of a theatrical quality. “The emergence of these new cameras is breaking new ground in the sports film area,” he says.

TILT 2013 will kick off with McConkey, a Tribeca Film Festival entrant that documents the short life and thrilling times of freeski/base-jumping legend Shane McConkey. Over the subsequent evenings, TILT will screen works that feature different skillsets within the extreme sports field.

SKATE NIGHT: One of the most influential figures in modern sports cinema, Stacy Peralta (Dogtown and Z-Boys; Riding Giants), examines the creation of the modern skateboarding mythology in Bones Brigade, a look at the six teenage boys who bonded in the early 1980’s (among them Tony Alva and Tony Hawk; pictured top) and changed the sport forever. And Jason Rosenberg’s biographical study of inspirational pro-skateboarder Danny Way, called Waiting for Lightning, which includes Way’s now-legendary leap over the Great Wall of China.

SURF NIGHT: Already a cult favourite, Simon Lamb’s Serendipity recounts the story of Tony Hussein Hinde and Mark Scanlon, two Australian men who shipwrecked themselves in The Maldives in 1973 and would ultimately help define both the region and their own sense of spirituality through surfing. Also screening is the compilation film Innersection: Black, an experimental concept that utilises footage compiled by surfers and fans distilled into a feature-length film.

SNOW NIGHT: Matt Pain’s highly-acclaimed French/Canadian co-production Few Words tells the story of freestyle skiing pioneer, Candide Thevox; and, Eric Crosland’s and Dave Mossop’s breathtaking man-vs-nature take on existentialism, Into the Mind, featuring a lone skier (played by Joshua Pak) and the mental and physical struggle he undertakes to conquer the great peaks of the world.

SURF NIGHT 2: TILT 2013 closes out with a double celebration of the great Australian two-time world champion surfer, Mick Fanning. Following a rare  bigscreen showing of the short doco Fanning the Fire, TILT will screen the world premiere of Taylor Steele’s Missing, featuring Fanning on a surfing odyssey of the filmmaker’s planning.

The TILT Action Sports Film Festival begins November 11 in select theatres across Australia. Check the website for session times and tickets.

Monday
Oct212013

CREEPSHOW: THE MONSTER FEST 2013 PREVIEW

Securing the star of the scariest horror movie of all time has proved a major coup for Monster Fest 2013. Taking place in Melbourne from November 21, this relative newcomer to Australia’s film festival landscape is swiftly establishing a reputation as the thinking genre fan’s must-attend annual event.

Founded in November 2011, Monster Fest is the brainchild of Neil Foley, the passionate and respected head of Monster Pictures, Australia’s leading distributor of international cult titles. On the festival’s webpage, Foley states, “Monster Fest champions films that challenge our imaginations, films that confront our fears, films that twist our realities. These are the films that make us swoon and salivate and these are the films we try to program at Monster Fest.”

In 2013, Monster Fest can bost of the presence of Linda Blair, child-star of William Friedkin’s ground-breaking 1973 horror classic The Exorcist. A 40th anniversary celebration will open MonsterFest; on November 21st, Blair will be present for a screening of the film, followed by a Q&A and meet-&-greet function, before fronting a nationwide screening tour.

Blair’s presence will be one of several events that highlight the Festival’s commitment to fan passion and genre icons. Make-up great Tom Savini (pictured, right) will Skype-link a Q&A session that will accompany a screening of Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk ‘til Dawn; Nightmare on Elm Street’s 1 through 6 will fill a midnight-to-dawn pyjama’s marathon in the Lygon Street Cinema complex; and, tape aficionados will be catered for at the VHS Resurrection swap-meet event, a gathering of black-box collectors that will feature a screening of Jake West’s documentary, Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape.

Officially opening Monster Fest 2013 will be Melbourne indie film-maker Daniel Armstrong’s grindhouse roller-derby/slasher pic, Murderdrome (featured, below). It will be one of several locally-bred efforts screening as part of the ‘Terror Australis’ strand. These include Duncan Armstrong’s shocker Foresight Killer Instinct; Richard Wolstencroft’s porn industry expose, The Last Days of Joe Blow; Andrew Traucki’s follow-up to The Reef, The Jungle; Glenn Trigg’s found-footage thriller, Apocalyptic; the demonic-possession thriller Beckoning the Butcher, from Aussie duo Dale Tropp and Damien Lipp; and, Sam Barett’s nod to Italian giallo excess, Sororal.

Monster Fest continues its dedicated programming of international cinema in 2013. A selected range from the Fantastic Asia Film Festival will have their Australian premieres, including Yudai Yamaguchi’s Abductee; Norman England’s Tokyo-housewife horror, New Neighbour; the zombie anthology Zombie TV, from the director of Tokyo Gore Police, Yoshihiro Nishimura; and, Noboru Iguchi’s killer teddy-bear epic, Nuigurama Z.

From other continents, expect household demonic-possession (Robert Ben Garrant and Thomas Lennon’s Hellbaby,  starring Rob Cordry, US; pictured, right); religious-cult satire (JT Petty’s Hellbenders; US); no-budget bromance zom-com (Jeremy gardner’s The Battery; US); disease outbreak chills (Cody Callahan’s Antisocial; Canada); and, a slice of nightmarish parental destiny (Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s Here Comes the Devil; Mexico). The current rage for 3D frights will be represented by Blair Erickson’s Fright Fest honoured government-paranoia opus, The Banshee Chapter, and Italian horror great Dario Argento’s trashy masterpiece, Dracula.

Of particular interest will be the Monster Fest 2013 organizing committee’s focus on women filmmaker’s working within the edgiest realms of the horror genre. Dominating the closing day will be sessions inspired by Briony Kidd and Rebecca Thompson, curators of the femme-focussed Strangers With My Face horror festival. Kicking off with a presentation on lycanthropic femininity called ‘The Girlie Werewolf Hall of Fame’, audiences can then indulge in Kayoko Asakura’s Japanese road-trip bloodbath, It’s a Beautiful Day. Following will be a Special Presentation from Canadian author Kier-La Janisse, who will present a Mysery Screening’ of her favourite film. Finally, Monster Fest 2013 will close with the highly-anticipated Australian premiere of Xan Cassavetes critically-acclaimed vampire romance, Kiss of the Damned.

Monster Fest 2013 runs from November 21st to December 1st. Full session details can be found at the Festival website here.

Tuesday
Oct012013

FRONTLINE: THE ADRIAN POWERS AND JOHAN EARL INTERVIEW

It is the Australian film garnering headlines around the world but barely making a dint with local distributors. Forbidden Ground, a World War 1 drama that captures both the torment of the trench-bound troops and the anguish of their loved ones back home, is the work of co-directors Johan Earl and Adrian Powers (pictured, left-to-right below). Having debuted to critical acclaim throughout Europe ahead a meagre Australian cinema release before seguing onto DVD in late 2013, the directorial duo share their memories of the film's inspiration, production and legacy with SCREEN-SPACE...

What was the most crucial aspect of this generation's experience that you were determined to get on-screen?

Adrian: We wanted to capture the fundamental, raw human elements of the war, (reflecting) the incredible predicament that all young men were faced with. This is one of the reasons we chose not to identify a particular Battalion or Regiment. It didn’t matter if the men were British, Australian, Canadian or American. It’s somewhat of an artistic impression of what we as Directors thought life during WWI was like. We absolutely respect that some die-hard military purists have criticized the film for a lack of detail, but that’s not really what this film is about.  When we look at old pictures from that era we see boys caught up in an adventure they knew nothing about. Frightened men and petrified women. We see more than soldiers. We want the audience to connect with the emotion and hopelessness that lies beneath their eyes, because that’s where the real story is.

You take a non-Antipodean approach to the tragedy of the First World War, but the subplot involving the main character’s partner ‘back home’ conveyed the dramatic impact felt by a generation of one of the world’s youngest nations.

Johan: Part of (the plot) has to include the experiences of those left behind. War impacted on everyone, not just those on the battlefield.  As I was writing it, my research uncovered that some 40,000 women died from ‘back yard’ abortions during the period.  Men in trenches were also far from faithful to their partners back home, with STD’s being one of the highest treated illnesses on the battlefield aside from war injuries. Remembering and honouring the lives and deaths of these men and women doesn’t mean we have to sweep their transgressions under the carpet, remembering only their dashing bravery, but rather, let’s try to understand the horrendous conditions in which they lived, learn from them and feel compassion.

Forbidden Ground draws on a great and powerful cinematic portrayal of wartime. What films inspired you to become filmmakers and influenced Forbidden Ground?

Adrian: No particular film as such inspired it. Both of us are big fans of intelligent modern action films like’ The Bourne Trilogy’ and that has no doubt inspired some of the coverage on the battlefield and in the action scenes. We wanted a more modern cinematic feel, so our men are charging into gunfire, weaving around obstacles, dropping by the dozen. The filmmakers who inspired us are the ones that infuse a reality and real sense of research and craft into a compelling, emotional experience, like Michael Mann, Ridley Scott, Paul Greengrass and Christopher Nolan. 

Johan: I had never imagined making a World War I movie as such, although I have a script for a true World War II story.  It’s also a tragic love story; I’m all about connecting with people’s emotions. I want them to laugh and cry. Even the action films and modern genre films I have in the pipeline deeply connect to the human spirit.

You made a relatively inexpensive film look like a big-budget work; where was money spent to ensure the film had such a cinematic feel?

Adrian: In post-production, essentially. We spent a year and a half in post with a very small team enhancing the film. Visual Effects and the colour grade really help to get us over the line there. If you watch the rushes, the stuff in the trenches (pictured, left: lead actor and co-director Johan Earl on location) or on the battlefield – all of it is the baking sunlight with cows and Australian bushland in the background. Our visual effects team laboured for months to get this to look authentic. (Also), the sound effects and the music are absolutely first rate and they really help to elevate the experience.

It has sold well into international territories. Why do you think it is playing so well internationally?

Johan: Because it connects with people’s emotions.  When people realise it’s not ‘Saving Private Ryan’, and it’s not about massive wartime vistas and showing how epic we can be, they sit back and are surprised that they can actually relate to the characters and the story. And if they allow themselves to, they can feel the pain these characters are feeling. Suddenly they’re immersed in the film and love it.

Adrian: Another big reason I think people are connecting with the film is the tension and suspense. Once we transition into the night stuff, viewers really start to hold their breath. You can always hear a pin drop in the cinema – people are glued to the screen.  When you combine that with an emotionally compelling story with characters that people can connect to, then you will always find an audience.

Screening details and DVD release dates can be found at the Forbidden Ground Facebook page