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Monday
Nov182013

BODY MELT: THE ADDISON HEATH INTERVIEW

Emerging from the blood-soaked mayhem of the Monster Fest 2013 program is Australian writing talent, Addison Heath. The Melbourne-born 26 year-old is premiering his ‘sociopathic Mr Whippee’ black comedy Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla at the genre festival; a brazen, brutal yet somehow sweet-natured work, the project brought about a like-minded collaboration with one of Australia’s most respected underground auteurs, Stuart Simpson (pictured, below; from left, Simpson, Heath and leading man Glenn Maynard).

“Stu and I had been trying to get a film going for a while,” says Heath (pictured, below), talking to SCREEN-SPACE during a rare break in production on his directorial debut, an offbeat thriller called Under A Kaleidoscope. “We are both huge fans of anti-hero stories, like Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy, Raising Arizona. We wanted to take dark subject matter and turn it in to an absurdist comedy. One of our initial concepts was ‘What if Wes Anderson directed Taxi Driver?’”

Simpson recalls the experience of working with Heath as a truly creative one. “Addison has a talent and love of writing natural dialogue, especially for the more colourful characters in our suburban landscape,” he says. “Finding that balance between something confronting and comedic was what interested me.” Having read through some of the young writer’s scripts, the experienced Simpson took on the role of developing Heath’s screenplay into his third feature (Demons Amongst Us,2006; El Monstro del Mar, 2010).

Given his key influences are such out-there talents as Harmony Korinne, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Sion Sono and films as challenging as Oldboy, Enter The Void and Takeshi Miike’s The Happiness of Katakuris, it is perhaps inevitable that Heath’s screenplay exhibits such a bracingly individual voice. “I'd written a handful of unproduced genre scripts, so I wanted to try a different style of writing and experimented with shifts in tone,” he recounts of his writing process. “Every time I felt the film was becoming too deep, I thought it best to throw something absurd in the mix to keep the viewer on their toes.”    

Both Heath and Simpson acknowledge that the third crucial component in the mix that became Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is their lead actor, Glenn Maynard (pictured, below), who creates a perversely unique central figure in ice-cream-vendor, Warren Thompson. “(It) was written with Glenn Maynard in mind for the lead,” states Simpson.

“We decided to construct a film for Glenn to play the lead,” agrees Heath, citing the actor was an ongoing source of inspiration. “I've always felt Glenn has an instant likeability, a certain quirkiness that really appeals to my sense of humour,” says the writer. “Seeing him bring Warren to life was very interesting. To carry a feature film, as an actor, is a gigantic effort and Glenn makes it look effortless.”

The character of Warren is in himself a powerful, ultimately frightening construct, yet engenders audience sympathy to the last frame of film. “I wanted to take a stereotype and give it a voice,” recounts Heath of his inspiration for the character, destined to be a cult figure in Australian cinema. “Warren is designed to be a voice for the unheard. The guy on the bus with a limp that high-school kids pick on or the dishevelled person talking to themself whilst walking in the city. People that, on appearance, are instantly judged. Warren is an anti-hero for the modern day ‘loser’.”

Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla screens Sunday, November 24 at Monster Fest. Further information available at the festival's website.

Monday
Nov112013

KIER-LA JANISSE AND THE WOMEN IN HER LIFE 

Canadian film scholar Kier-La Janisse (pictured, below) paints an unforgettable portrait of international cinema’s most deranged and driven female leads in her landmark book, House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films. Ahead of her highly-anticipated appearance at Monster Fest 2013, SCREEN-SPACE examines our six favourite, most fascinating performances from the 202 featured in her immense and compelling semi-autobiographical work…

ISABELLE ADJANI in POSSESSION (Dir: Andrzej Zulawski; 1981)
When she agreed to star in Polish director Andrrzej Zulawski’s blood-soaked tale of infidelity, Isabelle Adjani (pictured, right) was the most beautiful, popular actress in French cinema. But she would prove her fearless approach to her craft in the role of Anna/Helen, a woman betraying her husband (Sam Neill) with what may be an otherworldly creature capable of horrific acts.
Adjani’s performance reaches a crescendo as she seems to literally bounce off the walls, screaming and yelping, as white liquid (pours) from her orifices.“ – Sound on Sight

DESIREE NOSBUSCH in TRANCE (DER FAN) (Dir: Eckhardt Schmidt; 1982)
Predating the new millenium’s increasingly dark infatuation with celebrity is Eckhardt Schmidt’s study of Simone, a displaced, anti-social teen whose fatalistic love for pop-star ‘R’ knows no moral or physical boundaries. As Simone, Desiree Nosbusch captures the mentality and flesh-&-blood manifestation of fetishistic obsession in a star-making yet deeply disturbing performance.  
“Desiree Nosbuch gives one of the most disturbing performances in horror movie history; the nature of the crime she commits is beyond shocking, especially for the age of the character.” – Hayley’s Horror Reviews

DAGMAR LASSANDER in THE LAUGHING WOMAN (FEMINA RIDENS) (Dir: Piero Schivazappa; 1969)
A shattering account of male sexual domination and the retribution dished-out by a woman who would stand for it no longer, this odd but engrossing relic from the early days of the militant feminist movement features Dagmar Lassander pictured, left) as the abused journalist Maria in one of her many stridently sexual performances.
“The rush of insight makes us realise that Maria is not a victim in yet another cheesy chauvinistic exploitation flick, but a strong, determined predator with a very obvious agenda that she is following in a splendid genre piece” – CiNEZiLLA.

JOSIE HO in DREAM HOME (Dir: Pang Ho-Cheung; 2010)
Drenched in as much modern social satire as it is the blood of not-so-innocents, Josie Ho is a revelation as Cheng Lai-Sheung, an increasingly downtrodden Hong Kong wallflower who takes it upon herself to make vacant the apartment she’ll do anything to own.
Josie Ho’s everyday loveliness is dangerously winning; whilst indulging in the carnage, her expression indicates she is focussed on her goals, not her actions.” – SBS Film.

MYLENE JAMPANOI and MORJANA ALAOUI in MARTYRS (Dir: Pascal Laugier; 2008)
As the two friends who seek cold-blooded revenge for and a deeper understanding of their imprisonment and torture, Mylene Jampanoi and Morjana Alaoui (pictured, left) endure unspeakable acts in the name of Pascal Laugier’s gruelling but grandly spiritual masterpiece. The best European horror film of the last decade.
“The acting and endurance on display by the two leads is, at times, amazing and commendable.” – Film School Rejects.

MICHELLE VALLEY and MEREDYTH HEROLD in SINGAPORE SLING (Dir: Nikos Nikolaidis; 1990)
A loner searching for his true-love is forced into a sex-slave role by a mother and daughter team for whom any debauched act is just another hedonistic urge fulfilled. Labelled ‘unwatchable filth’ by some, ‘a masterpiece’ by others, Greece’s enfant terrible Nikolaidis films in sumptuous monochrome, but it is Michelle Valley (as the mum) and Meredyth Herold (as her offspring) who steal the show.
“No taboo is left unbroken as the film contorts itself into an explicit orgiastic nightmare of role-playing, degradation and fetishism.” – Time Out.

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.