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Tuesday
Jun132017

REMEMBERING FRED J. KOENEKAMP

One of the great journeyman cinematographers of the last half-century, Fred J. Koenekamp passed away on May 31, aged 94. At a time when Hollywood was opening its doors to continental artists like Vittorio Storaro, Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond, Koenekamp was a local craftsman who graduated from television (Gunsmoke; The Lieutenant; The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; Mission Impossible) to become a master of bigscreen spectacle.

Debuting as an assistant on the Jane Russell vehicle Underwater! (1955), Koenekamp would work the studio roster, shooting such films as the Sandra Dee/George Hamlton romp Doctor, You’ve Got to Be Kidding? (1967), Elvis Presley’s trippy Live a Little Love a Little (1968) and the western comedy The Great Bank Robbery (1969). When 20th Century Fox asked him to meet with director Franklin J Schaffer and discuss a project that would become an American cinema classic, a career of high-profile projects was set in motion…

PATTON
“Frank asked me how I worked on a set. ‘Do you like multiple cameras?’ ‘Yes, I’ve always liked multiple cameras, and I like a handheld camera on the set all the time. You never know when you’ll need it.’ We probably talked for an hour, and it seemed to go very smoothly. About a week later I got a call, and they said they wanted me for Patton.” – Interview, American Cinematographer, February 2005

BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS
Koenekamp signed on for his first film after Patton, convinced (as was much of the industry, including 20th Century Fox) that bad boy Russ Meyer’s sinful and sordid shocker would be the new decade’s cause celebre. The DOP clashed badly with the director, who was used to lensing his own low-budgeters; Koenekamp found himself framing X-rated scenes that were unlikely to make the final edit. He ultimately dodged many of the bullets critics aimed at the notorious film, and reaffirmed his post-Patton/pre-Dolls buzz with films such as Billy Jack (1971), Skin Game (1971) and the Raquel Welch hit, Kansas City Bomber (1972).

PAPILLON
"To this day, I still think Papillon is one of the best pictures I shot. I think it had a good look, the actors were terrific. There were no battling egos on the set, which I thought might have happened, but it didn't. They would talk to each other, off to the side, then come and talk to the director. I think Dustin made Steve work harder and, I think, that made Steve do one of the best jobs he has ever done." - Cinema Misfits, October 2011. 

THE TOWERING INFERNO
“I got a call saying Irwin Allen wanted to talk to me at Fox. Oddly enough, I’ve been a fire truck buff all my life. I don’t know why, I just love them. I talked to Irwin, and he said he wanted me to do Towering Inferno. They already had Joe Biroc on it, and Irwin said, ‘Joe’s going to do the second unit with you, but you’ll do the first unit with director John Guillermin.’- Interview, American Cinematographer, February 2005. Koenekamp shared the Academy Award for Cinematography with Biroc, and would go on to work with Irwin Allen on the Swarm (1978) and When Time Ran Out… (1980)

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR
Koenekamp (who had the Sydney Poitier/Bill Cosby comedy smash Uptown Saturday Night in cinemas alongside …Inferno) parlayed Oscar glory and his strong commercial instincts into years of top-tier US studio work. His directorial collaborators throughout the 1970s included Michael Anderson (Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, 1975); Kirk Douglas (Posse, 1975); Jonathan Kaplan (White Line Fever, 1975); Ralph Nelson (Embryo, 1976); Ted Kotcheff (Fun with Dick and Jane, 1977); his Patton partner, Franklin J. Schaffer (Island in The Streams, 1977); Stanley Kramer (The Domino Principle, 1977); Charles Jarrot (The Other Side of Midnight, 1977); Stuart Rosenberg, (Love and Bullets, 1979); and, Franco Zeffirelli (The Champ, 1979). The decade ended with his biggest hit since The Towering Inferno, the horror classic The Amityville Horror (1979, for Rosenberg).

THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION
Koenekamp kept working thoughout the1980s, although the projects he aligned with found all manner of notoriety. He shot a clearly unwell Steve McQueen in his final film, Buzz Kulik’s The Hunter (1980); Buck Henry’s little-seen satire First Family (1980), with Bob Newhart; the racially-themed comedy Carbon Copy, featuring a young Denzel Washington; and, Ronald Neames’ First Monday in October. He helmed two critically mauled star vehicles – the reteaming of Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, Two of a Kind, for John Herzfeld; and, once again for Schaffer, the Luciano Pavarotti showpiece, Yes Giorgio. Cult film devotees will always hold Koenekamp in high regard for his work on W.D. Richter’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a project that allowed him a rare opportunity to experiment in the early days of genre film special effects technology.

FLIGHT OF THE INTRUDER
His final work would be John Milius’ gung-ho military actioner, Flight of The Intruder, in 1991, retiring at the age of 67. “When I walked off the set that last night, it was a real sad night. My wife was out of town, and I went home and sat there and had a drink. I thought, ‘Is it really over?’ For six or eight months after I retired, I’d get calls every once in awhile, and finally everyone realized I wasn’t working anymore. I didn’t miss a lot of things, but what I did miss, and still miss, is the camaraderie of the crew.” - Interview, American Cinematographer, 2005. (Pictured, right; Milius and crew farewell the DOP on his final shooting day. Photo copyright: American Cinematographer, 2005)

Wednesday
Jun072017

WHITNEY CAN I BE ME: THE NICK BROOMFIELD INTERVIEW

2017 SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL: From the moment Nick Broomfield arrived in the US, the British documentarian has dug deep into the darkest recesses of American society. From the juvenile detention system (Tattooed Tears, 1979), to the mind of a psychopath (Aileen Wournos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, 1992), Broomfield has sought truths with a fearless, occasionally reckless, sometimes controversial eye for factual film. Some of his most acclaimed works have been dissections of doomed celebrities, including Monster in a Box (1992), featuring the late Spalding Gray; Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam (1995); Kurt & Courtney (1998); Biggie and Tupac (2002); and, Sarah Palin: You Betcha! (2011).

His latest is Whitney: Can I Be Me, a heartbreaking work that charts the meteoric rise and addiction fuelled decline of America’s Pop Princess, the late Whitney Houston. The film is a combination of fresh interview footage and archival content, the most remarkable being concert and backstage footage shot in 1999 by the great Rudi Dolezal. From his car, sitting immobile in the daily traffic gridlock of one of Los Angeles busiest motorways, Nick Broomfield spoke with SCREEN-SPACE about his unauthorised exposé of one of pop culture’s sweetest, saddest talents…  

SCREEN-SPACE: Was a Whitney Houston project in your plans, or did Rudi’s footage give it impetus, a fresh focus?

BROOMFIELD: Rudi’s footage certainly gave it more focus and impetus, but I was working for a year without his footage. I’d done my interviews and got all the music together and was thinking about my edit when I met with Rudi this time last year and we decided to amalgamate our forces. I did not know going in I would have his footage but I was completely delighted when I saw it. It was unique and intimate and never been seen before. I have a profound respect for what Rudi managed to do. It was the luck of the Gods that it all worked out this way. (Pictured, right; Whitney I Can Be Me co-director, Rudi Dolezal)

SCREEN-SPACE: The chasm between her soaring talent and beauty and the depths of her addictions and mental health issues is heartbreaking. How do you perceive of her rise and fall?

BROOMFIELD: She was an incredibly sweet kid, who was funny, funny, funny growing up on the streets of Newark. She was someone who wanted everyone around her to be happy, so went along with the flow to a big extent. In that regard, she was malleable, which I think is what Clive Davis had been looking. She had talent but, unlike Aretha Franklin or Dionne Warwick, was very new to her career and talent. She was the perfect vehicle for Clive’s vision. But she paid an enormous price for that because, like most creations, they fall apart, when they want to be themselves. They don’t want to be something they know they are not.

SCREEN-SPACE: Having been devoutly involved with her neigbourhood, the backlash from the black community clearly left scars…

BROOMFIELD: It was increasingly hard for her to be ‘Whitney Houston’, particularly with the whole racial thing in the United States, which was so powerful. It was very hard for her to not be accepted by her own people, by the black community, who thought she was sell-out. They called her ‘Oreo Cookie’ or ‘Whitey Houston’, and that was pretty devastating for her. She couldn’t understand where that was coming from. I’m sure Bobby Brown had much more influence than he would have done if these things hadn’t happened. As soon as she stopped being the ‘angel’, the American Sweetheart, which took awhile to happen, and she became the target of ridicule on the late night talk shows…well, I think she was very thin-skinned and that response drove her deeper into her addictions. It was a sad downward spiral. (Pictured, above; Whitney Houston)

SCREEN-SPACE: It is fascinating to view her in hindsight, of her place in 80s pop culture. There was Madonna’s rawness, Michael Jackson’s ‘King of Pop’ status, Springsteen’s working class man persona. Whitney was the 'Princess', an innocent who just wanted to dance with somebody. In the end, it was all that was shitty about the 80s – drugs, corporatisation, race issues – that claimed her…

BROOMFIELD: That's very true. It was decade where all the black artists wanted to make the crossover to this big white audience, and I think the degree of sacrifice they had to make to achieve that was enormous. Not only in what they sang, but how they had to portray themselves. It was very much about forgetting or ignoring where they came from (to become) something that was acceptable in this country. In the same way that O.J. Simpson kind of ended up in a no man’s land that cast him as neither black nor white, Whitney went through not dissimilar things for a long time. When she decided to get back to her roots, she did it with a vengeance, with real defiance.

SCREEN-SPACE: Your film is typically insightful and thorough, but there’s a softer edge to how you approach her story as opposed to your portraits of Kurt Cobain or Tupac or Heidi Fleiss. Did the nature of her story demand that or are you getting melancholy in your old age?

BROOMFIELD: (Laughs) Well, it might be both. I think the film I did before this one, Tales of The Grim Sleeper, was also tender and more loving so, yes, maybe that’s true. Maybe there is more heart in it (pause). You know, I was definitely moved, unexpectedly moved by Whitney’s story. The editor and I would often have tears welling up as we cut it, and we’d both seen it I don’t know how many eyes. It is a very moving, very tragic story.

SCREEN-SPACE: Looking back at your portrait films, those that have featured the likes of Spalding Gray, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur, and now Whitney Houston, can you see a through a line in these character types that your films address?

BROOMFIELD: People who give what all those artists give in a performance, who feel things so deeply, who are that charismatic…well, it’s very hard for them to fly so close to the sun and not get burnt. They so celebrate life, are so life affirming, that when we are in their presence you feel alive. Because they are so alive, they make incredible film subjects; they have that elixir. We are excited by the shiniest star and all those people have that, don’t they? Also, they are the icons of our time in history, of the culture we are part of. Portraits of people who have significance to our time and place are fascinating and speak volumes.

WHITNEY: I CAN BE ME screens June 7 and 9 at the Sydney Film Festival before a nationwide release on June 15 via Rialto Distribution. Festival session and ticket details can be found at the event’s official website

Wednesday
Jun072017

POP AYE: THE KIRSTEN TAN INTERVIEW

2017 SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL: The melancholy and deeply affecting tale of a middle-aged Thai man, an elephant and a pilgrimage to reconnect with childhood memories, Pop Aye has been the darling of the 2017 festival circuit. After a long gestation period in the script lab environment, the debut film from Singapore auteur Kirsten Tan has both wowed critics (earning the World Cinema Screenwriting Jury Prize at Sundance) and been adored by patrons (scoring the Big Screen audience-voted trophy at Rotterdam). “The notion of time passing, wherever you may go, is pretty universal,” says Tan, who spoke to SCREEN-SPACE from her New York home ahead of her film’s screenings at the 2017 Sydney Film Festival…

SCREEN-SPACE: How did the project’s passage through the ‘Festival Lab’ process – the Berlinale Talents initiative, the Torino Film Lab, Cannes Atelier, then Sundance – influence and impact the story you wanted to tell?

 TAN: The script changed a lot from the very first draft. The entire process took about two and a half years, during which we lost several characters. With the help of all these mentors and the ‘lab process’, the themes emerged. It was slow, chipping-away to clarify what I really wanted to say. And just before Torino, I went to Thailand for about three weeks, just to live with and research elephants, to study their movements and personalities so that I could write an elephant character with authenticity. I needed the elephant character to be as real as my human ones.

SCREEN-SPACE: Was the script locked down by the time you arrived in Thailand?

TAN: Once we got to Thailand for the shoot, it took about four months of preparation. I kept adjusting the script to make aspects more real; certain songs that I wanted, for example, were taken out because I learned that they were not appropriate. So many aspects of the script changed right up until we started filming, and then it evolved further as actors began improvising, which I wanted to incorporate as much as I could. (Pictured, right; Thaneth Warakulnukroh and 'Bong', in Pop Aye)

SCREEN-SPACE: Your cast of characters present such a rich cross-section of humankind…

TAN: I tried to paint a realistic story, which for me is one filled with pathos and humour, with beauty and brutality. I didn’t want to present a one-sided story, but rather one that offers a full spectrum of life experience.

SCREEN-SPACE: The casting of Thaneth Warakulnukroh in the leading role ensures a warm empathy is at the heart of your story. His performance is a subtle, sweet everyman figure…

TAN: In his younger days, he was this really edgy Thai rock star. It was insane; in his old photos, he literally looks like Mick Jagger (laughs). At the height of his fame, he just quit the music scene and disappeared. All these years later, I’m searching for a lead actor and my friend recommends him to me. Now he looks so gentle, so reserved. That juxtaposition of who he was and who he is intrigued me. I could see he was someone who had experienced the extreme highs and extreme lows of life. When I got him to audition before the camera, he proved a natural. Then he put on 10 kilos for the part, he was that committed. (Pictured, above; Thaneth Warakulnukroh and 'Bong', in Pop Aye)

SCREEN-SPACE: Does a location shoot in a place like Thailand influence the creative process?

TAN: We shot in what would become the hottest Thailand weather in four decades. Now, I don’t know if you’ve been to Thailand, but it’s already pretty hot (laughs). But that heat added something to the journey; if you see Thaneth in pain or discomfort, he’s probably not acting. The climate pushed us all to extremes, which must have influenced what we created. We actually charted his path from Bangkok to Loei, to study the kind of landscape and terrain he would pass. Then we shot around Loei, matching locations with what we had seen on our own journey. Most of the shoot took place only an hour or two away from the city centre.

SCREEN-SPACE: One of the film’s greatest assets is its refusal to anthropomorphise the elephant, to play for any kind of cuteness in it’s portrayal…

TAN: In their presence, you can’t not respect these animals. I just tried to bring some truthfulness to the depiction of Pop Aye. I didn’t want to milk the cuteness or the exotic aspects; I didn’t want to mould them into what I, or an audience, might want them to be. I just wanted to show him as he really is, because that is what is most beautiful about him. (Pictured, right; Tan, centre, with crew on location during the filming of Pop Aye)

SCREEN-SPACE: As Pop Aye, your elephant Bong pulls off one of the most evocative close-ups in recent memory…

TAN: We shot that using a crane, to give us the slightest elevation, and there was some slight movement on his part that captures such emotion. Actually, just out of frame, we were filling his mouth with bananas just to keep his head still (laughs). We were finally able to cut the sequence so that, yes, it is imbued with a great deal of meaning.

SCREEN-SPACE: Why is this little Thai film playing so well internationally? What about it is so appealing to audiences from Rotterdam to Sundance to Sydney?

TAN: It was important that the film spoke to a larger humanity. To me, the film is about time and its inevitable passing. This notion of inevitability, of the passage of time, is really universal. As is the bleak humour in one’s existence, which I tried to capture. I was born in Asia but have spent most of adult life in America, in New York, and I do see people on both continents employ humour to cope with life’s tragedies.

POP AYE screens June 16, 17 and 18 at the Sydney Film Festival. Full session and ticket information can be found at the event’s official website.

Thursday
Jun012017

THE SUN AT MIDNIGHT: THE KIRSTEN CARTHEW INTERVIEW

2017 SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL: The vast, magnificent country of Canada’s Northwest Territories is home to the Gwich’in people, an indigenous population whose relationship with the flora and fauna of the unforgiving landscape dates back many centuries. In The Sun at Midnight, director Kirsten Carthew utilises the backdrop of the land and its people to tell a deeply affecting coming-of-age tale, in which a teenage girl of Gwich’in ancestry (played by Devery Jacobs) must reconnect with her heritage to survive in the Arctic Circle wilderness. “Immersion in nature supports self-discovery and mental wellness,” says Carthew, whose semi-autobiographical narrative and stunning imagery represents a remarkable debut feature. Ahead of her film’s Australian premiere at the Sydney Film Festival, Kirsten Carthew (pictured, below) spoke with SCREEN-SPACE from Berlin, where she is accompanying the film on its international festival rollout… 


SCREEN-SPACE: It is such a unique premise for a film - the archetypal teenage coming-of-age story, but one melded with a survival drama. What inspired the narrative?

CARTHEW: The story comes from my own life, growing up as a teenager, feeling like a fish out of water, dealing with an intimate personal loss. I have moved locations many times and have always found solace and comfort in nature. Anyone who has suffered loss or felt disconnection can relate to the personal journeys of Lia and Alfred. These are the personal themes and they are universal, because as people we are so similar in our wants and needs. Additionally, themes relating to the need for greater environmental stewardship and the importance of connectivity with nature can be embraced by universal audiences, and told in The Sun At Midnight through specific references to champion protection for caribou populations, as well as for the lands and waters in the Arctic and Subarctic regions.

SCREEN-SPACE: I don't imagine the people of Fort MacPherson see a lot of film industry types. How willing and accepting of you and your crew were the population? What did you need to convey about them to ensure authenticity?

CARTHEW: The Sun At Midnight is the first feature film from Canada’s Northwest Territories. I am from a township there called Yellowknife. A feature film shoot was a new experience for Ft. McPherson, which is located at the Arctic Circle and has a population of 750 people. In 2009, I approached the Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute; they shared an earlier draft of the script with elders and community members, who gave great feedback and decided to collaborate. Their participation was essential to both the story’s authenticity and the realization of the film. It took us six years to secure financing and our Gwich’in partners actively supported and contributed to the project throughout. The film was only made possible with the participation of the community of Ft. McPherson and the Gwich’in Tribal Council, who helped crew the film with locals. We held the premiere at the high school gym and had a feast for community members, who were thrilled to see people they knew on screen. The Sun At Midnight is the first film to feature Gwich’in characters, land and values and Indigenous audiences and fans of Indigenous cinema have embraced the film. We are proud of our collaboration and relationship and continued support for the film. (Pictured, above; Devery Jacobs as Lia)

SCREEN-SPACE: Your leading lady, Devery Jacobs, is such a compelling screen presence; visually, of course, but also a personality that evokes both teenage angst and an 'old soul' spirit...

CARTHEW: I was immediately struck by Devery’s screen presence during her auditions. ‘Compelling’ is exactly right. Devery is the ideal collaborator, a total pro whose acting process includes in-depth character analysis and mindful reflection. She invested fully in the role and it was easy to trust Devery to embody the role of Lia. Once Devery was cast in the role, there were some aspects of Lia’s character that organically changed now that we were co-creating the story. I loved working with Devery and value how invested, professional and just truly exceptional she is. (Pictured, above; Duane Howard as Alfred)

SCREEN-SPACE: Lia's growing respect for and unlikely friendship with Alfred is the heart of your story. How did you, Devery and the wonderful Duane Howard create the chemistry and balance in their story?

CARTHEW: We had a tight shooting schedule and little rehearsal time. I did my best to organize the shoot chronologically so that the real life relationship between Devery and Duane would develop in line with the on-screen relationship of their characters, Lia and Alfred. It was important for the performance to drive the camera-action, which meant that the camera would follow the actors’ lead. To this end, I worked alone with the actors on set to feel out the scenes before the key crew was invited to watch. I also gave the actors alone time on set before key scenes so they could be as present with each other as possible. Devery and Duane also genuinely connected and developed a friendship as individuals, which was great. I think part of their on-screen chemistry reflects their genuine respect and care for each other. 

SCREEN-SPACE: It looks to have been a physically demanding shoot, utilising locations that have been largely unseen by film cameras. What disciplines did you and your production have to master to adapt to the conditions?

CARTHEW: Over 90% of the film was shot outdoors. That’s a huge challenge because regardless of budget or location, you operate at the whim of the weather. We shot at a time of the year that should have provided the ideal filming conditions but that definitely was not the case. Instead, we experienced temperatures ranging from -5 to +22 Celsius and rain, fog, snow and sunshine. We filmed the “in town” scenes first, when it was sunny and 22 degrees.  Then, just a week later, when we started to shoot the outdoor scenes, the temperature dropped to below zero and all of our locations were suddenly under two feet of snow! We didn’t have any choice but to continue filming and incorporate the snow into the film. We had to scout new locations everyday and move quickly to stay warm, but also move more slowly to accommodate so many new technical and logistical challenges. Devery and Duane were total troopers and handled the cold with total grace. The crew was often wet, cold and, by virtue of our location along the Arctic Circle highway, forced to suck up the discomfort and plough through. We have several “war stories” from the shoot, which were a little painful at the time, but now bring us together and we laugh at! (Pictured, above; Carthew, far left, on-location with her actors)

THE SUN AT MIDNIGHT screens Sunday June 11 and Saturday June 17 at the Sydney Film Festival. Further ticketing and session information can be found at the event’s official website

Friday
May262017

THE GATEWAY BUG: THE JOHANNA B. KELLY INTERVIEW

Entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, may be the ecological ‘get out of jail’ card the planet needs. So say the band of cricket-munching, fly-swallowing, moth-chewing experts featured in The Gateway Bug, the fascinating and wildly entertaining advocacy documentary to screen at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival in July. Alongside collaborator Cameron Marshad (“The grasshopper tacos are incredible”), director Johanna B. Kelly hopes their film will be at the forefront of a new era of environmentally sustainable food consumption in western culture. “By the time I’m a grandma, we’re going to be looking at a very different food landscape,” the Melbourne-born filmmaker tells SCREEN-SPACE from her New York residence…

SCREEN-SPACE: What first impressed you that alternative food sourcing and specifically a bug-based diet would fill a feature documentary?

KELLY: I first heard about entomophagy over brunch when one of our main characters, marine biologist Tyler Isaac, was explaining the overfishing problem. We are fishing wild fish to feed farmed fish and he explained how illogical that was and how insects could perform that function, using far less resources. The same can be applied to human consumption. That’s when I was also introduced to the edible insect consumer products already on the market. He shared the UN warning from 2013 that food production must increase 70% by 2050 but warned that's impossible, referencing a now very famous paper that entomophagy was a viable alternative option. We discussed how 50% of grain is fed to livestock and that feeding livestock insects could reduce greenhouse emissions immensely; how insects release far less ammonia and methane than pigs and cattle; and, how they take up less space and water. They have twice the protein of beef, more calcium than milk, all 9 essential amino acids and more iron than spinach. A global shift to an ento/plant-based diet would reduce mortality 10% and cut up to 70% of Greenhouse Gas emissions by 2050. By the end of brunch, we were in total agreement that a doc must be made to share all of this. (Pictured, top; from l-r, Cameron Marshad and Johanna B. Kelly).

SCREEN-SPACE: I like the stylised way in which you present your arguments, including the use of animation, on-screen text and archival content. How was the tone of the film decided upon?

KELLY: We started simplistically, researching interview subjects, conducting interviews and building our story. As the editing, scripting and story building progressed, we realized that animations would help visualize some of the more complex arguments presented. We began to feel that talking heads were boring and information about how our environment got to it’s current state could be shared using footage from 50 years ago; it’s fascinating to see that the exact issues we face now were raised as concerns back then. As a cinephile, I couldn’t resist trawling through months of archival to prove that actually none of this is new news. I adore Adam Curtis (Bitter Lake, 2015; Hypernormalisation, 2016) and his masterful weaving of archival footage to describe current affairs so that probably influenced my style for sure.

SCREEN-SPACE: You were blessed with some fascinating personalities. Do you believe these are the men and women who can lead the charge for food industry reform? What personality traits bind them and their chosen paths?

KELLY: These personalities were part of what drove us to create the feature. Given Tyler’s brunch spiel had inspired us to make the film and that we met Sonny and Kevin early on, we knew we had some great stories with them alone. The personality traits that bind them are an honest desire for acquiring the knowledge necessary to help solve the major crisis we currently face. This takes bravery and fearlessness, so I do think they will all make a difference. But the point of the film is that all of us possess an element of that desire to do good in the world and help heal the past to protect our future. I’m an optimist; I believe that armed with knowledge, people behave in altruistic ways. After watching our film, our audiences can become empowered to make those changes to their lifestyles, which in turn influences others to make those changes. I sincerely hope that these characters are the starting point for a revolution of empowered armchair activists to change the world through their own diets and habits. The onus doesn’t necessarily rest entirely on those characters to achieve that personally but on all of us to heed their call. (Pictured, above; model Terese Pagh with a cricket-based protein bar, The Gateway Bug)

SCREEN-SPACE: Were you conscious of not just 'preaching to the converted', of not allowing entomophagy to appear to be a 'hipster trend'?

KELLY: We were mindful to retain as much journalistic integrity as possible. It was critical to us that our film come across in the form we discovered it, by letting individuals share their stories and enlightening the audience that way. It was one of the primary reasons we avoided narration or VO. And entomophagy isn’t a hipster trend; over 2 billion people worldwide practice it. It’s more of a cultural shift that the West may or may not be ready for. Irrespective, there is no reason we can’t consider shifting animal diets and the way we respect food and food waste. The idea is to start with what can work and move on from there. A great analogy is sushi. 80s’ yuppies being exotic made it big in the West but in Japan it was just regular food. So it’s not such a stretch to see a similar progressive shift towards insect eating in our society.

SCREEN-SPACE: Since filming finished, there is a new administration with a more regressive, pro-'big business' agenda that will only strengthen the traditional industrial agricultural sector. What does the future hold for alternative sector start-ups and entrepreneurs such as those in your film?

KELLY: I worry that more critical to the success of these industries is the new administration’s regressive attitude on climate change. Attitudes impact policy, which in turn affects subsidies and investment. All of these companies rely on a common understanding of current scientific opinion to ensure progress is made and awareness maintained. I remain optimistic that global attitudes towards science being real and common sense surrounding what we can see with our own eyes will prevail ultimately. Flint, Michigan isn’t getting clean water any time soon. To quote Alanis Obomsawin, “Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money.” Our dream is that it doesn’t have to come to that for individuals to start changing habits. (Pictured, above; ground cricket powder)

SCREEN-SPACE: You never turn the camera on yourself so; the big question is - what bugs have you eaten?

KELLY: Ah, a great time to point out that people with shellfish allergies should not eat insects! Having experienced anaphylaxis twice now, I have avoided them to preserve my life. Cameron however adores them. He frequently noshes on dry roasted crickets at his desk and enjoys the protein bars. He says his favourite insect product he’s tasted is the black soldier fly larvae you see Dave Gracer try at the end of the film at the Eating Insects Detroit conference. Although not a product being sold on the market to consumers currently, apparently it tastes like curry butter and he talked about it for months after we’d left so he certainly sold me on it!

THE GATEWAY BUG screens at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival on July 16. Ticket and session details via the event's official website.

'The Gateway Bug' Trailer - A documentary feature film about feeding humanity in an uncertain age from Cameron Marshad on Vimeo.