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Entries in Australian (13)

Tuesday
Aug012017

MICHELLE CAREY ON MIFF: "I LOVE SEEING PEOPLE DISCOVER CINEMA"

2017 MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Now in her seventh year as the Artistic Director of the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), Michelle Carey has established a reputation as one of the most astute film minds in festival programming worldwide. Her 2017 MIFF programme is vast and challenging, the kind of maze-like film buff's treasure trove for which she has become known since her debut line-up in 2011. In the festival's Collins St office in the heart of the city she now calls home, the Adelaide-born Carey chatted excitedly with SCREEN-SPACE about her early festival director days, MIFF’s newest initiatives and what film made the cut in 2017 because she demanded it be so… 

SCREEN-SPACE: When you walked through the MIFF office door in 2010, to begin preparing your first festival, what were your aims and ambitions for the years ahead?

CAREY: I wanted to put a stamp on it. Back then, it was very ‘cinephile’. It still is, of course, but by 2010 it was viewed as being auteur-driven. And I wanted that celebrated, not seen as pretentious. Particularly in the last four or five years, people have been responding to new films by directors that may have once been considered fringe, like Yorgos Lanthimos. That’s not all my doing, of course, but it is great to see that shift. I also wanted bigger, more accessible films in the mix. I understood that the role could be very managerial, but I didn’t know what to expect from that side of the job. I don’t want to sound vain, but I think I’ve always had good instincts and it was learning to trust those instincts in those early days that helped. I’m a very fight-or-flight person, so I just found strength in my intuition. (Pictured, below: The Killing of The Sacred Deer, by director Yorgos Lanthimos).

SCREEN-SPACE: Were you determined to redefine what the role of Artistic Director had come to represent?

CAREY: My predecessor Richard Moore, who I worked very closely with, and James Hewison before him and I are all very different personalities. When I first came into the role, I was quite shy, having always been the person who was happier in the background. I’ve overcome that, although I certainly don’t think that my personality is bigger than the festival. The challenge is to find the balance between shaping the festival through your personality without overwhelming the programme with your ego or arrogance. I’m not doing this to showcase my taste in film; I’m doing this because I love seeing people experience and discover cinema. And audiences today often know far more than I do about films.

SCREEN-SPACE: The two masters you have to serve are right there in the name, ‘Melbourne’ and ‘International’. How do you reconcile the relationship between the two?

CAREY: There’s space for both. It is always interesting to work out whether they are similar audiences or whether they are inherently different. Our Australian films are always massively popular, but are they the same people who are going to the latest films from Cannes? I honestly don’t know. I would like to see those audiences come closer together, and I think festivals like MIFF provide that bridge. And they also provide an opportunity for discourse, via initiatives like the Critic’s Campus programme, and insight into the industry, with the 37 South Market team and the Premiere Fund and Accelerator. I deal a lot in satisfying the audience side of the festival and I’m always considering how we can bridge those worlds even further.

SCREEN-SPACE: A decade in, what legacy has been shaped by the MIFF Premiere Fund?

CAREY: Well, it’s 55 films now, so it’s a huge legacy. It has a really strong documentary tradition, through relationships forged with particular filmmakers like Eddie Martin or Richard Lowenstein, directors who are interested in local characters. Then at the other end you have some big productions, like Bran Nue Dae or this years’ opening night film Jungle (pictured, right), which is one of the biggest budgeted films we’ve ever invested in. Then you have our commitment to the more arthouse film, such as Rabbit this year. The feedback we get from filmmakers is how grateful they are for the Premiere Fund, because without it their films wouldn’t have been made.

SCREEN-SPACE: How did the retro-strand Pioneering Women, featuring works from the last great era of Australian films directed by women, come in to focus?

CAREY: It’s not really thought of as an era as such. I was looking back through the programmes in preparation for the 65th festival and was shocked to find the lack of Australian women feature film directors until 1979, when My Brilliant Career came out. In that fascinating period following its release, they started to emerge and by the mid- to late-90s there was a kind of an explosion of talent. Obviously, still not in the kind of numbers that it should be; 16% of Australian features were directed by women, which is still to low. But in that period leading up to the md-90s, there was this kind of ‘first wave’ of women talent. There were pioneers, like the McDonagh sisters that Geoffrey (Rush) references in his programme notes, but it was this generation of talent like Gillian Armstrong, Anna Kokkinos, Jane Campion and Nadia Tass that redefined the sector. Plus I have a soft spot for the 80s, which was a really fun period and you can see that in films like Starstruck (pictured, below) and The Big Steal. Celia is one of my favourite films of the festival.

SCREEN-SPACE: You’ve always embraced new technology and artistry, and do so again in 2017 with the Virtual Reality section. Does the tech suggest a seismic shift in movie watching is imminent?

CAREY: I think the jury is out. We are still in the eye of the storm with VR, especially in Australia. The films are becoming more sophisticated, going beyond just the experiential and moving into more complex narrative forms, like that seen in Miyubi. As to where it goes, it is hard to tell. The reason we entered into VR is that a lot of filmmakers are in that space. Local filmmakers such as Matthew Bate and Amiel Courtin-Wilson have artistic ambitions within the medium, more than just creating an extension of a theme park ride. That said, I think a film festival has to defend what cinema is about at its core, which is that big screen experience, the telling of stories. Whether that’s in a narrative way, or a non-narrative way, in a visual way or via the more traditional three-act structure, we have to be mindful of opening (our programme) up too much. Audio-visual media today is so pervasive you need boundaries, otherwise it risks becoming a bit meaningless.

SCREEN-SPACE: You were in Cannes for the Netflix controversy. You have programmed television content in 2017. Clearly you’re open to inviting the small screen onto MIFF’s big screens…

CAREY: When you say ‘television’, you have to also ask, “What type of television?” We’re not going to be showing Yummy Mummies any time soon. It still has to have some kind of auteur’s bent. The television we are showing – Glitch and Top of The Lake: China Girl – are great ‘big screen’ experiences, beautifully shot works. We are not turning into a television festival, that much is true, but you have to be open to it when some of the best talent in the world is working in the medium.

SCREEN-SPACE: Was there a film in 2017 that you pulled rank on, that had you banging the table and saying, “I say it’s in!”?

CAREY: (Laughs) Oh, probably Out 1, the 13 hour, 1971 French film by Jacques Rivette. I think a lot of people may have said, “Are you mad?” (laughs) It is a 16mm print, subtitled in German, that we then had to get two people to tag-team subtitle in English live in the cinema. And there have been a couple of experimental works that I’m sure made some of our staff think, “But why?” But I think those films are the sort of works that festivals need to present.

The 2017 MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL screens August 3 to 20. Full session and ticketing information at the event's official website.

Photo credit: Graham Denholm

Wednesday
Feb012017

TRUE BLUE HOUND BOUND FOR BERLIN RED CARPET.

Despite earning A$22million at the domestic box office, a sequel to the 2011 hit Red Dog was never a sure thing. Surely producer Nelson Woss (Ned Kelly, 2003), with director Kriv Stenders and writer Daniel Taplitz, had captured the kind of lightning-strike chemistry that generally proves impossible to recreate? But when Taplitz pitched an inventive story treatment, Woss and his director were convinced there was a new narrative to be told and Red Dog True Blue, starring the charismatic kelpie Phoenix, was unleashed. 

SCREEN-SPACE spoke with Woss and the film’s head animal trainer, the renowned Zelie Bullen (Racing Stripes; Charlotte’s Web; War Horse) ahead of its European debut as the Opening Night film of the Berlinale’s Generation Kplus programme strand…

SCREEN-SPACE: Five years between a legitimate homegrown blockbuster and a sequel is an eternity in film terms. Why so long?

NELSON WOSS (pictured, left): A lot of people told us to quit while we were ahead (laughs). The director, Kriv Stenders and I both have young children and there was an opportunity to make what would very much be a family movie. We wanted to make a film that we could bring our kids to. And we are thrilled to be able to tell Australian stories on the big screen, to celebrate what is special about being Australian. We love films from Hollywood but I thought it was nice for our kids to have a bit of a spectrum and see stories about themselves. As a practitioner in the Australian film industry, we are just happy to work (laughs). So when we get an opportunity to make a film, we are going to make it, especially one that is located in such a beautiful part of the country.

SCREEN-SPACE: The first film’s star, Koko, was a natural in front of the camera. In True Blue, you’ve recaptured that casting magic with Phoenix. What is your leading man’s pedigree?

ZELIE BULLEN: Phoenix was born and raised by Carol Hogday, the same lady who bred Koko. He was chosen by the production because he’s a distant cousin of Koko. He’s a very sweet, happy, responsive dog. He loves doing all the publicity, meeting and travelling, but he was also very hard working on the set. He loves to work and be led, feeling that sense of belonging and contributing, like a lot of dogs. (Pictured, right; Bullen, with Phoenix)

NELSON WOSS: Filmmakers aren’t too bright. We did an Australian-wide search for the sequel’s star then ended up going back to Carol, whose home had just had a litter of pups from which we chose Phoenix. He’s got the same abilities and star-like character as Koko.

SCREEN-SPACE: How many different tricks or cues did Phoenix have to learn before the shoot?

ZELIE BULLEN: A lot of animal work on film is clearly defined behaviour in a small area. Even in the vast outback setting of the Red Dog films, we need to be very specific about directing actions; which leg he’s lifting, which way he’s looking, how many steps forward he needs to take to hit his mark or still be in the correct lighting. The training is intimate, very precise. In that regard, he’s less a ‘trick dog’ and more a technically proficient actor.

SCREEN-SPACE: The chemistry between star Josh Lucas and Koko in Red Dog was crucial to the film’s success. What needed to be done to ensure that level of mateship was recreated between Phoenix and your new star, Levi Miller?

NELSON WOSS: Levi and Phoenix (pictured, right) spent time together before the shoot and, like the pros they are, they immediately bonded, and that is clearly evident on-screen. There is that classic ‘boy and his dog’ connection in their performances, which enhances the ‘coming of age’ elements in the story.

ZELIE BULLEN: Levi is a similar kind of character to Phoenix, in many respects. He’s that soft, kind, loving boy. I remember one moment when Phoenix jumped sideways – someone had stood near his tail, I think – and Levi was beside himself, not willing to keep filming until he was assured Phoenix was ok. He is a very compassionate, caring young man, which Phoenix responded to.

SCREEN-SPACE: One of the film’s great moments is a scene featuring two of our acting legends, Bryan Brown and John Jarratt…

NELSON WOSS: No spoilers! (laughs) But, yes, how amazing to have two living legends of the Australian film industry together. Bryan loved the first film and has a passion for music as well, and both films have some iconic Australian music, so given the chance to play the banjo in the film…well, he hit it out of the park.

ZELIE BULLEN: And he loves dogs and clearly loved working with Phoenix. There were times when I had to step in and say, “Bryan, I have to take him and work him now,” and Bryan would say, “No, no, I’m patting him now, just a minute.” (laughs)

SCREEN-SPACE: More broadly, how would you define the relationship between the working dog and the people of the interior? What did you have to capture to honour that bond?

NELSON WOSS: With these films, and it was the same with Ned Kelly, you’ve got to capture the heart and soul of the people and the place. We don’t have the big budgets that allow for effects trickery, so we come from the heart. It is an authentically Australian story that people from the heartland will understand. But it is also a story that travels well and, very much like Red Dog himself, was always going to roam.

 

Wednesday
May112016

NOTES ON A SCANDAL: THE SCOTT HICKS INTERVIEW

Brilliant, often troubled personalities consumed by the power of music have yielded rewarding cinema for director Scott Hicks. After conquering the world and earning two 1996 Oscar nominations for his David Helfgott biopic, Shine, the Adelaide-based filmmaker delved into the complex genius of Philip Glass in his 2007 documentary, Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts. His latest journey into the flawed brilliance of musical obsessiveness is Highly Strung, an intimate portrait of the Australian String Quartet in the grip of member conflict and of the all-consuming power of the classic Stradivarius and Guadagnini string instruments with which they ply their trade. Ahead of the film’s Australian season, Hicks spoke to SCREEN-SPACE about his latest ‘music on film’ opus…

SCREEN-SPACE: As someone with a layman’s comprehension of classical music, Highly Strung was a very accessible film.

Hicks: That’s always heartening to hear because one of the great challenges was to how to make a film about these rare instruments and the rarefied world in which they exist and what fascinating obsessions drive it. Obviously, it enhances it a bit if you know a little bit about classical music, but this is a story about people who are possessed by these ideas.

SCREEN-SPACE: Given the events that unfold as the shoot progresses, how close to your original vision for the film is in the final mix?

Hicks: (Laughs) Oh, no, the whole nature of the film changed as I was making it. That represents the purity, the lifeblood, of documentary filmmaking. You can set out with a plan, with an idea; you have to have some sort of concept of what you are trying to do. But, at the same time, life has a habit of unfolding in its own direction and you have to follow where the film takes you. I had in mind something that probably would’ve been a bit more historical, with a bit more information about the instruments. But I got caught up in the day-to-day world of these individuals and went with that, and some unexpected developments happened. (Pictured, above; ex-ASQ first violin, Christian Winther, in Highly Strung)

SCREEN-SPACE: Did you envision the clash of personalities that ultimate played out?

Hicks: I filmed the very first concert of the Australian String Quartet’s new line-up, with these four magnificent Guadagnini instruments, and from day one I began to get an idea of the tensions that underlie these musicians. What a struggle it is to find a band that can stay together! Which I guess is true of any type of music. What do The Rolling Stones have over any other band? They stayed together (laughs).

SCREEN-SPACE: The sheer diversity of personalities that are possessed by this love of classic string music, and of the Stradiviri and Guadagnini instruments in particular, is remarkable.

Hicks: The music is the language of the film. Everyone in the film speaks the same language, but they all have their own agenda, whether they are musicians or dealers or collectors or craftsmen. Everything about their lives is filtered through these incredibly well engineered pieces of wood that are 300 years old. The passion was so infectious, none more so than in the hedge fund dealer in New York who, while cradling his Stradivari, says “Of all my investments around the world this is the only one I can touch.” And then he proceeds to play it! It is this passion that I was certain audiences could connect with regardless of the knowledge of classical music. (Pictured, above; Cremona-based luthier, Roberto Cavagnoli, right).

SCREEN-SPACE: Between the flawed, maddening genius of Christian and the grace and dignity of Roberto, your film finds its yin-yang, attains a fine balance.

Hicks: There is an amazing thing that emerges when you are making films and it applies as much to the documentaries as it does to the dramas I’ve created, and it’s called casting (laughs). I had no way of knowing what these people would be like on this journey, but it turned out that there were these archetypal figures, the yin-yang as you say – the passionate, flawed genius of the first violinist in Christian, set against the almost ‘old world’ feeling of Roberto, the luthier from Cremona, crafting by hand an identical copy of a Guadagnini cello from a plank of wood. Between those forces, that ‘force field’, there is a universe of ideas that I found fascinating.

SCREEN-SPACE: And acting as a kind of matriarchal spirit is the charismatic figure of Ulrike Klein…

Hicks: Well, Ulrike was the starting point for the film. She came to my wife Kerry (the film’s producer) and said she was collecting the four Guadagnini instruments, to loan to the ASQ in the hope that they would achieve an even greater standing in the world of international music. She said, “Do you think there is a story in this?” and immediately I could see the complexities that existed between all the diverse passions at play in this small world. What was so intriguing was that I began to ask myself what was intrinsic to Ulrike that lead her to this philanthropic, cultural idea. What happened, as you see in the film, is what I like to call a kind of ‘Rosebud’ moment, when it is revealed that her passion stems from a thwarted childhood desire. (Pictured, above; the director with Ulrike Klein)

SCREEN-SPACE: Which, in many ways, recalls a crucial part of the narrative of Shine…

Hicks: Exactly. In Shine, the first kind of ‘musical’ film that I made, there was a story element that was central to David Helfgott’s upbringing. In the film, his father says something like, “When I was a child, I saved and saved for my first violin, which I wanted more than anything, and when I got it, my father smashed it.” It was a thwarted musical instinct, just like that which emerges about Ulrike, that was so much part of the Shine story.

SCREEN-SPACE: Have you ever drawn a line between the artistry and talent of your subjects and the artistry and talent you bring as the filmmaker?

Hicks: (Pause). When I made the film about Philip Glass, on the very first day of shooting I pulled out my camera and started filming Philip cooking us pizza in his kitchen at Nova Scotia. In the process of cooking, he kept turning around and talking to me behind the camera, saying things like, “Do you like garlic, Scott?” And I’d answer, “Well, yes, but stop talking to me, Philip, I’m the documentarian” (laughs) But as the shoot progressed, I began to realise that that was the film and that he was inviting a relationship with me and choosing to ignore the fact that I was holding a camera. That created a tremendous sort of intimacy. What began as me thinking ‘Well I won’t be able to use this,’ actually dictated and drove the tone of the film. The same thing sort of applies in Highly Strung, in that you’re not pretending you are not there because the presence of the camera impacts upon every situation. And it would be crazy to imagine otherwise. It is, essentially, an attempt at some level of honesty about your engagement and involvement with these people as people. I think somewhere in there I answer your question, partially (laughs).

HIGHLY STRUNG begins a limited theatrical season in Australia on May 19 via Sharmill Films.

Wednesday
Apr272016

BORN IN THE U.S.A.:THE RICHARD SOWADA INTERVIEW

Independent: (adj) free from outside control; not subject to another's authority.

Australian filmgoers seeking to be challenged and energized will welcome a new cinema event called Essential Independents: American Cinema, Now. Featuring 32 films (including 11 Australian premieres), the 16-day program aims to contextualize the creative paths forged by American independent filmmakers, the current state of the sector and visions that suggest a vibrant future lies ahead. The rich schedule – presented under the strands Fiction, Intrigue, Experiments, Originals and New York - is the cumulative work of artistic director Richard Sowada, one of Australia’s leading film academics and event curators. His credits include the founding in 1997 of Perth’s iconic counter-culture film event, Revelation, and a nine-year posting as Head of Film Programs at the Australian Centre for The Moving Image. He spoke with SCREEN-SPACE ahead of the launch of the Sydney season on May 17 (other states to follow)…

SCREEN-SPACE: What is the current state of American independent cinema and how does your inaugural line-up capture that? 

SOWADA: It’s always been in a healthy state across experimental, documentary and feature film elements. I’m not sure why; it’s almost like that because the US walks such a precarious, perilous socio-political line with so many social and cultural divisions within itself, it engenders a kind of urgency amongst the creative community, like their world is about to implode and they have to act fast. Also, the sheer volume of work created forces the filmmakers to approach things in ambitious, inventive ways. The ambition isn’t always directed at scale of course, but perhaps something as small and simple as “I can do this”. The new works in the program grab hold of that actively. We throw weight behind quite experimental films, to high-quality political and socially oriented documentaries. The features also explore style, form, performance and technique. There are genuinely fresh ideas and exciting approaches, even in feature debuts.

SCREEN-SPACE: Given the dire 'superhero blockbuster' studio mentality, and funding/distribution struggle for truly indie cinema, might your byline 'American Cinema, Now' be courting disfavour?

SOWADA: What you’re talking about here are two different industries. One is based on selling popcorn, the other on working with ideas. The entire emphasis and tradition is different. Independent approaches always had to struggle against the massive amount of mediocre content; in publishing, art, fashion, music, business, everywhere, all the time. The whole independent approach is about finding a different way and they continue to do just that. This program is just one example. To see these films on commercial independent screens around Australia is a small miracle in itself. It’s opportunities like this that start to shift the funding and distribution possibilities for these kinds of films. If you can demonstrate an audience, you’re well on the way to breaking through and changing the status quo.

SCREEN-SPACE: Can we ever hope to regain the fever pitch state of indie film production that erupted in the wake of Pulp Fiction in the mid-90s?

SOWADA: The whole industry is a creative continuum. Pulp Fiction is used as a marker for the orgasmic explosion of independent cinema into (the) mainstream, but this revolution was going on before Pulp Fiction (and) has continued unabated since. Just because we don’t see a lot of it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Stranger Than Paradise and Blood Simple were on our screens 10 years earlier. Locally, Once Were Warriors came out in the same year as Pulp Fiction and changed the independent distribution and exhibition landscape in Australia. The brashness of something like Pulp Fiction didn’t create more independent works, it just bought audiences into the environment that was already there. The films also slowly morphed into a different kind of independent cinema which often has something softer, like what the the austere approach of the Dogme movement did for Danish cinema. Boyhood is a great and quite revolutionary example of that.

Above: Oren Moverman's Time Out of Mind, Opening Night film at Essential Independents

SCREEN-SPACE: 'Essential Intrigue’ profiles true cage-rattlers, like Robert Mapplethorpe (pictured, below; with singer Patti Smith) and Johnny Cash, as well as anti-establishment accounts of sectors like tech security and hip hop culture. Is independent cinema at its best when challenging the accepted norm?

SOWADA: I think that’s an accidental thing in many ways. Often these stories are personal and hidden. They’re buried deep in subculture(s) or forgotten corners of history. Those corners are hard to see by producers, funders, broadcasters and distributors who often feel they’re too ‘niche’ to explore. This word ‘niche’ is used by sectors of the industry to describe something they don’t understand. Therefore the misunderstood, specific or marginalised are deemed without audience. The independent sector, on the other hand, has a very different perspective; from lower down, they can get access into these corners and their inhabitants. I’m not sure if these filmmakers deliberately go out to challenge accepted norms but because they understand and respect their subjects and audiences so well, the works reflect their protagonists differently. The films are what they’re about, not simply a reflection of it. There’s a different, much more personal feel and approach where the magic overlay of style and content is very strong and individual.

SCREEN-SPACE: Does a correlation exist between the debut works featured in Essential Originals?

SOWADA: There’s a couple that play to genres like Near Dark and Blood Simple but I think the real binding element – and this cuts across all the titles throughout the program – is the respect they have for what’s gone before, just like Tarantino’s work. You can see Two Lane Blacktop in Kelly Riechardt’s River of Grass. You can see Cassavetes’ work in Stranger Than Paradise and Slacker. You can see Double Indemnity in Blood Simple. You can see Alien in Near Dark. What they do is take these inspirations, traditions, the special connections they have both with audiences and the sheer logistics of making a low-budget film and integrate them into their own signature. You can literally see the filmmakers taking the great moments and dissecting them to see how those moving parts work. It’s quite scientific study, experimentation and appreciation.

Above: Trailer for William Friedkin's Cruising, screening as part of Essential New York strand.

SCREEN-SPACE: One of the great coups of the festival will be a rare screening of William Friedkin's Cruising. How do you expect the millenial audience to react to such a confronting, non-PC work?

SOWADA: You simply couldn’t make a film like that for commercial release any more. It’s hardcore, with little left to the imagination. Not having been part of the NYC S&M club scene in the 70s, the depictions seem very authentic, which is fascinating and vibrant to watch. You don’t question the realism and there’s so much detail. It must have been a difficult film to make and Pacino does a great job. New audiences are going to lap it up, so to speak. It’s so surprising. It’s high quality in every way - widescreen, great sound, excellent soundtrack, brilliant costuming, a tense story and completely underground, subculture setting. I think new audiences will walk away asking what happened to these high risk/high reward films? Matching it up with Franco’s performance experiment Interior. Leather Bar is going to tip the whole experience over the edge. Now that’s what I call a double feature!

Essential Independents: American Cinema, Now screens at Palace Cinemas from May 17 in Sydney, May 18 in Melbourne, May 19 in Brisbane and Canberra and May 26 in Adelaide. Ticket and venue information via the event's official website. 

Tuesday
Apr122016

WORKING CLASS MAN: THE HEATH DAVIS INTERVIEW

The burden of past glories and the crippling impact of addiction are dissected in Broke, a new Australian film from writer/director Heath Davis. Featuring a typically intense turn from the great Steve Le Marquand, the working class drama tells the story of Ben ‘BK’ Kelly, a once-great rugby league star whose gambling and self-medication through booze has led to desperate times; Claire van der Boom, as Terri, and Max Cullen as Cec are the strugglers who never lose faith in their fallen hero. In his narrative feature debut, Davis nails a hard-edged realism tinged with real heart. Ahead of the film’s theatrical season, Davis spoke with SCREEN-SPACE about his small-scale, intrinsically ‘Aussie’ story that feels universally human… 

SCREEN-SPACE: There is a strong 'cinematic' feel to the characters, but more resonant is the 'blue collar' authenticity, the 'real people' that are BK and Cec and Terri. How did that dynamic emerge in the writing? Are these people from your background?

Davis: There's definitely a ‘real’ DNA, as I like to put it that runs through these characters. It was imperative that they and the movie ring true for identification purposes. BK for instance is a hybrid of people, ex-league players, I knew growing up in western Sydney. His character was pretty fleshed out on the page and then Steve made it his own. I encouraged that. He's been around these types of folk so it wasn't a big stretch for him. (Pictured, top; Davis on-set, with actors Claire van der Boom and Steve Le Marquand)

SCREEN-SPACE: Steve Le Marquand is that rare performer; an intense character-actor persona wrapped in a leading-man package. He must be an enormous asset in pre-production/rehearsal and then on-set. Describe what he brought to the character of BK and the relationship you, as his director, forged with him...

Davis: The obvious physicality and his unique bravado aside, Steve brought his life experience to the table. He's lived a rough-and-tumble existence and knows only too well the world these characters inhabit, so I knew we'd definitely have a believable lead character. He's really respected by his peers so when he came on board I knew he would draw other quality actors to the project. He's a very generous actor to not only his fellow cast but also crew. He made sure that there was no place for ego on set for anyone and that was crucial in creating the realism we were going for. (Pictured, right; Marquand with co-star Claire van der Boom)

SCREEN-SPACE: The National Rugby League (NRL) contributed to the funding of Broke. How and why did they become involved?

Davis: The NRL Education and Welfare Team came on board just before pre-production with some financial support. It was by no means a large sum but it was a lot to us. More importantly, we wanted their endorsement. And I think they realised it would be a good education tool to use for their players, especially juniors. (Pictured, left; Davis, left, on-set with actors William Zappa, Steve Le Marquand and Justin Rosniak)

SCREEN-SPACE: Thematically, Broke pits the facade of hero adulation against the reality of an addict’s self-destruction. Is it a celebration of hero worship or a warning of the dangers of fawning over false idols?

Davis: I've always been fascinated by the facade of celebrity. What you see is not always what you get. It's a human construct that simply isn't real yet we are so celebrity driven as a culture. I remember having troubles growing up understanding the context of how a footy player on a Sunday afternoon could be so adored yet so broken and lonely playing the pokies on a Tuesday night at the local. That juxtaposition makes for great drama. In the end I wanted to show that heroes in life are human and just because they have a specific skill set that doesn't necessarily equip them for life or make them role models.

SCREEN-SPACE: The final images in the film convey a beautifully complex, ambiguous future. Do you have hope for your characters?

Davis: Oh yes, I do. I see it as a bittersweet but honest conclusion. Without spoiling anything, I think BK gets what he needs and not what he wants, perhaps for the first time in his life, and he realises and accepts that. I think there's definitely good times ahead for this motley crew.

Following acclaim on the festival circuit, BROKE has its Sydney premiere on Wednesday, April 13 with other screenings to follow. Ticket and venue information can be found at the film's official website. 

Photographs by MK Creative Studios; Copyright Scope Red 2014