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Thursday
Nov292018

SIX AUSTRALIAN FILMS ANNOUNCED IN SUNDANCE 2019 ROSTER

The year ahead for Australian cinema gets off to a heartening start with six local features selected for the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. The line-up boasts the star power of Oscar winners Hilary Swank and Lupita Nyong’o; locally bred stars Damon Herriman, Mia Wasikowska and Rose Byrne; and includes new features from director Wayne Blair (The Sapphires, 2012), Sophie Hyde (52 Tuesdays, 2013), Abe Forsythe (Down Under, 2016) and Jennifer Kent (The Babadook, 2014). In a statement released in the wake of the announcement, Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason lauded, "the incredible slate of premieres", noting that " all the films revolve around central female characters, and half of the films are directed by women, a milestone for the Australian industry. Change is coming – slowly, but surely.” The high-altitude mecca for the indie film sector runs January 24 to February 3.


WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Judy & Punch (Director/Writer: Mirrah Foulkes, Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Damon Herriman, Tom Budge, Benedict Hardie, Lucy Velik, Terry Norris.) In the anarchic town of Seaside, nowhere near the sea, puppeteers Judy and Punch are trying to resurrect their marionette show. The show is a hit due to Judy’s superior puppeteering but Punch’s driving ambition and penchant for whisky lead to a inevitable tragedy that Judy must avenge. Debut feature director Mirrah Foulkes stated via the Screen Australia site, "[The] festival has been formative to the careers of many of my peers. It's an absolute privilege to be premiering my first feature there.” (Pictured, top; Mia Wasikowska in Judy & Punch. Photo: Ben King)

PREMIERES

Animals (Director: Sophie Hyde, Screenwriter: Emma Jane Unsworth, Cast: Holliday Grainger, Alia Shawkat; pictured, above). After a decade of partying, Laura and Tyler’s friendship is strained by Laura’s new love and her focus on her novel. A snapshot of a modern woman with competing desires, at once a celebration of female friendship and an examination of the choices we make when facing a crossroads. Hyde took home the Sundance Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic for 52 Tuesdays in 2014 (Animals is an Irish/Australian co-production; Photo: Bernard Walsh)

I Am Mother (Director: Grant Sputore, Screenwriter: Michael Lloyd Green, Cast: Clara Rugaard, Rose Byrne, Hilary Swank.) In the wake of humanity’s extinction, a teenage girl is raised by a robot designed to repopulate the earth. But their unique bond is threatened when an inexplicable stranger arrives with alarming news (Pictured, above; Hilary Swank in I am Mother)

Top End Wedding (Director: Wayne Blair, Screenwriters: Joshua Tyler, Miranda Tapsell, Cast: Miranda Tapsell, Gwilym Lee, Kerry Fox, Huw Higginson, Ursula Yovich, Shari Sebbens.) Lauren and Ned are engaged, they are in love, and they have just ten days to find Lauren’s mother who has gone AWOL somewhere in the remote far north of Australia, reunite her parents and pull off their dream wedding. Miranda Tapsell (pictured, above) said via press release, "As a co-writer, producer and actor in this film, it's been a labour of love for me and having the opportunity to showcase the Northern Territory to an international audience, through a different lens, at such a prestigious festival, makes this such a rewarding experience."

MIDNIGHT

Little Monsters (Director /Writer: Abe Forsythe, Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Alexander England, Josh Gad.) A film dedicated to all the kindergarten teachers who motivate children to learn, instill them with confidence and stop them from being devoured by zombies. Via the Screen Australia website, Forsythe declared, "I’m so happy that everyone’s work will be premiered at a festival I’ve always dreamed of attending. (Pictured, above; Lupita Nyong'o as Miss Caroline)

SPOTLIGHT

The Nightingale (Director/Writer: Jennifer Kent, Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr, Damon Herriman, Harry Greenwood, Ewen Leslie) 1825. Clare, a young Irish convict-woman, chases a British officer through the Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of Aboriginal tracker Billy, who is marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past. (Pictured, above; Aisling Franciosi as Clare)

Sunday
Sep302018

SCIFI FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES 2018 OFFICIAL COMPETITION JURY

Ozploitation legend Brian Trenchard-Smith, Australian Director’s Guild honoree Julietta Boscolo and AWGIE Award winner Jonathan Ogilvie will judge the 9 features and 16 short films in Official Competition at the 2018 SciFi Film Festival.

“I approached Brian, Julietta and Jonathan because they are three of the most distinctive, ambitious and assured cinematic storytellers our industry sector has produced,” said SciFi Film Festival Program Director and Screen-Space Managng Editor Simon Foster. “They represent the kind of instinctive visionaries that the SciFi Film Festival celebrates in its programming. We wanted to celebrate it in choosing our judges as well.”

Brian Trenchard-Smith needs no introduction to genre fans, whose filmography is revered by audiences both locally and around the world. The director of sci-fi cult classics Turkey Shoot (1982), Frog Dreaming (1986) and Dead End Drive-In (1986), Trenchard-Smith has recently been honoured with retrospectives of his work at Karlovy Vary, Melbourne, Brisbane and Toronto film festivals; in 2016, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Fantaspoa International Fantastic Film Festival. His first novel, the science-fiction/fantasy epic Alice Through the Multiverse, was recently published on Amazon and Kindle.

Upon graduating with a Masters in Directing from Victorian College of The Arts, Julietta Boscolo was chosen as one of only 35 filmmakers globally to attend the Edinburgh International Film Festival’s Talent Lab. Her 2012 film Sam’s Gold earned her the Australian Director’s Guild Best Director (Short) Award; in 2017, she won the Melbourne International Film Festival’s 2017 Emerging Filmmaker Award for her short film Let’s See How Fast This Baby Will Go, a film that was pre-selected to screen at the Cannes Critics Week. Julietta is currently developing the sci-fi-themed web-series Sunshine, for which she received funding via Screen Australia’s Gender Matters Brilliant Stories initiative.

Having taken out top honours at Tropfest 1996 and secured a Palme d’Or nomination for his short This Film is a Dog, Jonathan Ogilvie has forged a career highlighted by the critically acclaimed features Emulsion (2006) and The Tender Hook (2008). Starring Hugo Weaving and Rose Byrne, The Tender Hook earned five AFI Award nominations and won Ogilvie the Writer’s Guild AWGIE Award for Best Feature Film Screenplay. For his next project, Ogilvie will adapt Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent into a feature called Lone Wolf, reteaming him with star Hugo Weaving and directing one of the world’s first feature-length films employing virtual reality technology.   

All feature films in Official Competition for the SciFi Film Festival’s top honours will vie for Film, Actor, Actress, Music/Sound and Effects categories. Short films will compete for Best Australian and Best International honours.

Winners will be announced in an informal ceremony on the Closing Night of the festival, Sunday October 21, followed by the Australian Premiere of director Johan Earl’s short SHIFT and a retrospective screening of Steve De Jarnatt’s 1988 cult classic MIRACLE MILE.

The 2018 SciFi Film Festival will run October 18-21 at Event Cinemas George St Sydney. Session details and tickets available here.

(Content is republished from a press release written for the SciFi Film Festival by Simon Foster)

Tuesday
Jul242018

MAD MAX FURY ROAD BEST OF OZ CINEMA’S NEW CENTURY CELLULOID, SAY LOCAL CRIX

Blockbuster dystopian fantasy Mad Max Fury Road, Dr George Miller’s explosive fourth instalment of Australia’s only homegrown action franchise, has topped a survey amongst local critics to find the best Oz movie of the new millennium. The poll, the largest ever of its kind to be undertaken, was initiated by leading Australian film website Flicks.com.au.

“We wanted to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of Australian filmmakers," says Flicks.com.au  publisher Paul Scantlebury. “This poll recognizes some incredible work and reveals interesting things. Half of the ten highest-rated films were directed by first-time filmmakers. And two filmmakers had more than one film in the top 25; Warwick Thornton with Samson & Delilah and Sweet Country, and Rolf de Heer with Ten Canoes and The Tracker."

Having finally hit screens in 2015 after a troubled and extended production history, Mad Max Fury Road took the local box office by storm, earning A$20million, ahead of sweeping the local AACTA Award ceremony (it won 8) and figuring heavily at the Oscars (it won 6). Charged with summing up why Miller’s opus took top honours, Melbourne-based critic Craig Matheson wrote, ““It’s 2,000 horsepower of nitro-based war machine,” a character says of their ride, but they could as easily be describing this magisterial movie.”

David Michod’s Oscar-nominated 2010 crime thriller Animal Kingdom (pictured, right) took second place, with Warwick Thornton’s doomed love-story Samson and Delilah from 2009 in third spot. In descending order, the ten best comprised Andrew Dominik’s Chopper (2000), Ray Lawrence’s Lantana (2001), Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook (2014), John Hillcoat’s The Proposition (2005), Thornton’s western riff Sweet Country (2017), Justin Kurzel’s Snowtown (2011) and Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road (2011).

Just outside the Best Ten were Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! (2001, pictured, left), Rolf de Heer’s Ten Canoes (2006), Sarah Watts’ Look Both Ways (2005), Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s Hail (2011) and Jocelyn Moorhouse’s The Dressmaker (2015).

Online, broadcast and print sector film industry commentators, comprising 26 men and 25 women, were approached to list their Top 10 Australian movies released since January 1, 2000; any feature length film was eligible, including documentaries (Jen Peedom’s Sherpa, from 2015, hit #21) and animation (Adam Elliott’s Mary and Max, from 2009, was #22). Those who weighed in include such high-profile critics as David Stratton, Margaret Pomeranz, The Gaurdian’s Luke Buckmaster (also attached to Flicks), Fairfax Media’s Sandra Hall and Jake Wilson, and ABC Radio’s Jason Di Rosso. Screen-Space Managing Editor Simon Foster was also among those asked to contribute.

Friday
Jul132018

CATE SHORTLAND CONFIRMED AS MCU TENTPOLE 'BLACK WIDOW' DIRECTOR

Cate Shortland has been welcomed into the studio franchise fold with trade paper The Hollywood Reporter breaking the news that the Australian director will helm Black Widow.

The stand-alone adventure of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s heroine assassin will see Scarlett Johansson reprise the role of ex-Russian agent Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow. To date, she has featured as a supporting player in six MCU films.

Hailing from the New South wales country town of Temora, Shortland’s path to the mega-budget tentpole arena comes via the arthouse sector. A graduate of the prestigious Australian Film Television and Radio School, she helmed a series of well-received shorts (Pentuphouse, 1998; Flowergirl, 1999; Joy, 2000) and episodic television before her 2004 feature debut, Somersault.

A frank coming-of-age drama, Somersault launched the careers of stars Abbie Cornish and Sam Worthington during a festival run that yielded 14 Australian Film Institute awards and earning Shortland an Un Certain Regard nomination at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. She followed its success with the German/Australian co-production Lore (2012) and the Teresa Palmer hostage drama, The Berlin Syndrome (2017).

A Black Widow film has been whispered about within the Marvel Films empire for several years. In 2014, MCU overseer Kevin Feige said the project was being developed, a position he restated in 2016. The attachment of rookie scribe Jac Schaeffer (TiMER, 2009; Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, 2017; The Shower, due 2019; pictured, right) in January has fast-tracked the project.

Shortland was only confirmed for the directing job after Marvel had allegedly met with dozens of directors, including Deniz Gamze Erguven (Mustang, 2015), Chloe Zhao (The Rider, 2017), Amma Asante (Belle, 2013; A United Kingdom, 2016) Maggie Betts (Novitiate, 2017), Melanie Laurent (Galveston, 2018) and Angela Robinson (Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, 2017).

When released, Black Widow will become the second MCU production to be directed by a woman. Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larsen and due March 8 2019, has Anna Boden behind the camera, co-directing with Ryan Fleck.

Read the 2012 SCREEN-SPACE Interview with Cate Shortland discussing the release of LORE.  

Friday
Apr202018

CAMERAS ROLL ON JUDY AND PUNCH SHOOT

Mirrah Foulkes has commenced production of her feature directorial debut, Judy and Punch. Working from her own script and with the backing of VICE Studios and Seaside Productions, Foulkes will guide her leads Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman through a contemporary, often violent reinterpretation of the 16th century marionette play, ‘ Punch and Judy’.

In Foulkes’ very adult reworking of the evergreen children’s story, puppeteers Judy and husband Punch live in the peculiar, unforgiving town of Seaside, where they stage their shows as a means to ultimately escape their small town life. The charismatic Punch reveals an increasingly violent personality, his actions propelling the narrative into dark thematic territory. In a denouement that speaks directly to the current #MeToo movement and climate for gender equality, Judy teams up with a band of outcast heretics to enact revenge on him and the entire town of Seaside.

A string of well-received short films earned Foulkes (pictured, right) the opportunity to helm her first feature. Her 2012 short, ‘Dumpy Goes to The Big Smoke’ earned the prized Rouben Mamoulian Award at the 2012 Sydney Film Festival and won her Best Director honours at the internationally recognized Flickerfest Film Festival. Her 2015 film ‘Florence Has Left The Building’ won Best Short Fiction honours at the AACTA Awards; in 2016, her third short ‘Trespass’ took out the Best Australian Short Film trophy at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Prior to life behind the camera, Foulkes amassed a stellar list of acting credits in both film and television, including Jody Dwyer’s Dying Breed (2008), David Michod’s Animal Kingdom (2010) and Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty (2011).

Having made her feature film debut in 2006 in Paul Goldman’s Suburban Mayhem, Mia Wasikowska has established her A-list credentials in blockbusters such as Alice in Wonderland (2010), its sequel Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016), and Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak (2015). The in-demand actress has worked alongside such filmmakers as Edward Zwick (Defiance, 2008), Mira Nair (Amelia, 2009), Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right, 2010), John Hillcoat (Lawless, 2012), Chan-wook Park (Stoker, 2013), Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive, 2013), John Curran (Tracks, 2013) and David Cronenberg (Maps to The Stars, 2014). Her latest film, Nicolas Pesce’s Piercing, will have its Australian premiere at the 2018 Sydney Film Festival in June.

Damon Herriman arrives in Victoria on the wave of career momentum, with projects in various stages of production both at home and in the U.S. An acting veteran whose first credit was at age 6 in the iconic TV series The Sullivans, Herriman is currently one of Hollywood’s most sought-after character players, with roles in several TV series, including the highly-touted FX project Mr Inbetween (with Edgerton, pictured left, at the helm). His last Australian feature was Abe Forsyth’s racially-charged black comedy, Down Under (2016); he recently wrapped on The Nightingale, director Jennifer Kent’s follow-up to her cult hit, The Babadook.

Judy and Punch will shoot in various locations around Melbourne, Victoria, overseen by producers Michelle Bennett (Chopper, 2000; The Magician, 2005; Drift, 2013), Nash Edgerton (director of The Square, 2008, and Gringo, 2018) and VICE Studios Danny Gabai (The Bad Batch, 2016; The Beach Bum, 2018). In addition to VICE and Seaside, backing was sourced via Screen Australia in conjunction with Screen Victoria and Create NSW. Madman Entertainment are distributing in Australia and New Zealand, with Cornerstone Films spruiking international.

Friday
Mar092018

AUSTRALASIAN SECTOR MOURNS PASSING OF TWO INDUSTRY LEADERS  

Film distribution and exhibition arms in Australia and New Zealand are united in grief after the passing of two of the sector's most experienced and respected executives this week.

The death of Australian-born, Auckland-based Michael Eldred (pictured, above), General Manager of Transmission Films New Zealand, was publically announced via a heartfelt post on the distributor’s Facebook page on March 6. “Michael said goodbye yesterday following a brief and dignified illness,” the release stated, noting the executive ”was a generous and enthusiastic champion of independent cinema in Australia and New Zealand, and a driving force behind the release of hundreds of films.”

In 2016, Eldred was appointed by Transmission Managing Director Richard Payten to oversee the expansion of the company’s operations in New Zealand, where the mini-major had been a committed investor in local content since 2008. Eldred had vast managerial experience in sales and programming on both sides of The Tasman Sea, after stints with Dendy Cinemas, Hoyts Distribution and Madman Entertainment.

He was deeply respected within the New Zealand filmmaking community, having championed such works as Taika Waititi’s Boy (2010), Robert Sarkies’ Out Of The Blue (2006), James Napier Robertson’s The Dark Horse (2014), Toa Fraser’s The Dead Lands (2014), Gaylene Preston’s My Year with Helen (2017) and Roger Donaldson’s McLaren (2017). He was credited as Associate Producer on Tusi Tamasese’s acclaimed The Orator (2011), the director’s follow-up effort One Thousand Ropes (2016), as well as Max Currie’s Everything We Loved (2014).

The late executive’s colleagues at Transmission acknowledge the support their friend received from Hospice West Auckland in his final days. Eldred is survived by his wife Sally and son Nicholas.

In Sydney, PR maven Fiona Nix announced via a Facebook post on March 8 the passing of her close friend, distribution and exhibition great John Politzer. A 50-year veteran whose ebullient presence spanned the great picture palace era of film exhibition through the suburban multiplex boom years, Politzer earned a reputation as one of the most savvy managerial minds the industry has ever known (pictured, right; Politzer, centre, with GUO managing director Alan Rydge, right, and producer Anthony Buckley).

Hired in the local office of Hollywood studio giant Twentieth Century Fox in the 1950s, Politzer was soon recruited by local operator Village Roadshow to build a slate of commercial and critical hits that helped the Australian company become established and flourish. By the late 1970s, Politzer’s achievements were noted by exhibition giant The Greater Union Organisation, who were about to embark on a vast suburban multiplex expansion. Hired in 1979 as Controller of Film Booking, Politzer would forge a 16-year association with GUO, ascending to National Programming Manager before his retirement in 1995 (his senior programming role filled by Peter Cody, whom Politzer had mentored since 1986 following the departure of Scott Neeson). Politzer’s outgoing demeanour and warm managerial style made him one of the most endearing personalities in the local film sector.

Presenting the Independent Spirit Award to Politzer at the 2012 Australian International Movement Convention (an honour accepted by Nix on behalf of her absent friend), former recipient and fellow exhibition giant Bob Parr highlighted the late executive’s unwavering dedication to homegrown cinema.  “His love of and commitment to Australian films and the local industry (soon) became evident,” Parr told the industry crowd, “John secured screens for Australian films so producers and distributors could be confident of strong, wide releases and was a champion of films like Sunday Too Far Away, Caddie, Fran and Praise. John's initiative and support for Ray Lawrence’s Bliss…saved the film from obscurity and launched its amazing six month record-breaking season at the Pitt Centre.” (Pictured, left; Politzer, seated centre with, from left, GUO executives Peter Marrett, Peter Cody, Andrew Mackie and Hugh Liney)

Politzer’s expertise became invaluable to Australian producers and directors, who employed his service in consultancy roles in the years after his retirement from GUO.

Details of memorial services for Michael Eldred and John Politzer will be announced in the days ahead.

Monday
Dec182017

VALE CHRIS MURRAY

Fans, filmmakers and a global network of friends are mourning the shock passing of Chris Murray, a beloved, passionate advocate of Australian film culture. Via a public Facebook post written in his final days, the multi-hyphenate talent was frank about his yearlong battle with aggressive bladder cancer and his wish to fight the disease without burdening his friends with the news. He wrote, "I didn't want to worry people and by the time it got away from me I wasn't sure what to say." His last words to his friends and followers were, "We all had awesome times together. Remember me and us that way. I love you all. Much love, Muzz." He succumbed to the disease this morning, December 19, just before dawn, surrounded by family and close friends. He was 45.

A life consumed by film was given focus when he saw Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas at age 18. “[My dad] said to me, ‘I’ll think you’ll like this, son’,” Murray recalled in a 2014 profile for Sydney Film School. “When I came out of the cinema, I really wanted to f**k shit up. I really wanted to get involved. No other film has affected me as much as that.” (Full interview below). After a stint selling advertising space in the street magazine 9 to 5, the 23 year-old Murray took the helm of Australian Playboy as Managing Editor in 1999, for what would be a brief tenure but one that paid huge dividends for the passionate film lover.

In November of that year, he fronted the launch of the first international edition of the iconic British film monthly, Empire, taking on the role of Editor and staffing the local office with some of Australia’s best-known film writers. He oversaw four years of circulation growth in a publishing sector faced with a shrinking ad market; his infectious passion for cinema, keen business acumen and warm personality proved endearing, affording him access to talent from all sectors of the Australasian industry. 

Murray’s laconic yet passionate presentation skills, cool personal style and encyclopaedic understanding of film, television and music did not go unnoticed by the broadcast sector. He took on-air roles as film reviewer for The Seven Network’s top-rating Sunrise show (2002-2007) and Austereo’s flagship FM station, Triple M (2002-2006). He emerged as one of Australia’s most informed entertainment industry voices, lending his knowledge and profile to such outlets as ABC 702 Sydney and 5AA Adelaide; the cable channels Showtime (where he hosted the popular ‘Movie Club’ show) and The Movie Network; and, as contributor for FOX News USA and The Nine Network. In addition to Empire, his writing would be published in Rolling Stone, FHM, Smash Hits, Kerrang!, Stack and The Walkley.

Of the many great legacies left by Chris Murray, it may be the 6½ years he spent as the Creative Director of the film celebration society Popcorn Taxi that most profoundly impacted our film culture. In November 2007, under the freewheeling principle, 'We love movies. You love movies. We should definitely hang out...', Murray (alongside Peter Taylor, his co-principal at the media company Neon Pictures) took creative control of the screening-and-Q&A event format established in 1999 by Gary Doust and Matt Wheeldon.

It proved the perfect platform for Murray’s vast film knowledge and warm interpersonal skills. Under his stewardship, the Popcorn Taxi interviewee roster boasted such names as Jerry Lewis, Vince Gilligan, Andrew Stanton, Karen Allen, Joel Edgerton, Richard Kelly, Brian Trenchard-Smith, David Michod, Rob Zombie and Quentin Tarantino (pictured, right); in 2013, Murray sat with Thor The Dark World star Tom Hiddleston for one of the most popular Popcorn Taxi sessions ever held. When interviewed by SBS Movies in 2009 as part of Popcorn Taxi 10th anniversary celebrations, Murray exhibited the spirit of a true showman, stating, “Every show is the Be all and End all. Everyone who goes must walk away after it and say, 'f**k that was awesome!'”

Murray left Popcorn Taxi in early 2014, taking a two-year sabbatical from the live Q&A format before launching the live event initiative, P.R.O.M. “The People’s Republic of Movies”. Murray drew on his reputation for the first round of PROM presentations – …Taxi alumni Quentin Tarantino introduced the Australian classics The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and Mad Dog Morgan; a transcontinental interview with director Tom Ford followed a sneak peek of Nocturnal Animals. In February 2017, he was appointed Head of Media for Xeitgeist Entertainment Group, a multi-faceted production company based in Singapore and Sydney's Fox Studios .

Details of a service for Chris will be announced in the days ahead.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated Chris was 44. He was 45, born in April 1972. Apologies for the error.

Wednesday
Dec062017

IN PROFILE: 2017 AACTA HONOREE PHILLIP NOYCE

Hailing from the central New South Wales township of Griffith, Phillip Noyce did not initially present himself as the most likely young filmmaker to take first the Australian industry and then Hollywood by storm. But the towering 6’4” country lad, who made his first film Better to Reign in Hell at age 18, would forge a career that reaches its zenith tonight, when the 67 year-old director is presented with the prestigious Longford Lyell Award at the 7th Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) ceremony at The Star Event Centre in Sydney.

SCREEN-SPACE considers the five key moments in Noyce’s brilliant career; contributions that have, as the award recognises, enriched Australia’s screen environment and culture…

1973: A member of the inaugural class of the newly established Film and Television School…

As a member of the ‘Interim Training Group’, the 22 year-old Noyce joined young hopefuls such as Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career; Starstruck) and Chris Noonan (Babe; Miss Potter) amongst the first wave of students at FTS (later, AFTRS). Under Foundation Director Jerzy Toeplitz and Council chairman Barry Jones, Noyce honed the rough talent he had exhibited in a series of short films shot in Sydney during the 1960s, many of them reflecting the influence of international productions he had screened as head of the legendary Sydney Filmmakers Co-op. His graduating work, the 44 minute documentary Castor and Pollux (below), caught the emergence of a distinctive storyteller with a natural insight into character and nuance. (Pictured, right; Noyce, back-row centre, with FTS Class of '73 students)

1977-87: The first 10 years…
Upon graduation, Noyce immersed himself in the film production sector, working behind-the-scenes on films such as Ayten Kuyululu’s The Golden Cage (1975) and Oliver Howes’ Let the Balloon Go (1976). It would not be until 1977 that his feature film directing debut was realeased, the rough and raucous inter-racial outback drama Backroads, starring Bill Hunter and Gary Foley and shot by Russell Boyd. Drawing upon his outback upbringing, Noyce captured a powerful chemistry between his leads that spoke to the volatile political mood of the moment. Noyce’s follow-up was the beloved classic Newsfront (1978), the story of the early days of the Cinetone news camera crews; it would win the director his first Australian Film Institute award for Best Director (one of the film’s eight wins at the 1978 ceremony). Noyce returned to short documentaries and TV work until 1982, when the contemporary thriller Heatwave (1982) paired him with Judy Davis. He returned to the small-screen at the height of the TV mini-series boom and made two of the industry’s finest ever short-form series, The Dismaissal (1983) and The Cowra Breakout (1984).

1989: Dead Calm.
Noyce had skirted around committing to big budget, commercial cinema until the right project surfaced. That happened in 1989; an adaptation of Charles Williams 1963 novel (once near to filming under Orson Welles) by Mad Max 2 writer Terry Hayes called Dead Calm came to Noyce with on-the-cusp actress Nicole Kidman and established name Sam Neill attached. The collaboration proved electric; the thriller, about a married couple adrift at sea being terrorised by psychopath Billy Zane, proved to be one of the great calling-card films of all time, catapulting all involved onto Hollywood’s hot list. Washington Post critics, calling the film a “majestic horror cruise,” praised Noyce’s direction, calling him, “a masterful manipulator”, stating that he “raises the stakes so skilfully you find yourself ducking the boom.”

1989-2010: Hollywood or bust…
Phillip Noyce had earned his shot at Tinseltown-sized success and joined the ranks of Renaissance peers such as Gilliam Armstrong, Peter Weir and Dr George Miller amongst the directing elite of Hollywood. He stumbled slightly with his first film, Blind Fury (1989) with Rutger Hauer (although the ‘sightless samurai’ oddity has found cult favour over time), before hitting big with two instalments in the Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan franchise, Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994). Noyce ran gamut in his time at the top of the Hollywood pecking order - one derided dud (Sliver, 1993; pictured, right, with star Sharon Stone), one admired underperformer (The Saint, 1993), one solid standalone hit (The Bone Collector, 1999), one barely-released international production (Catch a Fire, 2006) and one Oscar-friendly prestige pic (The Quiet American, 2002). His last legitimate studio hit was 2010’s Salt, with Angelina Jolie; his last big-budget effort, the YA adaptation The Giver with Jeff Bridges, bombed.

2002: Rabbit Proof Fence.
At the height of his Los Angeles adventure, Noyce returned to his homeland to direct arguably the crowning achievement in his extraordinary career. Rabbit Proof Fence, based upon the novel by Doris Pilkington Garimara, was the story of three aboriginal girls fleeing a life of indentured servitude and making their way across the dangerous and desolate outback. With controversy raging over ‘The Stolen Generation’, a shameful moment in Australia’s history when indigenous people were taken from their homes as youngsters, to be taught the wihite man’s ways, Noyce directed his most moving and acclaimed film. Phillip Noyce had crafted a film that encapsulated his own outback roots, his country’s terrible heritage and his industry’s global standing.

  

Monday
Oct302017

LION IS PRIDE OF LOCAL INDUSTRY WITH 12 AACTA NOMS.

The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) seem poised to correct the imbalance perpetrated by their American brethren by handing the bulk of this years AACTA Award Feature Film trophies to Garth Davis’ Lion. The critical and commercial hit scored a whopping 12 nominations, leading a record-breaking 17 films in the race for this year’s top industry honours.

Starring Dev Patel as the adopted Indian man seeking his birth mother, Lion became the feel-good hit at the 2016-17 international box office yet was shut-out in the La-La Land/Moonlight Oscar sweep, despite earning six nominations. Given its A$25million local box office haul and the 34 awards it has already snared globally (including two International AACTAs), the prospect of the film enjoying it’s own sweep at the twin ceremonies on December 4 and 6 is very real.

Also in contention for the Best Film AACTA are the sleeper hit Ali’s Wedding (8 nominations) and box office non-starters Berlin Syndrome (8 nominations; pictured, right), Hounds of Love (8 nominations) and Jasper Jones (6 nominations).  Other multiple nominees include Don’t Tell (4), The Butterfly Tree (3), The Death and Life of Otto Bloom (2) and The Lego Batman Movie (2). Single nominations in several tech categories went to Australia Day, Dance Academy: The Movie, Jungle, Killing Ground, Red Dog True Blue and Osiris Child: Science Fiction Volume 1; international productions Deepwater Horizon and Doctor Strange were cited for their use of local effects houses.

Launching at this year’s ceremony will be the inaugural Best Asian Film category, a none-too-subtle attempt to wrestle regional relevance away from the annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA), to be held in Brisbane on November 23. Countries represented in the category include India (Dangal; Pink; Kaasav Turtle); China (I am Not Madame Bovary; Our Time Will Come; Wolf Warrior II, pictured, left); The Philippines (Birdshot); South Korea (Train to Busan); and, Japan (Your Name).

The 7th AACTA Awards will be held at The Star Event Centre in Sydney. The Industry Luncheon takes place on Monday December 4, to be followed by the AACTA Awards Ceremony on the evening of December 6.

The full list of nominees are:          

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST FILM
ALI’S WEDDING Sheila Jayadev, Helen Panckhurst
BERLIN SYNDROME Polly Staniford
HOUNDS OF LOVE Melissa Kelly
JASPER JONES Vincent Sheehan, David Jowsey
LION Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, Angie Fielder

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTION
ALI’S WEDDING Jeffrey Walker
BERLIN SYNDROME Cate Shortland
HOUNDS OF LOVE Ben Young
LION Garth Davis

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTOR
Stephen Curry HOUNDS OF LOVE
Ewen Leslie THE BUTTERFLY TREE
Sunny Pawar LION
Osamah Sami ALI’S WEDDING

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTRESS
Emma Booth HOUNDS OF LOVE
Teresa Palmer BERLIN SYNDROME
Helana Sawires ALI’S WEDDING
Sara West DON’T TELL

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Don Hany ALI’S WEDDING
Dev Patel LION
Jack Thompson DON’T TELL
Hugo Weaving JASPER JONES

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Frances Duca ALI’S WEDDING
Nicole Kidman LION
Jacqueline McKenzie DON’T TELL
Susie Porter HOUNDS OF LOVE

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ASIAN FILM
BIRDSHOT Pamela L. Reyes
DANGAL Aamir Khan, Kiran Rao, Siddarth Roy Kapur
I AM NOT MADAME BOVARY Wang Zhonglei, Zhou Maofei, Hu Xiaofeng
KAASAV (TURTLE) Dr. Mohan Agashe, Sunil Sukthankar, Sumitra Bhave
OUR TIME WILL COME Roger Lee, Stephen Lam, Ann Hui
PINK Shoojit Sircar, Rashmi Sharma, Ronnie Lahiri, Sheel Kumar
TRAIN TO BUSAN Lee Dong ha
WOLF WARRIOR 2 Zhang Miao, Guang Hailong
YOUR NAME Genki Kawamura, Katsuhiro Takei, Kouichurou Itou, Yoshihiro Furusawa

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST FEATURE LENGTH DOCUMENTARY
CASTING JONBENÉT Kitty Green, Scott Macaulay, James Schamus
DAVID STRATTON: A CINEMATIC LIFE Jo-anne McGowan
DEEP WATER: THE REAL STORY Darren Dale
WHITELEY Sue Clothier, James Bogle, Peta Ayres
ZACH’S CEREMONY Sarah Linton, Alec Doomadgee

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
ALI’S WEDDING Andrew Knight, Osamah Sami
THE BUTTERFLY TREE Priscilla Cameron
THE DEATH AND LIFE OF OTTO BLOOM Cris Jones
HOUNDS OF LOVE Ben Young

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
BERLIN SYNDROME Shaun Grant
DON’T TELL James Greville, Ursula Cleary, Anne Brooksbank
JASPER JONES Shaun Grant, Craig Silvey
LION Luke Davies

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
HOUNDS OF LOVE Michael McDermott
JUNGLE Stefan Duscio
LION Greig Fraser
RED DOG: TRUE BLUE Geoffrey Hall

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST EDITING
AUSTRALIA DAY Nick Meyers
BERLIN SYNDROME Jack Hutchings
HOUNDS OF LOVE Merlin Eden
LION Alexandre de Franceschi

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SOUND
JASPER JONES Liam Egan, Trevor Hope, Robert Sullivan, Yulia Akerholt, James Andrews, Les Fiddess
KILLING GROUND Serge Lacroix, Cate Cahill
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE Wayne Pashley, Rick Lisle, Fabian Sanjurgo, Michael Semanick, Gregg Landaker
LION Robert Mackenzie, Glenn Newnham, Nakul Kamte, Andrew Ramage, James Ashton, Mario Vaccaro

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC SCORE
ALI’S WEDDING Nigel Westlake
BERLIN SYNDROME Bryony Marks
THE BUTTERFLY TREE Caitlin Yeo
LION Volker Bertelmann, Dustin O’Halloran

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
BERLIN SYNDROME Melinda Doring
THE DEATH AND LIFE OF OTTO BLOOM Ben Morieson
JASPER JONES Herbert Pinter
LION Chris Kennedy

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST COSTUME DESIGN
BERLIN SYNDROME Maria Pattison
DANCE ACADEMY:THE MOVIE Tess Schofield
JASPER JONES Margot Wilson
LION Cappi Ireland

Saturday
Sep022017

R.I.P. ALAN CASSELL

For 40 years, one of the most sturdy and reliable character players in the Australian film sector was a Brit expat Alan Cassell. A master of the stage (he featured opposite Lauren Bacall in Sweet Bird of Youth for the Sydney Theatre Company) and a constant presence on local television (27 small-screen credits, including ‘Prime Minister John Gorton’ in the landmark mini-series, Vietnam), Cassell was a cherished cast member in many of the great films of the industry’s boom decades. On the occasion of his passing in Melbourne on August 30 at the age of 85, we honour the memorable moments of Cassell’s rich big screen career… 

CATHY’S CHILD (1979) and HARLEQUIN (1980)
Plying his trade on Australia’s west coast earned Cassell lead parts in two Perth-based productions - Edgar Metcalfe’s dramatic thriller, The Olive Tree (1975) and Terry O’Rourke’s bawdy soft-core romp Plugg (1975). Relocating to the eastern seaboard, roles in the TV series Matlock and a stand-out ‘crooked cop’ role in Bruce Beresford’s ensemble heist hit Money Movers (1978) signalled to the industry that Cassell was that great supporting player who could enliven any narrative.  Director Donald Crombie cast Cassell opposite Michele Fawdon in Cathy’s Child, a powerful drama about a mother determined to get her stolen daughter back; it would earn Fawdon the AFI Best Actress award and secure Cassell a Best Actor nomination (his only nod from the industry body). When casting the pricey genre thriller Harlequin, director Simon Wincer and producer Anthony Ginnane recognised Cassell’s worth and gave him a key role in the 1980 production opposite a cast of international imports including Broderick Crawford, Robert Powell and David Hemmings. (Pictured, right; a promotional lobby card for Cathy's Child, featuring Cassell and star Michele Fawdon)    

BREAKER MORANT (1980), THE CLUB (1980) and PUBERTY BLUES (1981).
On the set of Money Movers, Cassell had developed a strong professional rapport and lasting friendship with his director, Bruce Beresford. The filmmaker drew upon that mutual respect for three films that would come to represent Cassell’s most acclaimed character work. Beresford cast Cassell as pompous Brit officer Lord Kitchener, working against the actor’s working class roots, in the international hit, Breaker Morant. As football club administrator Gerry Cooper, Cassell gave perhaps his finest career performance in Beresford’s adaptation of David Williamson’s The Club, holding his own opposite Jack Thompson, Graham Kennedy and Frank Wilson. In the director’s teen classic Puberty Blues, Cassell played the ‘suburban dad’ to perfection as Mr Vickers, father of Nell Schofield’s wild child beach girl Debbie. (pictured, above; Cassell with Beresford on the set of Money Movers)  

The 1980s: SQUIZZY TAYLOR (1982), THE DARK ROOM (1982), FIRE IN THE STONE (1984) and BELINDA (1988)
Cassell worked to greater acclaim on television for the duration of the 1980s including the lead in Special Squad (an Aussie take on tough Brit police thrillers The Sweeney and The Professionals) and a 14 episode arc on Neighbours. His film work from the period was first rate, though often in service of films that saw minor theatrical seasons before their home video shelf life. Most prominent amongst them was Kevin James Dobson’s period crime thriller Squizzy Taylor, starring David Atkins as the 1920s underworld figure and Cassell as Detective Brophy, the hardened cop out to get him. US director Paul Harmon’s solid potboiler The Darkroom afforded Cassell a rare leading man role in a cast that included Anna Maria Monticelli and Rowena Wallace (and a blink-and-miss bit part for a young Baz Luhrmann). Other films in which Cassell made an impression include Howard Rubie’s romantic bush yarn The Settlement, opposite Bill Kerr, John Jarratt and Lorna Lesley; Gary Conway’s young adult adventure romp The Fire in The Stone, most notable for its origins as a novel from Storm Boy author, Colin Thiele; and, Pamela Gibbon’s semi-autobiographical dance drama Belinda (aka, Midnight Dancer), with Cassell comfortable as the anxious father of Deanne Jeff’s showgirl wannabe. (Pictured, above; a screengrab from The Darkroom, featuring Cassell and co-star, Svet Kovich)

THE HONOURABLE WALLY NORMAN (2003) and STRANGE BEDFELLOWS (2004)
In his final screen appearances, Alan Cassell got to play in two broad comedies, a bigscreen genre that had largely passed him by for most of his career. As his persona softened throughout the 90s with warmer and often very funny parts in TV series like The Flying Doctors, SeaChange and The Micallef Program, producers sought out his effortless charm to enliven their would-be crowdpleasers. In The Honourable Wally Norman, veteran comedy director Ted Emery used Cassell as the pivotal character, boozy politician Willy Norman, who misspells his own name and sets Kevin Harrington’s average Joe ‘Wally Norman’ on a course to Canberra. In Dean Murphy’s gay-themed romp Strange Bedfellows, Cassell plays ‘small country town beffudlement’ with warmth and integrity, opposite leads Paul Hogan and Michael Caton.