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Entries in Australian Film (7)

Saturday
May202017

OZ SHOOT CONTINUES AS CANNES BUYERS EYE FIRST IMAGES.

Productions only get one chance to create the kind of buzz that a presence on The Croisette can deliver. Having only commenced its far north coast shoot on May 2, reps for director Luke Sparke’s sophomore effort Occupation have rolled out images and announced plot and cast details at the Marche du Film, the frantic sales and distribution trade show component of the Festival de Cannes.

Sparke’s directorial debut, the low-budget high-concept B-thriller Red Billabong, made a splash in 2016, securing niche international engagements (including screens in Vietnam) and home-vid exposure in monster-movie friendly markets, such as Japan. Shot with a natural storytelling flair and turning a tidy profit meant that the young Queensland-based director had industry cache, the kind that has allowed him to move ahead with haste on his follow-up production. The budget is estimated to be close to A$3million. (Pictured, above; key cast of Occupation)

"We're in the thick of [the shoot] right now, pulling massive days on back-to-back action scenes, which is quite rare for Australia,” said Sparke via press release. “It's looking great and I'm looking forward to rolling it out over the next months." The narrative pits residents of a small rural township against a mysterious and devastating ground invasion, a summary that reads like a cross between local blockbuster Tomorrow When The War Began and such classic sci-fiers as Invaders from Mars and War of The Worlds.

Sparke reteams with his Red Billabong leading man Dan Ewing, who heads up a quality cast that includes Temuera Morrison, Izzy Stevens, Stephany Jacobsen and Rhiannon Fish; local character actor legends Bruce Spence, Felix Williamson and Roy Billing; and, AFI award winner Jacqueline McKenzie. Producer Carly Imrie also returns. (Pictured, right; teaser poster for Occupation, courtesy of Film Mode Entertainment)

The early sneak images have been presented in Cannes by sales agent Film Mode Entertainment (FME), who are spruiking Occupation to international territories, including the all-important North American market. President of FME, industry veteran Clay Epstein, has a passion for Australian-lensed genre works, having worked for leading Oz outfit Arclight Films and represented films such as The Spierig Brothers Predestination, with Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook.

Epstein is particularly high on Occupation, stating, “We have incredible footage after only 2 weeks of production. Luke shoots action very well and is an extremely talented director.  This is a huge film and we are confident the market is going to embrace it.”

Occupation will be released in 2018 in Australia and New Zealand by specialist distribution outfit Pinnacle Films. (Pictured,below; from left, stars Izzy Stevens, Dan Ewing and Temuera Morrison, on location)


Sunday
Apr162017

SUNTANNED CINEPHILES SET TO FEAST ON GOLD COAST FILM FEST.

Its very mention once conjured images of a hedonistic mecca peopled by meter maids and partying teens, but Queensland’s Gold Coast tourist strip has more recently re-emerged as a film lover’s paradise. Central to this cultural growth is Festival Director Lucy Fisher and her team at the Gold Coast Film Festival (GCFF), who celebrate 15 years as the region’s premiere movie-going event, a crucial conduit between local and international filmmakers and the Sunshine State’s cinephiles…

“2017 is about a shift in a new direction,” says Fisher, who has worked our interview into a frantic schedule ahead of the April 19 launch of the 2017 event. “It is about bringing films to life in a distinctly Gold Coast way for local and visiting audiences and to help grow and support Queensland’s screen industry.” From humble beginnings in 2002 when it launched as a genre-based fan event, the scale of this year’s 12-day celebration now reflects both the vast, stunning geography of Australia’s north-east and the richness of its film culture.

“The festival has really found its feet in the last three years,” says Fisher (pictured, left). “For general cinemagoers, we play a social role, affording them a chance to meet and bond over shared film experiences, discovering new films or films that would normally only release in Sydney and Melbourne.” Kicking off with the New Zealand hit comedy Pork Pie from director Matt Murphy, patrons with a penchant for global cinema are spoilt for choice with works from Finland (Juho Kuosmanen’s Cannes sensation The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki), The U.K. (Terence Davies’ A Quiet Passion; Jason Connery’s Tommy’s Honour); The U.S.A. (Maggie Greenwald’s Sophie and The Rising Sun; James Ponsoldt’s The Circle); Egypt (Mohamed Diab’s Clash); Indonesia (Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto’s Headshot); Chile (Pablo Larrain’s Neruda); France (Rebecca Zlotowski’s Planetarium); and, Kenya (Mbithi Masaya’a Kati Kati).

The Festival’s major sponsor is the state’s funding and production overseer Screen Queensland who, under the energised stewardship of CEO Tracey Vieira, has seen the region attract big-ticket productions like Kong Skull Island, Thor Ragnarok, The Shallows, San Andreas and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. In an inspired piece of off-site programming, the GCFF is offering a 3-hour bus tour of these locations, with accompanying AV content to enhance the experience.

The Screen Queensland collaboration and the role it plays in fostering talent and production activity is taken very seriously by Fisher, who states, “For the local industry, we develop future film professionals through screen culture and screen education, (including) dedicated screenings, career forums and workshops for high-school students. For film industry audiences, we provide professional development through Q&As, panels and workshops.” In 2017, these events come under the ‘ReelLife’ banner and include sessions on film criticism, chaired by FilmInk editor Dov Kornits; the intricacies of film production, hosted by industry veterans Sue Maslin and Jan Chapman; understanding the audition process with actress Claudia Karvan; sound design and composition with Oscar winner David White; and, working with animals on-screen, chaired by director Simon Wincer (Phar Lap; Free Willy).

Australian productions in the 2017 programme include four World Premieres – Dee McLachlan’s supernatural thriller Out of The Shadows; Josh Hale’s gamer mockumentary Digital Athletes: The Road to Seat League; Jude Kalman’s uplifting documentary Uncontained Love: Love > Fear; and, Enzo Tedeschi’s gripping socio-political thriller, Event Zero, which will close the festival on April 30. Other local filmmakers represented include James Bogle, with his bio-doc Whitely; Douglas Watkin and his indigenous ballet doco Ella; Michael Jones, with Lazybones; Romi Trower, presenting her debut What If It Works?, with Luke Ford; Shane Abbess, with his sci-fi spectacle Science Fiction Vol 1: The Osiris Child (pictured, above; stars Isabel Lucas and Daniel McPherson); and, Gerald Rascionato, whose shark-attack found-footage thriller Cage Dive should play well to the beachgoing locals.

Fisher is fully aware of the importance of a placement in a festival line-up can represent to the young filmmakers of Australia. “We seek out Australian films that haven’t had any screen agency funding. These are the go-getters, the hustlers, the deal-makers,” she says. “To make a film on a credit card budget or find funding for a couple of hundred grand is incredible. The discovery and support of independent filmmaking talent is one of our distinctive points of difference.”

Perhaps the most crucial point of difference is Lucy Fisher’s commitment to gender equality in her festival’s programming. Her selections are all rated utilising the Bechdel Test, an industry standard that determines a film’s gender bias based upon a) whether it has at least two women characters, who b) talk to each other about c) something other than a man. Says Fisher, “We rated all films by the Bechdel Test first in 2016 and have again in 2017 to highlight how women are being written for screen.” Her determination to strengthen the profile of women in the film industry also extends to the festival podiums. “The bigger, older film festivals still won’t even register that they might have an event that has a man introducing a man guest, moderated by a man, thanked by a man,” she states. “We commit to at least 50% women speakers, which sounds deceptively simple.  But when Australia produces only 23% of films with women writers and 16% with women directors, that’s something we have to deliberately consider in our speaker and programming choices.”

Fittingly, the recipient of the 2017 GCFF Chauvel Award for career achievement and artistic integrity is actress Deborah Mailman, who will participate in an extensive interview with past winner David Stratton at the event’s host venue, The Arts Centre Gold Coast.

The Gold Coast Film Festival runs April 19-30. Ticket and session information is available at the official website here.

Monday
Dec282015

THE YEAR IN REVIEW, PART 2: AUSTRALIAN CINEMA IN 2015.

During the recent AACTA Awards film sector backslap, the message was loud and clear. “Australian cinema has been reborn!” the presenters continually reassured us, stressing that 2015 was a great year for local content. Homegrown movies earned AU$84million at the domestic box office, 7.7% of total takings; those figures represent the highest gross receipts ever for Oz films in a calendar year and the best market share since 2001. 

But breaking down the statistics reveals some devil in the details. Which Aussie pics wooed local audiences back to the ticket counter? What trends emerged amongst the hits (and misses, of which there were plenty)? And is Australian cinema on the cusp of a new ‘New Wave’, or has the tide already turned? SCREEN-SPACE ponders 'The Year in Australian Film'…

“YA WANNA GET OUTTA HERE, YA TALK TO ME…”
It was a long time coming, and took a very bumpy path to get to its audience, but Dr George Miller’s operatic action extravaganza Mad Max Fury Road was exactly the guzzoline needed to fuel the 2015 box office engine. It wasn’t the singular driving force that blew out the figures, like Moulin Rouge in 2001 or Babe in 1995 or Crocodile Dundee in 1985; in fact, some might counter that our iconic action hero’s return did not carry its weight at the box office, given it was only the 13th biggest hit of the year with takings sputtering out at AU$22million (beaten by the likes of 50 Shades of Grey, Cinderella and Pitch Perfect 2). But it was unarguably ‘event cinema’ of the highest order, the blockbuster ‘Aussie’ film the likes of which rarely emerge from the Antipodes. (Pictured, right; Charlize Theron as Furiosa)

SYDNEY OR THE BUSH?
The anachronistic ‘rural essence’ of this nation’s DNA is still a crucial and compelling component of our storytelling. Jocelyn Moorhouse’s raucous outback oddity The Dressmaker was the second biggest locally made hit, weaving AU$19million; Russell Crowe’s directorial debut, the WW1-set drama The Water Diviner took the bulk of its AU$17million this year after a Boxing Day 2014 debut; and, Jeremy Sims’ red-centre road-trip tearjerker Last Cab to Darwin earned a solid AU$7million and a Best Actor AACTA for local hero Michael Caton. Traditional Australian iconography and a sense of warm larrikinism were central to these works. What didn’t work were the contemporary narratives. Neil Armfield’s critically-lauded Holding the Man (AU$1million) and Dean Francis’ challenging odyssey Drown (figures n/a) failed to break out of their niche demographic. Brendan Cowell’s Sydney Film Festival opener Ruben Guthrie (AU$300k; pictured, top), Peter Andrikidis’ multicultural romance Alex & Eve (AU$390k), comedian Carl Barron’s self-penned vehicle Manny Lewis (AU$390k), Anupam Sharma’s Bollywood-themed rom-com UNindian (AU$100k) and Wayne Hope’s Melbourne-set misfire Now Add Honey (AU$87k) all bombed. On the upside, Damon Gameau’s new-agey diet doco That Sugar Film worked hard for its AU$1million, a respectful return on investment.

“WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN!”
Local producers have occasionally been guilty of neglecting the commercial and cultural potential of all-age films; everyone seems surprised when they hit big. Consider the sector without the likes of Storm Boy (1976), Fatty Finn (1980), The Man From Snowy River (1982), BMX Bandits (1983), Napoleon (1994), Babe (1995), The Wiggles Movie (1997), Hating Alison Ashley (2005), Happy Feet (2006), Red Dog (2011) and The Rocket (2013). Behind the angry road warrior and the snooty seamstress, family films carried the local industry in 2015. Oz production giant Village Roadshow brought all their marketing might to two kid-friendly hits – Stuart McDonald’s country-bumkin puppy-dog tale Oddball (AU$11million; pictured, right) and Robert Connolly’s rousing family drama Paper Planes (AU$10million) defined and maximised their audience with precision. The local arm of Studio Canal invested in Deane Taylor’s contemporary take on Blinky Bill (securing such voice talents as Toni Collette, David Wenham and Barry Humphries) and recouped a healthy AU$2.7million. In 2016, the ‘Aussie teen’ genre will be re-energised by Rosemary Myer’s wonderful Girl Asleep, which warmed hearts at this years’ Adelaide Film Festival.

"WHEN YOU WISH, UPON A STAR"
While the might of the ‘A-list movie star’ continues to wan at the global box office, Australian audiences seem to respond to big name talent in their little Aussie stories. Kate Winslet’s presence in The Dressmaker was a key selling point, earning the film not only acceptance at the local ticket counter but helping to secure the PJ Hogan-produced film a Toronto world premiere. Crowe’s presence both behind and before the camera paid dividends for The Water Diviner, in addition to his uncharacteristic openness with the press and the photogenic charms of Ukrainian co-star Olga Kurylenko. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron didn’t hurt Mad Max: Fury Road, though the ‘star’ was ultimately the chaotic artistry of Miller’s visuals. The exception that proves this rule is our own Nicole Kidman; her brave lead turn in Kim Farrant’s dusty ‘Twin Peaks’ wannabe Strangerland (to date, a global take is AU$24k) was all but ignored, while her latest US effort, Billy Ray’s Secret in Their Eyes, stumbled to AU$1.5million locally (despite the presence of co-stars Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofor).

SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR...
None of these films contributed more than loose change to the year’s box-office haul, but each one signals a new breed of commercially-oriented young filmmaker is on the verge of breaking through. Had the scourge of piracy not eaten away at it’s theatrical potential, Kiah Roache-Turner’s Wyrmwood would have certainly expanded upon its meagre AU$133k gross. Everyone of the following should earn its keep, via either the developing self-distribution theatrical model (see Fan-Force or Tugg) or as a 2016 home entertainment hit – Joe Bauer’s hilarious sci-fi/comedy Australiens (pictured, right); Rhiannon Bannenburg’s polished chamber piece, Ambrosia; Sam Curtain’s ruthlessly corpulent Blood Hunt; the unforgettably twisted Cat Sick Blues, from Dave Jackson (you’ve been warned); Deadhouse Film’s anthology A Night of Horror Volume 1; Shane Abbess’ handsomely mounted outer-space thriller, Infini; Jesse O’Brien’s bracing and brilliant sci-fi vision, Arrowhead; and, the off-kilter, heart-warming doco Sam Klemke’s Time Machine, from Matthew Bate.

Read The Year in Review, Part 1: The Ten Best Festival Sessions of 2015 here.
Read The Year in Review, Part 3: Our Ten Favourite Films of 2015 here.
 

(All figures courtesy of Box Office Mojo; conversion rates as of 28/12).

Friday
Nov272015

DOWN UNDER DOLLAR HELPS SECURE SCOTT'S ALIEN EPIC

After a full first day of location scouting, Sir Ridley Scott fronted the Sydney press corps to discuss his blockbuster Prometheus sequel, Alien: Covenant, which begins a 16 week shoot in April, 2016.

“I discovered I get on with Aussies,” joked the legendary British filmmaker, the grand façade of the old Manufacturers Hall hiding the early pre-production activity within. “I’ve worked with one of the toughest ones there is five times, a Mr Crowe, and we are now friends. We weren’t always friends, but now we are friends. I think I’m going to enjoy Sydney.”

Joining the director was The Honourable Julie Bishop, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs (pictured, right), who acknowledged that incentives were being re-evaluated in order to attract studio productions to Australia. “I know that film industries, both here and abroad, have been lobbying consecutive governments for a very long time to make our tax arrangements more competitive and attractive,” she said. “Other countries had increased their location off-set to around 30%, so we matched that, and immediately drew a response from 20th Century Fox and the Alien production team, as well Disney and Marvel studios for the Thor series.” Flanked by NSW Minister for the Arts Troy Grant and Federal Minister for Industry, Resource and Energy, Anthony Roberts, Ms Bishop revealed that, “within the context of the next budget, any permanent changes to be made to the location off-set [will be considered].”

Alien: Covenant represents estimated revenue for the state of US$61million, with approximately 600 jobs to be generated. Having lost out during the bidding to secure Scott’s last film, The Martian, Ms Bishop stated with some circumspection, “The opportunity to have a film of [this] stature, to be filmed by a director of Sir Ridley’s standing, is one not to be missed.”

A savvy businessman, Sir Ridley Scott recounted a time when his native industry suffered due to a lack of concessions for large-scale productions. “I used to own Shepparton Studios in a pre-tax rebate U.K. film industry. Twenty-two stages over twenty-two acres; it’s where I shot Alien, and I wanted to put back into the industry,” he recalled. “Our biggest problem was that when a big film moved out, we had no return business because we had no rebate. So I sold it. Then, God damn, four years later the rebate happened and today, you can’t get into Shepparton or Pinewood or Leavesden. When you combine the frequency of production with the talent and infrastructure already in place, everything gets better.” (Pictured, left; Scott directing Veronica Cartright and Sigourney Weaver in Alien).

When questions turned to the scale of the production, Scott hinted that his narrative would drill down into the epic history of the alien life cycle. “It’s a very complex story,” he said. “Prometheus 1 was born out of my frustration that of the three sequels that followed my 1979 film, Alien, no one posed the question, ‘Who made the alien and why?’ Alien: Covenant further develops that evolution. When this film finishes, there will be another one then another one, which will drive into the back end of the 1979 film, explaining why the ‘space jockey’ was there and why did he have the alien inside of him.”

Prometheus leading man Michael Fassbender (pictured, right) will arrive in Australia in mid-March to reprise the role of android David. Scott revealed that the actor will play, “a doppelganger, so you’ll have two Michaels,” and that Noomi Rapace, as Shaw, will make a brief re-appearance. Other casting is still in contract phase, but the director confirmed that Australian actors will feature. “I would always look to do that,” he said, “It’s a very natural thing to do.”

The windfall for the local industry will be immense over several years, the level of production on a scale not seen since the heady days when the region hosted The Wachowski’s Matrix trilogy, Bryan Singer’s Superman Lives and Rob Cohen’s Stealth in quick succession. Scott confirmed that, should the shoot proceed with relative ease, all three planned instalments will shoot in Oz. “That’s the whole point,” he said. “We will be employing up to 600 personnel, all Australian, and all representative of a highly-skilled labour force.”

Tuesday
Aug042015

THE OUTBACK AMERICAN SAVING SOVIET SCREEN HISTORY

Over 1000 kilometres west of Sydney, the township of Menindee garners scant attention. The population of around 1000 claim some fame - explorers Burke and Wills camped there during their fateful 1860 expedition; it holds the record for the hottest day in the state’s history, the mercury topping 49.7 °C on January 10, 1939; and, postmaster John Cleary introduced the state’s first motorised mail service there in 1910. But how did this dusty township on the Darling River become home to the Kinopanorama Widescreen Preservation Association (K.W.P.A.), a crucial film preservation initiative overseen by a Texan-born former record industry executive committed to restoring the long dormant Russian format to its past glory…?

Honouring cinematic history has driven John Steven Lasher for most of his professional life. In 1974, his music label Entr’acte produced the legendary composer Bernard Hermann’s soundtrack for Brian De Palma’s Sisters; he has overseen newly recorded re-issues of such classic scores as Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons and King Kong. But in 1992, Lasher refocussed his love affair with film and took on the daunting task of resurrecting Kinopanorama, a three-lens, three-film widescreen format that emerged from the U.S.S.R. Cinema and Photo Research Institute (N.I.K.F.I.) in the mid 1950s in answer to Hollywood’s own ultra-wide projection brand, Cinerama.

“Kinopanorama's legacy is unique because it was the only three-film system developed by a country other than the United States, which could compete with Cinerama on the world market,” says Lasher. The first Kinopanorama film, Roman Karmen’s rural vista Vast is My Native Land (US title - Great is My Country; pictured, right), premiered in Moscow in February 1958; over the next decade, eight travelogue epics were produced in the format. As Cinerama boomed with the release of Hollywood films such as How The West Was Won (and single-camera conversions such as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), the Soviet industry remained committed to its own technology; an advanced camera design called the PSO-1960 (pictured, top) allowed for the use of interchangeable lens kits with different focal lengths. Often viewed as cultural by-products of Cold War one-upmanship, both formats proved expensive and fell out of favour by the mid 1960s.

It would not be until 1992 that Lasher, now head of Fifth Continent Movie Classics, would begin the long process of resurrecting Kinopanorama. His first point-of-contact was the Russian Consulate in Sydney, who steered him to veteran cinematographer Yuri Sokol A.C.S., a Russian émigré who had forged a revered Australian resume in collaboration with director Paul Cox (Lonely Hearts, 1982; Man of Flowers, 1983; My First Wife, 1984; Cactus, 1986). “Yuri Sokol was instrumental in negotiating with N.I.K.F.I. for the purchase of the PSO-1960 camera and ancillary equipment,” recalls Lasher, who would subsidise the restoration and transportation of the camera to Australia, accompanied by respected scientific technician, Sergei Rozhkov. “It was possible over time to form a bond with the Russian organisations thanks to Yuri, (who) had retained contacts with other Russian filmmakers and organisations. In this respect, Sergei Rozhkov was most helpful in liaising with the various Russian organisations and colleagues.” (Pictured, below: The Kinopanorama team, 1993)

With further guidance offered by local D.O.P. John R McLean A.C.S. (The Cars That Ate Paris, 1974; Turkey Shoot, 1982), who had crewed on the 1956 Cinerama travelogue South Seas Adventure, Lasher and Rozhkov guided the first Kinopanorama productions in nearly three decades - Chastity Truth and Kinopanorama (1993), a compile of test footage captured on the restored PSO-1960, shot in Moscow by Soviet director Igor Shetsov; and, Bounty (1993), a picturesque examination of Sydney Harbour from the deck of the famous tall-ship. Over this period, Lasher, Rozhkov and Sokol also undertook location shoots in some of regional New South Wales most photogenic locations, including The Blue Mountains and the central western plains surrounding Dubbo, as well as the hallowed sporting venue, The Sydney Cricket Ground (pictured, below).

It was Lasher’s affinity for the landscape of rural Australia that drew him to Broken Hill, the most remote township in New South Wales, where he lived until 2009. “It was not possible to operate a heritage cinema in Broken Hill, where I lived at the time,” recalls Lasher. “The political landscape, particularly after the proposed film studio complex failed to materialise, was not favourable to launch such a venue.” Determined to further his preservation efforts, he shifted base to Menindee and established the K.W.P.A., which secured all rights to the Kinopanorama brand in 2012. “Menindee offered alternate facilities, including an abandoned building next door to the tourist information centre. We have approached the local council about acquiring it. Until this is sorted out we have no set facilities at present.”

Of course, setbacks have never deterred John Steven Lasher from pushing forward with his passion project. In 1999, Lasher helped fund a partial restoration of the first Kinopanorama feature film, Kaljo Kiisk’s Estonian-shot 1962 drama, Opasniye Povoroty (pictured, right: original lobby-card). Despite the project being abandoned due to spiralling costs, the two complete reels have been screened at widescreen celebrations in the U.S. and U.K.  “We are negotiating with Gosfilmofond of Russia for the purchase of a 4K digital master of the restored Opasniye Povoroty for exhibition at film festivals in Australia and New Zealand. From that point onward, I will contact the various festival organisers as to the possibilities of scheduling the film,” says Lasher, who believes the screening of a Kinopanorama feature in all its majesty would be a unique cinematic experience for local audiences. “After all,” he says, “it would be the first time that a three-film panoramic film format had been exhibited in Australia and New Zealand.”

For more information on the Kinopanorama Widescreen Preservation Association, including membership details and the full range of screen services offered, visit the official website or Facebook page.

The KINOPANORAMA ™ name and logos are the exclusive ™ and © of K.W.P.A.; all images are © of K.W.P.A.

Wednesday
Feb182015

ZOMBIES, PIRATES AND ME: A DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT.

It has been a heady couple of weeks for Australian filmmaker, Kiah Roache-Turner. Having topped the iTunes charts with his zombie epic Wyrmwood, the debutant filmmaker then learnt that his low-budget passion-project was also one of the planets most illegally downloaded films. SCREEN-SPACE wanted to know how the turn of events impacted the Sydney-based director (pictured, below; on-set, with one of his creations) who, with his brother Tristan, poured all their money and countless unpaid hours into the production. So, for the first time, we turned our site over to the victim of a crime. Exclusively for SCREEN-SPACE, Kiah Roache-Turner provides a first-person account of how destructive net-piracy truly is…

“My name is Kiah Roache-Turner, I am a filmmaker who has just released my first feature, 'Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead'.

Wyrmwood is currently one of the most torrented films in the world. This is fantastic and horrible, all at the same time. What a lot of these ‘jolly pirates’ don't understand is that the film was made by a bunch of people on weekends over four years on a 'deferred payment' basis. A lot of these amazingly talented actors and crew, including myself, have not seen a cent from this film yet.

In this instance, profits from the film are vitally important because they go directly to very basic things like rent, bills and food for a lot of hardworking artists and technicians who exist in an industry where it is very difficult to find work (pictured, right; on the set of Wyrmwood).

We expected to be torrented. My issue isn't with torrenters; that is a global policing issue that is out of my hands. My issue is with those who pirate the film, love the film and then just move on to the next thing. All I ask is that you think about (your actions) for just a second. I don't mind the 'try before you buy' theory, but if you try it and you like it please pay for a legal copy because artists have to eat. It's really that simple.

I've been following the online comments and a lot of the reaction boils down to "If those fools were too stupid to organise a cross-platform, same-day global release strategy, then they deserve everything they get!" And yes, comments have been that harsh, even harsher; the Internet can be a pretty brutal playground.

When you sign on with a distributor, you sign on to be guided by their existing distribution model. Remember, these guys and gals are really smart and really know how to release a film. They've been doing it for decades to a wildly successful degree.

You don't sign onto one distributer, which would be fantastic; you sign on to many distributers all over the world, who all have different release strategies and key dates and different agreements when it comes to DVD, Blu-ray & VOD. This is a point that needs to be clarified, as most people don't seem to understand how the film industry works. Quite frankly, nor did I until very recently.

In conjunction with Studio Canal, we tried very hard to get 'same day' for Wyrmwood for iTunes but unfortunately our hands were tied due to the window* required by cinemas. In this instance we were able to get a two month window instead of three, which is fantastic. But Aussies were still pissed off when (US distributor) IFC Midnight released theatrical and VOD same day. As soon as the iTunes copy launched, 'BOOM'; somebody ripped that film off the platform, uploaded it to Pirate Bay and the film became one of the most torrented films in the world overnight.

People have been asking, "Then why go theatrical at all?” Unfortunately, funding bodies require a limited theatrical run for funding consideration. And my brother and I (pictured, left) ran out of money for this baby years ago so without funding - NO WYRMWOOD. Thank God Screen Australia believed in us because without government funding for post-production, this film would not be playing in cinemas at all.

People need to understand that this industry has been around for a long time. It is huge and vast and labyrinthine and doesn't change on a dime. I liken it to the 'Titanic'; we've all spotted the iceberg and the ship is turning, but not nearly fast enough. Every single person in every single organisation, from the government bodies to distributors to cinema chains all know what the problems are and they are working their butts off to make these changes. But it is happening in the way that all huge industries generally make gargantuan changes and that is never 'overnight'.

Right now it's in YOUR hands. Yes, YOU the person with the hand paused over the 'download' button getting ready to download my bad-ass ozploitation zombie film RIGHT now. I can't stop you pushing that button nor do I judge you for pushing that button. Mate, that's your decision, it's none of my business. But if you download Wyrmwood and really bloody like it, please do the right thing and purchase a copy. Support independent filmmakers who sweated blood for four long years to bring you that film.

It's all very well to say, "Well, this is how the world is" or "If the industry won't change fast enough, why should I bother?" But the simple fact of the matter is my cast and crew need to eat. So, please - YOU WATCH, YOU BUY and we can eat. It's really that simple.

Yours truly,

Kiah Roache-Turner.”

Australian readers can pre-order Wyrmwood on DVD here.

Wyrmwood can be purchased via the US iTunes store here.

Local screenings (including profit-share arrangements) can be organised here.

*period between a film’s theatrical release and subsequent ancillary platforms (DVD, VOD, Pay-TV, etc).

Wednesday
Jul242013

TORONTO WELCOMES FOUR OF OUR FINEST

Four Australian features have been selected to screen at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), one of the most prestigious gatherings on the international calendar.

Amongst the 37 world premieres that will unspool between September 5 and 15 are fresh works from filmmakers Paul Haggis (Third Person), Bertrand Tavernier (Quai d’Orsay), Dennis Villeneuve (Prisoners), Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club), Jason Reitman (Labor Day) and Richard Ayaobe (The Double). Opening the event will be Bill Condon’s Wikileaks expose The Fifth Estate, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange; closing out the fest is Daniel Schecter’s Life of Crime, an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s The Switch and starring Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes and Tim Robbins.

Joining the list of world firsts will be Matthew Saville’s Felony, his long-awaited second feature after the success of 2007’s Noise; and Jonathan Teplitzky’s UK/Australian co-production, The Railway Man (pictured, right).

Just as Noise examined a police officer struggling with reality, so too does Felony, which tells of a decorated cop who covers up the fatal consequence of his night on the drink. Backed by two of Australia’s most high-profile production outfits in Goalpost Pictures (The Sapphires) and Blue Tongue Films (The Square), Saville has corralled a top-notch cast that will ensure TIFF buzz is high – on-the-cusp Hollywood star Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher; A Good Day to Die Hard), Joel Edgerton (doubling up as screenwriter) and Melissa George.

Teplitzky’s The Railway Man is the director’s first international effort, after well-received local films Burning Man, Getting’ Square and Better Than Sex. Starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, it recounts the true story of Eric Lomax and his quest to find the Japanese officer who tortured him while he was a World War 2 POW.

John Curran’s Tracks (pictured, top), already announced as the Opening Night engagement for this year’s Adelaide Film Festival, will have its North American premiere in Toronto. The screening will represent the beginning of the final stages of the film’s marathon chronology; the project, which tells the real-life story of a young woman (played by Mia Wasikowska) who travails the West Australian desert on camel, was in pre-production 20 years ago with Julia Roberts attached to star.

And Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road, which had its world premiere as the opener for the Sydney Film Festival in June, has secured its first offshore slot ahead of its mid-August national release on local screens.