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20 November 2017
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Indivision News
  June 2006
         
  In this issue

  Welcome to June IndiVision News. In this issue we feature interviews with Australian filmmakers Geoffrey Wright (Macbeth, Romper Stomper), and Murali K. Thalluri and Nick Matthews (2:37). We also feature an interview with Israeli indie director Danny Lerner (Frozen Days), who is conducting a masterclass during the Sydney Film Festival. Read more about the masterclasses and the selection of indie films screening at the Festival in 'Indie feast and low-budget masterclasses at Sydney Film Festival'.

We also announce the four new feature films being backed by the IndiVision Production Fund. And you can read all about IndiVision's first feature to hit cinemas, The Caterpillar Wish.

IndiVision News helps you keep in touch with the latest issues and developments in low-budget filmmaking.

You can subscribe to receive IndiVision News twice a year. Also keep an eye on the IndiVision homepage on the AFC website for the latest updates.

The IndiVision News banner for this issue is from The Caterpillar Wish.
 
         
  SPECIAL FEATURE: Geoffrey Wright on the power of HD
         
  Director Geoffrey Wright made a huge impact with his debut feature, the powerful low-budget Romper Stomper, in 1992. His latest feature, Macbeth, will be released later this year - a contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare's play set in Melbourne's criminal underworld. Although made for $3.4 million, the HD production used a low-budget approach in many areas to deliver maximum production value and impact. Wright talks here to AFC project manager Jackie McKimmie.

Why Shakespeare?

With Shakespeare you know the plot will be filled with great passions and clear objectives; that's more than you can say for most of the local scripts that get written these days. We set the story in present day Melbourne and Mount Macedon. Feudal warriors and kings were replaced by modern gangsters and their bosses.

What was the budget and what determined it?

The budget was around $3.4 million, and it was determined by the fact that we didn't want to wait to scrape up further funding. We wanted to work ASAP. From first draft to first shooting day was something like seven months, no more. This is very, very fast.

Where did the money come from?

Some private money, Film Victoria, Film Finance Corporation, Arclight, Mushroom.

How did the budget impact on the length of the shoot and the way you chose to make the film?

We had enough money to keep the film visually dense and rich, provided we kept the shooting time short. If we had a longer shooting time we'd have fewer production values. We realised that with proper planning and rehearsals and High Definition [HD] we could get by on a schedule of 25 or 26 days. Going the other way - a longer shooting time - there was no way we could maintain the production values.

What are your thoughts on shooting HD?

HD is an outstanding medium and we couldn't have got through the schedule without it. The savings we could make amounted to a couple of hundred thousand dollars, which, on our budget, was significant. I think you have to have rocks in your head to shoot 35mm for any film with a budget under six million dollars. HD can mimic film, but left alone it has its own beautiful aesthetic, which can be massaged almost infinitely in post-production. Colour balancing becomes a much more creative and painterly process digitally. I think HD will only go from strength to strength. It's the beginning of the end of sprockets for films of any budget.

Of course it's cheaper to shoot HD. The camera department moves faster with HD, there's no time spent 'checking the gate' because there are almost no moving parts. The shooting ratio compared to film is astronomically bigger because stock cost is not an issue. You can leave the camera on all the time, capturing much, much more detail in a scene with the B or C cameras, while the A camera can capture an endless string of lead performances without interruption. In other words, the more ambitious you are to cover a scene, the cheaper (and more feasible) the exercise becomes. In post, the addition of effects is cheaper and easier to control, and the overall task of grading the film is open to more affordable options.

HD improves coverage, performance, special FX and grading. It's a comprehensively superior medium to film at the lower-budget end, allowing for more money and time to [spend on putting] production values on the screen. I could not have shot Macbeth in 25 days if we'd gone with sprockets. I would have needed more time, and that would mean less money for the art department, costumes, you name it.

HD technology is kinder to actors. One feels that the set is there for the actor, not the camera. Actors have more chance to experiment or vary their interpretations of a moment. They can give you more options. Some people then complain that they have too much to look at in the rushes, but that's a high-class 'problem' most directors and editors love to have.

Read the full interview.

Macbeth is due for release in Australia in September through Palace.
 
Sam Worthington and Victoria Hill (as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth) in Geoffrey Wright's new film adaptation.
 
Sam Worthington and Victoria Hill (as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth) in Geoffrey Wright's new film adaptation.

 
       
  Indie feast and low-budget masterclasses at Sydney Film Festival
         
  Some of the most successful and striking recent low-budget features from around the world will screen at this year's Sydney Film Festival (9-25 June). To complement the Festival's Indie Screen program, two professional masterclasses for Australian filmmakers will be given by international guest directors.

A Soap, directed by Pernille Fischer Christensen and written by Festen's Kim Fupz Aaekeson, won the Silver Bear at Berlin, and is the first production out of the Danish Film Institute's low-budget initiative New Danish Screen. In Bed, shot on DV and directed by Matias Bize, won the Golden Spike at Valladolid. And US video director David Slade's debut feature Hard Candy was also shot on DV, and was a controversial hit at Sundance 2005.

A number of Aussie low-budget outings feature in the program, including: the first feature out of Project Greenlight Australia, Solo, directed by Morgan O'Neill and produced by Sue Seeary; The Bet, directed by Mark Lee and produced by Caroline Gerard; and Call Me Mum, directed by Margot Nash and produced by Michael McMahon.

Guerrilla films made for less than A$200,000 are highlighted in the Festival's special Indie Screen program. The six fresh and ingenious films from Australia, the US and Israel have used a variety of alternative production methodologies, including small crews, short shoots and staggered schedules - with impressive results.

The AFC's IndiVision and the Sydney Film Festival are presenting the Indie Screen Director Dialogues, two masterclasses for Australian filmmakers by guest directors Kelly Reichardt (US) and Danny Lerner (Israel). Reichardt's beautiful and philosophical feature Old Joy was selected for Sundance and won the Tiger Award at Rotterdam. Lerner's eerie drama Frozen Days was made on a tiny budget, and was shot a few days at a time over a four-month period. (Read the interview with Lerner in this edition of IndiVision News.)

The masterclasses will be held at the AFC's Theatrette, and will be followed by drinks and an opportunity to network with the filmmakers.

Kelly Reichardt
10:00am, Tuesday 13 June

Danny Lerner
2:00pm, Wednesday 21 June

AFC Theatrette
Ground Floor, 150 William St
Woolloomooloo

Tickets for the Indie Screen Director Dialogues are free, but places are strictly limited. To request a place email info-indiescreen@afc.gov.au

For details on the Sydney Film Festival program, go to www.sydneyfilmfestival.org

At the time of writing, the complete Melbourne International Film Festival program is yet to be released, but it too will feature an impressive Australian low-budget line-up, including the latest from maverick low-budget director Alkinos Tsilimidos, EM 4 JAY, and Jeremy Sims' directorial debut, the HD feature Last Train to Freo. For details see www.melbournefilmfestival.com.au
 
Matthew Newton as Will in <i>The Bet</i>. Photo: Simon Cardwell.
 
Matthew Newton as Will in The Bet. Photo: Simon Cardwell.

 
       
  Project update: The Caterpillar Wish
         
  "Raw, tender and inspiring…Victoria Thaine is a revelation." Vicky Roach, Daily Telegraph

The Caterpillar Wish, the first feature out of the IndiVision Project Lab, will be released nationally on 8 June, through Palace Films. It is the first feature for Melbourne-based producer Kate Whitbread and writer/director Sandra Sciberras.


Set in a small coastal town during one tumultuous winter, the film is about mothers, wives, fathers and husbands who are too afraid to confront the painful past or the untenable present - until a young girl takes action and changes everything. Starring Victoria Thaine, Susie Porter, Wendy Hughes, Robert Mammone, Philip Quast and newcomer Kahn Chittenden, it is set in the striking landscape of the South Australian town Robe. Shot by DOP Greig Fraser (Cracker Bag, Jewboy), edited by Jason Ballantine (Wolf Creek, Rogue) and designed by Robert Webb (Wolf Creek, Rogue) the film has a handsome and haunting winter look. The project was developed through the 2005 IndiVision Project Lab, and funded through the IndiVision Production Fund in association with South Australian Film Corporation, Palace Films and a private investor.

It's been an intense few years for Sciberras and Whitbread. "From the beginning, what interested me were the relationships between the daughter, the mother and the grandmother in the story, and the issue of trust between them," said Sciberras. "I really wanted an audience to connect with all the characters, whether they liked them or not. That seems to be happening. Though we shot very fast on a tight schedule [23 days], the performances are very strong, and if your actors and characters can connect with the audience, then a film transcends its budget."

"At some of the early preview screenings, audiences have been very moved," said Whitbread. "It's surprising, the reactions. One woman came up to us in tears, and thanked us for making the film. Another man walked out after the climax, and we thought he'd hated it. But he stayed and came up to us after, and said that the story was very close to his own life. He'd been so moved he'd had to leave the cinema for a few moments."

Whitbread and Sciberras have had a close and productive relationship with Palace through the whole process, and particularly during the creation of the marketing campaign, poster and trailer. "The trailer has been a lot of work," said Whitbread. "We sampled it to small audiences, and made several different versions. Palace have put a lot of effort into getting what they think is the right campaign for the right audience."

The Caterpillar Wish will be released on 8 June in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra, with regions to follow.

www.thecaterpillarwish.com
www.palacecinemas.com.au
 
Actor Freya Stafford (left) and director/writer Sandra Sciberras workshopping <i>The Caterpillar Wish</i> at the IndiVision Lab 2005.
 
Actor Freya Stafford (left) and director/writer Sandra Sciberras workshopping The Caterpillar Wish at the IndiVision Lab 2005.

 
       
  Four new films backed by IndiVision Production Fund
         
  An eerie supernatural drama and a tense thriller are among the four new feature films backed in the latest round of the AFC's IndiVision Production Fund. Lake Mungo and Black Water both received commitments for production funding, while All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane and Left Ear received commitments for post-production funding.

Lake Mungo
Synopsis: A supernatural drama that is a disquieting study of grief and a disturbing tale of the uncanny.
Writer/Director: Joel Anderson
Producers: Georgie Neville, David Rapsey and John Brawley
Duration: 110 mins
Budget: $1.4m
Production notes: To be shot on Super 16 and Mini DV/Hi 8 over six weeks with a small crew. To be finished on 35mm. Developed through Arista and Film Victoria to treatment stage, which will be the shooting document.

Black Water
Synopsis: A tense thriller and a terrifying tale of survival, set in remote Australia.
Co-directors/co-writers: Andrew Traucki and David Nerlich
Producer: Michael Robertson
Budget: $1m
Production notes: To be shot on HDV over 20 days with a lean production team. The co-writers have been working on the script for a few years. The idea developed out of the production team's desire to use their special effects knowledge and experience. The script has not received development funding.

All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane
Synopsis: A fresh romantic comedy about twentysomethings in Brisbane.
Producer/Director: Louise Alston
Writer: Stephen Vagg
Duration: 75 mins
Budget: under $750,000
Production notes: Shot on Super 16. To be finished on 35mm. Shot over three weeks in January 2006 with a small crew. The script was developed from a play, with AFC funding for one draft.

Left Ear
Synopsis: A confronting drama that tells the story of a lonely Polish immigrant in Australia who videos his life in an attempt to capture his dreams.
Director: Andrew Wholley
Writer: Lech Mackiewicz
Producer: Clare Mackey
Duration: 90 mins
Budget: under $150,000
Production notes: Shot on Mini DV. To be finished on HD. Based on a play script, the screenplay was written without any development funding.

Applications for the next round of IndiVision Production Funding (Strand I) close
Friday, 4 August 2006.

Applications for the next IndiVision Project Lab (Strand F1) close
Friday, 6 October 2006.
 
       
  Israeli director Danny Lerner on his film Frozen Days
         
  Israeli director Danny Lerner is conducting a masterclass for filmmakers, supported by the AFC's IndiVision, while visiting Australia for the Sydney Film Festival. His feature Frozen Days is part of the Festival's Indie Screen 06 program. Shot entirely at night on a DV Cam 570, for a budget of US$25,000, Frozen Days is a striking black and white film that has a strong and consistent visual style, and a pervasive tone of unease. The film has made such an impression that Lerner is already set to direct his first US production, Kirot, a Femme Nikita-style thriller with Bleiberg Entertainment.

Lerner talks here to IndiVision Project Lab Director Megan Simpson Huberman about how he achieved such a great result for the money.



What was your rehearsal process and period?

Well, first of all I must mention that I had auditioned about 15 actresses for the lead part. Almost all were well-known Israeli actresses [who] loved the script and were willing to do the part for free. Two were unknowns, and Anat Klausner, the actress I chose almost immediately, was one of the unknowns. She completely amazed me the moment she walked in. She looked just like I imagined the part. My brother and I storyboarded the whole movie and drew a portrait of our lead character. Anat looked as if she walked out of the drawing; the same haircut, the same coat. She spoke the part convincingly and effortlessly. It was very freeing, and almost everything she did elevated the script and got me to bring out fresh new ideas that were not on the page. I'm stressing this point because what I learned is that the right cast and crew is everything.

The first thing we did was read together the entire script. I taped it on my walkman so I could listen to her speaking my lines, and alter them if necessary. We then started rehearsing a lot. The scenes where she is alone we mainly talked about in our favorite university coffee spot. We talked about those scenes for hours, trying to find small interesting things to do and come up with new scenes that were not scripted, which was fascinating. The scenes that had interaction with other actors we rehearsed separately in the university studio. There were no scenes in the script that we did not go over in rehearsal. I allowed the actors to improvise after they understood the scene and it made the process a lot more interesting. Some scenes were also rehearsed in the actual locations, like the scene in the darkened apartment when there's a blackout. The piano, which came with the location, was never part of the script. It was just there so we used it, and the actor playing Alex came up with the music they played.

I understand that you shot the film in 27 days over four months. How did you maintain a consistent look and performance tone with the shoot broken up like that?

Since I work during the day I planned to shoot the entire film at night so I wouldn't lose any work time. I took vacation time only when absolutely necessary. Because I love film noir and psychological drama, I planned to do a movie in this genre which I could make on my own. That's why we shot it over a period of four months. The most we shot in a row was four days. Everybody volunteered to work on the film, and did it because they loved the script. Because they have jobs too, we had to break it up a lot and leave room for our bread and butter work.

The performance tone was kept because of the many, many rehearsals we did. Anat understood the pace I was aiming at, and completely lived the part for much of the four months. Also, the fact that Alan and I storyboarded the entire film, shot by shot, before we even chose a cameraman, let us prepare the look and feel that we were aiming at. Breaking it up let us prepare more. It was like making a lot of short films - the one where Miao is chasing a motorcycle, the one where Miao is taking a bath, the one where Miao goes to a club - all with the same character. It was easy to maintain a consistent look and performance.

Read the full interview.


Frozen Days will screen at the Sydney Film Festival on Tuesday 20 June at 6.05pm and Thursday 22 June at 8pm, at Dendy Opera Quays. Tickets are $17/$13. See www.sydneyfilmfestival.org

Danny Lerner's masterclass will be conducted at the AFC's Theatrette in Sydney, on Wednesday 21 June at 2pm. Tickets for this masterclass and the other class conducted by US director Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy) are FREE, but places are strictly limited. To request a place email info-indiescreen@afc.gov.au

 
 
Actor Anat Klausner in
Danny Lerner's Frozen Days
.

 
       
  Andrew Fierberg starts shooting Cassavetes film
         
  IndiVision Project Lab 2006 advisor Andrew Fierberg has begun shooting his latest feature Broken English in New York. The film is written and directed by Zoe Cassavetes, daughter of cinema maverick John Cassavetes.

The romance stars Parker Posey, playing a high-flying New Yorker who falls in love with a mysterious Frenchman (Melvil Poupaud) and follows him to Paris. Production will move to Paris after several weeks in New York. Gena Rowlands, Jeanne Moreau, Josh Hamilton and Drea DeMatteo round out the key cast. It is Cassavetes' debut feature.

Vox3's Andrew Fierberg is producing with HDNet Films co-presidents Jason Kliot and Joana Vicente. Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban of HDNet Films' parent company 2929 Entertainment are serving as executive producers. "Zoe's script boasts several amazing roles for women, and has attracted a stellar international cast," Kliot and Vicente said in a joint statement. "We're particularly excited to be making two films in a row that star Parker Posey."

HDNet Films recently wrapped the Paris-based production of Hal Hartley's Fay Grim starring Posey. Japan's Phantom Films is co-producing the film, in association with Backup Films. Backup Films' David Atlan-Jackson visited Australia in 2005 as a participant of Spaamart.

Fierberg, whose credits include Secretary, Sally Potter's Yes, Ethan Hawke's Hamlet, and the soon-to-be-released Fur starring Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jnr, was a dynamic advisor at the 2006 IndiVision Lab, with strong insights on script, financing and low-budget production. He met with many Australian producers while in Sydney and Melbourne, discussing alternative financing and releasing models suitable for the Australian context.
 
 
Andrew Fierberg at the
2006 IndiVision Lab
.

 
       
  2:37 – a two-part shoot and a Cannes selection
         
  2:37, the first feature of 21-year-old writer/director Murali K. Thalluri and co-producer/co-editor/DOP Nick Matthews, was selected for Un Certain Regard at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Shot in Adelaide on a total budget of $1.1 million, 2:37 was subsequently picked up by Arclight, and has sold to several major international territories. It is a contemporary ensemble drama telling the complex tale of six high school students. The story takes place during a normal school day. At precisely 2:37 something occurs which affects the lives of all present.

AFC Project Manager Mike Cowap spoke with Thalluri and Matthews on the eve of their flight to Cannes.


How did the idea come about?

MT: A close friend committed suicide in late 2003, and left me a video suicide note. It was something that affected me immensely to the point where, over months, and coupled with my own personal problems, I was driven to depression and ultimately to an attempt on my own life. But like I always say, for everything that happens in one's life there is a positive with every negative. You just have to be able to find it. The day after my failed attempt I begin writing 2:37, and finished the first draft in 36 hours flat. If you're busy there's no room for depression.

How did you then go about trying to make the script a reality?

MT: At the time, film school seemed the logical first step in my journey to bringing the script to life. I had an interview with the local film school, during which they said to me that it wasn't realistic to expect to make a feature in my 20s or even my 30s. I couldn't agree. They told me to focus on advertising and music videos etc, so I ended up walking out of the interview. That was kind of the end of film school for me right there and then, which was tricky because I understood how much I had to learn. I went to my local Borders, sat on their couch and, over the course of a month, read 64 books. Everything related to film, television, theatre, working with actors, film history… But I knew theory would only get me so far. I wanted to learn in practice, and so began the journey to raise the finance.

NM: It was about this time that Murali approached me. He wanted to make it on the $50,000 criminal compensation money he had received after being injured in an aggravated mugging. My attitude was that if we were going to do this we should do it properly, and I set about negotiating deals for gear that would allow the film to have higher production values than by rights it could afford. I took on the role of co-producer.

MT: I got my 10BA tax certificate. At the time, the local paper ran an article listing the 20 richest people in Adelaide. I found out where every one of them lived, and I went knocking on doors. They all rejected me two or three times.

I remember you became quite a regular face in the local Adelaide newspaper during the run up to your shoot.

MT: That was part of our strategy. In order to encourage the private sector to invest in the film we needed to have a presence that legitimised us in the eyes of potential investors - and it worked. Eventually one guy said, 'Yes, I'm gonna put the money in,' and he committed $300,000 to the film. I was over the moon. But it didn't work out. The day before shooting he pulled out. I didn't know what to do. It was hell. I thought if I pull the plug now I'm gonna have a cast and crew that are incredibly pissed off with me, or if I pull the plug at the end of the week I'll have a cast and crew that are incredibly pissed off with me BUT I'll have a quarter of the film. So I completely rescheduled all the most important scenes into that first week, so if worst came to worst I could cut a short film from it - although it would have been doing my cast and crew wrong, and I didn't want to do that, it was the only option for me. In between takes I was on the phone to everybody and anybody, and it paid off. On the Tuesday someone else came on set and signed a $300,000 cheque. It cleared by Thursday, and I paid people by Friday.

Read the full interview.


2:37 stars Frank Sweet and Teresa Palmer, the 20-year-old Adelaide actor who will soon appear in The Grudge 2 (the Columbia Pictures production starring Sarah Michelle Gellar) and December Boys (with Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame). 2:37 will be released nationally on 17 August through Roadshow.
 
 
Luke (Sam Harris) in 2:37.
Photo: M2 Entertainment & Kojo Pictures
.

 
       
  Hot links: websites + articles
         
  Check out the resources list on the AFC website + some recent articles here:

Sydney Film Festival
The 53rd Sydney Film Festival has a fantastic selection of cinema from Australia and around the world screening in June. The Festival's Indie Screen program runs 10-22 June, with Director Dialogues masterclasses (supported by the AFC's IndiVision) on 13 and 21 June. Click here for details.

Melbourne International Film Festival
MIFF runs 26 July through to 13 August this year. Check the website for program updates and highlights. Several low-budget features will screen as part of MIFF this year.


Read the yourMovies.com.au review of The Caterpillar Wish.
 
At the 2006 IndiVision Lab, <i>Wolf Creek</i> producer David Lightfoot talked to producers about the art, the ethic and the logistics of making low-budget features.
 
At the 2006 IndiVision Lab, Wolf Creek producer David Lightfoot talked to producers about the art, the ethic and the logistics of making low-budget features.

 
       
  International film festivals
         
  Check out the International Festival Profiles section on the AFC website for info on history, specific programs and screening sections for key festivals. Many also have an Australian screening history and a 'Tips from Filmmakers' PDF.

Upcoming Deadlines for 2006

Locarno International Film Festival, Switzerland
2 - 12 August 2006. Deadline 16 June 2006.
www.pardo.ch/

Toronto Film Festival, Canada
7 - 16 September 2006. Deadline 9 June 2006.
www.bell.ca/filmfest

Valladolid International Film Festival, Spain
20 - 28 October 2006. Deadline 30 June 2006.
www.seminci.com

Venice International Film Festival, Italy
30 August - 9 September 2006. Deadline 15 June 2006.
www.labiennale.org

Venice Days - the sidebar festival screening the 'Dirty Dozen' of first time feature directors from around the world
31 August - 9 September 2006. Deadline 7 July 2006.
www.venice-days.com

Cork Film Festival, Ireland
8 - 15 October 2006. Deadline 30 June 2006.
www.corkfilmfest.org

London Film Festival, United Kingdom
18 October - 2 November 2006. Deadline 14 July 2006.
www.rlff.com/

Mannheim Heidelberg Film Festival, Germany
16 - 25 November 2006. Deadline 30 July 2006.
www.mannheim-filmfestival.com

Telluride Film Festival, US
1 - 4 September 2006. Deadline 15 July 2006.
www.telluridefilmfestival.com

Pusan International Film Festival, Korea
12 - 20 October 2006. Deadline 31 July 2006.
www.piff.or.kr

Montreal World Film Festival, Canada
24 August - 4 September 2006. Deadline 31 July 2006.
www.ffm-montreal.org

San Sebastian International Film Festival, Spain
21 - 30 September 2006. Deadline 31 July 2006.
www.sansebastianfestival.com

Other festival links

Titanic Film Festival Budapest, Hungary

Ann Arbor Film Festival, US

Nashville Film Festival, US

Brooklyn International Film Festival, US

Chicago Underground Film Festival, US