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21 August 2019
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Indivision News
  March 2007
  In this issue

  Welcome to the first issue of IndiVision News for 2007. This month we look at the 2007 IndiVision Project Lab that happened in February, with an overview and a Lab blog from two of the participating writers. Our feature articles are an interview with Darren Ashton, director of the new low-budget feature Razzle Dazzle which opens this month, plus transcripts from the Lab of talks by US producer and advisor Paul Mezey, and local guest advisor, writer Andrew Bovell. We catch up on all the latest news about past Lab and IndiVision production-funded projects, and provide lots of links to international film festivals and opportunities.

And remember: applications for Strand F2 IndiVision Single-draft Script Development Funding close on 20 April!

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

You can subscribe to receive IndiVision News three times per year. Why not pass this issue onto a friend who may like to subscribe? Also keep an eye on the IndiVision homepage on the AFC website for the latest updates.

The banner for this issue is an image from director Darren Ashton's new low-budget feature Razzle Dazzle which opens around the country on 15 March.
  Director Darren Ashton’s dazzling new feature
  Australian director DARREN ASHTON's low-budget feature Razzle Dazzle was warmly received at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, and will open across Australia on 15 March - a triumph for a film made for $2 million and shot on HD in less than 25 days. Darren spoke to the AFC's IndiVision Lab Director Megan Simpson Huberman.

Did you develop the project with a low budget in mind?
It was a conscious decision to make Razzle as a low-budget film right from the outset. The film was based on a short story by Carolyn Wilson. I sat with Carolyn for a week or so and we developed a 25-page treatment. At all times we had low budget in mind. We kept bringing the story back to key locations - the less you need to move the better. We set over half the movie in a single location, Mr Jonathon's Dance Studio. Once we set the lighting there, Garry [Phillips, DOP] only had to do minor tweaks.

What were the key decisions that allowed you to make this project - a musical with crowd scenes, dance numbers and kids - within the available budget?
We had a cast of over 40 and on a lot of days we had 20 actors on set all participating in the scenes. There were two reasons we were able to bring this film in on budget: the production style and 'clever' producing.

Production style
Right from the treatment stage I had decided on a mocumentary format. I enjoyed making the short film The Extra and I knew I could shoot fast and maintain the integrity of the comedy. So when it came to Razzle I knew I needed a cast that could play a scene 'live' from the moment 'action' was called until 'cut'. I seldom did camera rehearsals, and although this occasionally drove Garry a bit mad it worked brilliantly. The actors would run with a scene for the first time as we were shooting it. I also had two cameras covering the action at all times. In fact the hardest thing was not to revert to traditional filmmaking coverage, which is tempting when something isn't quite working the way you want it to. Ironically we never used any of the conventional coverage.

As opposed to Thunderstruck [Ashton's 2003 feature], I backed off as much as possible from contriving camera and performance. For example, the children never read a script or knew what we were doing from moment to moment. When Ben [Miller, actor] tells them to do something in a scene they're really doing it. Although some sections were choreographed, the general interaction of the children with the key cast happens for real. In effect they were directed within a scene by the other cast. When the children had lines I would literally tell them what to say the moment before we would shoot. I did spend a lot of time in rehearsals though, helping them create their characters.

On a practical level I had a brilliant 1st AD, Karan Monkhouse, who ran the set magnificently. Karan knew how we needed to work in order to shoot five or six minutes a day and she also had one of the best onset relationships with children I've ever seen. I also like to surrender to the 1st AD in terms of the practical elements of the production process. On a low-budget film the director doesn't have time and can't afford to worry about where they have to be or what's next.

Read the whole article.

Razzle Dazzle opens on 15 March around Australia on 93 screens, including eight on the AFC's Regional Digital Screen Network.

Check out the film's delightful official website.
Director Darren Ashton on the set of <i>Razzle Dazzle</i>.
Director Darren Ashton on the set of Razzle Dazzle.

The hair is big in <i>Razzle Dazzle</i>. Anastasia Dolan as Katie.
The hair is big in Razzle Dazzle. Anastasia Dolan as Katie.

Kerry Armstrong as stage mum Justine, with Shayni Notelovitz as Tenille in <i>Razzle Dazzle</i>.
Kerry Armstrong as stage mum Justine, with Shayni Notelovitz as Tenille in Razzle Dazzle.

  Deadline: IndiVision Single-draft Script Development funding
  The next round of IndiVision Single-draft Script Development Funding (Strand F2) will close on 20 April 2007.

This IndiVision funding strand identifies striking low-budget feature drama projects on the strength of ideas and draft scripts. Projects may be of any genre, but must be able to be realised for a budget not exceeding $2 million.

This program is targeted towards both high level and less experienced practitioners. Applicants with short feature, feature or TV drama credits may submit an outline only. Applicants with short film or documentary credits need to submit an outline and a draft script.

Up to $16,000 can be applied for if the writer has short drama, documentary or animation credits; or up to $20,000 if the writer has feature or TV drama credits, including short features. These amounts can be increased by up to $2,000 if a producer is attached. Note that funding is for a single draft script of a feature only.

Guidelines, application form and more information.
W/d Michael Bennett and actor Jay Laga'aia shooting the test scene of NZ project <i>Exit 50</i> at the 07 Lab. Photo: Simon Cardwell.
W/d Michael Bennett and actor Jay Laga'aia shooting the test scene of NZ project Exit 50 at the 07 Lab. Photo: Simon Cardwell.

  The 2007 IndiVision Project Lab
  The AFC's 2007 IndiVision Project Lab, which took place in Sydney 1-7 February, was one of the strongest Labs to date. Eight teams with low-budget feature projects were challenged by acclaimed Danish writer Mogens Rukov (Festen, The Idiots, Reconstruction) and US indie producer Paul Mezey (Half Nelson, Maria Full of Grace). They worked with a dynamic team of local advisors and speakers that included writers Andrew Bovell and Michael Petroni, actor John Jarratt, producers Julie Ryan, Lynda House and Anton Smit, performance consultant David Field, and visual consultant Rowan Cassidy, among others.

The teams and projects selected for this year's Lab featured some very experienced filmmakers, and the projects were diverse. They included a romantic comedy, four dramas, a dramatic comedy, a coming-of-age story and a sci-fi horror film. They were:

* Stranded 3 - producers Michele Bennett & Anastasia Sideris, director Kriv Stenders, writer Tim Maricic
* Gary's House - producer Amanda Higgs, writer Debra Oswald
* Blogger Girl - producers Robyn Kershaw & Romy Moshinsky, writer Tania Lacy, director Daina Reid
* Galore - producer Philippa Campey, writer/director Rhys Graham
* The Waiting City - producer Jamie Hilton, producer/director/writer Claire McCarthy
* Refuge - producers Jeff Purser & Ranko Markovic, writer/director Bojan Simic
* Marcus + Love - producer Jason Harty, writers Craig Anderson & Trent O'Donnell, director Bryan Moses
* and from New Zealand, Exit 50 - producer Fiona Copland, writer/associate producer Gavin Strawhan, writer/director Michael Bennett.

The teams are currently working on their new drafts, and will come together for the follow-up marketing and pitching workshops in May and June.

What participants had to say about the 2007 IndiVision Project Lab:

"The Lab really was the shot in the arm our project needed. The entire low-budget philosophy was a lifeline - I didn't think it was possible for our project to develop so thoroughly and practically in eight days. To have access to the quality of advisors and industry professionals the Lab attracts was invaluable. Their generosity reminded me why I'm doing what I do. I couldn't recommend it highly enough to other filmmakers who have low-budget projects."
AMANDA HIGGS, producer, Gary's House

"A fantastic chance to road test your film, even before a frame has been shot. The Lab enabled our team to crystallise our creative, philosophical and developmental strategies. The script meetings were very direct and critically constructive. And the test scene shoot was a great way for the writer and myself to gain an intimate understanding of the film's tone and creative methodology."
KRIV STENDERS, director, Stranded 3

"IndiVision is not only a creative experience, it allows teams to really bond in a nurturing hothouse environment. Our project has left the Lab really humming with a new-found energy and creative resolve. We have tangible, constructive strategies to implement in our project at a script level, and also in terms of understanding the roles, responsibilities, and creative contributions of our significant collaborators with a new found respect and empathy."
CLAIRE MCCARTHY, director, The Waiting City

And from an international advisor:

"The IndiVision Lab was an intense and provocative experience. I was impressed with the range of projects and the enthusiasm, talent and thoughtfulness of the participating project teams. The environment of trust which the Lab created allowed a positive dynamic in which both the advisors and the participants were encouraged to address the tough issues openly and in a collaborative spirit. I came to appreciate the potential of each project and to admire a new wave of exciting filmmakers."
US producer PAUL MEZEY, Lab advisor.
Kriv Stenders is the director of <i>Stranded 3</i>, which was workshopped at the 07 IndiVision Lab. Photo: Simon Cardwell.
Kriv Stenders is the director of Stranded 3, which was workshopped at the 07 IndiVision Lab. Photo: Simon Cardwell.

Actor Hollie Andrew in the test shoot for <i>Stranded 3</i> at the 07 Lab. Photo: Simon Cardwell.
Actor Hollie Andrew in the test shoot for Stranded 3 at the 07 Lab. Photo: Simon Cardwell.

  Our Lab blog - scripts, shoots and a little bit of ping pong
  Trent O'Donnell & Craig Anderson are the writers of Marcus + Love, one of the projects workshopped at this year's IndiVision Project Lab. Their script, about an obsessive young man who creates a complex mathematical formula to locate the girl of his dreams, got a good workout at the Lab.

We come to the IndiVision Lab excited to be working on our project but unsure what to expect. The first day eases us in. The meet and greet is followed by group sessions with the advisors. During these opening addresses it becomes clear each advisor will be bringing their own experience and methods to the Lab. Danish writer Mogens Rukov has a vastly different approach to the Australian writers, Andrew Bovell and Michael Petroni. While Mogens has a treatment-free, fast-paced approach (which is often articulated with metaphors that involve smoking), Michael and Andrew have a more measured, prepared approach. These sessions are great to hear the rules and methods that people apply to their scripts.

At the end of day one we are about to head over to the Chauvel cinema for the opening night film and party when we meet David Field. David will be the performance advisor on our project in a few days time. We chat for 15 minutes or so in the car park. It was a great moment for us to hear David speak with such conviction about our script. It was exciting that he knew the script so well and was willing to hang around in the car park and gives us his thoughts.

Day two and the work begins, as each group meets with individual advisors. We begin with Andrew Bovell. It becomes a pattern for us that a lot of the feedback on our script is similar. We later joke that it's a credit to the writing for leaving such obvious shortcomings. We never really get down to the dialogue or small details but rather focus on the overall structure and character. We pick up lots of methods from the advisors that give us a fresh approach to a script we've worked on for 18 months. Things like Andrew's approach of looking at the first and last things said by the main character, and identifying the single kernel at the heart of your script, were really resonant for our project.

As well as the focused script sessions there are various specialised sessions for our producer, designed to hone his skills and to help find the best ways to get our project to the screen. These include New York-based indie producer Paul Mezey sharing his philosophies and tricks of the trade, the refreshingly frank Julie Ryan offering up a swag of info about her many projects with director Rolf de Heer, and an incredibly valuable one-on-one with producer Lynda House, which provides a strategic springboard for financing, production and distribution.

Read the whole blog.
Bloggers Craig Anderson and Trent O'Donnell (centre) with team-mates producer Jason Harty (far left) and director Bryan Moses (far right) at the 07 Lab. Photo: Simon Cardwell.
Bloggers Craig Anderson and Trent O'Donnell (centre) with team-mates producer Jason Harty (far left) and director Bryan Moses (far right) at the 07 Lab. Photo: Simon Cardwell.

  Andrew Bovell on the sculpting of stories
  One of Australia's finest writers for stage and screen, Andrew Bovell, was a guest advisor at the IndiVision Project Lab 2007. Among his many credits is the acclaimed Lantana (d: Ray Lawrence, 2001), which received more than 10 major awards including Best Screenplay at the 2003 London Critics' Circle Film Awards. Andrew has also co-written two films with Ana Kokkinos: The Book of Revelation and Head On. In this edited transcript of Andrew's address to the teams at the Lab, he talks about the sculpting of story and characters.

I'm very much a writer. I see myself very much as a person who creates pictures through words - that's my passion. When I was 20 I thought would write 50, 60 or 70 plays or films, and by the time I was 30 I thought, well I'll write maybe 20 or 30, and when I turned 40 I thought maybe there's only going to be 10 if I'm lucky. The lesson I learnt was that each one had to matter, each one had to count for something. And I've made mistakes, got attached to projects that I thought were terrific but in fact they weren't, and they were unable to sustain my interest and passion through the long process. If you don't truly connect to [the material] your audience isn't going to and you're in the process of creating a very mediocre film.

Screenwriting as sculpture
I use the analogy of sculpture for screenwriting: you start with a lump of wood or a lump of granite, you envisage the shape and the form within that, and you aim to realise that form. But in the process of working the material you discover things about it. In sculpture, it's the grain of the wood, it's the inherent properties of the stone that you're working with. But if you stick rigidly to what you saw at the beginning and don't work with the materials that you discover along the way, you're not going to get the best out of your work. It's a very organic process, you learn as you go as opposed to knowing it all at the beginning.

That's a really important thing to keep reminding myself: when I'm working with a character, they start to teach me something about the world of the film. I need to take that back into the experience of writing it. I'm going to ask you to identify your main character, which for some films is really easy, really obvious, or it may be an ensemble film, in which case we'll [identify] each of those characters. We're going to look at the first thing that character says and the first thing that character does, and then we're going to go to the end of the film and look at the last thing they do and the last thing they say. Then we'll ask, what's changed? If nothing's changed that could be really interesting and it could be intentional, but quite often it's an indication that the screenplay has failed in some way. Story is about change, about learning, and it's about transformation. So I'm really interested to see if that process of transformation is clear in your screenplays.

Read the whole article.
Andrew Bovell was a guest advisor on script at the 2007 IndiVision Lab. Photo: Simon Cardwell.
Andrew Bovell was a guest advisor on script at the 2007 IndiVision Lab. Photo: Simon Cardwell.

Producers Jeff Purser and Ranko Markovic brought their project <i>Refuge</i> to the 07 Lab. Photo: Simon Cardwell.
Producers Jeff Purser and Ranko Markovic brought their project Refuge to the 07 Lab. Photo: Simon Cardwell.

  News & project updates
  * IndiVision Lab 05 project West was selected for Generation, the children and young people's section of the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival. Producers Anne Robinson and Matt Reeder and writer/director Daniel Krige attended. The film was received very warmly by the young German audience, as it was at its Australian premiere at the recent Adelaide Film Festival. It will be released in Australia later this year by Palace.

Lab 05 alumni Tony Ayres and Michael McMahon also attended Berlin, as their feature The Home Song Stories was selected for the prestigious Panorama section. The film was favourably reviewed by Variety, and will be released in Australia mid year.

* IndiVision Production Fund project Black Water made strong sales at the Berlin market. The thriller, written and directed by Andrew Traucki and David Nerlich and produced by Michael Robertson, has now sold to 11 territories - Spain, Japan, Benelux, Brazil, India, Indonesia Malaysia, Middle East, Philippines, Poland and Thailand. Black Water stars Diana Glenn, Maeve Dermody and Andy Rodoreda.

* IndiVision Lab 05 project The Caterpillar Wish was released in cinemas in 2006 and since then has won and been nominated for several awards. The film won the AFI Award for Best Supporting Actress for Susie Porter; the IF Award for Best Production Design for Robert Webb; and the Best Actress Award for Susie Porter at the Recontres Internationales du Cinema des Antipodes in St Tropez, France. Award nominations for the film include Feature Film Score of the Year and Best Soundtrack Album for composer Burkhard Dallwitz at the APRA AGSC Screen Music Awards; Best Original Screenplay (Sandra Sciberras), Best Actress (Victoria Thaine) and Best Supporting Actress (Susie Porter) at the 2006 Film Critics' Circle Awards; and IF Award nominations for Best Art Direction and Best Sound.

* IndiVision Lab 06 project Ten Empty wrapped filming in Adelaide before Christmas and is currently in post-production. Produced by Naomi Wenck, directed by Anthony Hayes, and written by Hayes and Brendan Cowell, the film stars Daniel Frederiksen, Jack Thompson, Brendan Cowell, Tom Budge, Geoff Morell and Lucy Bell.

* IndiVision Production Fund project Lake Mungo is also currently in post, after wrapping its Victorian shoot in late 2006. The supernatural drama is written and directed by Joel Anderson, and produced by John Brawley, Georgie Neville and David Rapsey.

* IndiVision Lab 07 advisor Paul Mezey's film Half Nelson won two Independent Spirit Awards at the recent ceremony in New York - Best Actor for Ryan Gosling and Best Actress for Shareeka Epps. Ryan Gosling was also nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award this year for his performance in the film. Half Nelson will be released in Australia in April by Palace.

* IndiVision Lab 05 participant producer Rohan Timlock continues to have great success with Kenny, the low-budget feature he produced with director Clayton Jacobson. Made for $1 million, it has to date grossed $7.7 million, and the DVD outsold Superman by 3:1 in Australia over Christmas. "The practical advice that I got from attending the IndiVision Project Lab in 2005 became the foundation for the release of Kenny," Rohan told IndiVision News. "And I'm delighted to say that the film is confirmed to be released in the UK in September."
Maeve Dermody and Diana Glenn star in <i>Black Water</i>, which received IndiVision production funding.
Maeve Dermody and Diana Glenn star in Black Water, which received IndiVision production funding.

  US indie producer Paul Mezey on low-budget producing
  Paul Mezey was a guest advisor at the 2007 IndiVision Project Lab. He is a New York-based independent producer and founder of Journeyman Pictures. Paul has produced many critically recognised films, including Maria Full of Grace and Half Nelson, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2006 and received an Academy Award nomination this year for Best Actor (Ryan Gosling). Paul also recently produced the film Angel Rodriguez (directed by Jim McKay and featuring Rachel Griffiths). In this edited transcript of his Lab session, he shares his experience and wisdom about producing low-budget films.

What makes a low-budget film successful?
In the independent world, the producer's role is all-consuming and runs the gamut from creative collaborator to strategic planner to manager to accountant to negotiator to salesman. As a producer, I will typically work for three or more years on a single film project, shepherding it from script to distribution. In addition, I am still responsible for managing the ongoing business of films that have been in distribution for years. The model under which I work has three key components, which include:

1. Maintaining as much creative and financial control over the project as is necessary in order to (a) make the film that you, the creative team, envision, (b) allow you the options and flexibility to ensure that the film will actually get made, and (c) give the film the best shot at reaching as wide an audience as possible.

2. Choosing collaborators with whom I will want to work again, with the goal of building long-term partnerships with writers/directors. Looking beyond a single project towards building careers over a long term, building a market for the types of films that we make, and creating a model that empowers us and helps to protect the sustainability of our work.

3. Owning what we make (to whatever extent possible), building assets that we have some control over in the long term. In the studio world, writers, directors and producers are hired to provide all their services on a strictly 'work for hire' basis, but do not necessarily share in the ownership of the results of their labour nor retain ultimate creative control. In the independent world, we are working for ourselves (in partnerships) and retain a certain level of ownership in what we have made. This ties into the sustainability equation and also the distribution equation.

Choosing projects
It's never simple to explain why a certain idea or script will grab you in such a way that you can't shake it, but for me this is the critical first step for embarking on any project. There has to be some very personal resonance and something that I can feel passionate enough about to work on for years. I tend to prefer projects that take the audience where they perhaps haven't been before. I am attracted to films that reveal a unique and less-known world, but that have at their core themes/emotional struggles that I can relate back to my own experience (that feel universal yet are very specific).

The second most critical factor in my decision to commit to a project is the realisation that the director/writer and I share the same understanding of what this film needs to be. I can't say enough how critical it is that the producer and the director share the same vision for the film they are making. Because the producer is constantly the one who has to set limits and come up with creative solutions, it is imperative that I have the complete faith of the director. They have to believe that I will not compromise the film. The process of making a film is constantly one of making clear choices and each choice involves some sort of trade off. The challenge is to navigate this and try and make the right choices, so at the end of the day you have compromised as little as possible.

Read the whole article.

Read the feature article about Danish writer Mogens Rukov (AFC News March 2007) who was also a guest advisor at the IndiVision Lab 2007.
US indie producer Paul Mezey was a guest advisor at the 2007 IndiVision Project Lab. Photo: Simon Cardwell.
US indie producer Paul Mezey was a guest advisor at the 2007 IndiVision Project Lab. Photo: Simon Cardwell.

A scene from <i>Half Nelson</i>, which Paul Mezey executive produced.
A scene from Half Nelson, which Paul Mezey executive produced.

  International development initiatives
  Sundance Institute Screenwriters' and Directors' Labs
Application deadlines: 1 September 2007 for the January 2008 Lab.
Sundance Institute has supported nearly 1000 artists' development programs since 1981, and thousands more through the annual Sundance Film Festival. The Institute accepts 4-5 international applications a year, however at the moment specifies it is interested in projects from China, the Middle East and North Africa. Check the website for details. You can also subscribe to the Sundance monthly InSIder e-newsletter.

Binger Filmlab
Application deadlines: 15 March 2007 for directors, screenwriters, producers and script editors.
The Maurits Binger Film Institute was established in 1996 to provide screenwriters, script editors, directors and producers with the opportunity to upgrade their skills under the guidance of prominent filmmakers and experienced tutors from around the world.

Independent Film Project's filmmaker labs, USA
These are open to non-US citizens as well.
  International film festivals
  The AFC website's International Festival Profiles page lists most of the following film festivals. It summarises the history, specific programs and screening sections of the festival. The profiles also have practical, at-a-glance info such as festival URLs, contact details and screening gauges.

The following festivals are particularly relevant for low-budget features. Upcoming deadlines for 2007:

Cannes Film Festival, France
16-27 May 2007. Deadline 15 March 2007
including sidebar events:
Directors' Fortnight: 4 April
Critics' Week: 6 April

Edinburgh Film Festival, UK
15-26 August 2007. Deadline 17 April 2007

Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Czech Republic
29 June-7 July 2007. Deadline 13 April 2007

Locarno International Film Festival, Sweden
1-11 Aug 2007. Deadline June 2007 TBA

Toronto Film Festival, Canada
6-19 Sept 2007. Deadline June 2007 TBA

Valladoid International Film Festival, Spain
Oct 2007 - Festival dates TBA. Deadline June/July 2007 TBA

Venice International Film Festival, Italy
29 Aug-8 Sept 2007. Deadline 15 June 2007
Venice Days - sidebar festival screening the 'dirty dozen' of first-time feature directors
Sept 2007 - Festival dates TBA. Deadline July 2007 TBA

Cork Film Festival, Ireland
4-21 Oct 2007. Deadline 29 June 2007

Mannheim Heidelberg Film Festival, Germany
16-25 Nov 2007. Deadline 30 July 2007

Telluride Film Festival, USA
31 Aug-3 Sept 2007. Deadline 15 July 2007

Pusan International Film Festival, Korea
4-12 Oct 2007. Deadline TBA

Montreal World Film Festival, Canada
23 Aug-3 Sept 2007. Deadline June/July 2007 TBA

San Sebastian International Film Festival, Spain
20-29 Sept 2007. Deadline 31 July 2007