All good things must come to an end, and so the time has come to say goodbye to another stellar year of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival. And what a year it’s been. It has easily been one of their best years yet with a program of boasting outstanding and provocative independent cinema.
Jarret and I arrived nice and early, in time for the closing night trivia. Being so early in the evening the attendance for this competition was reasonably low, but that bared no relevance to the fun that was had. Talk about “FakeShemp represent”. After two rounds of trivia, which lasted about an hour, Jarret and I swept up the accolades by coming first (myself) and second (Jarret) with only a hair’s breadth between our scores.
A few more people filtered into the theatre and it was time to watch the first feature for the night. We were treated to a strange Turkish documentary called REMAKE REMIX RIPOFF, which served as a retrospective look at the copy-cat films of the Turkish film industry throughout the 70s and 80s and how they cloned everything that was popular in Hollywood. It was a strangely compelling and highly amusing look at an industry of cinema that I knew existed once upon a time but never gave much thought to.
Following that film the doors opened and the room filled up quickly. Everyone was along for the world premier of Tim Spanos’ latest opus SIZZLER 77. It was a buzzing atmosphere with the sound of bottles clinking and the hum of people talking. Spirits were high and all of the faces from throughout the festival had grouped together to send the festival out with a bang.
And then there was SIZZLER 77, an outrageous and hysterical comedy set in the back streets of Melbourne during the late 70s. The crowd response was great and the film’s humour hit all of the right spots. It was brilliantly written, fully self-aware and acted with the right amount of insanity. It tells the story of a new pimp in town and the two detectives determined to bring him down. With every conceivable retro centric pop-reference thrown in to the mix it also serves as a nostalgic and edgy satire with a huge amount of appeal. Stay tuned for my review.
And so with the MUFF16 program at a close there was only one thing left to do and that was to announce the winners of the MUFF Awards. Festival director Richard Wolstencroft graced the stage alongside Hussein Khoder and Reilly Archer-Whelan to announce the MINI MUFF winners. Richard then called filmmaker Jon Hewitt to the stage to announce the various feature length winners. These awards included best screenplay, best director, best cinematography, and of course best film (amongst others).
Amongst the winners was FakeShemp.Net's Jarret Gahan who took out the tied award for BEST DOCUMENTARY. This is where I take a moment to indulge in some personal acknowledgement. To see my brother-from-another-mother scoop up this award was a sincerely amazing moment. I've witnessed the hard work he has put into the film and watched it come to life over the past couple of years. I honestly couldn't be prouder. Jarret has been a fundamental asset to FakeShemp.Net and he can now proudly call himself an award winning film maker. Congratulations brother. "Outstanding!".
A massive congratulations to all of the winners from the three of us here at FakeShemp.Net. We've attended the festival for many years and we feel strongly about 2015 being the most solid year yet. There was a greater focus and overall cohesiveness to this year's event and the quality of selection was outstanding. The festival boasted a vibrant collection of films with some being edgy and provocative and others that edged their way towards the mainstream without spilling over into a pool of wankery.
Following the awards Richard was taken off guard and told to halt the proceedings. Actress Kristen Condon then took the stage and surprised him with an award for Best Festival Director. Unbeknownst to him, a collective of festival supporters (us included) had planned to bestow this upon him to recognise his contributions to independent cinema. Over the past sixteen years he has provided an invaluable platform for indie filmmakers (new and old) to exhibit their work to audiences. He has given them an opportunity to showcase their work, where other festivals have denied them. MUFF represents the TRUE essence of indie cinema and has, in turn, served as a springboard to help propel a whole lot of notable filmmakers to success. The MUFF alumni include directors such as James Wan (Saw, Insidious, Furious 7), Patrick Hughes (Red Hill, Expendables 3) and Zak Hilditch (These Final Hours) amongst others. A bunch of filmmakers from present and past took to the stage to congratulate Richard and share their own stories and thoughts on the festival. It was a stunning way to close the 16th Melbourne Underground Film Festival (the festivities continued in the VIP room for a raucous after-party. But what happens behind closed doors, stays behind closed doors).
A massive thanks to Richard and MUFF for inviting us along as media partners and allowing us to curate our own evening. It has been an honour and we are proud to have provided a running commentary to the whole damn thing. On to MUFF 17!
The second to last night of the festival proved to showcase one of this year's most confronting and challenging films. Jarret and I met up early for a bite to eat before making our way to the Backlot Studios, where we caught up with a few festival regulars. Drinks were served freely and our Friday night was looking good.
We sat in the cinema with absolutely no preconceptions of what to expect. The film was called NINA FOREVER and such a title leads to all sorts of connotations. The lights dimmed and from the first frame it was clear that we were in good hands. The film immediately boasted a high standard of production and sound design. The story began fairly conventionally with an unlikely relationship forming between an outsider girl and a grieving man, who recently lost his girlfriend in an horrific accident. The film has this effective way of lulling you into a false sense of familiarity before it makes an abrupt about-turn and descends into a macabre and perverted tale of resurrection, necrophilia and sexual exploits. It's as equally confronting as it is beautiful and almost 24 hours later it is still plaguing my mind. Definitely worth your time. Once the final credits rolled the audience left the cinema in a sort of uneasy silence. The film had infected everyone and time was needed to process what had just been seen.
Next up was Daniel Armstrong's debut feature film FROM PARTS UNKNOWN: FIGHT LIKE A GIRL. By now most locals in-the-know are aware that this film had a lengthy and arduous production and was actually released AFTER his second feature film, MURDERDROME. We had Daniel on our podcast late last year to discuss both films in detail. Click right here to have a listen and get yourself up-to-speed on his work. Unfortunately Jarret and I have other commitments, which meant that we were unable to hang around for this screening. However, having seen the film I have no doubt that the audience lapped it up. It's a local independent gore-fest that deserves support and compliments the Melbourne Underground Film Festival perfectly.
And so there's only one day left... closing night of MUFF16 has a lot on offer and we will be back to report on all of the unruly shenanigans.
I woke up with a swollen uvula (I don’t recommend it) and spent the greater part of my day feeling as though I was being strangled and suffocating. Sadly this meant that I was unable to attend the final night of MINI MUFF. To say that I was disappointed is an understatement and I will be putting the world out for guest writers. If you were in the audience for Sessions 5 and 6 of MINI MUFF and would like to write an article recapping the evening, then please get in touch. Our email tab is at the top of this page. From all accounts it sounds like it was a near full-house and an amazing night. I am sorry to have missed it and cannot wait to read all about it. Please get in touch.
Sadly we were unable to attend the MUFF events at Howler on the Wednesday night. The line up conflicted with our own screening at The Backlot... and so we would like to thank Gregory Pakis (no stranger to MUFF) for take notes on the night and providing us with the follow coverage. Muchas gracias amigo!! - Glenn.
MUFF 16 Night 6 began at a handsome bar/restaurant converted from an old wool shed, hidden back off a main road in Brunswick now called Howler Bar. Actually, the night began with a free beer from sponsor Pistonhead, before we were herded into the stylish back screening room to watch NORTH CIRCULAR ROAD, an Irish suspense thriller about a haunted house that resembled “The Sixth Sense” (1999) with more than just the big twist at the end.
After another free Pistonhead beer, we were flown to Bali, in local film maker Jamie Wilson’sCOME BACK MR BULE; a documentary which laments why less Australians are visiting the warm hospitable Bali, and that the general perception generated by Australian media reports that Bali is unsafe, is mostly untrue. “Come Back Mr Bule” works best as a love letter to Bali from Wilson, who has visited the city several times before making the documentary.
After quickly gulping another Pistonhead beer, we were back in the screening room to see I AM EVENGELINE by another Australian film maker, Christine Rogers. Set in a mythological city, “I am Evangeline” echoed Blade Runner with its central protagonist, a runaway clone, which tries to extend the length of her own existence. The night ended with more Pistonhead lagers passed around as patrons mingled with the filmmakers. I was also lucky enough to be shouted a burger and chips by the formidable MUFF festival director, Richard Wolstencroft!
- Gregory Pakis.
The sixth night of the festival saw the events split across two venues. This was obviously problematic for several reasons. Firstly it divided the attendance and forced people to choose between screenings and secondly it meant that we weren't able to provide full coverage of the night. The Howler Bar was hosting the films NORTH CIRCULAR ROAD, COME BACK MR BULE and I AM EVANGELINE. These are all films I was every excited to see, but was unable to attend due to our own screening. We would hate for these three films to go unmentioned in our MUFF DIARY and so I would encourage you to click on those titles and check out the interviews we did with the filmmakers.
From all reports they had a brilliant turnout. Richard mentioned a near sell-out crowd (roughly 200 patrons), which is absolutely amazing. HUGE congratulations to each of the filmmakers. I will be making an effort to watch each film as soon as possible and will share my thoughts with you. Because I was unable to attend their screenings I put a call-out for guest writers to cover the night for us. At this point I have had no responses but if you were at those three screenings and would like to share your thoughts with an article (not unlike this one) then we would LOVE to include it.
And so on the other side of town at The Backlot Studios, we found ourselves with a much more modest attendance (smaller venue), but a good one and an enthusiastic one. Some had come along to eagerly witness Albert Pyun’s ROAD TO HELL while others were curious about Shane Ryan’s MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS.
Following some drinks and mingle-time at the bar we all filed into the cinema. I stood at the front and welcomed everyone and proceeded with my introduction. With a few Pistonhead Larger beers in my system I cannot entirely recall what I said, but it was all documented on camera and so that will be revealed very soon. With a huge cheer for Albert we got the ball rolling with an exclusively recorded video message from the man himself. Joined by his wife Cynthia (who is also his writer and producer) they thanked everyone and gave some insight into the film itself.
The film rolled and from what I could gauge, the audience responded really well. I was unsure how the film would go down. I know that in my own mind it is a stunning one. One that is surreal, nightmarish and very experimental. Such a film is bound to be divisive but after the end credits rolled we all met in the foyer and shared our thoughts. The response was overwhelmingly positive. One person described the experience as ‘transcending’ while another called it ‘trippy’. If my recollections serve me well I believe I mentioned in my introduction that the film had imperfections and that these were what made it so wonderful. It showcases a filmmaker with his heart on his sleeve, in a truly raw and visceral way. Many people later told me that they agreed with that assessment. And so the world premier of the final cut of ROAD TO HELL is done and dusted. It plays so well on the big screen. It looks stunning and it sounds amazing. Michael Pare commands the screen brilliantly. The music is awesome and the entire surrealistic landscape is overwhelming.
Following a twenty-minute interval everyone filed back into the cinema to watch a very different sort of film. One that proved to be incredibly polarizing. I introduced the film and shared some back-story into Shane’s work, and thanked everyone again. The cinema lights dimmed and the audience were treated to another exclusive introduction. Shane thanked everyone and then told his story of what inspired the film, where his mind was when making it and how the public has received it. It was a personal and informative introduction and we will definitely be sharing it with you online soon. The film played to a stunned audience.
Once the film ended everyone made their way outside for drinks and smokes. It was a strange mood that rippled amongst us. Some had responded to the film very positively and found it to be a confronting, earnest and thought-provoking experience while others down right hated it…. I couldn’t have asked for a better reaction! This is the precise division that Ryan’s films attract and this is what makes him such an important and dangerous filmmaker. His work is challenging and demands a reaction. Having the opportunity to screen it to an audience has meant the world to me and I hope to be able to showcase more of his work later down the road.
And so it was. Another night of MUFF16 is done and our exclusive FakeShemp.Net event is over. Thank you to Richard Wolstencroft and the Melbourne Underground Film Festival for allowing us to take over the event for one night. I am thrilled with the reactions and feel that we have presented two films that truly embody the spirit of MUFF. Raw, audacious, confronting and controversial. That’s what it’s all about after all, right?
Wow. I'm ploughing through the MUFF program and getting it done (like a boss). Night number four was another round of shorts at Howler. I arrived early and ventured in to hang out with Richard and Hussein. Everyone’s spirits were high and so far the festival has been travelling brilliantly.
I was the first into the cinema and made myself comfortable in one of the kooshy booths at the back. People started filing in and before long the room was swelling with movie-goers. MINI MUFF had managed to pull in another near-full attendance, which I thought was insane considering that it was a Tuesday night (obviously I don’t get out enough).
The lights dimmed and the films began to roll. The mood of the program was entirely different from the previous night with this selection of shorts taking a much more serious and sombre tone. This was bad news for me because my tolerance for short films rarely exceeds the five-minute mark and the more serious and arty they become, the more pretentious they feel to me. Don’t get me wrong, there’s an important place for dramatic short films but my own penchant leans more towards sharp witty comical stories with a solid punch. And so sitting through twenty or so dramas felt more taxing for me than it should have. There were a few little comical stories thrown in for some measure of balance but the rest were more or less art pieces.
Here’s a run-down of the top five films that definitely did resonate with me.
THE LOCKER CLEANER – A very amusing documentation of a man who lives to clean lockers.
CUSP– A story about two small-town outsiders who make an unlikely pact.
CHARLIE – A dark and disturbing story of an lonely old man who is tormented by local degenerates.
ROOKIE MISTAKE – A comedy about the delicate art of the pick-up line.
BLOOD TRUST – A dark and twisted story of ethnicity, murder and a mother’s love.
It was another great night of independent cinema and I was, once again, fortunate to have had great company. This festival is bringing in some great people and there’s no shortage of conversation to be had. With the Pistonhead Lager always on hand, MUFF16 is roaring away!!
The night had come to check out the MUFF’s newest venue, HOWLER. Given that it’s on the opposite side of town to me I hadn't had a chance to check it out ordinarily. And so with the festival making itself comfortable in these new digs, there was no better excuse to scope it out.
It’s a brilliant venue. From the outside it’s a regular-looking (almost dishevelled) warehouse, tucked away behind other buildings in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick… but once you walk through the open roller door it’s abundantly clear that looks can be deceiving. The décor inside this place is amazing… very modern, with a rustic twang to it. I walked through a sort of café/lounge area, which was full of people drinking spirits and sipping coffee. The bar had a constant line of people, which appeared to be moving along quickly. Towards the back of the room, through a short corridor is the theatre. I caught up with the festival curators Hussein Khoder and Reilly Archer-Whelan at the ticket box before walking through to the screening room. I was struck by how huge the room was, decked out with chairs and a large screen on the stage at front. The back of the room was lined with comfortable booths, raised above the ground. Oh and the theatre has it’s own bar (in true MUFF form, Pistonhead Larger was freely available).
Tonight was the first and second sessions of the MINI MUFF program. I arrived early (overestimated the peak hour traffic) and caught up with Richard Wolstencroft before the punter arrived. We discussed the festival and various other film related things before the people started rolling in. I had expected an attendance of about twenty or thirty people and was completely surprised (thrilled) to see the room swell very quickly. There were a few stray chairs once everyone was seated, but it was close enough to a full room. This was astonishing for a Monday night of short films and perhaps that’s a testament to the Brunswick crowd (a highly social and cultural part of Melbourne).
The lights dimmed and the films rolled. I have been to loads of short film festivals over the years and I can say, without reservation, that this was easily amongst the best I have ever attended. I really have to hand it to Hussein and Reilly. They've done an incredible job selecting these shorts, which I understand they had to whittle down from 300+.
In previous years I have done an entire breakdown of each short film and given them their own micro-reviews. I wont’ be doing that this year because the overall calibre of film is incredible. With most of them being outstanding, it wouldn't be fare to single out the one or two that weren't crash-hot. However I will list my five favourite films, which I would encourage you to track down and check out.
THE STEVEDORE – A comical story of drug dealers, henchmen and next door neighbours.
I AM FAIRY – A taut and well-written comedy with a fantastic punch line.
THE DETECTIVES OF NOIR TOWN – A hilarious and politically incorrect film noir starring puppets and humans walking the same streets.
THE BARBER’S CUT – A macabre comedy about severed bodies and reanimation.
THE MIGRANTS – A strangely absorbing experimental film using string puppets to tell the tale of a mother and child in a desolate landscape.
Suffice to say that the first night of MINI MUFF was brilliant. The audience responded really well and the mood in the room was collective. Once again, I salute Hussein and Reilly for a job very well done. I cannot wait for the next sessions of shorts and if you’re reading this in time, I urge you to get along and support these wonderful indie film-makers.
Night #3 was building up to be one of the festival highlights for us, with the Melbourne premier of our man Jarret Gahan's feature-length directorial début, GONE LESBO GONE: THE UNTOLD TALE OF AN UNSEEN FILM. Having spent the last few years piecing the film together, all was about to be revealed….
And what a revelation it was! The night began with a screening of Andrew Leavold’s deeply personal odyssey THE SEARCH FOR WENG-WENG. It’s a remarkable documentary about Leavold’s crusade to dig deep into the Filipino culture in search of a forgotten pint-sized movie star. I have seen the film several times and there is no doubt that it is something special. It oozes with love and passion and one hell of a tenacious determination to tell a story. The audience response was great and the film infected everyone.
Next up was GONE LESBO GONE. When we filed out of the WENG-WENG screening we were faced with a foyer full of chatter. A whole lot of people had made their way into the city on their Sunday night to see the film. I checked in with Jarret a few times to gauge his nerve factor and being the true professional that we know him to be he was cool, calm and collected (no doubt shitting himself on the inside). I was buzzing around the room with my camera, filming the atmosphere. Spirits were high and everyone was excited. Before long we were all ushered into the cinema…
Richard Wolstencroft introduced Jarret to the front and we were given a little back story to the film. Jarret called Andrew Leavold to the front and the two of them bantered for a few minutes, priming the audience for what they were about to see. With a big round of applause the lights dimmed and the film rolled.
GONE LESBO GONE: THE UNTOLD TALE OF AN UNSEEN FILM is a retrospective documentary about Leavold’s first subversive exploitation film LESBO A GO-GO. Using a talking heads format, it recalls the whole making of 2003 film with a whole heap of cast and crew returning to share their thoughts. Some recall the experience fondly, while others bare resentment towards it. The strength of the documentary lies in the fact that most of the audience have never seen Leavold’s film, which gives the whole narrative of the doco an air of mystery and notoriety. With the added strength of a brilliant score and soundtrack by The Screaming Meanies and the use of rare archival footage, Jarret has crafted a personal and revealing exposé on a film that very few people know about, let alone have seen.
Following the film, the lights went up and Jarret and Andrew were called back to the front for a Q&A. Lead actress Cara Gramer Guaraldo (credited in the original film as Cari Withercy) joined them… and she looked stunning. Absolutely gorgeous and hasn't aged a day since 2003. The three of them took the stage like pros and shared their stories to the captivated room of movie lovers. There is no doubt that the audience loved to the film and hopefully for them it was also one of the festival highlights so far.
We captured the night on video and will be sharing it with you very soon. To say that I am proud of what Jarret has achieved is an understatement. Not only is he one of the nicest blokes on Earth and an incredible creative partner, he is also (clearly) a brilliant film maker. I'm proud as punch of what he’s done for FakeShemp.Net and couldn't be happier for him with such a fantastic screening at MUFF16. All spoils are very well earned.
I arrived to the second night of the festival with plenty of time to sink a couple of beverages. The barman gave me a free shot of bourbon (the bottle was down to dregs), and so I was sufficiently boozed up (which is completely uncharacteristic for me). Director Travis Bain flew down from Cairns (QLD) for the screening of his creature-feature THROWBACK. This was one of my favourite Australian indie-films of last year. In fact FakeShemp.Net awarded the film the 'Glenn Award' as part of our inaugural FakeShemp.Net Awards.
The lights dimmed and the audience was treated to Travis's latest short film LITTLE NIPPERS, a quirky story of karma, featuring killer lobsters. The audience response was good, and then unexpectedly we were shown a teaser concept trailer for his upcoming feature film STARSPAWN. Using stock footage, the trailer pieced together an ambiguous narrative and presented a tone and atmosphere that we should expect from the project. It was certainly an attention grabber.
And then there was THROWBACK. I needn't say much about the film itself. Lord knows we have covered it extensively at FakeShemp.Net over the last twelve months. Needless to say that I LOVE the film and recommend it to anyone who loves genre. It's a perfectly structured film and shot gloriously with limitless affection for schlock cinema. It's available on DVD and BLU-RAY (uk) and I would urge all lovers of indie cinema to support Travis by purchasing a copy.
Jarret and I made a mad-dash for the toilets before quickly hitting the bar up for another drink. We then made our way back into the cinema for the Melbourne premier of Richard Wolstencroft's latest feature film THE SECOND COMING VOL 1.
Richard addressed the audience and prepared them for a sensory overload. His film promised (threatened) to be a kinetic mind-fuck... and that's precisely what it was. Based on a collection of works from W.B. Yeates the film is presented as a mash-up of ideas and concepts, each presented as separate narratives but are woven together thematically. It's an experimental and existential film that proved to be a truly captivating and thought provoking experience. Best described as a psychotic marriage of David Lynch and Richard Stanley, it's also a film that demands contemplation. It cannot be watched and judged immediately. I know that I certainly need to process it more before I can fully comprehend it. Stay tuned for my review of the film....
Richard followed the film with an extensive Q&A session and discussed how the film originated and the process he went through to film it. He was joined on stage by his editor Mark Bakaitis and actress Kristen Condon and they gave the audience an impassioned background narrative of the project and what things lay ahead.
And as soon as it all began, night number two of the festival was done and dusted. It was a brilliant night of cinema, attended by a dedicated audience of movie lovers. What a bunch of folk they are too. MUFF16 reigns supreme!
With a sensational lead-in to the 16th Melbourne Underground Film Festival the opening night went off with a bang. Addison Heath's trippy debut feature film UNDER A KALEIDOSCOPE attracted a full house and made the audience VERY happy (no hallucinogenics required).
As with any event at The Backlot Studios I always give myself plenty of time to get there. I travel from the outer eastern suburbs and crossing the inner city traffic on any given night is a challenge, let alone a Friday night during peak hour. My run in was surprisingly light and I made it to the venue in record time. It was far too early to wander in, however the MUFF crew were way ahead of me and I decided to venture in regardless. I was immediately hit with a free beer from the festival's main sponsor, Pistonhead Larger, and before long the punters started to file in.
My two FakeShemp.Net compadres (Jarret & Shaun) arrived with Andrew Leavold (The Search for Weng Weng) and Jesse Breckon-Thomas (The Screaming Meanies) in tow and within minutes the foyer was swelling with people. The atmosphere was full of energy and everyone was in good spirits for an opening night of great independent cinema and lots of socialising.
At 8 o'clock everyone filed into the cinema. The turnout was such that once the room was full, the remaining people were directed back to the foyer/lounge, where the film would be screening simultaneously. Festival director Richard Wolstencroft addressed the room and welcomed every one along to MUFF16. He was in good spirits and set the mood for the night before bringing Iconic Melbourne film maker Frank Howson (Hunting, Flynn) to the front. Frank spoke to the room and offered words of wisdom and advice to all of the creatives who were in attendance. He made a similar elocution last year and having him do it again was a very nice touch.
The lights dimmed and the pre-film advertisements rolled. We had a new FakeShemp.Net ad this year and the three of us were chuffed to see our ugly mugs projected in glorious super-sized hi-res... hopefully it will inspire a few people to get clicking and visit our website.
The first short film off the rank was Matthew Victor Pastor's VALENTINE'S DAYS. If you're not familiar with Pastor's work then he is a talent that I highly recommend you keep an eye on. This film was cut from the same cloth as his previous feature film MADE IN AUSTRALIA and presented similarly dark and almost seedy quality, where he digs beneath the surface of ordinary every-day things and looks for the underlying secrets and perversions. The audience responded well, albeit unsure what they had just seen (in a good way).
Next up was Stuart Simpsons BABY DID A BAT BAT THINGS. This was his entry into the ABCS OF DEATH competition a couple of years ago, which he has since re-tweeked into its own stand-alone short. It's a chaotic, action-packed shoot-em up story about an invasion of bat-like aliens who meet their match when two gun-slingin' rock n rollers roll up and take aim. It's a super fun, highly energetic piece of shlock that had the entire room captivated.
And then there was UNDER A KALEIDOSCOPE. We have covered this film inside and out at Fakeshemp.Net and so I needn't go into detail with the synopsis. Suffice to say that we are HUGE fans of Addison Heath. We LOVE what he does and regard him as one of Melbourne's champion indie filmmakers. To consider him a mate is a true honour. The audience loved the film too and the after show drinks attested to that. High praise was on everyone's lips, with actress Kristen Condon receiving a whole lot of love from just about everyone.
And so MUFF16 if off and racing. It's already shaping up to be one of its best years yet and with an entire week's worth of schedule ahead, it's going to be one hell of a journey. Tickets are on sale and we encourage everyone to get along. Be part of an important cultural movement and engage in some truly original and audacious cinema.
Visit MUFF.COM.AU for all festival info and ticket sales.
Tell us about your filmmaking journey so far.
FROM PARTS UNKNOWN is the second do-it-yourself feature I’ve made to be released, the first was MURDERDROME - released a couple of years ago. Prior to that I’ve made or been involved in many short films - some of which have screened at festivals around Australia and the world and won a few prizes and suchlike.
What can you tell us about your film and the overall production?
FROM PARTS UNKNOWN: FIGHT LIKE A GIRL is the first feature I shot, but the second to be released. We recorded most of the scenes in 2007 and 2008 and it’s only just now seen the light of day! So that’s nearly a 10 year process.
My desire with FPU was to make a stylised good vs evil action film, with zombies, pro wrestling and video games. A lot changed due to circumstance, the resources I had available, and of course my own inexperience at the time. Everyone worked really hard though, and it’s a true do-it-yourself effort. It’s ambitious, designed, and hand crafted with great love and passion. I’m really proud of what we achieved. It’s kind of crazy and cool.
What's next for the film in terms of festivals and potential releases?
It’s out on DVD in Australia, available at JB HiFi through Monster Pictures. It will come out in the US of A through Camp Motion pictures and UK through Monster Pictures UK next year and we’ll see if we can pick up any other territories throughout the year. There are no more festival plans, but if we are approached I say yes.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
We’re currently shooting SheBorg Massacre.
FROM PARTS UNKNOWN SCREENS ON FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18 (SUN) AT THE BACKLOT.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO AND TO PURCHASE TICKETS.
Following a HUGE afternoon at the Fitzroy Film Fair, Jarret and myself spent the evening discussing MUFF16 on 3RRR radio. Festival director Richard Wolstencroft invited us along, where we joined Kristen Condon, Andrew Leavold, Timothy Spanos, Hussein Khoder host Headley Gritter. It was a colourful discussion about everything from Filipino filmmaking to notorious crimes of the 1970s and a whole bunch of other weird and wonderful subjects. Have a listen for yourself and you'll even hear a few classic Tales From A Clerk stories.
Tell us about your filmmaking journey so far. Is Come Back Mr Bule your film debut?
No I have actually made about 10 shorts and 2 documentaries including this one which is the biggest (3 years of my life), plus a few comedy sketches, concept vids and a music video. I have had a few festival screenings with my shorts including The Angry Film Festival, The Flagfall Film Festival, The Made in Melbourne Film Festival, The Sydney Road Film Festival, The People of Passion International Film Festival and a Tropfest FInalist film (One in a million) which I co-produced and acted in. Filmmaking was not consciously on the agenda for me as I was just a struggling stage actor in my early years. It really spawned out of necessity as I felt this sudden urge to tell my own stories in later years. I grew up watching a lot of classic films at the Carlton movie house as a kid. My Mother use to take me to watch the Marx brothers, Jaque Tati and Mel Brooks films. Then came the Aussie films like Mad max, Street Hero, Storm boy, Moving out, the list goes on. Probably one of the most profound films I ever watched as a teen was Scarface, which I thought was a documentary due to Pacino's performance and of course great directing by De Palma. As time went by I just watched more and more films, which eventually planted the seeds. I only formerly studied acting, not filmmaking, but watching so many films and reading how to do it books and watching many docos provided me with the basic knowledge to actually get started. I don't actually stick to making one type of film or filmmaking style. Basically if an idea enters my head and I cant sleep for weeks on end then I usually write a script or if it's a documentary I research the subject matter. I tend to write, direct, produce, act and even edit my own films. I really admire Jerry Lewis, Clint Eastwood, Jaque Tati and many others who wear the same hat. I wouldn't have it any other way as being an actor is just not enough.
What was the 'ah-ha' moment that lead you to film-making?
Many many years ago I was cast as the lead in a SCI-FI indie feature called "Lost Black Earth" which was directed by my mate James Cole. Ironically it was also selected and screened at MUFF. During post-production I had the opportunity to watch and observe James in the editing process. Having a background as a DJ and dabbling in remixing music I could see the similarities in the sense of time, space, rhythm and layers. It was fascinating as my background as a performer was on the stage but I soon realised that film was a medium where you had more control over what you were watching. I was always a visual person. I also had written, directed, produced and performed in a series of comedy sketches a few years earlier (which James edited) that I submitted to Artists Services. So the writing was on the wall even back then. Finally the penny dropped and a few years after "Lost" I made my first documentary Burgermen on a Panasonic MS1 which also took three years and ended running for 46 mins. Then digital came along and made the whole process much more affordable and I haven't looked back.
What can you tell us about your film and the production?
Zev Howley and I are quite different as people and I have known him for along time so I knew that putting both of us together in Bali was going to be an interesting mix. Zev was quite nervous as we had no official permits or visas and I even received a phone call from the Indonesian consulate in Jakarta warning me that I was taking a risk due to the Australian media illegally reporting events in Bali. We shot for ten days straight then Zev flew home and I stayed and directed Indo rock legend Doddy Katamsi in a music clip (Married again) which was released throughout south east Asia. I flew back over there the following year with Mum, and Yvette Cottier came along as well. We shot some extra cutaways and interviews although most of them did not make the final cut. Theoretically there was only two of us crewing on both trips and we were both doing camera and sound, although I did have a few Indonesians driving us around and one of them was a cameraman who shot some extra footage that was not actually used. There was no official script or funding, just a few pages of the actual concept and many sleepless nights. I chose to shoot on HDV with the Sony FX1E. Shooting with 35 mm lenses with an adaptor was on the cards but too time consuming and using a DSLR was just outright problematic for this style of filmmaking.
What was your greatest blunder on set? What invaluable lesson did you take away from it?
Bloody matte box was in frame on many shots which I didn't discover until I was in post. Don't rely on the camera LCD display for framing because sometimes it lies! lol
What was your greatest triumph on set?
Getting people to talk openly on camera especially the Indonesians.
What can audiences expect from the film and how do you think they will react?
Bali still has a stigma attached to it and that was the reason why I was driven to make this in the first place. I think my film offers an entertaining and honest overview of how things work over there at a grass roots level. If you have been there before you will relate to it and if you haven't well I hope this film encourages people to actually go there. As far as reactions are concerned I think it will be fairly positive despite recent events and tension between Australia and Indonesia. Im not making a political statement or sympathising. This is just my perspective and how I view the place so I hope people will just take it at that.
Is this your first time at MUFF and what does the festival mean to you?
No I had another short 'Two of a kind" play a few years ago plus I also have another short that I co-directed, co-wrote and acted in with Ivan Malekin "Mirror of Filth" which is playing this year at MUFF as well. I'm quite excited to have my first feature play at MUFF as I feel it's the right festival for the film and I look forward to seeing how the audience will react to it.
What's next for the film in terms of festivals and potential releases?
Recently missed out on Balinale but DOC LA and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is something Im looking at. Possibly even the Hong Kong International Film Festival as well.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline? Can you tell us a little about them?
I currently have a comedy short in post called "Dear John" which is aimed at Tropfest plus a rather bleak short in pre-production called "The road house circuit". I am also planning to make a feature length mocumentary about an actor next year as well. There's some Aussie genre film concepts which have been sitting around for awhile plus another Bali concept feature, but they all require a bit of funding and that seems to be lacking in this country.
MINI MUFF is a short film program spanning several nights at this year's festival, covering 6 sessions at two venues. With 70 films on offer the program boasts an eclectic selection of stories from home and abroad and showcases the work of dozens of emerging film makers. We put some questions to the two curators and picked their brains for the deets...
What can you tell us about the process of programming the shorts for Mini-Muff?
Hussein: The first thing is we have to at least like the short, If we dont like it then there really is not point in showing it. Then we focus on things like acting and story, which are two of the most important things then its seeing if it will feel with the who concept of what MUFF is all about then we decide if it should be part of the festival or not.
Reilly, how did you become involved with MUFF this year?
Reilly: I was the Director’s Assistant for Monster Festival 2014 when I met Hussein who was also helping out with the festival. We bonded over love for horror films and our mutual weirdness. A few months later he gave me a call to help out with curating the films for MINI MUFF and I couldn’t have been more excited to be involved.
Hussein, how has Reilly's involvement helped shape the program?
Hussein: It helped so much. Usually when I like a film I just put it in without thinking twice but having Reilly on board has made me think twice about what I playing. Having Reilly this year really made this is the strongest Mini MUFF in years.
How many films did you watch in total?
Hussein: We had around 280-300 short films to watch and it was such a hard task going through them all.
What can you tell us about your selection criteria?
Reilly: Despite our interest in horror, Hussein and I have a very different taste in films. Our goal was to select films that appealed to a variety of festival goers. We individually watched over 200 short films and narrowed them down to a “yes, no and maybe” list based on quality, style, entertainment value and duration. We then met up and discussed which films had a place in the festival and why.
What were you looking for in this year’s selection?
Hussein: Since I do attend other film festivals and short film nights I like to be entertained when at them, I just look for stuff that I know an audience is going to like watching.
Were they any standout films for you?
Reilly: Each film touched me in some way or another. Many made me think more critically about filmmaking and about life as a whole. There were too many favourites to list but the films that stood out to me the most were generally very short and captured the essence of the film quickly.
Hussein: There were quite a few that I really loved. 8 Spiders, To Have and Withhold, The Ashes of Isadora Ivan, Wasteworld, The Actor, Oren and Granny Smith are all short that I loved so much I rewatched them even after they were accepted. I really can wait for everyone to see the amazing shorts we are showing this year.
What can audiences expect at this year’s MINI MUFF?
Reilly: A rollercoaster! MINI MUFF will have you laughing one minute, and crying the next. Each film has something to say, and we want you to hear it.
Under A Kaleidoscope is your feature film debut. Tell us about your filmmaking journey so far.
When I was 5 years old my Mum took me to see TERMINATOR 2. From the moment I saw the T-1000 walk out of the fire after that insane motorbike vs truck chase, I knew I wanted to make films. Cut to about 6 years later and my Dad gave me a video camera. After that, Dylan (My cousin and current producer) started making short horror films, which were terrible.. 95% of them were probably the worst and most embarrassing films that anyone has ever made. But it definitely ignited a passion. I kept making short films and as technology changed and became more user friendly, the films became a little better.
When I turned 21, I started putting more focus in to screenwriting. I wrote a few scripts and managed to get some interest from a few producers, nothing eventuated, but it gave me the drive to keep writing. I wrote a revenge script called The Hospice around the same time that I got to know Stuart Simpson. I sent him that script and he responded well to it, which then formed a friendship and eventually making CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA.
We had tried to get The Hospice going and another crime film, but it didn’t happen. We both loved Glenn Maynard, who I’ve personally known for most of my life and have a strong friendship with, so it was an easy decision to write a feature for him. So that’s basically how CSV came about.
While that was being made, I was fortunate enough to spend some time on set and see the way it was created. I also got to see how it was handled in post, which taught me a lot.
While CSV was being made, my partner Jasmine Jakupi and I were trying to figure out a way to make a feature film. I had already written UNDER A KALEIDOSCOPE, which was the script I wrote prior to CSV. We both really liked that script and it felt like it was the most viable to make with a micro-budget. So we went in to it head first and here we are.
UNDER A KALEIDOSCOPE is a psychedelic-thriller starring Kenji Shimada, Kristen Condon and Aston Elliot. It took about 20 days in total to shoot, but was done on weekends so it ended up spanning over about 8 months. It was tough at times but overall a lot of fun to make.
We had a crew of about 7 on the best of days, but it was mostly a tiny crew including myself, Jasmine, Emma Matsuda (Cinematographer) and Simone O’Dea (Production Manager). It actually worked better that way as quite a chunk of the film is shot in a small apartment and having more people there would have been a nightmare. The crew were brilliant on this film and I owe all of it to them for sticking through it and being my constant voice of reason.
What was your greatest blunder on set as director and what invaluable lesson did you take away from it?
Fortunately for the most part it was a smooth shoot. I guess the biggest learning curve came from just how long it took to shoot the film. Because it was my first feature and a lot of the crews first, we were so big on ideas and would film a lot off script material. It was a lot of fun and is a great way to experiment, but I think in future I would want to keep the schedule tighter. We are currently doing that with MONDO YUKUZA and we ended up shooting almost half the film in 6 days. We expect to be finished shooting by the end of September, which would be a huge achievement given the ambitious nature of the project and the tiny budget we have. I wouldn’t of been able to work like this without getting that experience on UAK, so I’m grateful for my blunder.
What was your greatest triumph on set?
The most rewarding part of UNDER A KALEIDOSCOPE was shooting and then watching the footage of the LSD trip moments. We all love psychedelic films and to be able to experiment in that way was constant fun. After most shooting days we would all have a few drinks and watch the footage, those scenes were incredibly fun to review after.
What can audiences expect from the film and how do you think they will react?
Although it's a much different film to CSV, people can expect a similar tone. A lot of my favourite films can go from being funny to sinister in a heartbeat.. So I always like to experiment with tonal shifts to keep the audience on their toes. I honestly just hope people laugh in the right spots, cringe where necessary and are ready for something a bit different.
Your screenplay for Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla won MUFFs 'Best Screenplay' at last years festival. How did that change your career/goals, if at all?
That was a truly amazing moment and one of the highlights of my (short) career. It’s incredibly cool that a festival that I used to attend and find some of my current favourite films at, have an appreciation for my work. It’s surreal in the best possible way.
What does the festival mean to you?
MUFF has a long track record of brilliant and inspiring artists that got their start there like Jon Hewitt, Patrick Hughes, James Wan.. So instantly as a film maker you know you’re in good company. I think what I appreciate so much about the festival is the overwhelming support it gives to independent artists. It’s a place for films that most other Australian festivals ignore. It’s really for like-minded people who are on the look out for interesting, cutting-edge modern indie cinema. I have full respect for MUFF as a film maker and as a film fan.
What's next for the film in terms of festivals and potential releases?
The film has been entered in to a huge number of festivals and it’s basically a waiting game for us now. Hopefully we can get some more international exposure. We do have COLOR International Film Festival of India coming up, joined with Jarret Gahan’s GONE LESBO GONE. Very stoked about that!
As for a release.. It’s coming. I can’t talk too much about but it will definitely be released in the not so distant future.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline? Can you tell us a little about them?
I am half way through shooting my second feature film. It’s called MONDO YUKUZA. It’s a blood-thirsty bullet ballet revenge film starring Kenji Shimada. Been having a blast making it and I can’t wait to be able to show it. I’ve already cut a fair chunk of the film and I feel really good about it. It’s a very different film to UAK but I think it shares the same spirit. We have a facebook page and will be launching more news about the new film in the near future. We also a few films in the pipeline to make after Mondo.
A brief synopsis of Under A Kaleidoscope?
Caleb Loomis (Kenji Shimada) is a pot-smoking, LSD dropping agoraphobic film maker. In between partying with his hop-hop loving brother Matt, he makes miniature cities and films sci-fi films all from his cramped apartment. One day his lonely little life is rocked when he hears the lady next door being abused. Her name is Beatrice. Caleb and Beatrice form a friendship through the wall of their bedroom..
However their friendship comes at a cost as Caleb is introduced to Rog “The Hatchet Man” Smith (Aston Elliot), a heavy Melbourne criminal.
The lives of these three are forced together in a tale of revenge and redemption.
UNDER A KALEIDOSCOPE OPENS THE FESTIVAL ON SEPT 11 (8PM) AT THE BACKLOT.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO AND TO PURCHASE TICKETS.
ADDISIN WILL ALSO BE PRESENTING A FREE MUFF ACADEMY CLASS ALONGSIDE FILMMAKER STUART SIMPSON AT HOGAN GALLERY ON SEPT 12 (4PM).