Tag Archives: Scar!

Metro Screen Breaks Program Screening

Last night the Art Student and I and both our sons went to Metro Screen’s 2012 Breaks Program Cast and Crew Screening.

The big theatre at the Chauvel Cinema was packed out with people who’d been involved in making 12 short films funded through the Breaks Program. For all but two of the directors, it was their first film up on the big screen – the buzz in the foyer before and after the show was better than a Vietnamese fish market, and the applause after each film was clearly heartfelt, most emphatically so in a different sector of the theatre each time.

I had a great time. Some of the films were rough around the edges, some were rough in the middle, some seemed to assume that the complicated sex lives of young people are more interesting than perhaps they actually are, but every one of them had a personal stamp.

Of the First Break films (you can see a complete list  here), Destiny in the Dirt, directed by Ella Bancroft (with sublime picture book creator Bronwyn Bancroft, possibly a close relative, as Executive Producer) won my heart with its delicate play on the familiar art vs sport theme, and a plot that played completely fair but worked a sweet sleight of hand. I enjoyed, if that’s the right word, the grunge of Bjorn Stewart’s I’m Gunna Make It, in which the main character will have to clean up his act if he is ever actually gunna. Kiss Me, Deadly, directed by Colin Kinchela, treads a fine line on the edge of cheesy in its story of blind dates, and ends with a most satisfactory cross-cultural kiss. Katie Wall’s Scene 16 is a gem in which an actor figures out how to play a scene in a soap at considerable personal cost.

The other two films were ‘Breakout’ films – for filmmakers in their early careers. The first was Gimme Shelter, a tight piece about an extraterrestrial invasion directed by Tobias Andersson and starring Geoff Morell (the link is to its pozible page – the filmmakers found necessary extra funds through crowd-sourcing). It’s not quite finished – there’s a scene near the end that I expect will involve a massive shattering of plate glass, which just wasn’t there, but wasn’t hard to imagine. I hope it gets selected for Festivals.

Then, of course, there was the film we had turned out to see, Ngurrumbang, the film formerly known as  Scar, directed by Alex Ryan and written by him with his blogging father. This was the first time I’d seen the final cut, the first time anyone had seen it on a big screen. All three actors (Amanda Woodhams, Cameron Stewart and Jesse Guivarra) are compelling, the cinematography (Adam Howden) is stunning, the music (Robert Clark) and sound design (Mia Stewart) are just beautiful. I think I’m right in saying that it got sustained applause from all over the cinema. If you’re one of the many people who donated through pozible.com (yes, we did it too), I think you’ll feel your money was well spent. Jiao Chen, the producer, is organising a screening for friends of the production, including everyone who gave money, some time in February, and it’s being submitted to Film Festivals all over the joint.

So it was a big night. Congratulations all round – to the funders, the filmmakers, their families and all.

Andy Kissane and the Swarm

Andy Kissane, The Swarm (Puncher and Wattmann 2012)

20121003-175856.jpg I read this collection of Andy Kissane’s short stories a month or so ago, just after reading some Chekhov stories for the first time. (The reason for the delay in posting is that – a rare event for me – I received an advance copy from the publisher, and the book isn’t being launched until Sunday.) The stories in The Swarm made me realise, with some embarrassment, that I had read Chekhov as if I was visiting a museum: it was interesting, instructive, challenging, but all at arm’s length, preserved, from another time and place. Andy Kissane’s stories are as alive and immediate as neighbourhood gossip.

Partly that’s because these stories, all except two, are set in the present. And partly because of the book’s strong sense of place. Most of the action takes place in an inner city landscape as distinctive as Chekhov’s rural villages, and the characters – musicians, mostly unsuccessful actors, a twenty-something artist, a young mother screwing up her courage to invite her recently widowed father to move in – are as much part of that landscape as Chekhov’s peasants, idlers and provincial bourgeoisie are of theirs. I imagine the sense of the local in these stories would appeal to any reader, including one for whom the Marlborough or St Vincent’s are no more than names, but it’s especially sweet to me because by and large, it’s my local.

[About 200 words about being a North Queenslander deleted here.]

A sense of place doesn’t make a good story, of course. And there is a lot more than that to enjoy here. Again and again a commonplace experience is seen freshly, charged with moral or emotional meaning the way commonplace things often are. A young man stands at a condom vending machine in a pub toilet. A couple spend an evening playing Monopoly when the TV set has died. An old man cleans up his daughter’s yard. A musician watches his cello being played badly by a prospective buyer. A man (who could have come from the pages of On Western Sydney) boasts of car-related derring-do. Looking at that fairly random list of closely observed, mostly domestic events, I realise that the common subject of the stories is love: romantic love, parental love, love betrayed, love unfulfilled, love surprisingly revived or belatedly recognised. Nothing flashy, just a deepening sense of what it means to be human and in connection.

The historical stories – ‘A Bright Blue Future’ and ‘A Mirror to the World’, about asbestos mining at Wittenoom and racist frontier violence respectively – mostly keep to a similar domestic perspective. They too can be read as about love – one man makes disastrous moral compromises out of concern for his family’s short-term wellbeing; tentative overtures between Aboriginal Australians and settlers end in disaster.

‘A Mirror to the World’ is the longest and most ambitious story in the collection. It is based on an incident that happened in Rockhampton in the 1870s – an incident, interestingly, that’s interpreted quite differently in Ross Gibson’s Seven Versions of an Australian Badland. At least, one of the story’s two narratives is based on that incident. The other belongs to the author–academic who is writing that historical narrative, in between running a creative writing course where he lectures on multiple narratives, mise-en-abîme and other devices that are used in the story itself. So, yes, unlike the other ten stories it draws attention to itself as an artefact. It does this in other ways as well. There are explicit references to at least two other stories in the collection: a character from one makes an offstage appearance, and a situation from another is echoed in detail. It’s cleverly done, and there’s a final twist that crowns the cleverness, but it serves a serious purpose. As the story turns back on itself, it opens the way for questions about what it means for a white Australian to tackle the appalling injustices of our colonial past, about the question of moral judgement, the difficulty of imagining the inner world of the early settlers without either surrendering or imposing a modern perspective. The ending is both a technical delight and a moral/political challenge. It’s a story I’d love to discuss – but not here, not to spoil it for people who haven’t read it.

Full disclosure: As well as receiving a free book, I have a degree of commitment to Andy Kissane’s work, since the script for the short film currently known as Scar!, which regular visitors here will know I co-wrote, was inspired by his poem ‘The Station Owner’s Daughter, Narrandera’.

The latest from Scar

The first screening of Scar is months away but thanks to the wonders of the internet you can go to Vimeo, or click on the video here, for an update for the funding crowd, some behind the scenes shots and a moment from the movie:

As you’d expect a week or so after the shoot finished, the sound track for the tiny scene is incomplete. In fact, at this point of the film, a key narrative development is carried by sound that isn’t there yet. But doesn’t it look fine?

Last weekend

A quick update on last weekend:

1. Hungry for Art went very well. Hundreds of people attended the Open Day and DrawFest at The Gallery School. Here’s evidence:

Feeding the hunger. Photo by Kate Scott

2. The rushes for the film are looking good:

Photo by Jiao Chen, from http://t.co/M275N7nM

I wasn’t there for either event, and nor was the Industrial Designer. We’d both contributed, but were each busy with other, less bloggable, uncancellable things. All round, it was an excellent weekend for our family.

Scar! The Movie

I’ve been sitting on this for weeks, but I can blog about it at last.

My son Alex and I have been working together on a short film project. I wrote the script, and after what we thought was a gruelling process of rewriting, to the extent that Alex is definitely co-writer, we submitted it for Metro Screen funding, and it was the successful contender. The script has gone through a number of drafts since then, a fascinating process that makes what we thought was gruelling look mild. And now, while I’m away in Turkey, Alex has been finding locations, casting (the actors look fabulously right), and – as of today – setting about raising extra funding through Pozible.

I can’t figure out how to make the Pozible widget in WordPress, so here’s the link: http://www.pozible.com/index.php/archive/index/7478/description/0/0. Have a look. Its a very exciting project.]

If you give a thousand dollars you get credit as Executive Producer, $5 will get you an onscreen thank you, and somewhere in between there are free DVDs on offer. No pressure, dear readers, but feel free to make a donation.