2011 South Australian Screen Awards 2011 Nominations Announced

The nominees for the 2011 South Australian Screen Awards have been announced. Nominations were selected from entries of films produced in South Australia over the past year by a panel of industry representatives. Award winners will be announced at a Gala Award Ceremony at the Mercury Cinema on May 13.

Shorts – Genre:

Best Film:

15/Love – Rose Tucker

Murder Mouth – Daniel Joyce

Paper Planes – David Ngo

The Kiss – Sonya Humphreys

Unfinished Thoughts – Alexandra Blue

Best Drama:

15/Love – Rose Tucker

Paper Planes – David Ngo

The Kiss – Sonya Humphrey

The Thing About Dolphins – Megan Huitema and Sarah McDonald

Unfinished Thoughts – Alexandra Blue

Best Comedy:

A Reluctant Bride – Erfan Khadem

Cropped – Bettina Hamilton

Death of a Bogan – Nick Matthews and Craig Behenna

Morning Gory – Ryan Cortazzo

Poetry Workshop – Heather Gryst

Best Documentary:

Chasing Shadows – Shalom Almond

Justice is Served – David Ngo and Craig Behenna

Magic Harvest – Julia de Roeper

Murder Mouth – Daniel Joyce

Silkworms – Linda Kennedy

Best Non-Narrative:

A Moment of Grace – Bettina Hamilton

Sinnerman – Calen Vanstone

Best Music Video:

Frown – Daniel Vink

JJ Glam – Benjamin ‘Beej’ Hunter

My Feelings For You – Brenton March and Andrada Tudor

Shot – The Touch

Best Animation:

Donut Hunters – Robin Tatlow-Lord

Origami with Joe Pesci – Richard Chattaway

Sumo Lake – Greg Holfeld

Top Dog – Fiona Percival

Innovation in Digital Media: To be announced on the night

Shorts – Craft Awards

Best Direction:

Storm Ashwood – Paper Planes

Aaron Kaczmarcyk – The Horror Film

Ashlee Page – The Kiss

Madeleine Parry – Murder Mouth

Dimitrios Pouliotis – Unfinished Thoughts

Best Cinematography:

Curtis Brownjohn – The Horror Film

Nick Matthews – Paper Planes

Nick Matthews – The Kiss

Nima Nabill Rad – Unfinished Thoughts

Aaron Schuppan – 15/Love

Best Composition:

Chris Larkin – Toot Toot

Aaron Nash – The Horror Film

Daniel Schricker – The Alchemist

Jesse Schuppan – 15/Love

Jason Sweeney – Daddy Daddy

Best Screenplay:

Craig Behenna and Nick Matthews – Death of A Bogan

Stephanie Mountzouris – 15/Love

Ashlee Page – The Kiss

Dimitrios Poulatis – Unfinished Thoughts

Matt Vesley – The Thing About Dolphins

Best Sound Design:

Lachlan Coles – Toot Toot

Michael Darren – Paper Planes

Tom Heuzenroeder – Death of a Bogan

Leigh Kenyon – Daddy Daddy

Leigh Kenyon – Poetry Workshop

Best Editing:

Lewis Costin – The Horror Film

Aaron Schuppan – 15/Love

Cleland Jones – A Moment of Grace

Cleland Jones – Toot Toot

Cleland Jones – Unfinished Thoughts

Best Performance:

Christina Cavaleri – 15/Love

Chantal Contouri – Unfinished Thoughts

Nathan O’Keefe – The Thing About Dolphins

Adam Schmerl – The Horror Film

Bridget Walters – The Window

Best Production Design:

Jen Drake – The Thing About Dolphins

Annalisa Francesca – Toot Toot

Annalisa Francesca – Unfinished Thoughts

Annalisa Lippis – 15/Love

Jessie Mills – Aurora


Emerging Producer & Emerging Filmmaker: To be announced on the night

Feature category

Best Feature Film:

Almost There – John de Caux

Barefoot in Ethiopia – Jeni Lee

Bikes and Broken Bones – Ben Heidrich and Kim Mavromatis

Heroes Crossing – Angello Iannella and Terry Matthews

Life In Movement – Sophie Hyde

Roadman – Steve Prime and Peter Leovic

The Other Brother – Matt Pearson

We Still Call Pontos Home – Kasiani Koutris

Congratulations to all the nominations!  For inquires, please contact Jane at j.howard@mrc.org.au

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Is Sucker Punch the most loathed film in the world?

“During the fight scenes, like all who see Baby Doll’s seductive dance, I descended into a dreamworld. In mine, however, rather than fighting, I am best friends with a hot dog. We go on road trips together and work at a hardware store owned by the hot dog’s grandfather. Sometimes, we will just spend the whole day down at the stream, fishing. We never catch anything, but we don’t care. It is just about the friendship more than it is about fish. The spring lasts forever.

Then the dance ends, and I find I am still watching this horrific bucket of piss.”

David of Cave City Sink

Back in December, I wrote about the Star System in movie reviews: where a critics’ entire thoughts on a film must be wrapped up in a neat and easy to understand scale of one to five. Movie ads carry these stars, short one- or two- word quotes (often punctuated with an exclamation mark – notice how little critics tend to actually use exclamation marks?): the shortest and best angle they can get from a review to market their film.

But when you look beyond the star system, when you start reading the long prose of reviews, there can be some fantastic things said. And when a film is truly terrible, these reviews can be the thing which almost (almost) makes the creation of the film worth it.

The latest film to feel the full gauntlet of the critics’ wrath is Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch. In fact, I cannot remember a film in recent history which has been so attacked, with such snark and brilliance of prose.

One needs to only read the titles of these reviews to know exactly what people think:

This Movie Made Me Feel Bad To Be Alive: A Review of Sucker Punch

“Sucker Punch” a confusing house-of-horrors story with busty women.

“Sucker Punch” goes beyond awful, to become commentary on the death of moviemaking

What the Hell is Abbie Cornish Doing in Sucker Punch?

Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch is a Steaming Pile of Sexist Crap

The film is being attacked for its misogynistic depiction of women, its non-existent narrative, and for just generally being, well, awful. At i09, Annalee Newitz says “This film will crystallize for you all those half-formed thoughts about what’s wrong with Hollywood.”

Some people come with suggestions as how to make your own version of the film. A.O. Scott of the NY Times suggests taking:

“a bunch of video-game platforms; DVDs of “Shutter Island,” “Kill Bill,” “Burlesque” and “Shrek”; some back issues of Maxim; a large bag of crystal meth; and around $100 million.”

Alternatively, for a cheaper route, you could take the advice of Clem Bastow of The Vine, who says you should:

“open a bunch of tabs; in one, go to YouTube, load up Leeroy Jenkins; load up Suicide Girls in another tab; then take a bunch of downers and flick furiously between the two tabs while you play the Godzilla and Spawn soundtracks.

Then punch yourself in the face.”

Or, you could watch Sucker Punch, as Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times suggests, but:

“You could rearrange the reels in this film and show it out of sequence, and I don’t think it would make a difference.”

Quoting these reviews doesn’t give half of the enjoyment of reading the whole thing. When critics are allowed to let go – giving a detailed analysis of a film, eschewing a reduction to the star system – that is when criticism and its relationship to film, and its necessity to this industry, can truly be shown.

But what will David and Margaret say? I guess we will have to wait to find out tonight.

– Jane

EDIT: It seems Margaret Pomeranz liked it.

“The heightened reality, the tongue-in-cheek provocative design of Baby Doll’s outfit as a mini sailor suit, has you sitting back in your seat going whoa, what’s happening here? But you get into the swing of things and actually start having a good time, although the five quests become a bit repetitive.”

Genre, part one

Today, a fresh crop of Australian talent is shaking up the local film industry with stunts, suspense and serial killers. But are these filmmakers revolutionaries? Maybe not to the extent they’d like to believe.

Wolf Creek

Spend time rubbing shoulders with new and upcoming filmmakers and young film critics and one will soon realize that ‘genre’ is the new catchcry in Australian cinema. They say it with zeal, as though spruiking a new pyramid scheme — stunts, witty dialogue and three-act structures.

Understandable, given what they’re preaching against: gloomy, self-indulgent art-house cinema that doesn’t perform at the box office.

The kind of pretentious drivel that some Australian funding bodies seem to churn out year after year. The kind that soft-review-writing critics praise and ram down audiences’ throats. Or at least that’s how the battle lines are being drawn nowadays.

By contrast, the mavericks headlining this genre revolution are doing so with a slew of violent, low-budget action and horror flicks that borrow heavily from formulaic Hollywood and exploitation cinema’s raw thrills. There are no introspective characters on journeys of self-discovery, and no landscape panoramas without the threat of a monster lurking in them somewhere, waiting. Predominantly male, often working outside the framework of the funding bodies, these filmmakers are turning the conventional notions of Australian cinema on its head.

Recently, Australian audiences have witnessed Steven Kastrissio’s bruising revenge story The Horseman and Marc Gracie’s outback thriller The Tumbler. Meanwhile, Sean Byrne’s gruesome teen flick The Loved Ones and Michael Henry’s murder-gone-wrong nail biter Blame were also released late last year, fresh from screenings at international festivals.

Never heard of ‘em? That’s because theatrical release is often a secondary revenue stream to DVD release for these flicks. The fan base at the end of the market has always skewed towards home viewing, and DVD sales often constitute the lion’s share of revenue.

Nonetheless, this emerging talent comes hot on the heels of people you will have heard of, such as the Spierig ‘Daybreakers’ Brothers, whose well financed vampire movie followed their low-budget zombie flick Undead. Or James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the team responsible for the infamously grisly Saw and landing a lucrative multiplex franchise. There’s also Greg Mclean, who garnered international attention with Wolf Creek, and Shane Abbess, who landed a studio deal after re-imagining angels at war in Gabriel.

What they share is a common philosophy that, supposedly, puts entertainment before art, and audience satisfaction above the filmmaker’s self-expression. It is an age-old conundrum that plagues the industry. To appreciate why this might be regarded as a radical concept, it’s useful to remember how the previous surge of homegrown genre filmmaking was received in the nineteen-seventies and eighties.

Plainly, the Australian film establishment loathed it. Why? Because the nation’s cinematic renaissance was at its peak, with period pieces and gritty, naturalistic dramas winning accolades and respect worldwide. In stark contrast was a disparate group of movies lumped together under the banner of ‘Ozploitation’.

Mavericks like Anthony Ginnane and Brian Trenchard-Smith were in the business of making unapologetically commercial film, like the satirical splatter punk Turkey Shoot (1982) and teen flick BMX Bandits (1983), to the outback horror Razorback (1984) and the psycho-horror Patrick (1978). Their output flew in the face of the orthodoxy of the time, which encouraged ‘serious’ filmmakers to create art, or at least construct national myths. Anything that didn’t resemble Gallipoli (1981) or The Year My Voice Broke (1987) was scorned. You may as well have been making porn.

In reality, this tribal approach to filmmaking was ridiculous. It wasn’t just because some of the ‘serious’ films were rubbish and some of the genre films made no money. What was problematic was the idea that genre filmmaking was somehow different from every other type of filmmaking.

Genre is, and has always been, in the very DNA of our most highly regarded filmmakers, from George Miller to Phillip Noyce. Miller’s Mad Max (1979) is a science fiction western; Noyce’s Salt (2010) is a spy thriller. The simplistic categorisation of Australian films as either genre or non-genre didn’t work then and doesn’t work now. The two most critically acclaimed Australian debut features of the recent cycle – Animal Kingdom and Samson & Delilah – have strong genre credentials (though they aren’t tagged as such). The former has the bones of a gangster movie, while the later is essentially a romance.

By embracing genre, filmmakers acknowledge that cinema is a more codified art form than, say, literature – there are explicit conventions when it comes to storytelling on celluloid. And, of course, to know these rules is to subvert them.

The danger of pegging the ‘genre’ tag to the current wave of action and horror filmmakers is that we create a stylistic ghetto once again. The focus of this cluster of directors is too narrow – not enough laughs, not enough romance. They might be successful for their niche audiences, but isn’t a sustainable economic model for the whole industry.

Not to suggest Australian filmmakers should copy the full gamut of Hollywood’s output. Impossible. We simply don’t have a local audience and talent pool large enough to compete. But genre is a very broad church and it pays to be aware of the various conventions.

If genre-loving filmmakers widened their scope, audiences and tastemakers might lose their snobbery. Variety is the spice of life – and the multiplex. We need films that make us laugh, and want to fall in love, as well as those that make our hearts race with a blood-splattered axe.

– Bowen Ellames, Chair, MRC Members Production Group

MRC Launches Raw Nerve 2011

Last Friday at the Mercury Cinema, we hosted an information session for Raw Nerve.  Now in its ninth year, Raw Nerve is a joint initiative of Screen Australia and Screen Development Australia (SDA) to showcase the nation’s emerging filmmaking talent.

Raw Nerve provides entry-level filmmakers with the training, mentors, resources and financial assistance to make their first low budget short film in a real industry environment. The program spans the complete filmmaking process from concept and script development though to post-production and marketing.

2010 Raw Nerve film DADDY DADDY. Produced by Alexandra Blue, Written by Nikki Wieland, Directed by Amber McBride

If you couldn’t make the information session, here are some points you might want to catch up on:

A Script Development Workshop will be held on April 2/3 at the Media Resource Centre, at a cost of $150 for members and $200 for non-members.  It is being run by Kelly Shilling, an AFTRS graduate screenwriter and director who also works in script editing and lectures in screenwriting at AC Arts.  She will work with writers to develop their characters and story to strengthen their applications through round-table discussions and one-on-one sessions.  More information can be found here.  Places are extremely limited.

A Producing for Short Film workshop will be held May 21/22, also at the MRC, by the MRC’s Digital Media Officer Louise Pascale, who will be working with the producers of all teams selected for Raw Nerve.  Successful Raw Nerve teams will automatically be placed in the workshop, but places are extended to anyone interested in learning more about producing, and costs $150 members / $200 non-members.  More information can be found here.

Screen Australia has some useful references for emerging filmmakers.  For writers, you can download a Suggested Script Layout, detailing how to prepare a script to industry format.  All Raw Nerve submissions are expected to be in this layout.

For producers, an A-Z Budget, which all Producers will be expected to complete, can be downloaded here.

If you require paperwork, such as option agreements between Writer and Producer, the MRC is happy to provide a copy.  Producers must have optioned the rights from their screenwriter as part of their application in order to fulfil their obligations under the contract with the MRC and Screen Australia.

2010 Raw Nerve Film MURDER MOUTH. Producer Daniel Joyce, Writer/Director Madeleine Parry

The Supervising Producers for Raw Nerve will be Louise and Shane; Brad will be in charge of equipment hire and offer ongoing technical support; and Katie and Jane will be able to help with general inquires.  In addition, the selected teams will be paired with an industry mentor in the area we feel you need further assistance in, such as directing, producing, editing.

Guidelines and application forms are all available on the MRC website.

Good luck!  We look forward to receiving your applications!

– Jane and the MRC Production Team

The Producing Myth

A prominent, local producer once joked to a colleague that putting on a producer’s workshop is simple. You just give all the participants a block of wood, a hammer and chisel. They then carve out the word ‘producer’, varnish it and hang it on a wall and voila!, they are now a producer.

As simplistic as this is, sadly this is what a lot of emerging (and sometimes established) filmmakers think is all that is required to be a producer. Quite often we find here at the MRC, that people put their hand up to be the producer without a clear idea of what it takes.

According to Quentin Kennihan a producer: “realizes the financial objectives of the film and assists the director in being accountable for the creative objectives of the film.”

Producing is often that grey area in production; not so clearly defined, yet the driving force behind any film. This is because a lot of what we do happens before anyone walks on set or into the studio.

Producer and SAFC Program Manager, Industry Development and Production, Rebecca Summerton believes a producers’ role is: “to protect and nurture the creative vision of a project from initial development right through to marketing and distribution. (They) juggle the demands of money, time, differing creative visions, investor and market expectations and individual needs to (hopefully) create an environment where creativity can flourish.”

Emerging producer Alexandra Blue agrees and adds: “a producer must be creative in everything they do… from giving input in script development, to convincing investors of the merits of the project, to problem solving during production, and implementing smart festival or distribution strategies while also managing a creative marketing campaign. The Producer spends the longer a project than anyone else, as they are there from financing to sales, and it is their passion that ensures the project makes it through from beginning to end.”

Or as Mark Knight simply says; “Producers instigate, motivate, evaluate, negotiate, delegate, integrate and at the end of the shoot, when everyone else has left, makes sure to shut the gate.”

It is easy to see why people often don’t understand what our role is, what we do is complex, varied and often unseen. We work hours and hours, alone at our desk, on the phone or in meetings.

So next time you think, ‘no sweat, I can produce that!’ remember it will be your pay that is the first to get cut when budget shrinks, it will be you who will spend the next two years marketing the film when everyone else has moved on, and it will be you who will be making the hard decisions that can make you the unpopular on set.

But if you are serious, and we hope you are, there is a weekend workshop that can take you through the beginnings of what a producer does, that doesn’t include woodwork.

Responses to Snowtown

The MRC asked Dr Simon Robb to write a piece for its blog on the movie Snowtown. Dr Robb is a writer, researcher and radio documentarian. He is interested in relationships between crime, identity and culture and on the role of hopefulness in the lives of young people on the margins. His previous publications include Hope (Wakefield Press, 2010) and The Hulk (Post Taste, 2003).

Almost Nothing

I saw Snowtown the other night. The movie was introduced as important and brilliant. I’d like to suggest how a movie about serial murders could be important and brilliant and look at the film in that light.

Snowtown is a film about the murder of eleven people by a small group of men in the outer suburbs of Adelaide in the 1990’s. The film is based on real events. A film about real events isn’t important just because of its subject matter. A film is important because of the way it treats its subject. A film about serial murder is important if it helps in some way to alleviate the pain of the people who suffered from the original violence. The film is doing something important if it’s helping with the pain. It’s also doing something important if it’s helping with the pain felt by others who have suffered in similar ways. How can a film help with this pain? This is one of the important questions that a film needs to ask.  If a film is important it has posed this question and perhaps found a good answer. How do we know that a film has posed that question?  I’m not talking about whether the writer talked sensitively to a victim’s brother. I’m talking about evidence in the film itself of the presence of the question being asked. We know the important question is present when we experience a sense of hopefulness even in the presence of horror. The right question about helping those who suffer is a question that asserts the existence of hope. We will experience  hopefulness in some form when the right question is present in the fibre of the film.  In this film hopefulness is not present. Snowtown has not asked the important question.

A film is important when it offers an audience some hope that suffering will end, in some way. A film that does that is doing important work. A film that does not offer some hope in the face of violence is doing bad work. It is doing the work of violence. What’s the work of violence? To oppress others with the threat of unending suffering. If you exit from the cinema oppressed with thoughts of unending violence you’ve been done over by the agents of violence. That’s how I felt leaving the cinema. We needed the film to be important, to do some important work about violence, but it didn’t.

Why should a film assert the existence of hopefulness? It’s the obligation the film has to those who have really suffered. When a film is using real events it is taking something that belongs to others. It needs to give something in return. When a film gives back realistic cinema violence in exchange for real historical violence what do you call that?  That’s a bad deal. It’s a bad deal for  those who suffer. That’s an important deal because of the extent of its badness. It’s exploitation. A film needs to give hopefulness to those who suffer otherwise there’s going to be some exploitation.

It’s hard to give hopefulness. It’s a lot easier to return violence with violence. It’s a lot easier to claim importance than to deploy it in the structure of film making. It’s hard to be freed from real violence in commercial cinema. Can we make commercial cinema about real violence without exploitation? It’s hard, but do you want to look in the mirror, film man, and see just another guy who makes a living out of violence?

If this was a brilliant film, it would have gone beyond exploitation and the perpetuation of suffering and have given the audience something to hope with. But it can’t do that because it doesn’t ask the important question about how we can help those who suffer.   A film about violence has an obligation to show some hope to help heal the wounds of violence. What does this film do to help heal the wound? Almost nothing. It does almost nothing to help.

For other views on the film, see what Sandy Cameron had to say on his blog The Loose Cannon and the review from Rhys Howlett on 891 ABC Adelaide.

Snowtown will be screening this Sunday at 3pm at The Mercury as part of  BAFF’s Best of the Fest.

Reviews in Brief: Rubber and the Double Hour

The Double Hour:
An impressive directorial debut. An Italian heist thriller starring two tough young Italian stars in an innovative and fresh story mixing contemporary noir, psychological drama, a bit of romance (speed-dating-style) and some elements of horror. It’s a potent and intriguing mix with some top class twists. Did screen once at the Italian Film Festival in Adelaide last year. It was the smartest and most entertaining film on offer then.

Andrew Bunney 4 stars

Rubber

RUBBER is the story of a car tyre that has been abandoned, buried in the desert sand, and suddenly and inexplicably comes to life. As an audience with binoculars watches, Robert (the tyre) first learns to balance, before trundling across the landscape. As he rolls, Robert discovers that not only can he crush things, but he also possesses psychokinetic powers to destroy anything he wishes without even having to touch them. At first he’s content to wreak havoc on cans & bottles, but soon turns to small desert animals and even humans, resulting in gory mayhem. Yes, a tyre with splattertude. On another level, a wonderful and intriguing exploration of the reasons that things happen in movies.

Andrew Bunney 4 stars