MRC and SA Films Have Success Around The Country

South Australian filmmakers again had great success at the Sydney Film Festival, with a South Australian film winning the Dendy for Best Live Action Short for the second year in a row. This year, the award went to The Palace, written, directed and co-produced by former MRC Board Member Anthony Maras, with his co-prodcer Kate Croser, a current Board Member, former MRC staff member, and ex-Raw Nerve production supervisor.

The Palace

Dario Russo, creator of Italian Spiderman and the up-coming SBS series Danger 5, winner the Innovation Award, also has MRC connections, making the short film Voodoo and Lou with us in 2006, several films under our TradeFilms initiative and a former member of our Members Production Group.

The award for Best Australian Documentary went to Life In Movement. MRC member Bryan Mason, who directed the film about dancer and choreographer Tanja Ledke, is frequently involved as a mentor on MRC Initiatives, and fellow co-director and co-producer Sophie Hyde has shared her expertise as a SASA Judge. Life in Movement won Best Feature at the 2011 South Australian Screen Awards (SASAs).

Films developed through MRC Initiatives have also been experiencing great success on the national film festival circuit in recent months. The Dungog Film Festival screened 2010 Raw Nerve films Daddy Daddy and Murder Mouth, 2010 Animation Initiative film Top Dog, 2010 Tropfest film A Moment of Grace, and 2011 Tropfest Short Film Production Initiative film Sumo Lake, which has also had more than 130,000 hits on Vimeco.

Murder Mouth also screened at the St Kilda Film Festival, where it was nominated for Best Documentary, screening alongside MRC Supported film Toot Toot, nominated for Best Original Score and Best Achievement in Cinematography. Top Dog will soon have its international premiere in the prestigious Palm Springs International Shortfest this week.

Congratulations to all MRC members involved in these films, and all South Australian filmmakers having their shorts screened and awarded across the country and around the world.


2011 South Australian Screen Award Winners

The South Australian Screen Awards (SASA) were announced last night (Friday 13 May) at a gala event at the Mercury Cinema. Presented by the Media Resource Centre (MRC), SASA winners represent the best of South Australian screen practice across the broad spectrum of 19 genre and craft categories. The primary focus of the awards is short films, however there is an award for best feature film, which celebrates local features made by South Australians.

The event was hosted by Adelaide media identity, Tim Noonan (891 ABC and Channel Seven) and attended by the who’s-who’s of Adelaide’s up-and-coming new generation of feature film and television makers, including Matt Bate (Shut Up Little Man: An Audio Misadventure), Dario Russo and David Ashby, (Spiderman and Danger 5), Kate Croser (Danger 5 & My Tehran for Sale), Murali Thalluri (2:37), Sieh Mchawala (Barefoot in Ethiopia) and Sophie Hyde and Bryan Mason (Life in Movement). Also in attendance were film identities Richard Harris (CEO, South Australian Film Corporation), Adele Hann (Associate Artistic Director, Adelaide Film Festival) , screenwriter Stephen Sewell (The Boys) and members of the West End’s art precinct, Stan Mahoney (Format Collective) and Josh Fanning (Magazine).

The big success story of the night was The Kiss, which took out five awards including the $3000 cash BEST SHORT FILM (Producer, Sonya Humphrey), BEST SHORT DRAMA (Producer, Sonya Humphrey), BEST SCREENPLAY (Ashlee Page), BEST DIRECTOR (Ashlee Page) and BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY (Nick Matthews). Taking the local top prize was the icing on the cake for the makers of The Kiss, which has already won Best Short and Best Cinematography at the 2010 AFIs and won director Ashlee Page the award for Best Emerging Filmmaker at the 2010 Melbourne International Film Festival.

Sophie Hyde and Bryan Mason won BEST FEATURE with their beautiful documentary, Life In Movement, about choreographer, Tanya Liedtke, who tragically died the night before taking up the position of Artistic Director of the Sydney Dance Theatre. Sophie and Bryan were the 2009 winners of Best Short Film at SASA with Necessary Games and were the co-producers of Shut Up Little Man, the Adelaide feature which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

The poignant tale of a young African boy in a war zone, Paper Planes was nominated for five SASAS and won BEST SOUND DESIGN for Michael Darren. Its scriptwriter and director, Storm Ashwood was highly commended in the BEST DIRECTION category.

One of the highlights of the evening was the awarding of BEST PERFORMANCE to Adelaide actress Chantal Contouri for her role in the delicately sublime film, Unfinished Thoughts, based on the Italian short story by Felix Calvino. Chantal whose family established the Original Barbecue Inn on Hindley Street, which she now runs, began her career in the 1970s on Number 96 and in the family favourite, The Sullivans. Unfinished Thoughts was nominated for eight SASAs.

The Director of the Media Resource Centre, Gail Kovatseff said

“It was a wonderful night celebrating what has been an outstanding year in local filmmaking. Judges found the final decision making extremely difficult as there were so many deserving films and filmmakers.”

FULL LIST OF 2011 SASA Award Winners & Prizes

1. Pro AV Award for Best Non-Narrative

Winner: A Moment of Grace (MRC)

Prize: $1000 equipment hire from Pro AV Solutions

2.Total Photographic Award for Innovation in Digital Media

Winner: Portrait Mode

Prize: Studio and equipment hire to the value of $1000

3. The Cutting Room Award for Best Music Video

Winner: Frown (by the Giveaways)

Prize: $2000 editing time at The Cutting Room – including colour grading – to produce their next music video

4. GooRoo Animation Award for Best Animation

Winner: Sumo Lake (MRC)

Prize: MovieMagic 7 Budgeting software, a signed GooRoo collector’s edition DVD plus a collection of animation books valued at over $1200.

5. AIDC Award for Best Documentary

Winner: Chasing Shadows

Prize: Gold Pass Membership to all sessions at the 2012 Australian International Documentary Conference, valued at over $1000

6. Best FX Award for Best Comedy

Winner: Cropped

Prize: Surround Sound Mix at Best FX valued at $3000

7. Oasis Post Award for Best Drama

Winner: The Kiss

Prize: $3000 post facilities hire at Oasis Post

8. Mercury Cinema Award for Best Feature Film

Winner: Life in Movement

Prize: Three free feature session hires at The Mercury Cinema valued at over $2,200

9. SASA People’s Choice Award

Winner: Murder Mouth (MRC)

Prize: Full MRC Membership plus Gold Pass Membership to Adelaide Cinematheque plus a year’s subscription to Collect magazine valued at $250

10. The Carclew Youth Arts MRC Emerging Filmmaker Award

Winner: Madeleine Parry (MRC)

Prize: $1000 cash, MRC membership plus $1000 worth equipment hire from the MRC

11. The Independent Arts Foundation MRC Emerging Producer Award

Winner: Rose Tucker (MRC)

Prize: $1000 cash courtesy of IAF, MRC membership, plus 6 months free office rental and mentorship at the MRC to produce their next short film

12. The SASA Award for Best Production Design

Winner: Jessie Mills for Aurora

Prize: $600 of gift vouchers to spend within any Ted’s Camera Stores

13. The Chapel Lane Award for Best Sound Design

Winner: Michael Darren for Paper Planes

Prize: $1000 worth of studio recording services

14. The Music SA Award for Best Composition

Winner: Christopher Larkin for Toot Toot

Prize: Cash prize and courses valued at over $1000

15. The Canon Australia Award for Best Cinematography

Winner: Nick Matthews for The Kiss

Prize: Canon 60D DSLR Camera with a kit lens valued at over $1600

16. The Photographic Wholesalers Award for Best Editing

Winner: Cleland Jones for A Moment of Grace (MRC)

Prize: NEC Colour Profile Monitor valued at over $1000

17. The Actors Ink Award for Best Performance

Winner: Chantal Contouri for Unfinished Thoughts (MRC)

Prize: $2000 worth of Actors Ink Courses and support

18. The SASA Best Screenplay Award

Winner: Ashlee Page for The Kiss

Prize: One year’s Associate Membership of the Australian Writers’ Guild plus free attendance to all AWG courses and programs offered in 2011-12 valued at over $600.

19. The Picture Hire Australia Award for Best Direction

Winner: Ashlee Page for The Kiss

Prize: $1000 worth of equipment hire from Picture Hire.

20. The SAFC Award for Best Short Film

Winner: The Kiss

Prize: $3000 cash courtesy of the SAFC

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