Monthly Archives: February 2014

Sandra Bullock to Make $70 Million (At Least) for ‘Gravity’

Rare first-dollar gross, thanks to the actress’ post-“Blind Side” leverage, turns the space epic into an out-of-this-world payday for the Oscar nominee.

Space travel has been very good for Sandra Bullock. The 49-year-old actress looks set to earn her biggest paycheck to date for Gravity, with studio sources saying she will make at least $70 million when all revenue streams are factored in.

According to multiple sources, Bullock’s deal with Warner Bros. for the Alfonso Cuaron-directed space epic calls for her to earn $20 million upfront against 15 percent of first-dollar gross. That means once her advance is covered, she will collect 15 percent of the studio’s slice of the box-office pie, known as “film rentals.”

Each studio negotiates individual deals with theater owners to determine what those rentals are, but a rule of thumb is that the studio will collect roughly 40 to 50 percent of the box office (it gets somewhat less in foreign markets than domestically).

Gravity has earned more than $700 million at the worldwide box office and is expected to cross the $750 million mark. Assuming Warners gets 45 percent of that, Bullock’s take would be more than $50 million, including her upfront payment. But theatrical revenue is just one part of what she’ll make, as she also gets a percentage from home video, TV and ancillary revenue.

“The theatrical window is going to generate a third of the total revenue a movie will earn; it will get another third on DVD; and then the final third comes from pay and free TV,” says one veteran finance lawyer. Gravity might earn proportionately more at the box office, says this lawyer, because “pay and free-TV numbers cap out at a certain point.”

Even with a conservative estimate, Bullock will make at least $20 million from those other sources, and she might make considerably more. It is unclear who the other Gravity gross participants are; sources say they at one point included co-star George Clooney, Cuaron and producer David Heyman, though the latter two might have renegotiated their deals when the movie’s price tag shot up during its challenging shoot.

Not that Warners is doing badly. While expenditures increased when elements of the 3D movie had to be reshot, pushing Warners’ budget north of $110 million — and even though it spent at least $100 million more on an extensive and successful marketing push — the studio benefits from having funded the film almost on its own.

The only other entity with a financial stake in Gravity is Brett Ratner and James Packer’s RatPac-Dune Entertainment, which has a small percentage. RatPac must wait until the movie’s production and marketing costs are covered, and until Warners takes its distribution fee, before seeing a slice of profits.

Bullock’s first-dollar-gross deal is highly unusual in today’s marketplace, where studios insist on recouping costs before sharing profits with talent. Indeed, several industry lawyers contacted by THR to analyze the terms expressed surprise that she was able to score such a lucrative deal. (Robert Downey Jr. has a similar one on Iron Man films.) But her reps at CAA and the Ziffren Brittenham law firm closed the pact in late 2010 before the belt-tightening now taking place. Bullock also signed on at an opportune moment: Angelina Jolie had dropped out of the film and the studio knew it needed a megastar to carry the drama about a woman stranded in space who spends most of the movie alone.

At the same time, the actress was riding high from an Oscar win for 2009’s The Blind Side, which made $309 million globally. Guaranteeing her $20 million against first dollar seemed appropriate, given that there only was one other castmember (Clooney, who replaced Downey).

Gravity is on track to be the most profitable among this year’s best picture Oscar nominees; in fact, its profits will be more than those of all the other nominated movies combined. While The Wolf of Wall Street has performed well ($338 million globally), Paramount did not finance the $100 million-plus film and therefore will not see a huge upside; as for the $41 million American Hustle (which has made $217 million globally), Sony will have to split profits with co-financier Megan Ellison.

Bullock’s rep did not respond to calls and emails. A Warners spokesman declined comment.

26/2/2014 by Stephen Galloway – THR

Mixed blessings, challenges for Aussie producers

Australian TV dramas are achieving consistently high ratings and Secrets & Lies, Rake and Wentworth are being remade for international audiences. Yet production levels of feature films, TV dramas and documentaries are either static or falling, and TV producers are being squeezed on domestic license fees and relicensing deals.

That contrasting picture of the screen production industry was outlined today by Screen Producers Australia executive director Matthew Deaner.

Addressing the Broadcasting Digital Media Summit, Deaner said the free-to-air commercial broadcasters spent $1.4 billion on Australian programs in 2011/2012, up 24% on the 5-year average, and the ABC and SBS allocated more than $200 million in local programming. However Deaner observed, “Just 10% of all program expenditure by the commercial free-to-air broadcasters is spent on locally produced drama, children’s and documentary content.

Deaner estimated only about 100 production businesses are active in any one year, of which 49% are sole traders and partnerships, typified by Smith&Nasht, Media Stockade, Galaxy Pop and Virgo.

The larger businesses including Endemol, FremantleMedia Australia, Screentime, Shine Australia, Beyond International and Matchbox Pictures account for 9% of those businesses.

Medium-size businesses including Playmaker Media, Princess Pictures, Porchlight Production, Essential Media and Entertainment, December Media, See-Saw Films and Electric Pictures comprise 10%.

Smaller businesses such as High Wire Films, Every Cloud Productions, Jungleboys, Prospero, Jonathan M Shiff Productions, Werner Film Productions, Sticky Pictures and Artemis International represent 32%.

By Don Groves INSIDEFILM [Tue 25/02/2014]

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The Act of Killing: don’t give an Oscar to this snuff movie

It has won over critics but this tasteless film teaches us nothing and merely indulges the unrepentant butchers of Indonesia.

The Act of Killing won the documentary prize at the Baftas last week and is the favourite to win the much-coveted Oscar. I watch many documentaries on behalf of the BBC each year and I go to festivals. I’m a doc obsessive. By my own, not quite reliable reckoning, I’ve been asked by fans to show The Act of Killing on the BBC at least five times. I’ve never encountered a film greeted by such extreme responses – both those who say it is among the best films and those who tell me how much they hate it. Much about the film puzzles me. I am still surprised by the fact that so many critics listed it among their favourite films of last year.

For those who haven’t seen the film, it investigates the circumstances in which half-a-million Indonesian leftists were murdered in the 1960s, at the instigation of a government that is still in power. You might think this is a recondite subject, worthy of a late-night screening for insomniacs or atrocity buffs on BBC4, but, no, the film-maker Joshua Oppenheimer has made the subject viewable by enlisting the participation of some of the murderers. He spent some years hanging out with them, to his credit luring them into confessions. But he also, more dubiously, enlisted their help in restaging their killings. Although one of them, the grandfatherly Anwar, shows mild symptoms of distress towards the end of the film, they live in a state of impunity and it is thus, coddled and celebrated in their old age, that we revisit them.

So let me be as upfront as I can. I dislike the aesthetic or moral premise of The Act of Killing. I find myself deeply opposed to the film. Getting killers to script and restage their murders for the benefit of a cinema or television audience seems a bad idea for a number of reasons. I find the scenes where the killers are encouraged to retell their exploits, often with lip-smacking expressions of satisfaction, upsetting not because they reveal so much, as many allege, but because they tell us so little of importance.

Of course murderers, flattered in their impunity, will behave vilely. Of course they will reliably supply enlightened folk with a degraded vision of humanity. But, sorry, I don’t feel we want to be doing this. It feels wrong and it certainly looks wrong to me.

Something has gone missing here. How badly do we want to hear from these people, after all? Wouldn’t it be better if we were told something about the individuals whose lives they took?

I’d feel the same if film-makers had gone to rural Argentina in the 1950s, rounding up a bunch of ageing Nazis and getting them to make a film entitled “We Love Killing Jews”. Think of other half-covered-up atrocities – in Bosnia, Rwanda, South Africa, Israel, any place you like with secrets – and imagine similar films had been made.

Consider your response – and now consider whether such goings-on in Indonesia are not acceptable merely because the place is so far away, and so little known or talked about that the cruelty of such an act can pass uncriticised.

The film does not in any recognisable sense enhance our knowledge of the 1960s Indonesian killings, and its real merits – the curiosity when it comes to uncovering the Indonesian cult of anticommunism capable of masking atrocity, and the good and shocking scenes with characters from the Indonesian elite, still whitewashing the past – are obscured by tasteless devices. At the risk of being labelled a contemporary prude or dismissed as a stuffy upholder of middle-class taste, I feel that no one should be asked to sit through repeated demonstrations of the art of garrotting.

Instead of an investigation, or indeed a genuine recreation, we’ve ended somewhere else – in a high-minded snuff movie.

What I like most about documentary film is that anything can be made to work, given a chance. You can mix up fact and fiction, past and present. You can add to cold objectivity a degree of empathy. You will, of course, lie to reluctant or recalcitrant participants, in particular when they wish not to divulge important pieces of information. And trickery has its place, too. But documentary films have emerged from the not inconsiderable belief that it’s good to be literal as well as truthful. In a makeshift, fallible way, they tell us what the world is really like. Documentaries are the art of the journeyman. They can be undone by too much ambition. Too much ingenious construction and they cease to represent the world, becoming reflected images of their own excessively stated pretensions.

In his bizarrely eulogistic piece defending The Act of Killing (of which he is an executive producer), Errol Morris, the documentary maker, compares the film to Hamlet’s inspired use of theatre to reveal dirty deeds at the court of Denmark. But Hamlet doesn’t really believe that theatrical gestures can stand in for reality. Nor, we must assume, did his creator. A more apt analogy than Morris’s might come from Shakespeare’s darkest play, Macbeth. What would we think if Macbeth and his scheming wife were written out of the action, replaced by those low-level thugs paid to do bad business on their behalf? We might conclude that putting them centre stage, in the style of The Act of Killing, was indeed perverse and we’d be right.

There are still half-forgotten, heavily whitewashed atrocities from the last century, such as the Bengali famine allowed to occur during the second world war through the culpably racist inattention of British officials; the never wholly cleared-up question of Franco’s mass killings; or the death of so many millions in the 1950s as a consequence of Mao’s catastrophic utopianism. Those wondering how to record such events will no doubt watch The Act of Killing, but I hope they will also look at less hyped, more modestly conceived depictions of mass murder. In Enemies of the People(2010), the Cambodian journalist Thet Sambath goes after the murderers of the Khmer Rouge. He finds Pol Pot’s sidekick, but it is the earnest, touching quest of Sambath himself that lingers in the mind, rather than the empty encounters with evil-doers. Atrocity is both banal and ultimately impossible to comprehend.

Writing in 1944, Arthur Koestler was among the first to gain knowledge of the slaughter of eastern European Jews and he estimated that the effect of such revelations was strictly limited, lasting only minutes or days and swiftly overcome by indifference. Koestler suggested that there was only one way we could respond to the double atrocity of mass murder and contemporary indifference and that was by screaming.

I’m grateful to The Act of Killing not because it’s a good film, or because it deserves to win its Oscar (I don’t think it does), but because it reminds me of the truth of Koestler’s observation. What’s not to scream about?

Nick Fraser is editor of the BBC’s Storyville documentary series – The Observer, Sunday 23 February 2014

US Studio Profit Report: Who’s Up and Who’s Down

The six major film studios combined to generate more than $4.3 billion in operating profit in 2013, up 23 percent from $3.5 billion in 2012, as digital streaming offset declining DVD sales and franchise films remained strong. But the riches were not spread equally.

21st Century Fox: ‘American Horror Story’

$1.18 billion to $1.12 billion; Change: -5.1%

The Wolverine, A Good Day to Die Hard and The Croods did well but fell short of 2012 hits such as Ice Age: Continental Drift, Life of Pi and Taken 2 . Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock delivered a surprise with The Heat, but The Internship and Runner Runner were domestic flops. Fox’s TV Studio remained consistent with Modern Family, Glee, American Horror Story and The Simpsons.

Sony: ‘Breaking Bad’

$434 million to $295 million; Change: -32%

The studio gained $106 million on the sale of a music publishing catalog, but that was no match for the $278 million boost in 2012 from a sale of Spider-Man merchandising rights. Year-end hits Captain Phillips and American Hustle helped take the sting out of summer flops After Earth and White House Down as pressure from investor Daniel Loeb has the studio cutting costs and focusing on TV.

NBCUniversal: ‘Despicable Me 2’

$79 million to $483 million; Change: +511%

Revenue was up only 6 percent at its filmed entertainment unit, but profit soared as marketing expenses shrank. The samurai pic 47 Ronin was a misfire, but Fast & Furious 6 and Les Miserables were huge in theaters — and Despicable Me 2, says NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, “is going to end up being the single most profitable film in the 100-year history of Universal Studios.”

Disney: ‘Frozen’

$543 million to $836 million; Change: +54%

Marvel (Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World), Pixar (Monsters University) and a resurgence at Disney Animation (Frozen) had the studio roaring back from a 2012 marred by John Carter. While July’s The Lone Ranger will lead to a huge write-down, Disney CEO Robert Iger pledges allegiance to big films with franchise potential, “particularly those with action or family appeal.”

Time Warner: ‘Gravity’

$1.24 billion to $1.33 billion; Change: +7.3%

A post-Harry Potter malaise lasted only 12 months as 2013 was Warner Bros.’ most profitable year ever thanks to Man of Steel and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Disappointments like Pacific Rim were countered by surprises such as Gravity and We’re the Millers, and WBTV, which boasts 60 shows on air, played a key role with such hits as The Big Bang Theory and The Mentalist.

Viacom: ‘World War Z’

$217 million to $299 million; Change: +38%

Costs fell as Paramount released 10 films in 2013, down from 15 a year earlier: Lower-budget hits such as Anchorman: The Legend Continues and the independently financed The Wolf of Wall Street supplemented moderate (but expensive) hit tent-poles World War Z, Star Trek Into Darkness and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Disappointments included Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain.

21/2/2014 by Georg Szalai, Paul Bond – THR

BAFTA Awards: Which Winners Will Repeat at the Oscars – and Which Ones Won’t?

The most noteworthy result of the night is the loss of “12 Years a Slave” newcomer
Lupita Nyong’o to “American Hustle” A-lister Jennifer Lawrence in the best supporting actress race.

The 67th BAFTA Awards, the last major awards ceremony before the Academy Awards, took place Sunday night in London — and the results were all over the place.

Among other things: 12 Years a Slave’s lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and Captain Phillips’ supporting actor Barkhad Abdi now have awards on their shelves, American Hustle’s supporting actress Jennifer Lawrence and original screenplay are back in the winners’ circle after recent cold streaks, and Blue Jasmine’s lead actress Cate Blanchett and Gravity’s director Alfonso Cuaron continue their unbeaten streaks — but 12 Years, after a poor showing for most of the night, finished things with a bang, winning best film.

But, in terms of anticipating what will happen at the Oscars, does any of this mean anything? Yes and no.

BAFTA, or the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, is composed of 6,500 people, including many of the roughly 250 Academy members who are based in the U.K. For many years, its awards ceremony was largely ignored by Oscar-watchers: From 1994-2000, it took place after the Academy had already dished out its little gold men, and besides, for many years, its picks deviated considerably from the Academy’s, since it invited all of its members to determine the nominees in every category but only members of its specific branches to pick the winners from those branches’ corresponding categories (except the four acting categories) — the exact opposite of how the Oscars are determined.

But, in the 21st century, BAFTA implemented changes that have made its ceremony a major stop on the awards circuit — and, quite possibly, an Oscars influencer: It moved its awards back before the Oscars in 2001 and adopted the same voting procedures as the Academy in 2012. Consequently, this year, BAFTA announced its winners roughly 48 hours after Oscar voting commenced, meaning that BAFTA members’ choices could, conceivably, sway the votes of some Academy members.

So what did — and didn’t — they choose and why?

This year, Gravity landed more BAFTA nominations than any other film, with 11, but 12 Years a Slave was only one behind, which pretty much confirmed those films’ status as the top two contenders. Both were nominated for best film. Strangely, though, 12 Years a Slave, a film with a British director and largely British cast, was not also nominated for best British film — the second top prize, in a sense — but Gravity, a film with virtually no Brits among its principal talent, but with a British producer, was. (Philomena was the only other film to score noms in both categories.) One might assume that this was a good thing forGravity, but, in fact, I would argue that it was not, because it presented voters with a chance to recognize Gravity in one category and 12 Years in the other. 12 Years may well have won best film anyway, but this didn’t help Gravity’s cause.

(Also worth noting: the BAFTA best film winner is not determined with a preferential ballot, while the best picture Oscar and the top PGA Award, which Gravity recently won, are.)

An even weirder BAFTA nominations anomaly was the group’s failure to even nominate the heretofore unbeaten frontrunners for the best actor and best supporting actor Oscars, Dallas Buyers Club’s Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, respectively. The indie AIDS drama wasn’t screened very much in London prior to the nominations — it has since opened and gone over pretty well there — which might somewhat explain its absence. But the bottom line is that BAFTA’s snubs of its stars created openings for others to step into the spotlight and perhaps pick up some momentum late in the season, which is very dangerous for a frontrunner, especially with many industry insiders and outsiders tiring of the same old storylines.

While I don’t think that Abdi, who ended up winning Leto’s category, poses much of a threat to him at the Oscars — in fact, I thought 12 Years’ Michael Fassbender was more likely to win the BAFTA prize — I can’t say the same about Ejiofor for McConaughey, who also has popular Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) and sentimental choice Bruce Dern (Nebraska) hot on his heels. Both were nominated by BAFTA; a win for Leo wasn’t at all out of the question, as Wolf was sizzling hot at the British box office as BAFTA voting took place, and it must be said that its failure to happen is a bit of a blow to his hopes.

But perhaps the most surprising result of the night came in the best supporting actress category, which has been won at every other major awards show by 12 Years’ acclaimed newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, save for the star-loving Golden Globes, which opted for A-lister Lawrence. With the more Oscar-predictive Critics’ Choice and SAG awards under her belt, Nyong’o was starting to look like a safe bet. But the fact that Lawrence — whom BAFTA did not honor last year when she was en route to winning the best actress Oscar, opting for Amour’s Emmanuelle Riva instead — pulled off a win Sunday is a statement that is pretty hard to ignore.

Few are the contenders who have won both Globe and BAFTA awards but not gone on to win the Oscar. Among the recent Oscar “upset” or “even-money” winners that it anticipated: best actress Marion Cotillard for La Vie En Rose (2007), best actor Jean Dujardin for The Artist (2011), best actress Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady (2011) and best supporting actor Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained (2012). Indeed, the only “misses” of that kind over the past decade were for best supporting actor hopeful Clive Owen for Closer (2004) and best actor hopeful Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler(2008).

BAFTA doesn’t always get it “right,” but they do generally read the tea leaves pretty well when it comes to close races — i.e. they were the only group to anticipate Alan Arkin’s best supporting actor Oscar win for Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and Tilda Swinton’s best supporting actress Oscar win for Michael Clayton (2007).

And when they miss, it is usually by playing favorites with a British contender or a star thereof — i.e. awarding Thandie Newton best supporting actress for Crash (2005) or Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter best supporting actor and best supporting actress, respectively, for The King’s Speech (2010) or Riva last year.

Therefore, all-American girl J-Law has to feel as good as ever about her shot at being the one major winner for American Hustle — and the first person to ever bag two acting Oscars before the age of 24.

To add insult to injury, Nyong’o also lost BAFTA’s EE Rising Star Award — which is determined by the public — to Will Poulter, who is best known for We’re the Millers. Many thought she would be taking home two prizes Sunday. Instead she is taking home nothing except for perhaps a little anxiety about where her Oscar prospects now stand.

16/2/2014 by Scott Feinberg – THR

Lynda La Plante writing Prime Suspect prequel

Lynda La Plante is writing a prequel to Prime Suspect which she will adapt for TV in 2016, the 25th anniversary of the hit ITV drama. The prequel will be called Tennison, after its main character, Jane Tennison, and was revealed by La Plante on Tuesday as she launched a new company, La Plante Global, incorporating all of her print and screen interests.

“I am extremely excited to have begun work on the Tennison project. Jane Tennison is a character who millions of people know and admire from my books and TV series, Prime Suspect, portrayed brilliantly by Helen Mirren,” La Plante told This Morning on Tuesday.

“But nobody knows what drove her to become a DCI [detective chief inspector] or want to join the police force in the first place. When you first meet her in the early 1990s, she is a very complex character, but what made her so? I can’t say too much now, but readers will find out next year when the book is published; or in 2016, which is the 25th anniversary of Prime Suspect, when they watch Tennison the series.”

La Plante did not identify which broadcaster would screen the prequel, or even if it had been commissioned, but its natural home would be ITV where Prime Suspect ran for seven series, spanning 15 episodes, from 1991 to 2006. It was also adapted for US TV.

Mirren was already a star when she appeared in the first episode, but the Bafta-winning drama made her a household name. La Plante said: “At an event, a big book signing, a fan came up to me and she said ‘Where did Tennison get that aloof coldness from? What did she do when she was young?’

“It sat in my head so I am coming out with Tennison, back in the 1970s and 1980s, how she became a DCI?”

La Plante said she could not wait to begin the casting search for a new star to play the young detective. She said of Mirren: “Her depth as an actress is astonishing. It was wonderful to watch her really bring that character to life.”

La Plante Global will control all of the author’s future book, TV and film deals. Prime Suspect was voted 68th in a British Film Institute poll of the 100 greatest British TV programmes.

John Plunkett –, Wednesday 19 February 2014

Wolf Creek 2 director says Mick Taylor is in all of us

He may seem completely out there, but Wolf Creek’s villain is a lot more like you and I than we might care to admit, says writer-director Greg McLean.

John Jarratt with director Greg McLean on the set of Wolf Creek 2 John Jarratt stands in the doorway, a rifle slung over his shoulder, a slouch hat on his head, a flannelette shirt on his back. He is – unmistakably, iconically, and after a gap of more than eight years – once again Mick Taylor. Today, the sadistic serial killer at the heart of Wolf Creek is preparing to off an elderly couple in a derelict farm house about 90 minutes’ drive north of Adelaide (though it feels a lot more isolated than that). But first, his director has to frame the mayhem perfectly.

”Let’s just open the door again,” Greg McLean says from his seat at the far end of the hallway. Suddenly, the place is flooded with harsh light, as a wave of heat from the desert pours in.

McLean surveys the scene on his monitor, then glances at the screen of his laptop, on which the final scene of John Ford’s legendary 1956 western The Searchers is playing. If you’re going to quote from a classic, it pays to get it right.

In the set-up of his own shot, McLean is looking to echo the moment when John Wayne is framed in the doorway of a house into which he is not invited, with the desert at his back and, then, at his front. He’s aiming, for ”a direct inversion of that idea of the lone hero wandering out into the west”.

”This film is a western in lots of ways”.

In fact, the 43-year-old writer-director insists, Wolf Creek 2 is a whole bunch of things other than the horror film most people imagine it to be. ”It’s a comedy,” he tells me at one stage, before correcting himself. ”In my mind – and I could be delusional – it’s more of an action-suspense film with moments of horror.” Pause. ”Comedy is maybe going too far.”

Wolf Creek, released in 2005, cost $1.4 million and has made, McLean has said, somewhere north of $60 million globally. He could have made a sequel immediately afterwards but making the first was such a slog that going back-to-back would have been ”unthinkable”. Then again, he adds, ”If I knew then what I know now about how long it takes to get a sequel up I’d probably have said yes.”

This time he’s had a budget of about $7 million, which means he gets to stage car chases and to blow up a truck in quite spectacular fashion (and with a rather large nod to another cinematic reference point, Steven Spielberg’s 1971 film, Duel).

At one stage it was slated as a $13.2 million production, with Geoffrey Edelsten due to kick in $5 million, but in December 2011 the disgraced former medico pulled out on the eve of production.

”It was hugely embarrassing for us, that whole thing,” McLean says. ”But luckily he didn’t get involved; that’s how we view it.”

In returning to the scene of his first success, McLean feels he’s breaking new ground (”we don’t do horror sequels in this country”) even as he’s turning over old. He didn’t want to make a ”cheesy kind of sequel”; he’s not even terribly interested in ”gore and blood and stuff”, nor in making ”a stupid slasher horror film”.

”I’m more interested in why the character of Mick Taylor connected with Australian audiences,” he says. ”It’s not because it’s a horror film. It’s because Mick is about something else deeper and darker in the psyche of Australian people. People saw something truthful in the character.”

He’s not referring to the ”based on a true story” aspect of the films – a claim that, in all honesty, seems a little more tendentious in the sequel than it did in the first, with its unmissable nods to Bradley John Murdoch and Ivan Milat – so much as a psychological truth.

His villain is, he insists, ”the shadow part of the Australian psyche”, the bit of us we like to pretend doesn’t exist but, when we see it in fictional form, recognise all too well.

”The Australian culture is bright sunny beaches, Crocodile Dundee and all that kind of shit, and the shadow side of that is xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, racism, all that kind of stuff that we squash down but is alive and well,” he says.

In person, McLean is such a pleasant, affable guy it’s hard to imagine any of that kind of stuff in him, squashed down or otherwise. But whatever secrets he harbours in his dark places, he says he knows there are Mick Taylors out there for real.

”He’s based on a real guy,” he says, and I nearly fall off my seat and into the hard South Australian dirt at this news. ”Not the serial killing part, but every other element of him.”

McLean says he met the proto-Mick when he went to the Northern Territory to do some research for the script that eventually became Rogue (written before Wolf Creek, it became McLean’s vastly more expensive and less successful follow-up in 2007). He joined an outback safari tour, and in a group of Swedes, Canadians and Japanese, McLean and the tour guide were the only Australians. ”And this dude basically had this unbelievably un-PC way of talking to these people. He would literally pick out the nationality and a physical trait or something, and these people didn’t know how to take him. He would say the most incredibly sexist, racist things to these people, to their faces.”

It was, McLean says, ”funny, but tilted two degrees that way it was evil”. He says it reminded him of Ted Kotcheff’s 1971 film Wake in Fright, ”that aggressive friendship where you’re not quite sure if someone is going to punch you or hug you”.

”It’s part of our culture, but that guy did it in a way that was really shocking and hilarious and scary.”

Of course, the landscape factors heavily into this equation too: it’s beautiful but it’s alien – and vast. And in all that space, no one can hear you scream. Or tweet.

”In an age where we have Twitter, Facebook, the internet and everything, when people lose their technology it’s very scary,” McLean says. Naturally, that’s precisely what happens to his hapless travellers.

In the new movie, before things get ugly there’s a stunning aerial shot of Wolf Creek (which is actually Wolfe Creek, a giant meteorite crater – the second-largest on the planet – in Western Australia) in which its beauty almost palpably wrestles with its threat. It’s a far-from-uncommon duality in our relationship with the Australian landscape, one in which isolation, lack of water, venomous creatures and sunstroke are never far from the next Instagram moment.

And for Mick Taylor, a man who sees killing tourists as his patriotic duty as well as a bit of fun, that threat represents opportunity. ”You’re vermin,” he seethes to one of his victims in the sequel. ”It’s my job to eradicate you.”

With a message like that, McLean is growing used to people telling him that his films are terrible for tourism. But, he says, ”The fact is people are going to see this movie all over the world. People will see how beautiful this country is, but unfortunately they’ll also see that if you come here you will die.”

For Wolf Creek 3, he says, warming to the theme, ”I’ll have to get Tourism Australia involved. There’s got to be some way we can work in a campaign around that.”

How about ”People are dying to see this country”? You know what? It just might work.

Wolf Creek 2 opens on February 20.

Karl Quinn SMH – February 15, 2014

Netflix to spend $3bn on TV and film content in 2014

Netflix, the on-demand streaming site ended 2013 with net profits of $112m despite rise in cost of international rights and commissioning.

Netflix is committed to spending almost $3bn on TV and film content in 2014 and more than $6bn over the next three years, as the cost of securing international rights and commissioning new shows continues to mount on the streaming giant’s balance sheet.

The US company also announced this week that it is to raise $400m to help fund this investment in original programming and a major European expansion later this year.

Its annual report, published this week, shows that at the end of 2013, Netflix had run up $7.3bn in “streaming content obligations”, which are incurred when the company signs a licence agreement for programming, up 30% from the $5.6bn owed at the end of 2012. Continue reading Netflix to spend $3bn on TV and film content in 2014