2020 Vision Feature Film Forum by Film Victoria

Last week Film Victoria hosted an all-day 2020 Vision Feature Film Forum. It was well attended by local writers, directors and producers.

The event provided Film Vic’s take on the current state of the local feature film industry. It was an attempt to encourage filmmakers to ‘go the extra mile’ on script development, as outgoing CEO Jenni Tosi suggested that often scripts go into production before they are ready.

As others have noted such as producer Sue Maslin, this is in part because producers need cashflow to survive. It is difficult for producers to draw cash from government funding agencies during the development phase, which often takes years.

The task for writers in the audience was to take on board the sobering figures dished out over the day and yet remain positive and optimistic enough to put in the necessary work to refine a screenplay to the point where it is as good as it gets.

Over the day, a number of interesting points were made. Kristian Connelly, Manager of the Nova in Carlton, expressed surprise that despite the success of Animal Kingdom (2010), no similar works have emerged. Connelly also thought that New Zealanders have a much more worked-out sense of their national identity than Australians, who struggle with the notion of what it is to be Australian.

The point was also raised that today’s female-dominated cinema audiences are provided with few titles that star a strong female character who drives the action. Of course this is as true of the world as it is of Australia.

My final takeaway was a personal one; coming from Singapore, where the focus is so international, I was surprised to hear only about Australia, with a bit of Hollywood tantalisingly added but seeming somehow far away. The words China and India featured on a single slide, a reference to the number of films from these two countries being released on Australian screens.

No mention of 2017’s gamechanger and my personal fave, Wolf Warrior 2 (2017) directed by and starring Jing Wu, which managed to gross nearly US$900 million at the Chinese box office earlier this year. The film is set in Africa and 20% is in English as it was hoped to do well internationally. However its triumph with its domestic audience more than made up for its lack of international reach (it took only $2 million in the US).

I asked several of my producer films at the session whether they were thinking of approaching the expanding markets of China and India, but they felt that was too much of a stretch. And yes, despite our multiculturalism we are still a predominantly white Australian (and male) industry. But there is also an increasing number of Chinese and Indians who have settled in Australia, and hundreds of thousands more who come here to study. Can’t we access their contacts?

IF’s Don Goves has posted these two articles on the day:

Filmmakers challenged to aim high and know their audience

PG-rated films are increasingly popular in Oz while frequent moviegoers are going less often


Luc Besson on the Risks of ‘Valerian’ and That Time James Cameron “Took Me for a Moron”

As the EuropaCorp mogul — and THR’s International Producer of the Year — prepares to release the most expensive film of his career, he opens up about his arm’s-length relationship with Hollywood (“I do ‘Leon,’ they send me four ‘Leons'”) and his lifelong obsession with an “impossible”-to-film French comic book.

Luc Besson was 8 years old when he fell in love with the French graphic novel Valerian and Laureline, about two young adventurers who travel through space and time. Now, half a century later, the 58-year-old French producer-director is bringing his childhood infatuation to the screen. At $180 million, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is by far the most expensive picture he has ever made, with double the budget of his last sci-fi feature, 1997’s The Fifth Element. The STX release (which

opens July 21) is the biggest bet yet from a man who has made a career of them — from directing 1985’s Subway to 1990’s La Femme Nikita (one of the first action flicks centered on a woman) to 1994’s Leon: The Professional and 2014’s Lucy, not to mention producing franchises like Taxi and Taken.

But no matter how much Besson has riding on his new picture, he gives no sign of being perturbed when THR sits down with him in mid-May in the rather impersonal, two-room suite he maintains several floors above his high-tech studio just north of Paris, La Cite du Cinema. (It has an accompanying film school, L’Ecole de la Cite.) This is where Besson spends most of his time when he’s not at home in Beverly Hills, where he has lived for the past three years with his producer-wife, Virginie Besson- Silla, and their three children, ages 11 to 16.

Relaxed in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, music wafting from his iPad, the filmmaker is expansive when talking about his family and personal life, but more reticent when it comes to addressing the business aspects of his career and company, EuropaCorp, in which he’s the largest shareholder. Perhaps that’s because, after years of success, EuropaCorp will post a loss of $136 million in 2016, just a few weeks after our meeting, the result of such misfires as Nine Lives, Shut In and Miss Sloane. Besson leaves talk of business to his company’s CEO, Marc Shmuger.

“EuropaCorp experienced significant losses this past year,” acknowledges Shmuger. “Over the course of the past year, we took necessary measures to strengthen the company’s treasury position. These measures include restructuring our first and second lien debt, a new capital raise from [Chinese production and distribution firm] Fundamental and sales of noncore assets [among them, theaters in Paris].”

They also include bringing in outside financiers to defray some of the cost of Valerian, whose downside already has been covered, he says, thanks to $30 million in French subsidies, outside equity and presales, reducing EuropaCorp’s investment to about 10 percent of the total budget.

The company signed a three-year exclusive (in the U.S.) distribution and marketing services pact with STX in early 2017 after extricating itself from a problematic joint venture with Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media. In leaving Relativity, it tightened its focus, going from an original plan to have up to 12 domestic releases per year to about four — all at much lower budgets than that of Valerian.

Those projects include another Taxi sequel, a follow-up to Lucy (possibly starring Scarlett Johansson again) and such European productions as Kursk (with Matthias Schoenaerts, Colin Firth and Lea Seydoux) and the horror film Underground (with Ben Kingsley and Peter Franzen).

It is for this prodigious output — and for his willingness to risk so much — that THR has named Besson its International Producer of the Year.

When did you start working on Valerian?

When I did The Fifth Element 20 years ago, the designer Jean-Claude Mezieres was saying, “Why are you not doing Valerian? Why are you doing this stupid Fifth

Element thing?” I said, “Because [Valerian] is impossible.” But then, little by little, the technique went up. I started to write, and I wrote for a couple of years just to see: Was it good enough? Was it worthwhile enough? And then it came to maturation.

How much of your own money is in the film?

My entire salary. [The budget is] not my money, but at the last minute, the financing fell short, so they asked me, “Can you put your entire salary in?” And I said yes.

When you saw Avatar, you threw away the Valerian script. Why?

Because it wasn’t good enough. Avatar was on such a [high] level that [I thought], “You’re not qualified. Go back to training,” like with the Olympic Games. You can’t go and ask for $180 million [without being ready].

Did you discuss Valerian with James Cameron?

He invited me on the set of Avatar in L.A. because I said, “I’m writing something sci- fi,” and he said, “Come and see how it’s working.” Being there, in the middle of the factory with nothing, and seeing the world on the screen — he took me for a moron at the beginning, because it was kind of complicated for me to understand. He looked at me like, “This moron doesn’t understand anything.” I don’t have a computer. I have this, an iPad, with music. Then we went for lunch, and I asked him a lot of questions, and he gave me some tips. He was such a gentleman, so secure. You know, the people who are secure are generous.

Are you secure?

Yes. Now. A little bit. But the first few years, you’re like, “Grrrrr.” You’re going to bite anyone who comes close to you.

When did you first realize you wanted to make films?

My parents worked [as SCUBA teachers] at Club Med, so I was watching shows every night. I started to write at 13, to take pictures at 14. It just came to me, like some people love baseball — me, it was photography and writing. I built my skills without noticing. Later, I said: “Hmm, movies, that’s probably a good way of expressing for me because I’m not good at anything [else].”

Was there a particular film that influenced you?

I never fell in love with films because I was not watching films at all. [After his parents split up] I had a stepfather who didn’t want TV and music at home; he didn’t want any way of expressing art in the house. He was working on Formula One, so it was all about cars. I was kind of frustrated.

Did you ever want to be anything other than a filmmaker?

When I was 16, I wanted to study dolphins, because I was in love with dolphins. And I got in a diving accident and the doctor told me, “You will never dive again.” This

guy broke me in two. He didn’t even realize what he had done because that was my life, diving, dolphins. And the day he said “forget about it” [was as if] basically you want to be a dancer and then you have no feet. I was very desperate. It was my worst moment. You’re 16, you’re in boarding school, and you’re broken by this doctor. I was really, really down. I remember asking myself, “What are you going to do with your life?” I took a piece of paper and I put a line down the middle, and on the left I said what I loved and on the right what I hated.

What did you love and what did you hate?

I can’t remember exactly. But when I read the left column, I realized almost everything was artistic. And it was the first time I said, “Wow, maybe cinema could be good.” And then a friend of a friend was shooting a short film in Paris, and I took the train and went there. And I arrived on the set and fell in love. I stayed two days, I slept on the set to keep an eye on the material, and I went back home to see my mom. I said, “I know what I’m going to do.” And the day after, I came down to breakfast with my suitcase and I said, “I’m leaving.”

Leaving home?

Yeah. Home and school. I came back from the set on a Sunday night, and on the Monday morning I went back to Paris. A friend [put me up] for a few nights. Then I was going from apartment to apartment, living on the couch, eating what was in the fridge — and usually on set they’d always have food. You eat twice a day and then you sleep. I really loved it. But the more you see on a set, the more you see other layers. You think it’s just a door, but no, after the door there are two other doors. I was so naive, I had no [frame of] reference, but I was not blocked by anything. I was like a kid who is not afraid of dogs and puts his hand in their mouths, you know? And I did my first short film 12 months later. I started my first long feature film at 19 [The Last Battle, about humans in a postapocalyptic world]. I turned 20 years old during the shooting. Sometimes we were shooting on the weekend — because when [the studios] have a big film shooting, they don’t shoot on the weekend, so you take the [equipment] and put it back on Sunday night. We did films with nothing, nothing. I was asking my mom to prep food for the team, because I couldn’t pay for the lunch. She’s a very good cook, so they were happy.

Did you ever study film?

No. But when I arrived in Paris at 17, I didn’t have a lot of money, and there was a [bookstore] just for films, near the Champs-Elysees [with anything that] you wanted to find on movies or how to make a script. And I stayed for hours and bought [a film industry version of the Yellow Pages], which was the most practical thing to get. Then I still had 20 francs in my hand, and I said to the girl, “For four bucks, do you have a little something I can buy?” She said, “In this big basket, there are used books.” I took a very small book, a treatise on directing [Notes of a Film Director]. I studied it, and it was quite complicated. I liked the book very much. What I didn’t know was that the writer was [Russian master Sergei] Eisenstein. And the treatise was very pragmatic and simple and clear, which is exactly what I needed at the time. So my basis is Eisenstein.

Do you watch films a lot now?

No. Cooking and eating are not the same job. My job is cooking.

Are there any filmmakers you particularly admire?

Actually, almost all of them, because it’s a hard job. Every time you feel the heart of the guy, I like it. What I don’t like is when you feel the studio too much and you don’t feel the guy. There are a couple of Marvels where I don’t feel the guy. The films are pretty good, but I don’t know who cooked them.

Are you friends with other filmmakers?

I am very friendly with them. I say “friendly” because I don’t see them enough. There’s a couple that I see: Ridley Scott sometimes, Darren Aronofsky. But I can’t say I am friends with them. What’s interesting is, I’ve never felt a [sense of] competition with any director. Never. The directors’ family is very, very friendly. I have a funny story: I had a film, I don’t remember [which one] but I was in New York, and I saw the poster [outside] the theater. There were two screens, and my film was playing [in the theater next to] a Pedro Almodovar film. I went in, just to smell the ambience, just for curiosity. And I opened the door and Pedro Almodovar bursts in. I said, “Oh, my God, Pedro, what are you doing here?” He was doing the same thing as me. We were laughing so much.

You’ve avoided working in the Hollywood studio system. Do they come after you?

I’ve received a script per week for 20 years. I’ve never stayed away from Hollywood. I always answer very politely, and I’m very honored. But no one comes with an Amadeus or something that I would love to do. When I do La Femme Nikita, they send me all the Nikitas — three, four, five. When I do Leon, they send me four Leons. When I do The Fifth Element, they send me all the sci-fi. That’s not interesting to me. I mean, if someone gave me Raging Bull, I would be thrilled.

The Fifth Element seems more of a success today than when it came out. Why?

Maybe the film at the time was too weird. Twenty years ago, there was no internet. And the film was wild. It was not conventional. The hero who saved the world [was] a girl with orange hair who doesn’t speak English. A classical singer extraterrestrial in space. It’s like, what the f— is this thing?

What do you do outside filmmaking?

The biggest thing is writing, in the morning. I love that. If I don’t write for a few days, I feel bad. I’m nervous and I’m not agreeable with people. It’s my gym.

Do you read a lot as well as write?

No, I don’t. Except scripts. I can’t concentrate on a book. You start the book and the guy is talking about a garden — and after two pages, I’m in the garden of my grandmother, and I think about my grandmother and that’s it, I’m out. For me, a book is a house without walls. I get in, and I can’t get out. And that’s what I love about film: You have to follow the thing; you can’t go backward or forward.

Do you enjoy producing as much as directing?

It’s not the same job. Producing is being on the bench and screaming to the players on the field, “Faster!” (Laughs.) Being a director is painful. It’s the hardest job, because you’re responsible for everything, you have people asking you questions every three seconds. You have to manage the emotional DNA of everyone on the set, especially the actors. You have to be the general of an army. And then you’re in the editing room. And you see an image of your film that is not your film, and when you’ve finished, you push the film out to the press, who most of the time kill you. It’s a hell of a job.

What makes a good producer?

I don’t know if I’m a good producer. Because a good director makes a good film, even with a bad producer. A producer is really at the service of the director, understands the qualities of the director and maybe the bad parts, and can tell him, “No, you are lying to yourself here.”

What’s the worst part of being a director?

You need to have an extra sensitivity, permanently, from the morning to the end of the day. It’s almost like you take your skin out and people are touching you all day. I remember going back to the hotel at 10 p.m. and watching TV, and they were talking about the opening of a salon of flowers, and you see some old people going there — and I’m crying. It’s terrible. And it’s terrible because you take the skin out and then every morning you put on armor, because you need both. You need to be absolutely nonsensitive. You need to be a general of an army and at the same time, if a flower [touches] your arm, you scream. It’s painful. And honestly, every time you start to film, you remember that. You say, “All right, OK, I’m going to make the film,” and you take the decision, you accept the pain. You never go, “Oh, my God, it’s going to be great! We’re going to do a film!” You know it’s going to be painful.

by Stephen Galloway THR July 17, 2017

Melbourne’s new breed of filmmakers exudes energy.

Melbourne’s no slouch at turning out Oscar candidates, but our only hope at this year’s Academy Awards is Ivanhoe-bred Cate Blanchett. She doesn’t even live here these days. Still, Australia’s overall Russell Crowe Rule allows us to claim her as one of our own.

Blanchett has already been up for five Oscars, including a win in the best supporting actress category for 2004’s The Aviator. She’s back in the running this year for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, and gambling types are putting her as a sure win (one betting site gives her odds of $1.05, with closest rival Amy Adams at $11).

But Blanchett has been on a steady course towards a win for the past decade – where are those just starting out on their journey? Cinematic prognostication is a science with too many variables, but we can take a few informed guesses.

Three of the best: Jonathan auf der Heide, Alethea Jones and Damon Gameau. Adam Arkapaw isn’t a household name, but anyone remotely connected to the biz will point to him as our new hope. The cinematographer, who studied at Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts, last year won an Emmy for miniseries Top of the Lake after a string of eye-grabbing films including Animal Kingdom, Lore and Snowtown.

He’s now lensing US series True Detective, and it’s a rare instance in which a show’s camerawork is as frequently commented on as its performances or writing. The New York Times, for instance, opened one review with a discussion of a six-minute tracking shot. Mr Arkapaw is ready for his close-up.

Arkapaw’s 2006 graduating film Catch Fish, was ”a very strong and moving piece of storytelling”, says Nicolette Freeman, head of the VCA’s School of Film of Television.

”Given that Adam was already displaying strong potential as a cinematographer, it was very telling that he chose to stick with the directing stream in his graduating year, rather than specialise in the craft of cinematography. He shot many graduating films that year anyway, but in the meantime developed his strengths as a storyteller by writing and directing Catch Fish.”

Director Justin Kurzel is another name that crops up regularly – he was named most outstanding postgraduate student when he left VCA in 2005, and his later work on Snowtown won him a gong for best direction at the AACTA awards and put him on the must-watch lists of critics across the nation. He is now in London directing a new version of Macbeth, a notoriously difficult play to film, but Kurzel collaborators hint at a possible hit. He has Arkapaw behind the lens, and the never-less-than-brilliant Michael Fassbender in the lead role.

Also starring in Macbeth will be actress Elizabeth Debicki. She might not yet be the next Blanchett but the 23-year-old has already shared a stage with her. In 2013 the VCA grad played opposite the star as well as French screen icon Isabelle Huppert in three-hander The Maids. The same year she appeared as Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby after Baz Lurhmann handpicked her from an audition reel and flew her to LA. She won best supporting actress for the role in this year’s Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts awards.

”I remember meeting her at VCA on the graduation day and she had a great air of confidence about her,” says director Jonathan auf der Heide. ”I found out later that it was because she’d already been cast in Gatsby, so she hadn’t even finished at VCA and she’d already landed a role. That’s quite a big leap.”

Auf der Heide was out of the gates almost as quickly. While studying at the VCA (where he now lectures) he teamed up with fellow student Maggie Miles to create their graduating film Hell’s Gates, based on the true story of colonial Tasmanian convict-turned-cannibal Alexander Pearce. ”It was a challenging film for a student filmmaker with a big story for a short film, a large ensemble cast, a minuscule budget and trying physical locations,” says Freeman. Auf der Heide and producer Miles ”were formidable”.

The two proved even more impressive by expanding their short into a full-length feature within two years of finishing their studies. ”I believe this was a first for our graduates,” says Freeman. Miles has since gone on to co-produce the Tim Winton anthology film The Turning with Rob Connolly, and auf der Heide was one of the 13 directors chosen to contribute a chapter to the work.

When creating The Turning, Connolly selected an intriguing roster of directors that included people who had never tried their hand at it before. He points to actress Mia Wasikowska as the kind of exciting new talent that was able to be discovered as a result.

”Her film’s amazing. She’s only 24. I love the film that she did. It’s a staggering, innovative direction,” he says.

But taking a gamble on untested youngsters such as Wasikowska is something the Australian film industry does only reluctantly, if at all, says Connolly. ”I actually have a general issue about how the screen industry hasn’t really embraced generational change.

”This idea of generational shift is important in any area of artistic endeavour. You look in music at the success of Lorde and you realise there are other areas of artistic endeavour that really value the voice of younger artists. Other areas look to youth to try and find those voices.”

Ariel Kleiman is the kind of filmmaker other filmmakers praise, with the drive to get things done. He’s currently finishing editing his first feature, Partisan, starring French actor Vincent Cassel. But in his experience, Connolly’s words ring true. His graduating short Deeper Than Yesterday won a jury prize at Sundance Film Festival, but the level of interest it generated abroad wasn’t matched by a similar enthusiasm back home.

”The amount of emails you get from people in Europe and America, wanting to see the film or inquiring about what you’ve got going on next, compared to the amount you get from Australia … in a way it very blatantly showed that attitude. That being said, (Partisan) is a fully Australian film. I’ve been really backed by the powers that be. I’m definitely not complaining. But there is something to that, compared to the rest of the world who are really hungry to find that next talent.”

Connelly says he is interested in new filmmakers who bring entrepreneurial spirit to get things done. Actor Victoria Thaine is one young filmmaker he puts in this category. She recently directed a short that was successfully crowdfunded: The Kingdom of Doug is a superbly acted drama about a suicidal cult, and Thaine’s campaign saw supporters given cult membership and fictional identities.

”I’m not a brash salesperson and the idea of asking people for money, I felt like it had to be done in a gracious way,” says Thaine.

”But I don’t know if there actually is any short film funding available at the moment in Victoria. So we really didn’t have a lot of choices when it came to getting money raised.”

The film went on to win Flickerfest, Australia’s largest short film competition. Thaine is trying to develop it into a full-length feature, and in the meantime is planning another short. ”I think when you’re an emerging director you’ve got to keep up the momentum. You’ve got to try and be prolific and show people that you’re serious. I don’t want to be just another actor who’s dabbled in making a couple of short films. I’d really like to have people see that I’m taking it seriously.”

Since it premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival, Kitty Green hasn’t stopped touring her documentary Ukraine is Not a Brothel, which reveals the inside story on topless activists Femen. She was the first VCA grad ever to be invited to the prestigious showcase, and the subsequent demand for her debut isn’t surprising given it managed to garner more publicity than George Clooney did.

”It was insane,” says Green. ”So many photographers and journalists. Because we were revealing a story that was quite scandalous and we had topless women there on the red carpet. It was a bit of a frenzy. So we had the best premiere I could possibly dream of.”

Last week she was back in Melbourne briefly before jetting off for the film’s American premieres at the South by Southwest and True False films festivals.

”I’m exhausted. Every month I have to jet off again. Which looks glamorous on Facebook but the reality of it is quite hard.” Ironically, the film’s Facebook page was blocked by the site during the recent period of violent turmoil in Kiev after Facebook’s no-breasts-please filter picked up on a stray Femen nipple. ”Generally I censor them but sometimes one slips through. There’s so much going on I want to post about. All my friends are sending me terrifying photos and I’d love to be able to raise awareness but I’m locked out.”

Freeman says that Green’s VCA graduating film, Spilt, was a ”refreshing and innovative exploration of the burgeoning sexual awareness of young girls. As her lecturer at the time, I recall our studios being awash with giggly young girls, unherdable little grey kittens, and dripping creamy-looking paint. I knew then Spilt would be something out of the box.”

All of her film-school films were ”unpredictable and arresting,” she says, and ”it comes as no surprise that she has made the world sit up and pay attention” with her first feature.

Other Melburnians following this route include indie darling Amiel Courtin-Wilson, whose films such as Bastardy, Hail and Ruin have been critically adored, and up-and-comer Aaron Wilson, whose daring first feature Canopy, about a WWII Australian soldier and a Chinese refugee who must work together to survive, was shot on a shoestring in the Singapore jungle.

Then there are filmmakers such as Alethea Jones who are eager to embrace the commercial studio system. On the strength of her short films alone, Jones is about to move to LA to shoot her first feature. The actors who’ve read for it can’t be named here, but suffice to say that they’re at the top of Hollywood’s comedy tree.

Jones is also choreographing a short segment of actor Damon Gameau’s debut, That Sugar Film. The documentary is a Supersize Me-style exploration of the effects of sugar on the human system. Gameau has travelled the globe interviewing experts, all the while subsisting on the kind of typical diet that appears healthy but contains surprising levels of the sweet stuff.

So come Oscar night, whether or not it’s Blanchett, an actress will be thanking a bunch of people none of us have ever heard of. It’ll be boring. We’ll complain. But they’ll have earned it.

Local films to watch in 2014

The industry is in agreement that this year is one of the most exciting in local memory, with a hefty number of films hotly anticipated. Here are a few:


David Michod’s Animal Kingdom immediately put the director on the world map and earned an Oscar nomination for Jacki Weaver. Word is that his script for this Guy Pearce/Robert Pattinson crime drama is a killer.


Tony Ayres’ new outing apparently has some of the same stylistic edge that marked out Animal Kingdom, and stars that film’s Sullivan Stapleton in a 1970s Melbourne thriller.


28-year-old Kitty Green spent a year living with the members of controversial feminist activists Femen in Ukraine to produce this documentary which went on to be the hit of last year’s Venice Film Festival.


A winner at Sundance, Sophie Hyde shot this film on every Tuesday of the year, shaping the story of a schoolgirl coming of age while her mother attempts to become a man.

John Bailey – SMH – March 2, 2014

The Menkoff Method set to roll in Melbourne

By Don Groves – INSIDEFILM – Wed 28/08/2013

Director David Parker will start shooting The Menkoff Method, billed as a quirky
“comedy of human resources,” in Melbourne on September 9. The screenplay is by
first-timer Zac Gillam. It’s the debut feature from White Hot Productions, the production arm of the White Hot Group. The producers are David Lee, Jan Bladier and John Kearney, with Ian Kirk as executive producer.

The plot follows David Cork, a young, introverted bank worker who’s more interested in drawing his comic book than his tedious job in the bank’s data processing centre.

All that changes when an enigmatic Russian HR consultant, Max Menkoff, introduces sweeping reforms with devastating effects.

Kirk, a director of White Hot Productions, met Gillam, a solicitor who took up screenwriting, through a mutual friend. Kirk, who owns ROAR Digital, mentored Gillam and introduced him to Bladier and Lee. White Hot Group was set up to develop a slate of films. The Menkoff Method is privately financed. Bladier and Lee produced Simon Wincer’s The Cup.

More Here:

‘Taut thriller’: Assange movie highlights teen struggle

IT IS a story full of complexity and trauma, and largely unknown to a wider audience who view its subject as merely a publisher of classified military intelligence. Yet the teenage years of Julian Assange – now the subject of a gripping film – will again stir vigorous debate.
Underground, the latest political thriller from writer-director Robert Connolly – which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday night – homes in on Assange’s troubled upbringing, in an effort to make sense of his present predicament. The embattled WikiLeaks founder, currently holed up behind the walls of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, remains fearful of being extradited to the US for publishing the leaks.
“I knew a lot about the current situation, but had very little knowledge of that period in history,” says Connolly, whose previous political thrillers include Balibo and The Bank (which also both screened in Toronto). “It was something of a revelation to me.”

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Screen Australia invests in new features

Screen Australia today announced nearly $5 million investment in four new feature
film projects, triggering close to $20 million in production.

“I’m thrilled to be able to announce production investment for such a unique mix of
feature films,” said Screen Australia’s Chief Executive, Ruth Harley. “These projects
combine iconic Australian stories and compelling genre films from both first time
and established filmmaking teams.”

The Oscar®-winning duo Emile Sherman and Iain Canning (The King’s Speech) will
produce Tracks, the true story of Robyn Davidson’s solitary trek across the
Australian desert, with co-producer Julie Ryan (Red Dog). A quintessentially
Australian story, Tracks is adapted for the screen by writer/director John Curran
(Praise, The Painted Veil).

Seventeen Australian directors including Cate Blanchett, Robert Connolly, Justin
Kurzel, Mia Wasikowska and David Wenham will respond to Tim Winton’s
hauntingly beautiful short stories in The Turning, a cleverly structured omnibus film
from acclaimed producer Robert Connolly. Other directors on board The Turning
include Benedict Andrews, Jonathan auf der Heide, Tony Ayres, Shaun Gladwell,
Rhys Graham, Ian Meadows, Yaron Lifschitz, Claire McCarthy, Ashlee Page and
Stephen Page.

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Cameraman kills earless bunny

An earless baby bunny that was a rising star on Germany’s celebrity animal scene had his 15 minutes of fame brought to an abrupt end when he was accidentally stepped on by a television cameraman.

The fate of 17-day-old Til, a rabbit with a genetic defect, was plastered across German newspapers on Thursday, the same day a small zoo in Saxony was to have presented him to the world at a press conference.

The cameraman told Bild newspaper he had not seen Til, who had buried himself in hay, when he took the fateful step backwards on Wednesday.

Til was reportedly hidden under hay when he was stepped on.Til was reportedly hidden under hay when he was stepped on. Photo: AP

Zoo director Uwe Dempewolf told Spiegel magazine that Til did not suffer.

“We are all shocked. During the filming, the cameraman took a step back and trod on the bunny.

“He was immediately dead, he didn’t suffer. It was a direct hit. No one could have foreseen this. Everyone here is upset. The cameraman was distraught.”

Spiegel Online reported that the rabbit’s body would be frozen while zoo officials decided if it would be stuffed.

Germany has been home to several global animal celebrities in recent years, including polar bear Knut and Paul the prognosticating octopus.

AP and smh.com.au

ScreenAus’s optimism not shared by ADG

Australian documentary makers are struggling to make a living and are losing the
grip of their rights to their own intellectual property, Kingston Anderson, general
manager of Australian Directors Guild told the Australian International
Documentary Conference in Adelaide yesterday.

The comments came after Ruth Harley, Screen Australia CEO on Tuesday told the
conference as a keynote speaker, the value of documentary production was the
highest on record to date and driven by more hours of high production value series.

In Tuesday’s address, Harley said: “It’s been a great year for documentaries with 430
hours of Australian documentary projects made in 2010/11 and a total of $133
million spent on documentary production. This is above the $118 million five-year
average for documentary production.”

Anderson’s point was backed by an ADG survey which showed that the income levels
of documentary makers have declined further in the last 12 months, from 55.5% of
2011 respondents earning less than $45,000 compared to 58.6% of respondents in
2010 earning less than $60,000 per annum. This is below the average Australian
wage for August 2011 of $68,700.

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Britain enters a golden era of the short film

According to Sarah Morrison of The Independent, Britain is entering a golden era of the short film. Apparently the medium has moved out of art houses and into the mainstream as its popularity soars.

Charlie Chaplin built a career on them, and brands are now using them to sell their
latest products. The short film, once a slightly marginal staple of art houses and film
buffs, is experiencing a golden era in Britain and is reportedly reaching wider
audiences than ever before.

Advances in film-making technology and the growth of the internet are behind the
rise, experts say, but their popularity is down to more than digital progress. The
short film, with its capacity to convey ideas concisely, is capturing the mood of an
increasingly time-pressed, information-hungry generation.

Briony Hanson, director of film at the British Council, said we are at a “watershed
moment” when it comes to the proliferation of “perfect little vessels that tell a story
in their own right”. “We are looking at a golden era in Britain,” she said. “Just over
20 per cent of shorts in the total Sundance [Film Festival] selection were UK-made in
2012, while last year, the figure was 6 per cent.”

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Screen Australia’s 30 Favourite Australian Love Stories

Screen Australia posted a list of ‘Favourite Australian Love Stories’ in honour of Valantine’s Day on their YouTube Channel.

It’s interesting as it is sometimes said that Australia doesn’t make ‘romantic comedies,’ yet SA has come up with a list of 30. However Muriel’s Wedding is the first, and it doesn’t have a ‘man and woman’ scenario unless you figure the two lead women are the romantic couple!

The top ten:

1. Muriel’s Wedding
2. Australia
3. Samson & Delilah
4. A Few Best Men
5. Crocodile Dundee
6. Crocodile Dundee II
7. Any Questions for Ben?
8. The Man From Snowy River
9. The Delinquents
10. We of the Never Never

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