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IF Magazine

  • 'Lion' director Garth Davis is among the Aussie invited to join AMPAS.

    Joel Edgerton, Chris Hemsworth, Margot Robbie, Rebel Wilson, Garth Davis, Cate Shortland, Jocelyn Moorhouse and Eva Orner are among more than two dozen Australians who have been invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).

    Tanna’s Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, writers John Collee (Tanna, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) and Luke Davies (Lion), film editors Alexandre de Franceschi (Lion) and Tania Michel Nehme (Tanna), make-up artists and hairstylists Shane Thomas (The Dressmaker, Hacksaw Ridge), Rick Findlater (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), and Kerry Warn (The Great Gatsby) are also admitted into the Oscars body.

    Other Aussie invitees include designer Beverley Dunn (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales), sound designers Peter Grace (Hacksaw Ridge), Robert Mackenzie (Hacksaw Ridge) Guntis Sics (Kong: Skull Island) and Andy Wright (Hacksaw Ridge), visual effects designer Jason Billington (Deepwater Horizon) and composersŒNick Cave and Warren Ellis (Hell or High Water) and Lisa Gerrard (2.22,ŒJane Got a Gun).

    A record 774 invitations were issued to new members, up from 683 in 2016 and 322 in 2015, as the Academy strives to diversify its ranks by bringing in more women, people of colour and filmmakers from around the world.

    The list, which represents talent from 57 countries, is 39 percent female and 30 percent people of colour. Seven of the Academy branchesŒ—Œactors, casting directors, costume designers, documentary, executives and film editorsŒ—Œinvited more women than men.

    The ages range from Elle Fanning at 19 to showbiz legend Betty White, who is 95.

    “It is a huge honour to be invited to join this organisation alongside outstanding filmmakers from around the world,” Eva Orner, who won an Academy Award for best feature documentary in 2008 for Taxi to the Dark Side, shared with Alex Gibney, told IF.

    Orner, who won a daytime Emmy this year for Out of Iraq, is in Melbourne shooting a short documentary/commercial project, title under wraps, which will be launched in September.

    Sunstar Entertainment’s Andrew Fraser, who was an executive producer on Lion, said of Garth Davis’ invite, “What a fitting honour for a creative genius.”

    Among the actors admitted are Chris Evans, Adam Driver, Riz Ahmed, Domhnall Gleeson, Dwayne Johnson, Kristen Stewart, the newly crowned Wonder Woman Gal Gadot and Guardians of the Galaxy's Chris Pratt. Œ

    The executives include Shari Redstone, vice chair of the board of directors of Viacom and CBS, IM Global founder Stuart Ford and FilmNation founder Glen Basner.

    The directors branch welcomed Moonlight's Barry Jenkins, Nocturnal Animals' Tom Ford, German helmer Fatih Akin (In the Fade), Chilean-born Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo) and South Korea's Kim Ki-duk (3-Iron), among others.

  • '2.22'.Œ

    Director Paul Currie’s 2.22, a romantic thriller starring Teresa Palmer, Game of Thrones’ Michiel Huisman and Sam Reid, launches in Italy, the Middle East and a bunch of Asian markets on Thursday, followed by the US on Friday.

    Italy will be the widest release as distributor Notorious Pictures has booked 600 screens for the saga of Huisman’s Dylan, an air traffic controller in New York who nearly causes a fatal mid- air collision at the stroke of 2:22.

    In the US the film will get a limited theatrical release combined with premium VOD via Magnolia Pictures. The UK and France are the only major territories as yet unsold.

    After arranging test screenings in Los Angeles Currie, who co-wrote the screenplay with American Todd Stein, told IF, “We know the film plays well with date audiences. It is a commercial romantic thriller with a recurring theme of love through time.”

    Sales agent Good Universe sold the title to leading distributors including Germany’s Universum, eOne for Benelux and Kino Films in Japan. Vision Film Entertainment acquired the rights for China. The Australian distributor Icon has yet to firm a release date.

    The plot follows Dylan as he forced to go on leave and meets and soon falls in love with Palmer’s character Sarah, who coincidentally was one of the passengers on the plane. To his horror Dylan realizes the same patterns in his life are recurring every day.Œ

    Reid plays Jonas, a New York-based artist who is an ex-boyfriend of Sarah’s. The cast includes Richard Davies as a fellow air traffic controller, John Waters as Dylan’s boss, Maeve Dermody as his ex-girlfriend, Kerry Armstrong and Remy Hii.

    Visual effects houses Cutting Edge, Cumulus and Plural were hired to recreate JFK airport and Grand Central Station. The DoP is David Eggby.

    The soundtrack with music composed by Lisa Gerrard and Daniel Johns plus licensed tracks is being released worldwide by Varèse Sarabande.

    Huisman’s credits include World War Z and the TV series Treme, Nashville and Orphan Black. Palmer's recent slate includes Cate Shortland’s Berlin Syndrome, Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and John Hillcoat’s Triple 9.

    Currie’s Lightstream Pictures produced with Wild Eddie’s Jodi Matterson, Walk the Walk Entertainment’s Steve Hutensky and Icon’s Bruce Davey. The EPs are Bill Mechanic, Todd Wagner, Ben Cosgrove, Jackie O’Sullivan, Stein, Garrett Kelleher, Charlie O’Carroll and David Whealy.

    Currie was one of the producers alongside Mechanic on Hacksaw Ridge. A big fan of the US producer, Currie said, “My career would not be where it is today without Bill’s teaching and mentoring.”

  • 'Patient 71' by Julie Randall.Œ

    When Sydney woman Julie Randall was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and told she did not have long to live just days after celebrating her 50th birthday, she embarked on the fight of her life.

    Her remarkable story of survival against the odds is chronicled in her book Patient 71, published this week by Hachette.

    Sunstar Entertainment’s Andrew Fraser and Shahen Mekertichian, the executive producers of Lion, have optioned the book and are highly encouraged by the initial responses to the project from Hollywood studios, producers, agents and financiers.

    “A story like Julie’s needs to be told,” said Fraser, who engineered the publishing deal with Hachette and has collaborated with 60 Minutes reporter Allison Langdon for a segment which will air on the Nine Network on July 2.

    Fraser has a close relationship with Hachette, which published Sunstar client Jessica Watson’s best-selling book True Spirit, the teenager’s account of her solo, around-the-world sailing adventure.

    The Sunstar duo optioned their client Saroo Brierley’s memoir which was published by Penguin and became the inspiration for Garth Davis’ Lion.

    Back in 2012, Randall suffered a sudden and severe seizure at work and was rushed to hospital where it was discovered she had a malignant brain tumour: Stage 4 metastatic advanced melanoma.

    Refusing to give up hope, she learned of an experimental drug trial being conducted at the Providence Cancer Centre in Portland, Oregon. The hospital told her there was only room for 70 patients per year and the numbers were full.

    Undeterred, she flew to Portland and became patient 71 after friends helped her and her husband Scott raise $20,000 to cover the medical insurance costs in the U.S. The trial in 2013 was free, involving doses of Opdivo (Nivolumab), an immuno-oncology treatment which uses the body’s natural defences to fight cancer.

    Six months later every single cancer cell in her body had gone.

    Fraser met Julie four years ago at the charity event to raise funds for her and her sister Michelle, who had also had cancer. He has particular empathy for both women after successfully being treated for a malignant tumour in his neck three year ago.

    A huge admirer of Julie, he said, “She never gave up hope. If that had happened to a less-driven person she would be gone.”

    Fraser and Mekertichian pitched the project in Hollywood before and after the Oscars and they said it got a lot of traction. They have sent the book to several prospective screenwriters.

    Meanwhile they continue to develop a film based on Jessica Watson’s True Spirit, which has Sarah Spillane attached to direct.

  • Writer-director Amanda Hood in LA.Œ

    One of four recipients of the inaugural Metro Screen Fellowship, administered by the ADG, Amanda Hood travelled to Los Angeles in April to attend The Hollywood Field Trip where she pitched her projects to producers, managers, agents and executives.

    “We have water with lime, water with cucumber, or water with lime and cucumber. Which would you prefer?”

    And so, our “water bottle tour” of Los Angeles had begun. Five vetted filmmakers from around the world, armed with three projects each and a wonderfully enthusiastic guide in our host, Andrew Zinnes, we would spend the next five days pitching to Hollywood’s elite.

    Fourteen meetings were scheduled over five days with agents, managers, producers and executives, as well as with working directors and screenwriters. The main goal was not to sell our scripts, but to establish relationships with these people, because in Hollywood, “all that matters is who you know and who knows you”. Talent is a given. And despite what the tabloids would have you believe, no one is an overnight success. It’s all about the long game.

    Establishing relationships in Hollywood is “kind of like dating”, a producer sitting next to me at a well-known Californian sushi place confided. “You meet up, you suss out the person and ask yourself a series of questions. ‘Can I trust this person? Can I see their commitment, their passion, their talent? Can I see us working together in years to come?’ If so, you jump into bed with them, or, more specifically in my case, option their script.”

    (The 2017 Hollywood Field Trip participants (l-r): Julian Roberts, Debbie Moon, Katharine McPhee, Amanda Hood and Ian Martin.)Œ

    The great thing about The Hollywood Field Trip is that you get to start these relationships in, as Andrew put it, ‘warm rooms’. Warm, as opposed to say, having an executive fall asleep halfway through your pitch or having a producer get out of their seat and walk straight out of the room — stories I heard first-hand from writers. Our rooms were so warm in fact, that most of the Hollywood pros asked to read our scripts, gave us feedback on our pitches and offered lengthy advice on career strategy and how to make it in Hollywood as outsiders.Œ

    And so, as a way of paying it forward to my fellow Aussie filmmakers, here’s a snippet of the most important things I learnt in L.A:

    1. There is no one way of making it in Hollywood; everyone has found a different way in. Your job as a filmmaker is to carve your own path, to keep going no matter what, to work on your craft every day and to keep the faith that your persistence and talent will pay off. And when you do get representation, don’t ever rest on your laurels. Keep expanding your network of producers, investors, other writers and directors, building your contacts from the ground up, because the majority of your paid work will come from nurturing these connections.

    2. When you’re starting out in Hollywood, it’s important you submit writing samples in the same genre. I was told this repeatedly on the trip, that people want to “know your brand”, to make it as easy as possible for managers and agents to “sell you” to the studios. “Oh Tina, yes, she’s that fantastic comedy writer.” “Oh George, he’s the expert on all things sci-fi.” If you want the industry to take you seriously, pick a genre and stick to it. Then, once you’ve had success, you can always cross over to other genres because now you have leverage.

    3. ‘Baby writers’, a term that was thrown around a lot in Los Angeles, are emerging writers (it has nothing to do with age). If you are a baby writer, the best way of breaking into Hollywood is to get represented by a good, ‘hungry’ manager, preferably one who has sold projects in the past, who has an ‘in’ with studios and producers — someone who will help you build your career and your craft.Œ

    4. In order to get a manager (and that in itself is no easy task), you must have at least three strong writing samples (TV pilots or feature films) in the same genre (see above), along with a kick-ass query letter. To find managers’ contact details, get a paid subscription to IMDB Pro. Being part of The Hollywood Field Trip meant we were able to bypass the query letter stage (where you are competing with thousands of other screenwriters) for those we met, because it got us in the same room as talented reps whom, after hearing our pitches, wanted to read our work. Œ

    5. Living in LA is optional, to a point. Some reps were adamant; “You’ve got toŒbe here to take meetings because most jobs come up at the last minute.” Other reps told us they like working with writers and directors who live abroad because “They offer a fresh perspective. But they must be willing to come to LA for meetings 2-3 times per year.” ŒAfter hearing the pros and cons, my opinion is this: when you’ve spent enough time working on your craft and you have at least three solid scripts under your belt, only then should you think about moving to LA. In the meantime, it’s far cheaper to work on your scripts/short films from home, with access to cheap or free rent and the support of loved ones.Œ

    All in all, the Hollywood Field Trip was an incredible opportunity to learn about the business, to learn how to behave in a Hollywood meeting and to practice pitching to industry heavyweights. But perhaps the best part of all was getting to know the other extraordinarily talented filmmakers on my trip as we roared up the 405 highway in our eight seater mini-van, sharing hotdogs, jokes and stories about home.

    For anyone interested in taking part in the Hollywood Field Trip, the program runs twice a year in April and October. I highly recommend it, but make sure you have at least three finished scripts and a willingness to learn how the business works.

    And finally, I’d like to express my utmost gratitude to the generosity of the Australian Director’s Guild and Metro Screen for sending me on this career-defining trip to Los Angeles. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • 'Hounds of Love'.

    Writer-director Ben Young is back in Australia for a short break and Q&A screenings of his debut feature 'Hounds of Love' after wrapping principal photography in Serbia on Universal’s sci-fi feature 'Extinction', which stars Michael Peña and Lizzy Caplan. IF puts some questions to him.

    Hounds of Love has had rave reviews since the premiere at the Venice Film Festival and has been invited to screen at 30 film festivals around the world. But the film is only playing on six screens here and has grossed about $130,000. ŒWere you hoping for more or is that the best you could expect with a limited release?

    It’s done very well on a per-screen average but the disappointing thing is that it is not an easy film to find. People read a review or they see a media spot on TV and think they would like to see it and they look at the big cinemas’ websites and it’s not there so they forget about it. It’s pretty much what I expected. Australian films don’t have a tradition of doing incredibly well in their own country, which is a shame.

    Congratulations on the AWGIE Award nomination for best original feature film. You are up against Hacksaw Ridge. How do you rate your chances?

    If I was a betting man I think it would be about 1,000 to one against me.Œ

    Sometimes the underdog gets up, so the odds may not be that long.

    I have seen Hacksaw Ridge and it’s a very fine film. Just to be nominated against that is a huge honour and privilege.

    You wrote the role of the female lead in Hounds of Love for Emma Booth but she turned it down and then only accepted at the very last minute. What happened?

    I wasn’t very happy about that because Emma has been one of my best friends for about 20 years. Her agent talked her around but by then we had a list of great people we were considering so we asked her to test for it and she genuinely won it.

    Playing a serial killer was quite a departure for Stephen Curry, who is one of Australia’s funniest actors. Why him?

    One of my favourite films is One Hour Photo where Robin Williams takes a very dark turn. It is so much creepier in so many ways when a comedic actor makes a dark choice. It made a lot of sense because I had one big doubt, ‘What if the audience doesn’t buy that Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) gets in the car with this couple?’ So I thought who in Australia would not get into a car with Stephen Curry?

    The violence in the film prompted some walk-outs. You expected that?

    I knew some people would react. I saw Snowtown in a general session and some people walked out. In some ways what we suggested was even more confronting. If you don’t know what it is before you buy the ticket that’s a bit strange.

    You just finished shooting Extinction, the saga of a guy who tries to save his family from an alien invasion. ŒHow did you get the gig?

    The day after the Venice premiere my phone exploded. I ended up with a fantastic agent in UTA and management in LA in Thruline. ŒUTA organised two or three private screenings to which they invited Hollywood big wigs. I got a bunch of offers and Extinction was one of the scripts in which I saw the most potential. The producers liked where I wanted to take the draft and I did have some dramatic ideas about the changes I was fairly insistent would happen. We were all on the same page and it all happened really quickly.

    How did you handle the transition from an ultra-low budget Australian film to a studio feature which cost $US20 million?

    The filmmaking process is exactly the same but it’s just a lot bigger. There are nine producers and there were more assistants on the set than the entire crew of Hounds of Love. You are a lot more supported because they have a lot more money. ŒThe biggest learning curve for me was that it is not my film. It is a product that I am being employed to make with the idea of making someone some money one day. It felt somewhere between directing Hounds of Love and directing a television commercial. Dealing with the studio was a lot easier than I expected.Œ

    But you got your own way on the film you wanted to make?

    It’s 90 per cent there. There were some things they would not let me do but that was fine and there were other things they did let me do. I was working with really smart producers who had strong arguments as to why. ŒBut we did have a three and a half hour phone call about whether Michael Peña should have his sleeves rolled up or down. That’s the nature of working in America.

    You will do post on Extinction in L.A. Is that your base now?

    I have a two-year visa so I will be there until Christmas but I will definitely be back for Christmas. There is a film I want to do with an Australian production company in Victoria next year. ŒI am talking to a big American company about a one-for-you, one-for-me deal where they would finance a smaller idea of mine if I did a bigger idea of theirs. ŒIt’s a matter of going wherever the people I can work with are. I have to hope that people continue to want to work with me. It can all happen for you overnight and go away overnight. Œ

    Q&A events

    SYDNEY - Friday 23 June at 6.30pm at Dendy Newtown

    MELBOURNE - Saturday 24 June, 4.15pm at Cinema Nova

    PERTH Œ- Sunday 25 June, 4.50pm at Luna Leederville