The Brag

Creative Sydney Day 3: Behind the Screens

In Arts, Creative Sydney on June 1, 2009 at 11:08 am

Behind the Screens

Presented in association with Sydney Film Festival and Metro Screen.
Friday May 29, 8pm – 9pm

Behind the Screens IMG_0001With: Host – Jay Katz (Mu-Meson Archives), Ian Cope (Rising Sun Pictures), Mat Taylor & Mark Simpson (sixty40), Brad Hayward (Scorched), Ben Briand and Basil Hogios (Cherub Pictures), Deborah Szapiro (The Good Fight), Andy Nehl (Zapruder’s Other Films ‘Project Next’), Phil Lloyd and Trent O’Donnell (Review with Myles Barlow on ABC2)

Jay Katz from Mu-Meson Archives hosted a series of practitioners in the filmmaking biz – from advertising wunderkids sixty40, to webisode producer Brad Hayward, visual effects guru Ian Cope, from Rising Sun Pictures, and television producer Andy Nehl, behind The Chaser’s War on Everything series, and Project Next on ABC TV.

Each panelist was given a chance to talk about how they broke into the industry, what they think the secret of good filmmaking is, and some personal anecdotes of epic fails!

Brad Hayward talks about epic fails and getting his first pic of the ground.

Brad Hayward talks about epic fails and getting his first pic of the ground.

In particular, I thanked Creative Sydney for giving us the chance to hear Brad Hayward, the auteur behind the Emmy Award-winning Scorched, talk about his harrowing process for getting his first film, Occasional Course Language (1998), off the ground. You can read this story below, if you are interested!

Andy Nehl talked about the Race Around the World and Project Next models of production, which break the tradition of “it’s who you know”, and instead choose unknowns with talent, training a group of young people to be media makers. His emphasis was on teaching collaboration and team work.

Producer Deborah Szapiro talks about The Good Fight.

Producer Deborah Szapiro talks about The Good Fight.

Deb Szapiro, producer of Jabe Babe: A Heightened Life, talked about producing as matchmaking. As a creative producer, she talked about an interest in mentoring. Her latest film, The Good Fight (still in post production phase) was brought to her by editing assistant Penny Wilkinson, who wanted to direct this documentary about real people wanting to be super heroes. As producers, Ian Walker and Szapiro mentored Penny through the process.

Ian Cope, from Rising Sun Pictures, talked in some detail about the visual effects used on Baz Luhrmann’s Australia. His most interesting insight was Luhrmann’s approach to filmmaking, which completely rejects realism in favour of manufacturing the shot composition that directly delivers his message and symbolism. You can decide for yourself whether or not that works, but it was an interesting observation.

The boys behind: Review with Myles Barlow

The boys behind: Review with Myles Barlow

Phil Lloyd and Trent O’Donnell (Review with Myles Barlow on ABC2) talked about starting off at Bathurst uni together, where a late night incident at a party gave birth to the concept for their television series. After a drunk Lloyd reviewed a vomit stain on a bed, the two became fixated on the idea of a short interstitial TV series with a fictional reviewer (Myles Barlow) who reviews many of life’s most painful experiences. For example, Lying.

No one was interested in the idea, so the two shot a pilot on Mini DV themselves, of live footage intercut with Myles Barlow green-screened onto a television studio – the result was a pilot that looked more expensive than it was. Having a pilot readymade pushed their pitch across the line at the ABC – it helped that the timing coincided with the launch of ABC2. The two are now awaiting approval for their second series of Review.

Mat Taylor & Mark Simpson from sixty40.

Mat Taylor & Mark Simpson from sixty40.

And finally: the boys from sixty40 (that would be 60% commercial work, and 40% fun) talked about meeting each other at an internet start-up company (they wouldn’t name names), and forming a creative partnership that takes in everything from commercials film clips. Pure fun, pure creativity. Although their flickering film clip for Warp Records’ artist Harmonic 313, shot stereoscopically, almost gave me a panic attack.

Brad was a singer-songwriter, who decided to take a desk job after many years gigging around Sydney, and realising he wasn’t going to be the next Bono. However, when the creative fires refused to be quenched, he decided to give film a go. He took himself off to the AFTRS library on a regular basis, where he gradually worked his way through their film books – not to mention their library if films.

With this basic book-learned idea of filmmaking, he set out over one long weekend to write a script. Once Occasional Course Language was written, Hayward put a notice up at AFTRS for volunteer crew – at this stage he didn’t know anyone there, not being a student. He put an ad in the Sydney Morning Herald for cast, and was stunned when 2000 randoms turned up for the audition – from strippers to fire-eaters.

When Hayward’s application to the NSW FTO’s Young Filmmakers Fund was rejected, he took his $20K-worth of savings, and shot the film on Super 16 film. He couldn’t afford to process rushes, so they shot “blind” – never able to see which footage had worked, and which hadn’t.

When the YFF rejected his application for funding to get the film stock telecined, he did the rounds of production houses looking for favours. Eventually, Lemac, who he had hired his gear from (and paid punctually!) fronted the costs of telecine.

But Brad still had no editor. He went out hunting again, looking for favours. Hans Pomeranz, CEO of Spectrum Films (production house) put him in touch with editor Simon Martin, who had cut Children of the Revolution (1996) – and more recently edited Acolytes. Unfortunately, however, the funding bodies still didn’t want to fund the post production of the film.

A production house – I wish I could remember who! – finally offered Hayward and Martin a certain period of editing (during which time, at the same post facility, Gillian Armstrong and Peter Weir were also cutting films!), and the film was cut.

The final piece of the puzzle was finding a distributor. Now, I can’t do Hayward justice by recounting the details of how he found one – it involved a game of bluff, a very clever one where he faxed comments by different distributors to a bunch of other ones, manufacturing a “buzz” about his film. Finally Alan Finny at Roadshow called with an offer of $1 million.

Hayward paid his cast and crew. The film released at the box office during Christmas 1998, and took approximately $1 million – not bad even by current standards! Hayward was offered a 3-picture deal – and the basically never worked again. Some months later, he found himself back working in a bottle shop, with no film career. What Went Wrong? – he asked himself.

His message was: “Persevere. Have faith in yourself.” Hayward went on to write and edit Channel Nine’s all-media series Scorched, which won the International Digital Emmy® Award for Digital Programs.


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