Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Melbourne Underground Film Festival

The Melbourne Underground Film Festival is currently about to be projected into our hemisphere and Blogsphere again this upcoming September (20Th to the 30Th) and as always it looks to represent the cutting corners and limbo budget makers of cinema. Once again I have a short one minuter screening, 60 Second Relief in the same rhythm as The Film that John Lennon couldn't make, which with its 54 second duration has turned into a micro-epic way before Mel Brooks and John Waters were panning other mediums to transform their cult classics. I'm considering turning it into a stage-play but am having some effort determining whether or not I want to make it a musical.

I wanted to introduce this Underground Filmmaking Blog by featuring an interview I had with Richard Wolstencroft taken from my old Blog where it featured on the 13Th of May last year. In a way it is interesting to see how he's travelling with his new film and the direction that MUFF is taking this year - it appears that many of his conceptual ideas about the festival are refining and materialising in the way that the festival promotes itself.

More on Muff as the festival draws closer, I would like to encourage readers to submit any reviews of screenings they have attended also that can be posted on this Blog.


Here I go, stepping into the interviewer's shoes, ones that never quite fit so well. Hearing my own voice rattling away on a tape recorder, I really can't stand the sound of my own voice and don't know how other people endure it - I guess because I throw it around a lot, they just have to.

Richard Wolstencroft and I met at a long-standing cafe on Brunswick St, "Mario’s" - when I first came to Melbourne it was one of the first joints in Melbourne I took caffeine at, and remember seeing Red Simmons there, a celebrity hang-out I thought, but years later it would be the occasional break-fast dumping grounds for boozed up morning jaunts after the pub had shut. I sat down, grabbed myself a coffee, the coffee is never hot enough in Melbourne, I guess people like to slam it down fast, but when you've only got enough money for one coffee and you know you could be waiting for half an hour, you want a hot coffee to sip slowly - ever so.

Gees I loathe Brunswick St I thought sitting there watching the parker wearing, half-bearded tranced out men and the bangled badge fastened cargo set, and the moon rimmed shade dread-locked and two half smoking studded shredded haired crew, and the drowned rodent haired tight Jeaned rock boy swaggering just off the front cover of Rolling Stone but gathering moss fast as the new wave factory fashion velvets strut stuff just any old stuff anywhere and everywhere ... and sigh ... but I have to be here to conduct an interview and that is all that matters. Give me the jingling eyes of a Turkish mingle on the half-empty pavements of Sydney rd any day.

Richard arrives ... every Richard I have come across has had that air of self-lingering, a kind of studied repose, and although Richard darted up to me, he still had that sense of needing a purpose and getting a job figured quickly about him ... that's why I fumbled at first to set the mood and direction of the interview, that's what Rupert’s are like.

Rupert – How do you see film practitioners approaching filmmaking between struggles of underground and commercial distribution and screening exposure?

Richard – The underground thing at MUFF does not mean uncommercial necessarily, we support underground filmmakers who if given a large amount of money would never make a commercial film, but a lot of the filmmakers we support if they were given the right amount of money could make huge blockbusters not unlike "Wolfcreek", and one of the original filmmakers James Wan went to America and made "Saw", he made the film "Stygian" in MUFF one, first one took close to a hundred million and the second one took over a hundred million. These films could easily be made in this country.

Rupert - An AFC representative who gave a talk couldn't understand why "The Hard Word" wasn't more successful.

Richard - When you’re given such a poor selection of films you tend to over-rate the one's that are half decent.

Rupert - Do we have a lack of independent producers here?

Richard - Well, going into the AFC or Film Victoria feels like your going into Centrelink rather then going into a place that is dynamic and happening, it seems to be a lot of fat women just sitting around having committee meetings about what's popular whilst these people have no idea what could fit into the market place. It's this policy of filmmaking by committee, it should be run by a dynamic set of producers who have access to government funds and a lot of savvy who can find the talented filmmakers whether they come through MIFF, whether they come through Tropfest, or MUFF who have very broad minds, who can see talent, who can find talent and say "Hey, what do you want to do next?".

Rupert - There doesn't seem to be any nurturing of the talent here.

Richard - Yeah, James Wan, when he made "Stygian", they should have said, "What do you want to do next? Here's a million bucks". This could have happened with a number of Australian filmmakers from Mark Savage, Shannon Young; these filmmakers need to be fostered and grown.

Rupert - How did you fund "Pearls before swine"?

Richard - I was running The Hellfire Club (bondage club in the nineties), so I made a lot of money out of that, part self financed, and another chap financed it with me. It's been doing quite well, we just sold out of the first U.S release of it, sold out of the first print run, and it has finally made a profit. Now it's all gold from now on basically. We've only released it in Europe, Scandinavia, which covers Europe in a way, and America. It's never been released in this country. Because no distributor wanted to release it.

Rupert - Not even Madman?

Richard - Not even Madman, I've taken it to them, but you never know I should take it back; maybe they will change their mind.

Rupert - How are you planning on financing your next film?

Richard - I'm raising the financing independently. I'm probably going to pursue the same route that The Magician went, shoot it low-budget and then attempt to get back end financing based on the quality of the work, so I believe this next film I make will have a more commercial quality as compared to "Pearls before swine", which is a pretty reprehensible film from most angles. I can see why they wouldn't like that. This one will be more marketable and I think have a quite strong presence in the market place. We'll shoot it low budget and if we can get some back-end financing we'll go that way and if we can't we'll just continue making it in the low budget way, and I'll do what I did with Pearls, just release it independently worldwide.

Rupert – As a filmmaker do you feel you are having a successful run of Pearls?

Richard - It was difficult to start with, we made it close to ten years ago. We finished it in '99 and it went to about five international film festivals but wouldn't play at the Melbourne International, that's why I started MUFF which has distracted me from making another feature for the past five or six years. I'd love to be more prolific. I've just finished a film clip for the band Snog, which should play on Rage in a couple of weeks which should be good. So I do film clips every now and again, TV commercials.

Rupert – Henry Miller wrote “The only law which is really lived up to whole-heartedly and with a vengeance is the law of conformity”, do you agree with that?

Richard - Yes.

Rupert - Underground Film Festivals have the tendency to become “dance” festivals, merely taking the slightly more interesting work that the mainstream wont or can’t carry. Is there a subconscious threat that MUFF will take the same road or are the organisers aware of this?

Richard - We're never going to tone done what we do at MUFF. We've offended people in different ways along the years, but we're equal opportunity offenders if you know what I mean. We hate everybody equally know what I mean. We do hate everybody. We are definitely a misanthropic film festival.

Rupert - Tom DiCillo states that there isn’t any difference from the indpendents and Hollywood anymore.

Richard - Well not the American independent scene that goes through Sundance.

Rupert - Where do you see the industry? Is it even an industry?

Richard - Australia has a very poor industry. I was attempting to suggest things to do about it, so have many others, last years manifesto (MUFF) was written with me by a number of people who work in the industry, and it was generally said, yeah, this is basically what's wrong with the industry, most people were in agreement, and absolutely no action was taken upon it, it just goes to show we are in for another twenty-years of dull filmmaking unless despite the industry a few independent filmmakers can surmount the industry with some successful films that work both here and internationally. "Wolfcreek" is a start, I think.

Rupert - But they've been saying this for about 30 years now, that it's "just around the corner".

Richard - Well in the seventies the film industry was pretty good, pretty healthy, and in the eighties it began to die off because there was a lot of talent that was stolen by America and they stopped coming back here to make films at least some of the time, and between '85 - 90 and all the rise of post-modern thinking, and all that crap, it seems like this regime of left-wing bores had taken over the film industry and are no longer interested even in the kind of films that worked in the seventies. Films like Mad Max, Breaker Morant, Gallipoli, great films like that. It was mediocrity from then on, and occasionally you would have a film that would step outside that but not very often. In twenty years there is Romper Stomper, Chopper, Red Ball, The Magician, they are only really the good films in twenty-five years, and that's a despicable state of affairs considering we make about thirty films a year.

Rupert – So who are your influences as a filmmaker?

Richard – When I started off I was very much into horror and genre filmmaking.

Rupert – Money?

Richard – Not so much as a ticket to film festival, so much as a grant, I’ve never received a government grant.

Rupert – Even ten thousand dollars would do wouldn’t it?

Richard – Of course it would. Any amount of help and money. If you want to be a filmmaker you’ve got to come begging to these people, fill out these stupid forms.

Rupert – Fifty pages worth.

Richard - It’s like buying a house. If you’re any kind of rebel who hates paper work, forget about it.

Rupert – If you don’t include a staple on your application you don’t get funding.

Richard – Exactly.

Rupert – They are crying out for new material but as soon as they get a look in or someone approaches them personally, saying “Hey look, take a look at this, what do you think about this? Ten thousand bucks is nothing when you contribute fifty thousand dollars to something plain Jane wouldn’t even make”? But they only want to know afterwards when the public has made the decision they like the film. That’s the good thing about MUFF in my view, at least in that way you are communicating directly with the public and there is none of this hopsacking around juries that are made up of the cinema variation on the Wiggles.

Richard – Very true, very true, sorry state of affairs.

Rupert – A filmmaker that I’m working with at the moment in an acting capacity, Anna Brownfield for instance, who makes more explicit material, but writes really well and has loads of talent would find it a struggle I imagine.

Richard – Yeah, she won best film last year “The Money Shot”.

Rupert – Her new film ‘The Band” …

Richard – Is it a porno?

Rupert – Well it is, its adult filmmaking targeted more towards women and couples.

Richard – Is it finished?

Rupert – It’s still in pre-production.

Richard – She’s good. Now there’s a good female filmmaker. She’s doing something different y’know what I mean. We play porn films at MUFF, we manage to fly them in under the radar, that’s one of the things we love to do. We got in trouble for having that poster with the woman bending over spanking her own arse, I went to Amsterdam and I saw this poster, very similar to the one we did, advertising a theatre company called “Tam Tam” and my girlfriend and I thought this is the best, and then I thought I got to do this for MUFF. I went and spoke to the theatre company and they said they got double the audience because of it, I thought this is great, we’ll do it, and the reaction in Australia was “how can you do that? How can you do that”? Give me break. We’ve moved beyond feminism, we’re post-feminism now, women are allowed to like pornography; they are allowed to like sadomasochism, if they are that way. If they are not, they are not. If they are lesbian, if they are straight, if they are into S&M good luck to them, you know what I mean?

Rupert – Finally, when’s the deadline for MUFF?

Richard – Well, I’ve extended it until the 26th, we pretty much do the catalogue after the 26th. Alright Rupert, good stuff, thank-you, I’ll fix up the drinks, good to talk to you. Feel free to publish it where it you like, y’know …

Rupert – I’ll um, I bought a coffee … Richard here’s three dollars for my coffee

Richard – Alright Rupert, seeya!

There I left with Richard off to tackle head-on, sideways, and perhaps even underground any nodding off when thinking about the filmmaking process.

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