The Mackay Choral Society was established in 1947 as a post-war pick up for residents of the Mackay Community and now that I have finally seen them in full action, I can see how that ambition has came to pass because attending the rehearsal for their upcoming performance ‘Hear Us Sing’ last night was up-lifting in every possible way.
For those of you that are as unfamiliar with how the Mackay Choral Society works as I was, the first thing you need to know that not only does this very inclusive committee invite everyone in regardless of how much training they have (so there are no auditions as there are in some of the bigger city Choral groups) but that it’s open to all ages so amongst the dozens of singers that I saw last night, the youngest was aged just fourteen and the eldest eighty-two. I’ve been told that at least sixty percent of them cannot even read sheet music yet, but that doesn’t hold anyone back- their sound is powerful, precise and harmonious and their opening number was arranged in a way that was complex and overwhelming and made me appreciate the musical director Nicole Thomson, her accompanist Judith Brown and the choir on a whole other level. I spend a lot of time singing in an ensemble with local production companies and I’m always impressed when I can hold my part in a three-part harmony and I always think we sound pretty awesome- but now that I’ve seen what this collective can do, I am in awe of them.
The production itself, which is a showcase of the group songs that they intend on performing at the North Queensland Eisteddfod soon is short, sweet and professional. It’s not about the choreography or the individual in the spotlight or any of the trimmings- it is about making a beautiful sound using several different genres of music- sometimes with the entire group and sometimes with smaller groups, but every single time the end result was absolute perfection with clean entrances, exits and so much obvious joy and energy that it seemed barely contained at times. I had a giggle watching how much certain members of the choir got into it and watching Nicole conduct them was a production in its own merit because she looked like she was having more fun doing what she was doing than I have potentially ever had in my life doing anything and that was incredible to see.
I won’t go into a full review now, because I’ll write a more in-depth one for next Thursday’s edition of the Daily Mercury in my regular column in Pulse, but I’m glad to have the opportunity to give people a head’s up about this show in the hopes that it will encourage others to attend who aren’t planning on doing so already. Life feels pretty hard right now to so many people for so many reasons, and I would strongly recommend that everyone that has some free time this Sunday afternoon go see ‘Hear Us Sing’ at The Conservatorium of Music just because I can guarantee that you will walk out of there feeling amazing, sporting an ear to ear grin and feeling refreshed for the new working week. I am disappointed that I won’t be able to attend the real performance this coming Sunday, because I can only imagine how much more impressive the performance will seem when all of the stops are pulled out for the sake of showmanship, but I am so thankful to the Mackay Choral Society for sneaking me in for a a preview because the experience was not one to be missed no matter what your age or how into the performing arts you are.
Mackay Choral Society
‘Hear Us Sing’
North Queensland Eisteddfod 2018 Repertoire
Sunday March 25th 2018
Tickets $15 at the door
The Mackay Conservatorium Of Music
I just came from the Mackay Musical Comedy Players finale performance of Aladdin, and very much regret that I didn’t buy tickets earlier, because my kids missed out on a show that I know they would have loved.
Mackay has only done two pantomime performances in the last three years, starting with Cinderella in 2016 and now, Aladdin in 2017, and I hope they dust off another favourite fairytale again soon because it was an incredibly entertaining, tight and polished performance that had the children in the audience (and most of the adults) in stitches.
As pantomimes go, Aladdin was a somewhat skewed version of the fairytale made most memorable by the lovely folks of Disney, only the musical numbers had been plucked not from the Disney soundtrack, but from pop culture, which featured one of my favourite songs ‘Butterfly Kisses,’ that was broken up into three verses over the course of the production to show how the father/daughter dynamic between the king and Princess Jasmine had evolved. Every time one of those verses was sung by Greg Webb, the audience would have to have been made of stone not to well up a little because it’s a beautiful song to compliment a lovely story arc- one that has always been a favourite of mine because it’s not often that the king in any fairytale attempts to honour his daughter’s wishes to marry for love instead of wealth.
Mind you, the dynamic between the couples was the only part of the show that was moving- the rest of it was all about the puns and one-liners that you come to expect from a script like that, but the laughs were cranked up a few notches with a few physical comedy gags that were hilarious and impressive, including putting one of the leads through a human-sized washer/dryer/ press system. It was a very eclectic cast- featuring teeny-tiny baby-faced characters and local theatre veterans, and though everyone gave it 150%, I have to admit that the stand-outs for me were Chanelle Redgwell as The Slave Of the Ring ( I swear her ever-moving hands put me into a trance-like state a few times), Regan Walker as Wishee Washee, and Ken Brown as Widow Twankey because you could not take your eyes off them for a second when they were onstage. I’d never seen Princess Jasmine (Jacinta Geisler) perform before and thought her voice was the sweetest thing that I’ve heard in a while, and all of the other featured leads were as professional and polished as they always are, proving what a strong spine the MMCP has built for itself over the years through hard work and voluntary service, and once again, how bloody talented the kids of Mackay are thanks to the opportunities provided by our abundance of dance schools.
It’s usually pretty hard for me to take a pantomime seriously, but I should have known that Director Sue Dalton would have pulled out all of the stops with aplomb and honestly, the attention to detail was so spot on that the show looked as though it had had the same budget as the MMCP’s larger shows have every year thanks to the colourful, glittery costumes and the technically-perfect choreography that was performed by the student dance chorus (Courtesy of Tahlia Kelly). The background music was limited to a piano (played by musical director Jennifer Bee) and there weren’t any microphones, and yet the actors projected beautifully so that nothing was lost in translation. The sets were minimal, and yet Widow Twankey’s shabby-chic OMO laundry gown was so avant-garde that not only was is a set unto itself, but it could probably be auctioned off for The Melbourne Cup this year as a means of funding 2019’s line-up, so a standing ovation to Vicky Bobeldyk and her team of costumers and stylists for that alone! And like the kids in the audience weren’t having enough fun as it was, the cast took a few opportunities to heave candy into the audience. Naturally, I wasn’t surprised to overhear a small child begging their mother to go and see it again straight afterwards!
Bravo to every member of the cast and the production team, for Aladdin, and to the MMCP for a stellar start to their 2018 theatre calendar!
Don’t miss out like I did, book your tickets to their next, hot production, ‘Rock Of Ages’ now!
And The Eurobeat Goes On
Mackay Musical Comedy Players
Magpies Sporting Club
Last night I got to attend the final performance of the Mackay Musical Comedy Players production: And The Eurobeat Goes On, and I walked away not only impressed, but also with a sore face from laughing so much. I’ve been to and in a lot of MMCP’s theatre restaurants in the past so I thought I knew what to expect, but Eurobeat had a format unlike any of the others and because they were in a new venue with a cast that was very different from their typical theatre restaurant line up, it felt like a whole new experience entirely.
Modeled off the Eurovision song contests, Eurobeat is a competition showing several performances from people representing different European countries performing for audience votes via an app. As talented as Eurovision performers always are, there are always those one or two acts that are completely off the wall in the hokey, Japanese Gameshow sense and Eurobeat is almost completely filled with these kind of obscure performances that are delivered with wild, glitzy costumes and crazy back up dancers. I knew that the format of the show was going to be something like that, but I had no idea that the songs featured were going to be random originals written to suit the theme and some of the lyrics had me in absolute stitches, as did the accompanying choreography. The singers featured all have lovely voices under normal circumstances, but musicality was clearly at the bottom of the priority list for this one and I just laughed and laughed as these seasoned performers quite literally let it go for the sake of characterization so that they could screech, swoon and ‘schalp’ their way through these hilarious routines that presented as parodies of Bjork, Daft Punk and Abba. Obviously there were some lovely solos, (I think everyone collectively heaved a sigh of relief during Marina Duncan, Sue Dalton and Josh Duncan’s numbers) but the entire production was about entertainment and that was what we got.
Every single performance had something incredibly special to offer, but the highlights for me personally were Vianne Conroy representing Iceland (who went on to win last night, much to my delight) Andrew Deguara singing about beer while representing a jolly German, and the keyboard number from Lichtenstein that didn’t have any singing at all- simply featuring a handful of futuristic characters ‘playing’ the keyboards, swinging cats for special effects and somehow maintaining straight faces all the while. I was almost on the floor laughing during the song from Reyn and Shein from the UK due to the hilarious filmclip that played behind them and I don’t know if that was in the script or something that was made up for the production but it was absolutely brilliant and the perfect parody of any lovey-dovey filmclip there’s ever been.
But I have to say, as glittery and blinding as the entire production was, it was the stunning performance of Vicky Bobeldyk who played Boyka, the hostess from Bosnia that really made my night. You hear the words ‘Triple Threat’ get thrown around a lot in this business but Vicky is a quintet threat because on top of her mad skills as a singer, dancer and an actress, she is strikingly beautiful and a talented director herself, so she always throws 150% of herself into whatever it is she’s involved in. Vicky had the only dialogue in the show, and quick changed from one flamboyant outfit to another between acts so that she could introduce each new entrant with aplomb. Her accent and characterization was dead on and there wasn’t a single person in the audience that could take their eyes off her- which is saying a lot because sometimes the glare coming off her outfit in the spotlight was borderline painful.
It was an absolutely glittering spectacle from start to finish, delivered flawlessly thanks to the amazing production team including Tonia Beckman, Elaine Power and Tim Philips and they and the whole cast deserved the thunderous applause they got, especilly for the set and stage layout which was again, atypical o anything the MMCP usually does. The backdrops were all technical- a montage of lights and montages set off with just one roaming stage light and it gave the whole show a genuine telescast feeling.
Well done to all involved, because that was an amazing start to the Mackay Musical Comedy Players 2018 season. Make sure you keep your eye out for tickets to Rock Of Ages in May, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (which will be directed by Vicky Bobeldyk) next year! #mmcp
Last Friday afternoon I had the pleasure of going to see ‘Make This Script,’ which was a collaborative project between Savvy Scripts and Joel Bow Productions, and I had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised with what an unpretentious and moving production it was.
The idea behind ‘Make This Script’ was that a handful or local artists- performing and non, would take a short script that had been penned by local writer Michaela Boyd, and adapt and translate it via their chosen mediums with local producer/actor Joel Bow choreographing it all together.
The original script, titled “The Red Giant” was a simple scene that centered around two people having a rather complicated discussion. One is battling depression and attempting to explain how it feels, while the other is trying to listen, understand and empathize despite the fact that they have not experienced the affliction themselves. I thought it was a very clever script that used simple but poetic language to vocalize complex thoughts and feelings that are traditionally too overwhelming to escape an individual’s internal dialogue and are therefor often kept locked up tightly within a stream of consciousness. Though the performance of this scene was not intended to be the sole focus of the production it was the catalyst that brought it all together and actors Ethan McCarthy, Pagan Camilleri and Erin Finlay handled it beautifully, focusing a spotlight on themselves and what they were saying. The actors clearly understood what they were trying to say well, but they read from paper scripts because that was the author’s intention- to make it clear that this one scene was just the beginning of her desire to explore (and have others explore) this subject, so she wanted an open and non-finalized feel to it. This is a very unusual sort of practice but it definitely had its charms- one that seemed perfectly compatible with the venue, Paxton’s warehouse.
As expected, the theme of “The Red Giant” was echoed in other mediums throughout the hour-long presentation. As you entered Paxton’s you were treated to a display of art titled ‘Articles’ that Holy Spirit College students had contributed, and once the performers had finished “The Reg Giant” local singer/songwriter Tate Obst treated us to a beautiful performance of one of his original songs as local dance star Taylor Hayes danced along ethereally to it with a routine that she had choreographed to compliment it. Then, to conclude the production, Michaela Boyd recited an original poem that she had written that was as funny as it was moving, articulating her personal feelings regarding depression in a way that made it easier to understand.
All of the performances were causal but perfectly delivered and despite the fact that the central theme was depression, the production was devoid of any gloomy feelings or emotionally weighty shadows. The hour flew by in what felt like minutes. I was glad that I had gone along to see these amazingly talented artists and I know that that was a sentiment shared by everyone in attendance. Well done to all involved, and I look forward to a repeat performance next year.
Written by Bill Macllwraith
Directed by Vicky Bobledyk
Beaconsfield State School
Show Dates November 17th and 18th 2017
Tickets available at https://www.trybooking.com/RNST
$25 Concession Students/Pensioners.
Let me set the stage for you- though I cannot imagine how I could possibly hope to describe the set in question while hoping to do is an ounce of justice…
Tonight I walked into Beaconsfield State Primary School’s hall and found myself not in the same place I visit for my daughter’s assembles, but in someone’s living from days gone by. It wasn’t just a set but an absolute masterpiece that fell somewhere between a doll’s house and Nanna’s cottage and it was divine- easy on the eye, comfortable, cozy and immaculate. It did not creak or bow in the wind- it was as professionally constructed as a film set would be in any movie studio. The lighting was also perfect- complimenting the set perfectly because there wasn’t a single dark corner or stray shadow, and as I sat in my seat and took it all in, my first thought was that it was quite possibly the best set I have ever seen. I was amazed that anyone would go to so much trouble for a three-act play, but eventually I understood that the set was as vital to the performance as any other element was because it guaranteed that not a single word or expression was lost to the audience. I do not know if this was all of one person’s doing or a massive team effort, but it was worth every second because I could have been at The MECC. Then, as though I wasn’t already wowed enough, Jennifer Bee then came out and opened the show by singing a beautiful old tune in a beautiful young voice that got the atmosphere to exactly where it needed to be- something peaceful that was about to be fragment.
The Anniversary is a quiet story. It’s not a musical, it’s not full of over the top characters, it’s not saying anything that hasn’t been said before and it’s not full of crazy twists and turns that will leave the audience breathless- but it is a damned good story that is packed full of emotional triggers that are bound to resonate with every audience member and I hung onto every single word from start to finish because every single one of them mattered in some way. The writing is hilarious as times and very moving at others, and the characters are utterly hopeless and completely endearing. I did not know that it had been produced as a movie before I went in, or that Kucom has performed it before, but it’s no surprise that they would choose to do it a second time because honestly, the storyline is as valid now as it would have been originally. It’s very similar in theme to the hit sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, and I would not be surprised if the creator behind that show was a fan of this play.
The premise is simple: a young man brings his pregnant girlfriend home to meet his mother on her wedding anniversary- one that the family celebrates annually despite the fact that the husband has been gone for some time. You get the feeling off the bat that this is not something that any of them are happy to do, and as the storyline rolls out it becomes apparent that the grieving widow is a bit of a demon who goes out of her way to control, manipulate and torture her grown children and their spouses into doing exactly what she wants them to do. All of them go in there knowing what to expect- all but the new girlfriend Shirley, portrayed by Samantha Attard, who has not been prepared for this visit or ‘test’ as her fiancé Tom calls it at all, at all. She is thrown into the deep end (‘Mum’s’ living room, where the entire show is set) and must do her darndest to not sink with the weight of this woman’s baggage weighing down on them all.
One by one the other members of the family make their entrances and introductions, and although at first every single one of them comes off as being charming in their own way, it’s not long before they’re at each other’s throats and with good reason because ‘Mum’ is an absolute terrorist who pits them against one another for the sole purpose of being the centre of attention. Usually I cannot go into detail about the cast of a show because there are too many, but The Anniversary has a very small cast so I am glad to be able to have the opportunity to mention them all, which I think is important because with the absence of scene changes, musical numbers and all of the other stuff I mentioned before, a show like this needs REAL acting to work and the cast delivered it fluidly.
Samantha Attard was great as Shirley, and she portrayed the role very well for someone who struck me as being very young. She had less dialogue than most of the others and most of her performance depended on her looking appropriately confounded by the people around her, and not once did she let that mask of what we now call ‘WTF?!’ fall. She was also a very clear speaker who did her best to imitate a cockney accent and project at the same time, and I don’t believe that that would have been an easy task because the dialogue she had isn’t very compatible (in my opinion) with that kind of accent because the words that Shirley has to speak are very polite and delicate- unlike the rest of the cast who had looser language to play with. That being said, Samantha still made it work and was an absolute vision and I don’t think there will be an audience member that is not on her side from the start. William Southwood’s portrayal of the un-loved and over-used son ‘Terry’ was also very reliant on a lot of looking lost or defeated one moment and desperate the next through body language, and he embodied this very articulately, jumping up one second to his mother’s beck and call then wilting the next in a very genuine way that made your heart twist for him. Once again I assume that William Southwood is very young and wouldn’t yet have had the chance to be so tortured by life, but he was authentic all the same and will win many hearts.
Zachary Trounson got the comedic relief role and he made me laugh every single time that he walked out onstage as ‘Uncle Henry’. He was like the big loveable, cross-dressing bear that everybody wants to strangle because he doesn’t realise how easy he has it, being that he’s mummy dearest’s favourite for absolutely NO reason. His projection was fantastic and I think 75% of his lines elicited a laugh from the private audience we had, and I appreciated the energy that he brought to the stage very much because he stole focus exactly as intended.
Tom Dray was quite stunning in his part and like with the first two, managed to come across as being ten years older than he actually is. I really liked what he did with his part and think it was perfectly suited to him, and appreciated how much he had going on that wasn’t necessarily scripted, from nervous tics to the way he held himself he was his character ‘Tom’ through and through. His character was perhaps one of the least likable ones, but he sold it in a way that reminded me of a used-car salesman from the 50’s, channelling a bit of Tom Draper from Mad Men. This is the third time that I’ve seen Tom play a straight (ish) character, and although he nails it every time, I would love to see him go for an off-the-wall role one day because I can see how seriously he takes his work and think he’s only just scratched the surface of what he is capable of.
That leaves me with the final two performers, Chloe Bloomfield and Bronwyn Grannall who played the tortured daughter-in-law and ‘Mum’ respectively, and what can I say but brava? Both women were absolutely stunning, and although I’ve come to expect nothing less of Bronwyn Grannall over the years who has a knack for picking parts that are PERFECT for her, Chloe surprised me by portraying a character who is nothing like her usual sweet self and knocked it out of the park. I could not take my eyes off ‘Karen’ the whole time and will say that she acted right down to her hair follicles. Honestly her character was so much fun and I could see Chloe having a ball with it, but not so much that she lost control of who she was portraying and what that poor woman must have been going through. And although Bronwyn might have had the task of playing the most frustrating human being on the face of the planet, she did so in a way that was nothing short of delightful. These two characters made the show fun and every sharp word they exchanged was perfectly delivered, and I’m sure anyone that is already a fan of The Anniversary will be relieved to see the most conflicted characters in such capable hands.
It’s important for me to point out that the show that I saw last night was a dress-rehearsal, and that it ran more smoothly than any actual performance that I have ever seen. I don’t know if there were lines dropped but if they were they were covered beautifully, and there were no other hitches that I noticed, from costuming to sound and lighting, everything ran as though it were being played to a packed audience and I know with director Vicky Bobeldyk at the helm there was probably no other option. The costumes were beautiful, and the hairstyles, especially as far as the ladies were concerned, were lovely. Not one detail was overlooked and I am actually sort of hoping that I’ll get the time this weekend to see it again, because if the cast could do that with no audience- I’d love to see how they go when they have an audience’s energy to feed off because for this production to be flawless, all they need to do now is relax into their roles. I took with me last night my niece who is visiting from Brisbane- she doesn’t get to go to the theatre much and I was worried that I was going to cement myself as daggy ol’ Aunty Sam by taking her to a three-act play, but she was giggling in delight from start to finish and had a wonderful time.
I am so grateful that this show was given to Vicky Bobeldyk because if this production gets the audience it deserves, it will prove that Kucom Theatre has what it takes to stick around for another seventy years. Five stars- and congratulations to all involved. This is definitely one of those shows where the audience members should read the program and get an idea of where credit is due so they know who to look out for in the future.
I have wanted to say my piece about gay marriage for a long time now. I have gone to post on Facebook or reply to ignorant comments a thousand times but refrained because something this important needs to be spoken about with a level head not steam coming out of ones ears.
Obviously, I agree with making marriage legal to EVERYONE. There really doesn’t need to be any differentiation between gay or heterosexual marriage, its just a piece of paper between two people that are promising to love each other forever. It should be that simple, it is that simple, and yet here we are.
I am a practising Catholic. I pray, attend church, send my children toa Catholic School and face challenging times with God in my mind and heart. I do not read the bible but did as a child and am certainly familiar with its teachings. The…
Red Giraffe Theatre It Takes Two: Songs In The Key Of Giraffe Dirty Martini’s Mackay August 27th, 2017.
Red Giraffe Theatre have only been established in Mackay since 2014/15, but they are already renowned for delivering first class productions and that was exactly what the audience of their latest cabaret act, It Takes Two: Songs In The Key Of Giraffe got for their ticket money this weekend- class all the way.
Anybody can put on a show, serve up a beer along with it and call it Cabaret, but to a more discerning audience, a lot more elements need to be present for a production to be defined as being a true cabaret experience and producers of Red Giraffe Theatre, Joel Bow and Tania Attard have a flair for serving up those qualities, silver-service style with aplomb and the confidence of two people that know everything there is to know about creating a smash. There’s a secretive, smoky mood that is ever present with their productions, and it does not matter if you’re in a warehouse, a church or a cocktail bar, if you’re going to see a Red Giraffe Theatre production you are in for a decadent experience, where the atmosphere is as on point as the production itself and the audience member is guaranteed to be taken on a slow, comfy and sensorially-gratifying ride.
Yes the co-owners of RGT know how to deliver glamour, but more importantly than that, their productions are built on a solid foundation of talent, and It Takes Two featured a line up of performers that are doing exactly what they were putting on this earth to do- sing. There were no props and no costumes, no sets and no pre-amble, just a series of incredible duets and trio acts performed not only by adults, but by children and teenagers that seemed as comfortable on stage by their seasoned cast-mates and did not seem even slightly out of place in the venue, Dirty Martini’s, which is a sophisticated cocktail bar. There was no obvious theme to the playlist because some of the songs were bluesy, some moody, some funny and some powerful, but the acts all flowed seamlessly into one another, leaving the audience wanting more and in awe not only of the performers, but of the accompanist Caireen Holt, who jumped from genre to genre without a beat being missed.
I could not have faulted one note, but certain moments took my breath away, for instance, Molly Gibbins and Molly Rosetto’s duet performance of ‘Let Me Be Your Star’ from the hit TV show Smash which was built up beautifully, and Tania Attard and Georgia Attard’s rendition of ‘Musical Theatre Boys,’ which had the audience giggling. Ashleigh Phillips sparkled onstage in every way that counted and sang with the poise of someone that’s been playing pro shows for years, and the featured pros in the show, Jason McCully, Regan Walker and Joel Bow put the audience at ease early in the production by giving us some incredible male harmonies. Apparently there was a microphone mishap in the opening number, but Danielle McCully and Karla Brechin’s lovely voices resonated so beautifully through the venue that someone actually had to bring that fact to my attention, and although this was the first time that I’d heard Kirsty Robertson sing, my jaw was on the flaw thanks to her vocal tone which can only be described as velveteen, and offered up a lovely contrast to Bethany Ellefson’s infallible Broadway belt during their duet, ‘I will never leave you.’
Unfortunately, I couldn’t possibly hope to highlight every single worthy performer without writing an essay instead of a review, but it goes without saying that every name on the cast list of It Takes Two has the talent necessary to become a household name, so make sure you book a ticket to Red Giraffe Theatre’s next show because it is bound, as always, to be chock-full of stars in the making.
This week I was incredibly fortunate to get to chat with Kiah-Roache Turner, one half of the fascinating Roache-Turner team responsible for the Aussie Zombie-Apocalypse cult classic, Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead. Here’s what writer/director/producer Kiah had to say aboutmaking and directing movies here in Australia, being an Indie fimmaker in a competitive market, colloborating with loved ones and about the short that they have just released for Daemon Runner, which already has fans chomping at the bit for another demonic hit!
I, along with almost fifty thousand other people have been hooked by the short for Daemon Runner in your head. How flushed out is the concept for a feature-length film?
It’s not for a feature, it’s just something experimental that we did because we’re filmmakers and we don’t want to sit around twiddling our thumbs between features. It’s a great way to get ideas out there- see how they hit and if they get an audience, but I don’t get to decide what kind of films we make any more. I spent my life savings to make Wyrmwood, so now I have to rely on a studio to give me a green light before I do anything.
So whether or not Daemon Runner gets made into a movie is up to the fans. If we can get a few million hits then it’s definitely something that could be taken seriously, but we need fans to share it and like it and get it out there before we can proceed any further.
So there’s no Daemon Runner release date? That’s a shame. I guess because you released a trailer for Wyrmwood first, your fans are kind of hoping that Daemon Runner the movie is an imminent release too.
No. When we did the first original teaser for Wyrmwood back in 2010, that was originally supposed to be the opening scene for Wyrmwood. But it ended up just being a stand-alone short instead of the opening scene because it changed so much as we went along.
But Wyrmwood was definitely a different thing, we always knew we we were going to make that and we didn’t care how long it was going to take, we were going to make it. And it’s similar with the Wyrmwood TV Teaser that came out a couple of months ago because we are 150,000% ready to go on the TV series too. I just finished the pilot a couple of months ago, we’ve got an amazing series viable, we’ve got the entire first season mapped out in hyper detail so we know exactly what we’re going to do with that. We’re literally just now taking meetings with people trying to find the right collaborators and trying to find the right home for it. As soon as someone says they want to make it with us and finance it, we’re ready. If someone gave me the money I’d have the Wyrmwood TV series started in a couple of months- it’s that simple.
What’s the biggest difference with making the short now that you’ve had a successful production?
The major difference with the Wyrmwood short and the original film is that we’re better at what we do now. The Wyrmwood thing was over three and a half years ago, we’ve developed a great relationship with Screen Australia so they’ve given us great backing. Thanks to them we’ve been able to afford a proper crew, and it’s so nice to be able to work with a proper gaffer and grip and focus pullers who know what they’re doing and all of that kind of stuff because it makes a huge difference. On this one we had proper production designers as opposed to just me and my brother and his friends sort of banging together whatever props we could get our hands on, we actually had very talented young production designers and art directors and costume designers working on these ones so they look better. (Laughs) I mean last time we were shooting in our mum’s backyard with some mates and my dad’s over there with a camera and he’s literally never held a camera before so the difference was pretty vast and I think you can tell. The style in which these two last shorts were made show a bit more of maturity and a lot more of the shots are in focus, quite frankly.
Are you afraid of losing anything now that the process is less organic? Wyrmwood’s got a cult following because your style hit some good notes with people. Are you afraid that by going completely professional, some of the elements that helped make your last film so appealing will fall to the wayside?
No. Because we’re still dealing with such small amount of money that we’re still classified as being very, very independent. Besides no one gets to alter our vision for these shorts so they’re still 100% our own. It’s an interesting question though- we’re working on a couple of features right now that have gone through an intense script-editing process, with 14, 15 drafts of these things being sifted through the producers, so it’ll be interesting to see what it does change. I think the writing’s gotten a lot better, but I do believe that when you’ve got so many contributors, the original work does get a little bit watered down because you can’t get away with the insane, crazy non-sensical stuff that people loved your original work for. But at the same time, the writing improves so there’s a little more sheen to it.
Indie filmmakers need to find a balance between being professional and following our crazy, artsy instincts and if we can, they’ll turn out like Christopher Nolan. But if we can’t, you just sort of become a slave to the man like certain directors… who shall remain nameless.
This conversation has the ‘Rent’ soundtrack playing in my head now…
That’s what the film industry is about though- it’s where art meets commerce. If you just want to be an artist- be a writer. Be a painter, be a blogger because you’re the boss and that’s fantastic. But if you want to be a filmmaker, you need one thousand people minimum and you need to pay them all and you can’t afford it because unless daddy’s a billionaire you’re going to have to rely on corporations and corporations need to make money. There are very few artists out there that get to just do what they want and get paid six million dollars to do it, so being a filmmaker is about learning to compromise without losing your integrity or your vision. That’s the game, and it’ll be interesting to see if I can pull it off. I don’t know if I can, but I think I have what it takes.
I’m sure you’ve been asked this a million times, but when and how did you realise that you wanted to be a filmmaker? Or was it about writing?
No, no, I find writing really difficult. Writing is my least favourite part because it is the hardest. Most aspects of filmmaking come natural to me, you know? Photography and storyboards are easy, and I know that I have a general and genuine affinity for art direction and color palettes because I’m a real arty bastard.
But writing oh my god! You’re a writer Sam and it’s so hard. There are no rules. My favourite quote of all time was by Robert Downey Senior, and it’s a funny, eclectic quote and although not everybody gets it, I think it’s brilliant. He said: ‘Everyone can act, most people can direct and no one can write,’ and I agree with that in a general way. Good writing is so bloody hard, but filmmaking is about story telling so you just have to learn how to write, or you’re really going to struggle to tell a story of your own.
But to answer your question, you’re right because I do get asked that all the time, and it’s funny because there’s no easy way to answer it because it’s like going up to a horse and saying: ‘So what made you a horse?’ I’m a filmmaker. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved everything about filmmaking- it’s like a language that I recognised immediately that I could speak immediately so I don’t really know how to explain it better than that, or to express how much I love it or why in words. I’d have to do an interpretive dance or something…
What was the first movie you saw?
I can’t remember. I was trying to remember that the other day but it probably would have been something random like The Rescuers or some other sort of obscure cartoon. (Laughs). Maybe The Ten Commandments from a bassinet. But I was lucky when I was a kid, I had a mother that took me to see unusual films- art films you know? Sometimes they were three hours long and in Swedish so I count myself as lucky to have had that kind of influence.
How important do you think further education is to becoming a filmmaker?
I started out doing a communications degree, but I worked out very quickly that I was going off course a bit. I wanted to be a filmmaker but I was learning to be a journalist, so I only lasted like five weeks before I left. I tried to get into AFTRS like twice and didn’t get in because they’re very hard to get into, so I ended up going to Sydney College Of the Arts and did a digital media degree, then I ended up doing a film course there and another year of honors. It’s very art based there, so I was training to be a visual artist as opposed to filmmaker, and so that was interesting because I wasn’t just learning filmmaking but how to sculpt and paint etcetera. In fact, a very small part of the degree revolved around filmmaking. But I’m really glad I did that degree, because it gives me a different perspective on stuff and helps me approach filmmaking as an artist.
Then I went and worked for six years for a fashion company filming what was basically advertising, and that gave me another view of things because I went from art to marketing and deadlines and getting my ass kicked. My life was like a mixture of The Devil Wears Prada and Zoolander because I was doing mostly male model stuff. (Laughs).
It was a really good combination for me, but to answer your question about whether or not you need to get degrees to be a filmmaker, fuck no you don’t. But what I will say is that it helps. If you aren’t an amazing genius talent that can just do it then it really helps you get grounded because not only does it teach you he ABC’s of your craft, but the history of your craft too. It’s important, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
How does your creative process work? Do you sit down at your computer, go for a walk along the beach…?
Like I said, I find writing really difficult, and I don’t have an instinctive, spiritual-based relationship with it but a technical one, so I have to approach it like most people approach the gym. I tend to write the story structure with a partner, obviously usually with my brother, and I’ve been working on a feature with my wife and I really enjoy that collaborative aspect of it. Usually we come up with the concept and then we beat out the story on a series of whiteboards… we’ll write a treatment then take that to a script-editor and show it to as many people as I can, then I get notes back and we do it all again. We pay close attention to structure; is it a hero’s journey? A heroine’s journey? What’s our beginning, middle and end? What’s the message? It’s about making sure the story works from a technical point of view first, and then once the structure is watertight, I’ll sit down and write.
So you’d refer to your process as being methodical?
Oh yeah. And once I have that structured foundation, writing finally becomes a wonderful, transcendent experience for me, but only once I’ve made sure that all of the finer details have been checked and balanced first.
I’m actually sort of surprised to hear that, because when I was watching Wyrmwood, what really resonated with me was how creative and sort of deep the storyline went. It had all of the gore and the Aussie black humour was there, but the title of the film and the way the whole ‘Wyrmwood’ origin story was worked into it struck me as being not only incredibly creative, but sort of spiritual. I actually had you pegged as being a budding novelist, so I hope you take that as a compliment!
It’s a wonderful compliment actually thank you very much, and I don’t want to make the implication that I don’t connect with the writing because I don’t think you could write if you didn’t connect- I just get irritated with it because I know what my limits are. The stuff I write is definitely based on themes and ideas that are super important to me, like right deep down inside me, and I love poetry and the spoken word… but I guess I get so frustrated with writing because I WANT to be better at it. When I pick up a camera and do photography, I know what I’m doing and I know that I can be as good as most of the photographers that I love, and when I make films I can imitate these filmmakers that I love, and editing comes really easy for me too… but what I can’t do is pick up a pen and write like my favourite fucking novelists and it pisses me off. They’re at 10 and I’m at 2, and irritates the shit out of me.
I think you’re higher than 2! When I heard the title ‘Wyrmwood’ I was like ‘What is that?’ But then I heard the story behind it and it all clicked and I was like, okay, wow, that’s smarter than your average Chainsaw Massacre! I thought it was incredibly clever and creative, so was the film built upon that concept, or did that anecdote just sort of work its way into the zombie movie process?
Well, we knew that we were doing post-apocalyptic stuff and I do have a Catholic background, so death and resurrection and sacrifice and sin and demons all seem to be themes that pop up in a lot of my screenplays. I researched about the Wyrmwood star falling to earth and causing these massive plagues and I thought… yeah, it could cause a zombie plague, right? For years we thought about what to call the film and in the end I was just like: ‘Oh come on let’s just call it Wyrmwood,’ but I think all along we knew it was going to be called Wyrmwood anyway. It got frustrating though, because we used that as a working title for years, but Studio Canal who were or distributors said: ‘Look, you’re going to have to have a sub-title because people have no idea what Wyrmwood is,’ and I started to argue it about how eclectic and interesting it was, but they sort of said that they were good points from an artistic point of view, but at the end of the day, when the average person is searching for a Zombie Film, they’re gonna miss Wyrmwood,’ and that’s how the sub-heading ‘Road Of The Dead’ came to pass. And that is one of those times when compromising my artistic integrity for common sense really paid off for me because they were right.
Completely agreed. My own zombie novels are named after complicated medical terms like ‘Palpitations’ and ‘Sanguivorous’ and it wasn’t until I added a sub-Title “The Highway to Never After” that people even knew they were horror novels.
Exactly. Sometimes you’ve just got a give a little, and trust that other people know what they’re talking about. Some of my filmmaker friends inferred that I was selling out but I said that I wasn’t- it’s still my story and my vision- it’s just easier to find now for the people that are looking for it and don’t know it yet.
How much of your success do you credit to the fact that you are an Australian filmmaker?
None. I like being Australian, and I have a keen understanding of the thing that makes us special and wonderful and eclectic and those are things that help, but there are so many different cultures that have their own charms to offer. I can list the Australian elements that help: Having this wonderful landscape in the background of Wyrmwood certainly helped, the fact that Australia is the flavour of the month is great because we’re pretty popular with the rest of the world and come off as very neutral and easy-going, so that’s cool… but a Japanese Wyrmwood would be sifted through its own cultural sieve too and would have been great in its own way. In fact, I’d really like to see that film…
How did you and your brother come up with the concept of Wyrmwood?
I think we both knew it was going to be zombies all along, for budget reasons if nothing else. Dawn Of The Dead, by the recently departed George. A Romero (God bless his soul) was one of our favourite movies growing up, and if you deconstruct it you can see how plausible making a zombie movie is because really all you need is one location, a camera… and friends that don’t mind being sprayed with blood. We both were big Mad Max fans too so we loved not only the idea of armor, but the aesthetic that it provides having men all leather-clad out on the open road in a ruined world… it’s very cool and let’s face it if you’re in a situation when infected people can kill or turn you with a bite or a scratch, you’re going to want to be covered up, right? But the big break in terms of concept was when my brother came up with the idea of zombies letting off methane gas that the survivors could use to run their cars off. It was really cool and once he’d said it I was like, ‘Oh My God I would watch that film!’ I relaxed after that, because I knew we were onto something.
Well you had three big concepts in Wyrmwood didn’t you? The Methane Gas, The Wyrmwood story itself and the element with the one girl that can control the zombies. It’s definitely set you apart because a lot of horror films don’t go that deep.
Yes. Once he suggested that methane thing, I knew that I had to up the ante so that’s when I came up with idea of puppetting the zombie race with mind control. (Laughs). It was definitely time to step up.
They’re incredibly strong plot points combined. Do you have something similar in your pocket with Daemon Runner?
Well yes, you’ve got the demons that can possess you through the internet. Then the demon runners are an underground sect of people who basically collect and get rid of demons.
What do you think you and your brother each bring to the table that sets you apart from the other horror filmmakers?
Look I’m pretty pretentious and very cine-literate. I’m the arty guy that went to art school, and he trained as an electrician. We’re very different people but we were both brought up on the same things; aliens and comics etc, so we got the same kind of pop culture imprint, but one that was passed through very different filters. I guess he grounds my pretension, and he’s got this thing when he comes up with THE craziest ideas. In Daemon Runner it was his idea to print the demon up though a plasmic necro-portal, and not in a million ideas would I have thought of that and yet it’s the most original, visual thing in the film. Like I said before he came up with the zombie fuel idea and I would never have thought of that because it’s such a bizarre thing, and if you look at the Wyrmwood TV trailer, he came up with the idea of blending zombies so it comes up with this juice that you put in the back of people’s heads and I just wouldn’t have thought of that. They’re such extreme, bizarre and at first almost childish ideas and that’s part of his genius. He doesn’t overthink, he just has these crazy ideas, and almost inevitably my response is: ‘No, that would never work that’s stupid,’ but then I start thinking about it and I’m like: ‘Actually… I’ve never seen that before so let’s do it!’ So he brings a bizarre originality to it, and I bring the filmmaker/writer bollocks that you have to have. In the end we have a very dark and realistically treated nonsense-based film and that probably helps us sell to a broader spectrum. The critics walk away happy because we’ve taken the story-telling and technical elements seriously, and then the sixteen year old boys that are like: ‘Yeah! Zombies being blended!’
I’ve heard it said in another interview that Wyrmwood was never really a zombie movie to you because it was a monster movie. Is the same true for Daemon Runner, or is it an homage to a specific genre?
I don’t know I think I probably said that ages ago. I remember when Wyrmwood was coming out I kept referring to it as a monster movie because quite frankly, I think I was a little bit nervous and slightly ashamed about my pedigree, because zombies were kind of a lower class film genre at the time.
So that was you being pretentious?
(Laughs) Yes, I definitely think that was my pretentious art school roots coming through. But the more time I spent in the zombie world, the more I started to love it and the more I began to appreciate the genre for what it is. But do you know what’s interesting about zombies? They’re the newest kind of monster, especially as far as the modern concept of them goes because they’ve only been around since the 60’s or possibly the 50’s. There are other films that were technically zombie films that pre-date the ones we’re all familiar with, but they started as they are now with Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, and they’re still very much the new kid on the block. The Zombie genre communicates so much about our modern fears, like fear of the third world, over-population, cancer and contagion… it’s all very now and relatable, so it hits.
The Zombie genre communicates so much about our modern fears, like fear of the third world, over-population, cancer and contagion… it’s all very now and relatable, so it hits.
True, zombies and our fear of plagues etc resonate with us the way the movie Frankenstein once exploited our fear of science.
Exactly. There are so many different ways you can deconstruct zombie films, so I learned to stop worrying about how I was perceived and just embraced what I’d become a part of. Now, I’ve gotten with the program and I don’t even think about it or the use of the ‘Z’ word anymore. Wyrmwood is not a monster film, it’s a zombie film and I’m proud of it.
I watched the behind the scenes footage for Wyrmwood and was shocked by how hands-on you were and how hard you worked. Now that you’ve got a a bigger budget, do you think you’ll go on rolling up your sleeves for your films, or will you take more of a backseat?
I’ll definitely go on being as involved as I always have been because I don’t know any other way to do it. We have professionals production designers now that are willing and ready to do all the hard work and then present it to me, but I’m like: ‘Nah! I want to do it!’ I like getting my hands dirty, so I think we’ll always work the same way, though hopefully we’ll never have to work as hard as we did with Wyrmwood. 17 hour days are hard and we made that film in a burst of desperate energy, but you can’t smash your body like that forever. So as the budgets expand (and I certainly hope they do) I’d like to work less hard, but the spirit and passion that we made Wyrmwood with will always stay the same because we just love making films.
If the sky was the limit and you got to re-make one movie, what would it be?
There’s a lot of things I want to hey. One of my favourite writers is James Ellroy so I’d kill to be able to make White Jazz or do like a huge, hundred-million dollar T.V series based on American Tabloid, which is a great book… but that’s a secondary answer. My absolute answer would unquestionably be Stephen King, so I would love to do Firestarter or Salem’s Lot, and I would love to remake The Running Man how it was supposed to be and not with a weird, Day-Glo Arnold Schwartzenegger because oh my God it’s such a good little book. I’d love to do Neuromancer by William Gibson but again that would cost three hundred million dollars and it’s a bit obscure so it would be hard to make it work with a global audience because it’s a bit too smart for its own good.
If you could go back, what would you do differently with Wyrmwood?
Kind of nothing. It’s like saying what would you change about your child? It’s their imperfections that make you love them so much. I really like Wyrmwood, and I really like it’s flaws because those flaws are what taught me how to be a better filmmaker. I earned those flaws the way I earned my scars.
Agreed, I think the flaws actually added to its charms.
Exactly. Even some of the basic story plots like: ‘How the fuck did the soldiers know what was coming?’ They just knew and it’s never explained and its completely out there but I like that. I had so many people complain about that so I guess you could explain it as a story flaw, but I love the fact that we didn’t explain that. I’m a mildly-talented filmmaker and I think it’s entertaining watching mildly-talented filmmakers, because it’s kind of like watching a new dancer that almost falls over but doesn’t. It’s the fact that they get back up and keep going that makes their performance so interesting, because watching the recovery is more engrossing than watching them execute a perfect move.
I’m a mildly-talented filmmaker and I think it’s entertaining watching mildly-talented filmmakers, because it’s kind of like watching a new dancer that almost falls over but doesn’t. It’s the fact that they get back up and keep going that makes their performance so interesting, because watching the recovery is more engrossing than watching them execute a perfect move.
That was actually very eloquent. I think you need to be writing more than you think you do!
(Laughs) Well if I could write as well as I can talk, I’d probably be a decent screen-writer… but that’s the tricky part.
What do you think an actor in your movies needs to bring to the set in order to help tell your story?
Frankly, I don’t want to have to worry about what the actor’s bringing at all, so I suppose intelligence and an understanding of their craft is what appeals to me. I have explosions going off and limbs falling off and blood coagulating… the last thing I need to worry about is their performance, and if you are worried about it, you’ve probably cast wrong. I like them to show up knowing what they’re doing and prepared to do whatever it takes to bring this character into the world. And change it! I love it when an actor does something I’m not expecting.
You’ve mentioned to me in the past that you have a thing for theatre actors. Can we maybe expect a Wyrmwood musical one day?
I love the theatre- I go all the time and I’d love to write a play one day. I don’t see a musical happening because it’s not my forte but I’d definitely love to write a play. It’s terrifying to me though because it’s way out of my comfort zone.
What can fans of your productions do to help you make more movies? Obviously in Australia we’ve got smaller production companies, budgets and audiences, so we have to fight that much harder to get into the mainstream, so what can your most devoted fans do to help?
Watch and like and share the videos really, try to help us push it out there. Write to Netflix, write to Stan and try and drum up some interest for us. But at the end of the day, I think most of it is on my shoulders. It’s like a business so I have to go to meetings and make appointments and get the funding, but public interest definitely helps.
I’ll tell you what they can do- pay for the movies. Don’t download Wyrmwood because that doesn’t help anybody. If you love and respect a filmmaker, make sure that you pay for the content they make because piracy is really making it very, very difficult to get things green-lit these days.
I couldn’t agree more… but do you think that piracy helps get you an audience that may not have watched Wyrmwood if they’d had to pay for it?
Absolutely, and that’s why I try not to carry on about it because it definitely broadens our audience. If not for the internet then I probably wouldn’t have a career by now, but I don’t understand why art should be free, because it’s very difficult to create and I think we need to change that mind-set a little, and get the artists creating all of this stuff the respect that they’ve earned.
Thanks so much for reading! If you’d love to support the Roache-Turner brothers and catch their latest short for Daemon Runner, please click the link to their Facebook page now and get liking!
I’m still quite the ingenue when it comes to reviewing and when it comes to Jerry Seinfeld I’m a confirmed fan for life, so here’s what I have to say bout his performance in the Brisbane Arena, Boondall on Wednesday July 9th:
It was the best thing I’ve ever seen.
Quite a complex review, isn’t it? Well I’m sorry if I don’t have 300 paragraphs of yada yada for y’all, but Jerry was on from the moment he walked onstage, and I daresay he stayed good and on long after he walked off it. Hell, can’t you just imagine him in a coffin one day, arms folded, looking around and going: ‘What’s the deal with the air flow in these things?’ because he was born to do what he does and I’ve no doubt that he’ll die doing it and linger on afterwards as a sarcastic presence in the air.
I consider myself to be quite the collector of comedians. I’ve been watching them on DVD and live for years and I’m no stranger when it comes to the muffled-splat of jokes falling flat- the empathetic ‘You can do it’ titters that come from the most easily-amused fans in expectant crowds after a comedian has swung and missed. (Often, it’s me) I’ve even seen this happen to Jerry a few times over the years (‘Move the shoes, move the shoes, move the shoes…’ Yes please move the shoes to a segue and faster) and it’s something that you just expect to see at any comedy show. I still fast forward certain bits of Eddie Murphy Raw and Delerious because I have no idea what he’s talking about and don’t care to look into it.
But not at Jerry Seinfeld nope, he shot one-liners and multi-faceted paragraphs out like he’d swallowed a fully-loaded wit clip and used every laugh as the bolt that he slid back for the next. I was sitting between an elderly gentleman and a guy ten years younger than me and they laughed at everything as much as I did, and the laughs were so big that we ended up swaying back and forth and over one another in our squishy seats with no personal space bubble necerssary because we were all in this together.
He is just so good at this. The comedian that came out before him was amazing and I think a lot better than anyone expected. We were still laughing at his jokes when Jerry waltzed out but from the moment the veteran opened his mouth, you could see why we all paid the steep price to get that ticket and then be squished in together- Jerry Seinfeld is the best stand-up comedian in the world and I don’t think he’ll ever be surpassed. He could go on tour at 90, and there will be tens of thousand of people waiting to see him just as there are right now to hear what he has to say about adult diapers.
Sure I guess there were a few things that didn’t resonate quite as well with the Aussie crowd as it would have with a bunch of Americans, but anyone who can call themselves a fan of Seinfeld would have shown up knowing to expect that because as far as generation X is concerned- he was our go-to educator for American culture for a very long time. We know that sometimes US comedians are going to talk about shit that we don’t quite get, but the beautiful thing with Jerry is that once it’s out there, it’s everybody’s joke now and that’s exactly what happened the other night. The crowd showed up wanting to laugh and so they did- uproariously for an hour and ten minutes straight.
In fact if there was any issue with his act, it was the fact that he was too funny- too relevant and too damn slick. We all showed up with this excitement of finally seeing him again, of getting him to throw another scrap of amusement our way after waiting for so long, but once it was over and we were inching our way out (and I was wiping tears off from under my cheeks as I am right now) you could feel the reluctance to leave in the air. It was as long as any stand up act is, but devesatatingly short. There had been so many new wonderful jokes- but not nearly enough to hit the spot now that we’d remember what it was like to listen to him ramble on.
In fact, it sort of felt like having one cigarette after years of going cold turkey, and now I’m craving something that I just cannot get enough of. When Seinfeld was wrapping up, it was easy to come to terms with it because by that point, he’d offered his commentary on basically every aspect of the modern world and new voices were popping up everywhere- voices that sounded fresher and more inventive and might just have something to say that he couldn’t or didn’t want to say.
But that was before the internet took over the world, before Netflix, before Instagram and before, well, everything that pertains to our daily lives now. Seinfeld was about a bunch of middle-aged singles living in a crazy city, but Jerry’s a married man and father now doing the adulting thing (like me) and I’m desperate to know everything that he has to say on all of the above now that he has so much more material. I want him back on my screen, five times a week, saying the stuff that no one else has the balls to say or the intellect to articulate. I want to see whole episodes about political correctness, Trump, North Korea and text messaging. I want to know what he think about putting kids through school, keeping a marriage interesting after an extended period of time, Tinder and equal rights for gays.
Jerry Seinfeld offered up a lot of insight into how his mind works nowadays, but his mind works so beautifully and quickly (and still without cussing) that I don’t think there’s ever going to be enough that he can say or do that will make people okay with the fact that he doesn’t feel like doing it as much anymore, and so as he disappeared behind that curtain, I began to weep just like I did when Time Of Your Life rolled on the Seinfeld Chronicles.
Strange how a show about nothing can be everything.