The Dark Dreamer
‘Everyone has a talent, what is rare is the courage to follow that talent to the dark place that it leads’ – Erica Jong.
My life’s creative work, films, plays, performance and novels, espouse my firm belief, that all of us must undertake a journey of darkness and horror, to find the truth about life and ourselves and only then, can we truly appreciate beauty.
I began my dark dream from an early age, making Super 8mm films before video cameras, mobile phones and the internet. Some 100 short films later and after graduating from Swinburne Institute’s prestigious School of Film & Television with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, I embarked on the next stage of a lifelong pursuit of creative exploration and excellence.
Along the way, I realised that money and fame were not my gods, they are however, essential constructs to be embraced and governed if I am to continue creating. This led me to study the business of creativity. What drives me principally and personally though, is the work.
Now, with a body of critically acclaimed projects and solid achievement under my belt, including multi-award winning feature films, theatre, performance and written work, I have come, arguably, to my most challenging project to date – the shocking, true story of The Port Arthur Massacre.
WASP – The Port Arthur Massacre will be my stone cold, calling card to the world. It will not be a coke and popcorn movie. At the movie’s dark heart though, is the search for truth and a genuine desire to ease the torment of all those the tragedy reached out for, struck down or left standing in its wake. In this, WASP is as much your film as it is mine.
Since the movie’s announcement, thousands have risen in support, mostly, haunted, staunch defenders of the truth, with a need to lance this festering boil, so they can finally heal and move on. Like me, all they want are answers, answers that 23 years on, are still found wanting. This is why your support and voice is so vital. If it were any other movie, this need would not be so compelling.
Art & business do mix
With movies, there is an old saying. ‘It’s show business, not show show’
I am an artist and story teller, but the nature of the cinematic beast decrees that I also be an accomplished businessman. Movies are about money and no matter what movie you wish to make, as my late film lecturer said, ‘It’s all about bums on seats’
To do justice to the film, to you, my supporters and to all those who pay their hard earned money at the box office, it is my job to marry my artistic aspirations with a sound, business minded attitude. This, to put the money on the big screen where it belongs, sell the movie hard and return a profit to those whose gods are money and success. In this, thankfully, I have 25 hard-earned years of experience and entertainment business acumen.
These are essential skills to possess if I am tell the story of Port Arthur, attract worldwide audiences and in doing so, bring an understanding of the tragedy to as many people as possible.
So, the challenge. To raise enough money to make and sell WASP, but to be realistic, respectful and fiscally responsible enough to get the movie done on time, under budget, with a minimum of compromise and with a firm grasp on the commercial viability of the project. For this reason, I feel WASP can be realized with a modest budget, enough to cast and shoot the film well, but with a overall production that is restrained enough to reach and hopefully exceed, the high expectations of the concept. The optimum budget goal for WASP is $3,000,000 AUD. I can do the movie for less, but this amount is the premium goal.
*NOTE – The production has a full film business plan for investors who wish to back above and beyond the crowdfunding campaign. Please contact the production at the [email protected], with formal expressions of interest.
The selling plan
Movie wise, distributors will always tell you it’s a flooded market, what they won’t tell you is that the market is always hungry for new product. Theatrical releases are geared mostly to tent-pole, Hollywood blockbusters, the DVD market is going the way of the Dodo and the legion of new Video On Demand gatekeepers, Disney+, Itunes, Amazon, Hulu and Netflix, to name a few, are steadily eclipsing their Hollywood studio competition. So how do we sell our dark, little nugget of a movie in this burgeoning, home tech, heavy climate?
The devil is in the detail, but in essence, this is how;
Firstly, Star power. We engage celebrity cast, with international appeal, in pivotal, but supporting roles – this keeps their shoot days and fees to a minimum, but helps the movie tap into a wider, audience demographic. To this end, a sizeable proportion of the budget (1.2 million) is earmarked for name casting.
We hire a fresh, new, powerhouse talent to play Martin Bryant, creating a young, bankable star to introduce to the world, with the focus being on solid acting and award winning portrayals (we did this successfully with ‘Razor Eaters’ (2004) winning Best Actor awards for our Aussie unknowns in the US and helping launch their careers)
We keep the production tight, with a small crew, studio sets, where you can pre-light and film 24/7 rain, hail or shine – (the production already owns a full, green screen studio) We make the movie big in concept and lastly, but most importantly, we set aside a decent amount of the budget to market the movie.
The few, big production value days (large scale action sequences, court scenes, FX etc) will be filmed within achievable time frames, utilizing existing use of resources. As part of the production team for example, Firestorm Entertainment incorporates a fully licensed, pyrotechnic effects and armory business – Firestorm FX. We also have our own green screen studio and full complement of film equipment. This will save the production thousands in costs, whilst providing high production value. (visit www.firestormfxaustralia.com & www.procamservicesaustralia.com)
Often neglected in the movie making process, is an adequate budget for marketing and promotion, as from a purely business perspective, it’s 10% the art and 90% the hype, This is principally why a lot of quality Australian films don’t impact the local and international box office and go on to make enough profit to galvanize our local film industry. The marketing budget alone for WASP is $500,000.
Movies must however, stand on their own merits, ensure repeat screenings and engender strong word of mouth. This is how you achieve cult movie status. Some of our home grown classics didn’t do that well at the box office, but are still popular and selling decades later.
Since my announcement to make WASP, there has been extensive media coverage, fierce debate and a growing supporter base on the movie’s facebook page (see attached media page and visit www.facebook.com/waspthemovie/)
With WASP, I feel it is important to release the film, in a respectful and culturally appropriate manner, but with the goal of bringing the film to as many people as possible. It is therefore important to pursue a theatrical season in Australia, followed by extensive festival exposure and subsequent worldwide release. No mean feat, but not impossible if the film has strong commercial appeal.
To achieve worldwide theatrical and ancillary release, the production is currently negotiating with reputable exhibitors, distributors and worldwide sales agents, to help release WASP to Australia and the rest of the world, in a solid, commercially supportive manner. We’ve crunched the numbers and only need to capture 5% of Australia’s cinemas nationwide, for a two week season, to double the budget. (request the WASP business plan)
In addition, the production is entitled to the Australian government’s Producer Tax Offset, which guarantees a 40% return on qualifying expenditure for films, provided we raise a minimum budget of $500,000 and the movie is completed. This is great incentive for investors and helps mitigate risk, as $1.2 million is returned to the production on completion.
To this end, we are actively seeking international co-production involvement as the AUD is currently favorable to many foreign currencies (US, UK and Euro for example) Once again we have a full business plan for any interested, international parties (contact [email protected])
Finally, controversy. With independent films, controversy is king. WASP is the most dangerous movie to come out of Australia in years and the movie has already generated a lot of heat. By the time the film is released, there will be unprecedented debate and coverage.
The Wasp’s sting
As mentioned above, films can be modest in budget, provided the concept is big. The Port Arthur Massacre, as darkly tragic as it was, was a major event in Australian history, one that has until now, eluded cinematic depiction.
Not only did the massacre send shock waves around the world, but it eliciting the biggest upheaval in gun control in our nation’s history, the Port Arthur tragedy has today relevance, given the recent Christchurch tragedy and the ongoing, worldwide debate on guns, mental health support and rising crime.
It is no secret that the Port Arthur Massacre is shrouded in controversy, conspiracy and mystery. Despite what you’ve heard, there are many unresolved issues and unanswered questions and the desire by many to bury the event in the collective memory has not put these concerns to rest. They have instead, only fueled debate and obsession regarding the circumstances of the crime. Though you may believe you know the full story of the Port Arthur Massacre, trust me, you don’t.
This does not mean the movie is an entirely conspiracy based film. WASP is based on the facts as far as they can be ascertained and in this, we’ve done our homework, but the film will ask the hard questions, depict the many anomalies, discrepancies and legal improprieties on public record and back up any controversial depiction of events with fact based research. There will also be an accompanying documentary that contains never before seen interviews with victims, police and whistleblowers.
As stated previously, WASP is your film, there for you to challenge, debate and assist in illuminating the murky depths of the tragedy. Personally, I feel that it is only with courageous exploration in the hard light of day, that we can deal with pain, bury the past and move on.
For yourself personally, you will gain the satisfaction of knowing you helped bring this vital story to life and illuminate this dark chapter in Australia’s history, that your voice was heard, your viewpoint respected and your need for truth, justice and closure, given full credence.
I don’t purport to have all the answers to The Port Arthur Massacre, but I guarantee, the movie will rip away the silence, make the powers that be very uncomfortable and open the floodgates on the debate for years to come.
Yes, we’ve done this before…
In 2003, Hybrid Films produced a like-minded, feature length drama to critical acclaim, multiple awards and also, to great controversy. ‘Razor Eaters’ (Moder/Levy/Young) was a tough, no holds barred, crime thriller. based on the true life exploits of Melbourne’s infamous ‘Hedge burners’ gang, who terrorised affluent suburbs in the early 1980’s, with a spree of Arson and wanton destruction. Type ‘Razor Eaters movie’ into your search engine or see the trailer at https://youtu.be/oayG-eRLphE
We embarked on the movie with a modest budget and a powerful acting lineup, professionally cast by Chameleon Casting, which permitted us access to a bank of young, upcoming, raw talent the likes of (Richard Cawthorne, Fletcher Humphrys, Angus Sampson, Teague Rook, Campbell Usher and Julie Eckersley)
Once again, the production was tight, but large in concept, upping the criminal antics of the gang to include high level, criminal actions, including murder and bombings.
The movie kicked up a storm of controversy, mainly due to the nature and scale of the depicted violence (explosions in the CBD at the height of the then, S11 protests, fully automatic weapons fire in the suburbs etc) We basically frightened the police to the point they tried to shut down the production, but after radio host Derryn Hinch and the press got involved, the film was completed and successfully released with the uncommon moniker ‘The film that launched a police investigation’ Needless to say, all was found to be legal, safe and above board, so the interference was unjustified, but from a marketing point of view, the resulting furor proved invaluable.
The movie opened the 2004 Melbourne Underground Film Festival to sell out crowds, necessitating additional screenings and ‘The Age’ reviewer Jim Shembri gave the film three stars and a solid review that pipped ‘Pearl Harbour’.
‘Razor Eaters’ then went on to international release via 20th Century Fox, in fifteen countries, garnering multiple awards, whilst four-walling theatrically at The Sun movie theatre, back home and selling out of all 3000 DVD units in JB Hifi stores across Australia.
‘Razor Eaters’ (see International Movie Database) has since achieved cult status, continues to sell and is about to be re-released on streaming and Bluray platforms both globally and internationally.
The tough stuff.
Making movies is damn hard, selling them, even harder. The market is ever changing and volatile, however the rampant growth in home internet based, technology has opened access to global markets previously difficult to reach and sell to via traditional distribution routes. As movies have become more polarized (mega budget Hollywood fare or low to medium budget films) the latitude for poorly devised production to appeal and sell, is consequently, much narrower.
Budgets must therefore be prioritized for commercially viable, casting choices, high production value achieved for less, and niche avenues exploited for optimum exposure, return viewings and ongoing, positive word of mouth.
The resistance to WASP is considerable, with the very real possibility that politics may work to hinder production and hostile elements within the authorities, media and general public that may attempt to undermine a harmonious production and subsequent release of the movie.
This is however, something I’m experienced with and know how to handle.
I adopt two salient attitudes when it comes to opposition to my film making endeavors, hard learnt on ‘Razor Eaters’ and over the many years of controversial motion picture and live entertainment that I have produced. They are simply these;
Be like a terrier on a rat, never let go and get the shot, no matter what.
When people ask me what a producer does, I tell them, ‘a Producer is the guy who when the director says, I want six red Porshes, says, you can have three green RX7’s, a second camera and a can of red paint’ In other words, make the most of what you’ve got, utilize the art of illusion and get the shot, no matter what.
I am always civil, reasoned and patient when it comes to the myriad of dramas that beset independent films, but you must have inner steel, resourcefulness and an innovative approach to problem solving. I also believe in hiring giants, enlisting the help of seasoned, ‘old school’ filmmakers and crews, who get the job done with a consummate professionalism and a calm, can do attitude.
I am media savvy, having experience over the years with the double edged sword that is the mainstream media and I talk police very well.
Other than that, WASP will be filmed with minimal fanfare in undisclosed locations and with a softly, softly approach. That is until it is time to launch the movie like a bicycle chain-wrapped fist to the face.
Having years of experience both in front of and behind the camera, amassing the contacts and knowledge to assist with a protracted and precarious sales campaign, my team and I are well placed to succeed with WASP on all fronts. I also like to say, a lot of people know how to stage a production, but not many know how to put on a show.
From the 11 years of trench warfare comedy, where I wrote, produced, directed and performed at Witches In Britches Theatre Restaurant, to the running of my own, award-winning, licensed restaurant, bar and show spot, Bohemia Cabaret Club, I learnt entertainment the hard way, on passion, hard work and spit and baling wire. In short, I know how to put on a show.
Over the many years appearing on both the small and big screen, to the carrying out of large scale pyrotechnics on all forms of production and from the demanding mistress that is creative writing, to the contractual, quasi-legal, paper mountain, required by all entertainment endeavors, I can confidently state, that my crew, have the stuff to make WASP one powerhouse and commercially successful movie.
By restraining expectations and being honest about the market, we won’t bite off more than we can chew and neither will our investors or you guys, our contributors.
It is not my intent to glorify this tragedy or to actively upset the public, particularly, the good people of Tasmania, the police, first responders, survivors and their loved ones. My job as a filmmaker, is to chronicle this historical event and treat it with all the honesty, maturity and respect I can muster. Steven Howard, who lost his young wife in the cafe, is a good friend of mine and supporter of the film. He has courageously decided to play a part in WASP and tell his story. The massacre may have occurred in a small part of our country, but WASP is for all of us. It is simply a story that must be told.
Spread the word
I need your help, in every way that you can. Every little bit helps, so spreading the word about our campaign on social media will be greatly appreciated as its momentum that gets the ball rolling. Thank you for your support in this, there are many more projects on the go, but WASP is not the movie I want to make, its the movie I have to make. See you at the premiere.