Last night I went along to ACMI for the Melbourne premiere of Joseph Sims-Dennett and Josh Zammit's psychological horror film, OBSERVANCE.
I met Joseph in late 2014 while I was finishing up on MEAT and handing in the final assignments for my Master of Media Arts and Production at the University of Technology, Sydney. One night, I emerged from the UTS Communications building in search of food and coffee, and ran into a bunch of friends sitting outside a pub across the road. They'd just done the first read-through of another friend's no-budget feature film. Joseph and I got chatting and he told me all about the no-budget feature film he'd just made on credit cards.
So I've been following OBSERVANCE's progress via social media since then. It's been fantastic to see this little Aussie feature, reportedly made for $11,000, go on to screen at the likes of Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal and BFI London Film Festival—and the reviews have been amazing, likening it to the work of Polanski.
Full disclosure: I'm not a horror film watcher—but I did enjoy OBSERVANCE and the tremendous achievement it represented.
Last week, too, I went along to the AACTA screening of Megan Riakos' low-budget, independently financed mystery thriller, CRUSHED. Shot almost entirely on location in the wine region of Mudgee, NSW, it was a huge undertaking for a crew mostly made up of people for whom it was their first feature. It went on to premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival.
Megan and I had met over email a few months back, and this was another film I'd been tracking online for quite a while. I loved watching an Australian thriller written, directed and produced by a woman, with a female lead—and it was great to finally meet Megan in person!
And back in February, right after I arrived in Melbourne, I went to a screening at Palace Westgarth of Jonnie Leahy and Monica Zanetti's heartwarming drama, SKIN DEEP. Another super-low budget Aussie feature film, SKIN DEEP follows two women, one in treatment for skin cancer, over one night, set all around the streets of Newtown in Sydney. It was awarded an Honourable Mention at Austin Film Festival and went on to be nominated for an AWGIE Award up against THE WATER DIVINER—talk about punching above its weight!
I've written a bit, of late, about filmmakers who just go out and make things happen—people like Joe Swanberg and the Duplass brothers. But as a filmmaker looking to transition to feature films in the coming years, I find it particularly inspiring to look to other Australian filmmakers finding success with their own super low-budget, independently financed feature films. It makes the whole thing seem more possible.
So please go out and support these films—Australians shouldn't need to take their work overseas to find success back home.