Category: Interviews

 

One of the best films to screen at last year’s Monster Fest was Australian director Mark Bakaitis’ film Cult Girls. Starring one of Australia’s most underrated actresses Saara Lamberg (Innuendo) alongside a cast that includes Jane Badler (V) and Dean Kirkwright (Charlie’s Farm). As an added bonus for heavy metal fans the film also features a very special performance from Swedish death metal band Tribulation.

“Originally we were looking to do a documentary about this Australian cult called the family,” says Bakaitis when we sit down to talk to him about the film’s home entertainment release. “We started to do some research into that and we realised that it was going to be pretty heavy doing interviews with victims and survivors and I don’t think we had the temperament to approach that subject really. So with the research I started to think that perhaps we could do something more fictional.”

Something more fictional is exactly what Bakaitis and his team did and the result was something phenomenal. A film that looks at home in an artistic cinema but contains the suspense normally reserved for a Hollywood blockbuster.

“We then had the opportunity to travel to Europe and go to Lithuania,” says Bakaitis as we begin to chat about how the film further developed after it was decided to go with the fictional angle. “We spent a few days in Germany and i was really inspired by the folk horror films of the late 1960s and the 1970s. I was inspired by films like Blood On Satan’s Claw and those classic folk horror films. I managed to weave that in some of the Lithuanian mythology that had been in my blood and came up in the film.. and we threw a little bit of black metal in there as well.”

You can listen to the full interview in our audio interview above.

Cult Girls is available on DVD now through Umbrella Entertainment.

If there was ever a week where Hollywood had to decide whether to be pessimistic or optimistic it was this week. Hot on the heels of Tenet performing well at box offices in countries where cinemas have re-opened came the news that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Robert Pattinson had tested positive to Covid-19 temporarily suspending the productions they were working on – including the blockbuster The Batman.

It would be enough to make any Hollywood producer wonder whether or not they should just give up on 2020 completely. One thing that happened this week was probably enough to make them realise there was still hope though – that was the smile on Yifei Liu’s face as she fronted the media about her new film Mulan.

It was obvious from that smile that Liu doesn’t mind the fact that the Disney epic is opening in cinemas in some countries and on Disney+ in others. She is just happy that a film that she is incredibly proud of is finally going to be enjoyed by film lovers right around the world. After all isn’t that why a film is made in the first place?

“I wanted to see how much more I could do as an actress,” the young Chinese star says when she is asked why she wanted to play Mulan in a film destined to become one of this year’s highest earners. “I wanted to see what my abilities were and I wanted to discover more and more and more. I wanted to learn more skills and I wanted to feel more. And I knew that she is facing extreme circumstances that not everybody every day could experience. I really did think I had the passion to explore that.”

From the trailers that had been shown to cinema goers over the past twelve months it was obvious that Disney alongside director Niki Caro wanted to expand on the originally animated version of Mulan and make this film an action spectacular with a solid character journey. That is something that Liu agrees with. “She is on a journey… she is discovering herself,” explains Liu going more in-depth about the title character. “That is not really on the surface, that is deep inside. She thinks that the perfect her in other people’s eyes might be that way but you do eventually realise that you can be that and you can be more than that.”

Of course alongside Liu in the film are some of the biggest names in Asian cinema including Donnie Yen and Jet Li, both of which Liu says was a joy to work with. “I think everybody was perfect for their role,” she says smiling. “I have to say that Jet, I worked with him ten maybe twelve years ago and it was so good to see him again. He was perfect to play the Emperor and Li Gong oh my God she is my Goddess… I am such a fan. I could not believe that I got this opportunity to work with her. So I was just so excited and on set I just wanted to always chat to her but I had to remind myself that I had to focus on my work.”

Whether you are lucky enough to watch Mulan on the big screen or whether you to get to watch it in the comfort of your own lounge it is obvious talking to the cast and crew that this is a film that has been made with complete dedication and love… and that is what we need from cinema right now.

 

Mulan is rated G and currently showing in Phuket.

 

When it comes to genre filmmaking Australian filmmakers have always punched well out of their weight division. The result has been a number of Australian made genre films doing well overseas while names like George Miller, James Wan and Leigh Whannell have become household names for fans of the genre art-form.

Now director Andrew Traucki is about to take that huge step with his latest film Black Water: Abyss now showing in cinemas in Phuket. The award-winning filmmaker has perfected his craft over the years with brilliant horror thrillers such as The Reef and The Jungle while his latest film is a sequel to the film that started it all for him – 2007’s Black Water.

Traucki laughs as he talks to The Phuket News about what made him want to do a follow-up to his lauded crocodile horror thirteen years later. “Well someone had to write it,” he says laughing loudly. “It is an interesting question though because my journey has never been one of instant success. Every one of these films has been a struggle to make because of the financing side of things. So, for me it was a mixture of not really knowing if I wanted to make another film because I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as the ‘crocodile guy’ so I went on and did other things… but it does seem like people prefer my animal movies.”

And animals certainly do play an important part of Traucki’s films… or perhaps we should say creatures. Black Water: Abyss like its predecessor sees a group of cave explorers, led by Jennifer (Jessica McNamee The Meg) and Eric (Luke Mitchell – Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.), trapped underground in a cave system with rising waters and a killer crocodile who wants to defend his territory.

It was that mixture of the cave and the crocodile that made Traucki want to be involved after he read the initial screenplay. “That was one of the greatest appeals of the script,” he explains. “Not only do I get to play with a crocodile, which is a top apex predator which makes it pretty scary, it is also all set in the dark while the original was all set in the day. So yeah, there is nothing quite like the darkness to make the film scary. That and them trapped in a cave with rising water and that felt like a pretty scary scenario.”

Of course though filming in and around water can be an absolute nightmare for a film crew and again Traucki laughs when we point out that it seems to be something that he has done in a few of his films now. “It is hellish, I don’t know why I keep doing it,” he says again laughing loudly. “I must have been a bad person in a past lifetime and now karma is catching up with me… that must be the reason why I keep coming back to water.”

“Look, I love water. I live by the beach and I surf all the time,” he admits. “I think that it is a great texture and an element to a film but it is difficult to film with. Gear gets destroyed and all kinds of mishaps can happen, people can get really cold and they catch hypothermia. It can be really slow going because you have to go through this stuff every day. So yeah, it is not an easy thing to work with but it just so happens that sharks and crocodiles live in the stuff so we have had to make these things with that added element of water.”

As the interview goes on it soon becomes very obvious that Traucki was also very excited about being able to work with such a talented Australian cast. “Luke was pretty keen to be involved,” he says as we talk about the film’s star Australian actor Luke Mitchell who over the past few years has been working in the U.S. on shows such as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Blindspot. “He wanted to come home for a bit. His mother lives on the Gold Coast and we were filming in Brisbane. I think Jess (McNamee) wanted to come home for a bit as well because she is L.A. based.

“They were both motivated by the script as well,” he says still focussing on the stars. “But they also did both want to come home, and they had seen my previous work. So that is how we got them in the end, but it is never an easy road with casting.”

The hard-work that has gone into Black Water: Abyss is obvious and this is the kind of horror-thriller that will keep its audience on the edge of their seat… while they make a mental note to never set foot in the water again.

 

Black Water: Abyss opened in Phuket cinemas on August 12th.

 

Bloggers and vloggers haven’t always been treated that fairly by cinema. While the occupation is still one of the fastest growing businesses in the world in movies vloggers are often either depicted as ‘the geek’ or a ‘vain wannabe.’ Therefore it comes as a fair bit of relief to see brand new horror film Follow Me centres around the character of a vlogger who is seen in a normal light.

That also comes as a relief to one of the actors in the film – George Janko. Janko of course has made a name for himself as a recording artist and a vlogger who now has over one million followers on social media.

“I thought the writer did a great job,” says Janko laughing as we talk about the way the film treats the subject of vlogging. “I thought Will (Wernick – the film’s director and screenwriter) really did jump into the mind of a vlogger.

“He did understand the process of what a vlogger was and that is something that is really beautiful,” explains Janko the passion clear in his voice. “It is really beautiful because when I started vlogging most people didn’t look at it the way that they should have – they actually looked down on it or they looked past it and considered it nothing. But here it was like ‘wow somebody actually understands what it is and it shows what a hard job it is. It can be stressful on the mind, stressful on the soul. So when I read this I saw that it very much lined up with my life and I was like ‘this is great writing, they really did their homework on it.”

As I talk to Janko more about the subject he opens up to why the portrayal of a vlogger in Follow Me means so much to him. “When I came to Hollywood through the entertainment field I came in a different direction,” he explains. “A lot of people come there and they just get an agent or a manager. But when I got there nobody wanted to work with me. Nobody wanted to be my manager or my agent, nobody wanted to represent me because I had nothing to show.”

“I was a twenty-two year old boy who didn’t have anything under his belt,” he says continuing. “So, I picked up the camera and I wrote my stuff, I directed my stuff, I edited everything and I acted in everything myself. I did that to just prove to myself that I am worth being in this industry if they just gave me a chance. But when I walked into rooms to audition I would see the eye-rolling and hear ‘oh this guy is a YouTuber blah blah.’ There is a bad spin on it and we do have bad people in our industry but we also have very hard-working and honest people in our industry. So now we are kind of shining a light on people who are working hard and making an honest living out of this it’s nice. I feel like I am being respected instead of being belittled.”

The journey for Janko to get to a role in a major feature film like Follow Me has been a tough one but it also sees him get the opportunity to work with the most promising filmmakers in Hollywood – Will Wernick the man responsible for the brilliant Escape Room three years ago. Janko admits that Wernick’s script was also a big pull for him to want to get involved with the project.

“Social media aside the whole premise that I would be the comedic relief pulled me in,” he says again laughing. “I feel like that is how I have been my whole life. During tough circumstances or during troubling moments with people I have always figured out a way to make people laugh. So I used to watch movies where there was a serious part and you don’t want it to be too serious so somebody would make you laugh. It was then that your heart would flicker because there was a little bit of positivity.”

“I always loved that,” Janko goes on to explain. “So when I read the character of Dash I knew that was what he was. He would be the guy that would always light up a room when people walked in and I knew that when things were getting tough he would still make people laugh. I could relate that character so much to me that I just knew that me playing him was just meant to be.”

 

Follow Me is in Australian cinemas now.

 

Way back in 1988, yes that year that Australia ended up calling the Bi-Centennial, a piece of Australian cinematic history was about to arrive. Out of Melbourne came a low budget film that became a cult classic – a comedy set during nuclear destruction – Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em. The film re-surfaced a few years ago when it was shown at Australia’s leading cult film festival Monster Fest and tonight it will be shown to an even wider audience as it becomes part of the Friday Fright Night live stream.

To find out a little bit more about this cult classic today I had the pleasure of chatting to the film’s screenwriter/director Ray Boseley who since then has gone on to work on successful television shows including Acropolis Now and Round The Twist.

“I’m just over the moon,” says Boseley when I ask him how he feels about his film being screened right around the world as part of Friday Fright Night. “I put everything I had into making the film some thirty odd years ago and now it is just a joy that it has found this opportunity to be seen by other people and perhaps some people that didn’t have that chance all those years ago to check it out.”

“I was studying film and television at Swinburne, I was in the graduating class of 1984,” explains Boseley as we start to talk about the very beginnings of Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em. “We had to do a major production in Year Three and that is when the idea of Smoke ‘Em first came to me. I sort of pitched that as what i wanted to make for my film and fortunately the lecturers there were a lot smarter than me and they immediately told me that it was not realistic to try and achieve it as a student film. So they said no and I had to come up with something else.”

“Then a few years later after working in the industry for awhile Film Victoria had a grant program and I put Smoke ‘Em in,” he says continuing. “By then I had it fully written. It had kind of just been sitting there waiting to record and that was the first chance I had to do it. They actually gave me more money than I thought I needed but it was still quite a tight budget and quite a tight schedule… it was pretty hard work getting Smoke ‘Em onto the screen.”

That hard work included one of the toughest shoots that Boseley has ever experienced in his career. “It is probably the second hardest thing I have ever done in my life,” he says with a laugh. “It was a really big script. It was really ambitious challenge to create the bomb shelter itself and then a separate challenge was the scenes outside in a devastated nuclear wasteland.”

“The there was a large cast and a lot of tricky things to film,” he says continuing. “There was a few little stunts, there was a fight scene that turned into a brawl at the party. It was basically a list of all the trickiest things that you could possibly write to push a crew to their limit on a fairly limited shoot. I think it was about two and a half weeks for the entire shoot and every shot was just complicated – most shots had a couple of dozen people in the frame. All of that makes it very difficult. Then there were some degrees of special make-up and all the costuming, it had to be lit properly and it led to some very tricky stuff.”

Despite all that Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em did all come together and you can watch it tonight on Friday Fright Night… details below.