This is the story of my self-funded feature, The Project.
In 2007 I was feeling a little frustrated in my life and questioning some of the decisions I had made in my past. I had listened to the well-meaning but completely useless advice of people who said when I was young “a creative career (as an actor or writer) is all well and good, but make sure you have a qualification to fall back upon.” In retrospect it’s pretty obvious why this advice is useless, but for those who like me are slow on the uptake, let me spell it out:
No one succeeds in life by preparing for failure. The energy and time I invested in “having a qualification to fall back upon” was energy and time I didn’t put towards pursuing what I really wanted. What’s worse, by investing myself in these qualifications, I became confused about what I did really want. Now I want to be careful here, because I don’t consider my time studying my PhD a waste – I genuinely believe it was part of the Lord’s plan for me – but by the end of it I had a degree I couldn’t use and for which there was so little respect (see herefor how some of that felt).
So, getting back to 2007, there I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and questioning my future (I was 37, so I couldn’t be called old, but I couldn’t just call myself “man” – tee hee, a little Monty Python there). I had the idea to make a movie, but I was thinking that I should get my book published first. Leandra was going off to publishers and writer’s agents and getting continuously knocked back. It was heartbreaking and it made me feel like my future was as far away as ever.
While in the dvd store one day I came across a double dvd – An Evening With Kevin Smithand An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder. For those who don’t know, Kevin Smith is a writer/director who is famous for the success of his first film, Clerks and who has since made a number of other successful films and has worked with many of Hollywood’s A-list actors (even helped to launch a couple of careers). I wasn’t a big fan of Smith’s work, but I knew it and thought I’d give this dvd a go; also I laughed at the “evening harder” joke. I think that joke is what sold me on the dvd.
So I took the dvd home and watched it and while Smith was thoughtful, witty, thought provoking and inspiringly honest at some points, one thing really stood out was the way he had taken the opposite course in his life from me. He went to a film school that promised immediate hands on filmmaking. When the course delivered a first semester of pure theory he withdrew and took his remaining fees as the base to film his first movie. To complete the financing he maxed out a cluster of credit cards and reasoned to himself “If I go bankrupt I’ll just spend the next twenty years paying off the debt, which wouldn’t be much different than if I just sat around doing a nothing job anyway.” A bold move, it impressed the hell out of me. In his early twenties, a time in life when I was following the advice I’d been given and preparing for failure, Smith put his money on the table and threw the dice. History tells us his number came up and he won big.
So there I was, 37 (not old) and trying to think how I could apply this lesson from this guy I found myself sorta, kinda admiring. Obviously I had two children and a wife so just maxing a bunch of credit cards wasn’t on the, uh, cards. On a trip to the library with my 4 year old son I ducked away from “Tim, Ted & the Pirates” section and moved towards filmmaking. I found a book that was to form the other side of the bridge that was begun with Evening Harder – the book was called “Digital Filmmaking 101″. The two authors, Dale Newton and John Gaspard, showed how in the digital age it was possible to make a feature film for $10,000.
Let me say that again: $10,000!
I started to think something more bold than I ever had in my life before. Maybe I could raise $10,000. I began to gently broach the idea to my wife (who at that time was our sole breadwinner and therefore had something of a stake in my proposed expenditure of funds). She cut right to it.
Rachel: So you want to make a movie?
Matt: (desperate to make my dream seem reasonable) Well I mean, not right away, obviously, but if we saved and I was disciplined in my planning and such I could, maybe in five years, look at the feasibility…
Rachel: I think you should do it now.
Matt: (picking myself up from the floor and trying, unsuccessfully, to get back into my chair)I’m sorry?
Rachel: Now’s a good time – why wait until you’re five years older and more tired?
Matt: But ten thousand is such a lot of money! (I was remembering the fact that we still didn’t buy my favourite brand of coffee because of the money we saved buying caterer’s blends, which tasted to me like woodchuck spit).
Rachel: Yes, but we’re on top of the mortgage right now and I’m permanent in my job, so financially we’re secure. You could extend the mortgage and it wouldn’t add too much to our fortnightly payments.
I wasn’t entirely sure at this point that my wife hadn’t been bodyswapped by aliens, but given the beautiful sense the woman in front of me was talking, if she wasn’t an alien I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted the original back either.
Rachel: So do you really think you could do this for $10,000.
Matt (waving the library copy of Digital Filmmaking 101): They say in here it’s do-able. And the first step is a script. I can do that, I know that much.
I was confident of my ability to write the script – I knew I could write and I knew how to look critically at new work so that part didn’t scare me. It was the last part of the process that wouldn’t scare me.
Rachel: Well the way I see it is like this – what would be worse for you? If you do this, it fails and we spend the an extra five years paying off the extended mortgage; or not doing it, getting to sixty five or seventy years of age and saying to yourself “If only I’d tried making a film.” If option 2 is worse than option 1 then go and make a film.
At that moment I fell in love with my wife all over again (or with the devious alien clone for the first time if the body swapping thing really had happened). The two ends of the bridge connected and with my wife’s encouragement I stepped across and into the first part of my future I had seen in a long time. I was thrilled – though of course as you can no doubt guess, that lasted long enough for me to become afraid and then fear just settled in for a little over a year and a half.
But it was a good fear, of a sort. People say that fear of failure is a deadly feeling, but it is nothing compared to the fear that you’re already a failure and no one around you has the heart to tell you. The future began with a script…
PART 2 – The Script
In part one I described how, with the blessing of my ever more beloved wife, I decided to embark on the strange process of making what is called in the industry a “no budget film”. Yes, that’s what it is called. In movie making I have discovered there are a number of levels that go roughly like this Hollywood movies, Independent movies, low budget movies, ultra-low budget movies and no budget movies. If you grab a camera and just make the movie yourself, and if you’re not someone named Soderburgh, Spielberg, Lucas etc. then a no budget movie is what you’re making.
In Digital Filmmaking 101, which was my bible for the first six months after I decided to make a movie, the first and best pieces of advice concerned scriptwriting.
Firstly, everything in filmmaking can cost money and scripts are no exception. So, if you want to save money and have a story idea of your own, then write your own script. That’s money saved. I wasn’t intimidated by the thought of writing a feature film script. I had been writing professionally and semi-pro for years. I’d written a one hundred thousand word thesis for my PhD. I’d written a novel-for-hire that had been published online and to my knowledge sold two copies. That was a sci-fi piece called Manticore’s Run, which I wrote to support a roleplaying game that a guy had produced and was marketing online. A quick search of the web shows that neither the game nor the novel are still available. Also, I’d written loads of fanfic and of course, Leandra. So I wasn’t intimidated by the writing challenge of the script.
The second and most incredibly useful piece of advice in DF101 was this: everyone has heard that you should write what you know, but in no budget filmmaking you should write what you own, because if your story needs something, anything, that you don’t own, then it’s going to cost you money. This was fantastic advice. When I sat down at the keyboard I wrote to my budget (or lack thereof) and never had to worry during filming that we would run out of money.
The story idea I’d had kicking around my head had been inspired by the War on Terror and by a documentary that had commemorated the one-year anniversary of the London train station bombings. Now two years in to the Obama administration and post-GFC, it’s hard to remember the dark days when the WoT kept us on the verge of Armageddon for most of the first decade of the 21st century. In fact with the dialling down of the rhetoric from the US govt it’s astonishing how the WoT went from the war that would go on for fifty years to a piece of history. Right now there’s a bunch of guys with long beards holed up in caves in the Afghan highlands, sitting around and saying “Remember when the world was scared of us? Those were good times.”
The documentary discussed two facts that were fascinating to me. First was what was called the group of guys theory and it pertained to how terror groups recruit. Instead of taking in any old recruits and then putting them through training and assigning to their units (like a conventional army), they actually bring in friends. Members of terror cells usually all know each other before they join – that way the trust that makes for the best soldiers is already in place. The other piece of the documentary was the fact that the last bomber had missed his train and waited 57 minutes before finally deciding to detonate his bomb on a bus. That gap of time fascinated me – what was it like for that individual? What was he thinking? Could he have just walked away?
While these things were bubbling through my mind, I was also incensed at the good Christian white folk vs. the vile, dark Muslim madmen characterisation that was at the basis of so much of the WoT. The bigots all came out of the woodwork and hijacked the discussion. I’m no expert on world events, but I’ve studied a lot of Middle Eastern history (for a westerner) and I knew that the portrayal of the Muslim world in the western media was disgusting.
So, using the ideas from the London bombing documentary I set out to show that there was more to international terrorism than just a bunch of madmen in caves in Afghanistan. I wanted to write a story that showed the subtlety and the detail of terror. Most especially I wanted an audience to ask themselves the question “what would it take for me to do what these men did?” The world was writing off every terrorist as a madman with an insane worldview and even from my little reading I knew that many terrorists had legitimate complaints and concerns. Also, I hated the way everyone kept drawing a line around terrorism as more evil than every other form of warfare, but too few had a problem with bombing targets in civilian centres with munitions launched from ships and planes.
So those ideas became the script for the Project, a story about a university lecturer who recruited a terror cell from among his students to prove that it could be done; to show that terrorism is not born only from madness or Islam. The script took me three months from inception to first finished draft. At that point I reached the end of my competence and experience and began on-the-job-training (self-taught) in movie making.
Next time – I start casting about for a crew and a cast and learn about the one powerful weapon in my arsenal that I never realised the importance of.
PART 3 – Pre-production
After writing the script for The Project and getting the bank to extend our home loan, I set about researching the next phase of movie making – some of you may have heard of it as ‘pre-production’. Not knowing anyone or anything I was unsure what the best next step would be. I’d spent the preceding two years sending Leandra to publishers and agents and getting nowhere. I had a box full of more and less polite rejections – an old chocolate box would you believe – and I somewhat expected similar responses from people in the movie industry. Going slow, I thought what I would do was ring industry associations and the like, since it was their job to hand out information.
Some years ago Telstra, the main Australian phone company, had an add that featured an elderly man shopping for surf gear for his grandson. With his elderly voice over the phone he confidently asks the young surf shop attendant the price on a 3 skeg inverse-v thruster and rashie. When the shop guy asks how long the old man has been into surfing, the old man replies “Oh, about fifteen minutes.” Using the telephone to do his shopping had turned him into an expert. Well, that was me; I was that old guy. With every phone call I asked whatever questions I could, did my best to not give away that I knew nothing and slowly built up a picture of what I needed to know and needed to do.
That picture included some surprising revelations. The first, and most shocking by far, was that I already had more kudos than I knew, just by having written my script. This wasn’t because the industry afforded extra respect to writers (they do, but that wasn’t the reason). It had to do with the nature of filmmaking in my hometown, Perth, Western Australia. I’ve tried many times to sum up for people what Perth is like, and the short answer is, it’s isolated. The most eloquent way I can think of comes from Star Wars, when C3PO asks Luke Skywalker what planet they’re on, Luke replies “Well, if there’s a bright centre to the universe, then you’re on the planet that’s farthest from it!” Perth is that planet. Our film & tv industry is small and tailored to a few things, mostly serving local interest, sport and news. A surprisingly vibrant section of the industry specialise in producing training materials for big companies, a by-product of the boom in mining that our state has been riding for the last ten years. We also have one world class and world renowned producer of children’s television in Perth, a company known as Barron Films.
(pause for effect)
Yes, there is a world famous filmmaking company in my home town with my name – and they have nothing to do with me. I was over thirty before I met another human being with my last name that wasn’t a blood relative of mine. I’m not a Smith or a Brown. I have no idea what it’s like to often meet people with the same last name. Yet, in my dream field there is a company run by a man with the same name as me and he’s not in the least bit related to me. No leg up there. How’s that for being born under a bad sign? as Ferris would say.
Anyway, getting back to my script and the advantage it gave me. Almost no one makes feature films in Perth. There are maybe as few as three on average in a year and in some years none at all. So every single time I rang someone and began my spiel “Hi I’m Matt Barron, I’m producing an ultra-low budget feature film…” I only had to get that far before I could actually hear the person on the other end prick up their ears – I mean literally hear their ears adjusting to a more interested posture. No one made features, so when someone even vaguely sounded like they knew what they were talking about and said they were producing one, everyone listened for a chance. Features are the holy grail of Perth filmmaking and I got so many doors to open just because I could wear a badge that said “Hi, I’m Matt and I’m producing a feature!”
Next time – what was behind those doors?
PART 4 – Pre-production, the Sequel
So, there I was putting together my little feature film production and some helpful advice started to come in.
First – insurance. I was ready for this one. Digital FIlmmaking 101 had hit this one pretty hard, so when people advised me to get insurance coverage – most especially for third party accident – I was able to nod sagely and agree that of course I would do that. A word about third party accident insurance. Our little $10k film needed to be covered for $10,000,000 for this. And this is to cover not for cast and crew – they were covered by a separate worker’s compensation insurance. No, the hundreds of dollars we paid for third party accident was to cover us in case someone we knew nothing about, wandered onto the set without any right to be there and somehow managed to hurt themselves. I was not thrilled about having to spend about 5% of my budget on ” curious moron trespasser” insurance, but there it is.
Next I set about getting a DOP (that’s cool industry speak for director of photography; like anywhere, being able to drop the right jargon terms goes a long way to getting you credibility in the movie business). I put an add on a website someone suggested and got a guy give me an email. I rng him, but we never really connected. Through some friends at church I made contact with a guy named Aaron Kamp. Aaron has his own wedding videography business (high end) and was known in church circles around Perth for video-recording the annual statewide Christian youth games. Aaron was a great guy, was happy to read my script and see what he could do. The only problem with Aaron’s involvement was that he was unavailable weekends (when weddings usually took place), so if he was going to be involved, we would need to film during the week. I was at home with the kids and my beloved wife would take leave for the two or three weeks of filming, so that was no real problem to me. Aaron was on board as DOP. Along with Aaron came Aaron’s lights, his Sony Z-1 HD digital camera, and the people he knew who would hold the boom mike and help out in general. I kind of knew I hit it big by getting Aaron on board, but only in the years since have I really understood how well.
After a few phone calls I also learned that there was one role on a set that made the difference between pro and amateur – it’s a little person called a first assistant director (1AD for those at home collecting TLA’s). The 1AD has the job of running around and making sure everyone else who had a task to perform or something to bring to the set was doing their job, while the director and DOP work on set, usually with the cast. The 1AD keeps track of which scenes will be filmed, who will act in those scenes, what props will be needed, everything. They are the person with the mobile phone or walkie talkie who track stuff down, since the director needs to be concentrating on the actual filming, not trying to find the cigarette lighter that the villain needs to light the dynamite fuse etc.
Since it sounded to me like a 1AD was just a version of project/site management, I figured I needed someone I could trust even if they were inexperienced, rather than someone with experience who I didn’t know from Adam. I offered the position to my best friend from school named Sean. He thought it sounded cool and said yes. It was an instinctive decision that actually worked out brilliantly. I couldn’t have picked a better person for the role and if I manage to make an actual career out of this directing gig, then Sean has set the bar way high for everyone who might take on the job in the future.
So, in recruiting crew I was batting 2 for 2 and I was in a position to look at auditioning a cast.
PART 5 – Casting
So, it was time to audition cast members. I’d been to auditions before, for amateur drama and the like, and I had an idea of how I wanted to run the audition, but I still didn’t want anyone to figure out I was a complete novice. So it was back to the phone to do research.
I had it in mind that I would get students to do many of the roles – since the story was set on a university campus. So I rang the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) to ask if they could help me cast my indy film. For the first time I encountered a context where feature production meant nothing to anyone. For those roleplayers amongst us, I had entered a null magic zone where my “Hi I’m Matt and I’m making a feature!” amulet lost all of its power. WAAPA had a course it offered to its actors and it had no interest in helping those actors to do anything extra-curricular. It was suggested that if I wanted I could come down and put a notice on the board outside the admin office – like I was trying to find a roommate or sell a sofa. Astonished that no one was interested in helping me I asked if the girl in the office knew anyone who might be able to help me get some actors for my movie. She gave me an email address that would prove more valuable than I could have known. She put me onto Annie Murtaugh Monks.
Annie is a graduate of NIDA (the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Australia’s foremost acting school. Graduates include Mel Gibson, Baz Luhrman, Judy Davis, that Australian guy from Avatar and many others. Annie went through with Greta Scacchi – for those who are real film aficionados). After acting in movies and tv Annie had returned to Perth and opened casting agency. Annie’s agency is highly respected and she runs a ton of training workshops under the Perth Actor’s Collective banner. However, Annie’s greatest claim to fame in the small acting community of Perth is this – she cast Heath Ledger in his first ever TV role, a series called ‘Sweat’. While I know that Annie would not call that her greatest professional achievement, rightly or wrongly it is the most well known piece of information about her ‘out there’! It is also a part of the story of my all too few degrees of separation from Heath which I will tell in a future post.
I knew none of this as I emailed Annie and asked if it would be ok to ring her and discuss my situation. She returned my email on a Friday and suggested I call her the next day (Saturday) as she would be in her office working on casting a film. I wrote my list of questions and rang around midday the next day. Annie was kind, helpful and let me ask all my questions. Keep in mind, this was Saturday; she was at work casting a film; and I was a nobody she’d never heard of before. She spoke to me for over an hour. She let me ask all my questions, happily let me circle back and repeat myself. It was very encouraging and useful to have a casting agent give me pointers about casting, such as how to run an audition.
Looking back now I realise that she was also trying to angle for a slice of my budget, offering to do a small amount of the casting (getting the main actors) for a couple of thousand dollars. Even though this was a very generous offer (representing a massive cut to her fees) I knew I couldn’t stretch my budget even that far. I thanked her for her help and promised to stay in touch. Armed with the new information (and the confidence boost of being taken seriously by a professional) I booked the local high school’s performing arts centre and advertised (on the web) for actors. I also grabbed two page slices out of the script for each of the main characters.
Over several weeks I took emails and carefully scheduled the auditions for the one weekend we’d rented the performing arts centre. One thing that emerged was that girls outnumbered boys three to one. I haven’t really got a working theory on why, but the number of female applicants far out stripped the male. Here again, Digital Filmmaking 101 came to the rescue. When you’re making an indie film there’s no point writing a role that can only be played by Bruce Willis, because you’re not going to get Bruce Willis. You have to cast where you can – maybe you’ve always seen a particular role played by a fat, middle aged white guy, but does it have to be? Could a skinny Asian man do it? Or an Aboriginal woman? When you’ve got a huge budget you get what you want. When you’re indie, you get what you can. So, after the auditions about half the minor roles in the script swapped genders.
On both days of the auditions we had some no shows, but mostly we got a good response and a range of performance quality. For fun we even auditioned Sean (my friend who would be 1AD), because he wanted the full “working on a movie experience”. I’m glad that’s why we did it, because there was no way I could cast him – he really wasn’t very good. One person who did show up was Bryn Coldrick. Bryn got word of the audition through a mutual friend of ours and came along well prepared to read. I was deeply thankful that he did, because he was brilliant.
Bryn read for a police officer while I read opposite him as a terrorist. Up to this point it looked like I would be playing the role of the terrorist when we filmed because no one else showed the necessary mastery of language (the terrorist was an academic). Well Bryn put paid to that. I quickly swapped the scripts, gave him a moment to prep new lines and we read the roles reversed. It was perfect. In my mind I cast Bryn at that moment and never regretted the decision for a second from that moment to this.
The director Kevin Smith has nothing but absolute respect for the actor Ben Affleck. He has said (of Affleck) “I’d cast him in anything. I know I can rely on his performance. If I was doing Jaws I’d cast him as the shark. He’s that good!” Bryn is my Affleck.
So after two days of auditions I was ready to put together a cast. I’d lost all faith in the male gender – who had failed to come through for me and cursed the fact that I couldn’t re-write all the roles to make them female. It was time to schedule filming dates and plan my ass off for those dates.
PART 6 – Almost production time
Plan your arse off!
That’s my philosophy of project management. When you have a project, event, birthday party, friends over for dinner, whatever, the only way to be sure that you get the outcome you want is to plan to get it. Overnight success is built on years of preparation. Also, if you’re uncertain of your ability to ‘deliver the goods’, as it were, then this is the best way to find out your rookie mistakes before you make them.
So, I had a script, I had insurance, I had actors and I scheduled a date to commence production. It was Sept 07 and we would film in the first three weeks of January 08. I started meeting with my core production team, DoP, 1AD, two production assistants and me. We met fortnightly and I made a list of everything I could think of that we would need. Costumes, props, sets, catering, I farmed most of these things out to others. For myself I had to devise a shooting schedule, create storyboards and prepare rehearsals.
I decided to try to make the rehearsal process easier by recording the first read-through. For those not familiar with such a technical term as read-through, it’s a meeting of all the cast where they sit at a table together and read through the script (see how it works?). In Hollywood this is also apparently known as a table read (clever names these movie folks have for things). I rented our church building and asked if we could use their recording equipment. Like many churches these days, ours is set up with a mixing desk for the sound and recording equipment for the sermons etc. Many members of the congregation like to get recorded copies of sermons to listen to again and think/pray about.
However, when we all rocked up for the read-through the bloke from the church who came to run the sound explained to me that he didn’t have enough microphones to give the table full coverage and that the mikes weren’t anywhere near good enough to pick up the sound unless we held them no more than a foot from our mouths. So here is a clear example of why my mantra was plan, plan and plan again. I had booked sound equipment without thinking to ask if the equipment would be right to do the job I wanted. Time and again this kind of thing happened – I would plan for everything I or anyone else on the production could think of and I would still run afoul of all the things I didn’t think of. Learner filmmakers take note.
My plan had been for everyone to receive a digital recording of the read through so that they could learn their lines by hearing them spoken in context with the other actors. They would have been able to learn their lines just by listening to their ipods. It wasn’t to be. The recording was appallingly quiet. Even with the sound pushed up to eleven you could barely hear it. Great idea – lousy execution (which coincidentally was something I was terrified would be said about my film).
So there we were, planning and preparing and making sure we were ready to go ahead come January. It was looking doable, until, two weeks out when one of my actors pulled out.
PART 7 – Scheduling Hell
In my film The Project, there’s a character named Matheson, who’s a disgraced police senior constable, eking out a career as a sidelined nobody in a forgotten little outpost station. He needed to be disdainful and self-absorbed. Looking back at it now, he was a tough character for an actor to play and needed good direction. On the day of the rehearsals we had one actor who showed up and was streets ahead of everyone else who read for Matheson. I won’t give this actor’s name because he still works and Perth is such a small industry if anyone reads what follows I could actually damage the guy’s career. I’ll call him Steve.
As soon as he sat down to read, Steve had exactly the right posture, facial expressions and tone. He presented a man too young to be the failure he had become, hiding his wounded ego behind the power of his job. It was even better than I’d imagined him as I wrote the script. He was the second one (after Bryn) who I cast as soon as he’d read.
For a day job, Steve was a lawyer (or worked in a law practice, I don’t clearly remember). When I called to offer him the part he said he would want to read the full script before accepting. It felt a little precious, but I was asking him to work for what amounted to no money, he did get professional gigs (he’d been in the first season of a fine Australian drama series called The Circuit) and he was bloody good. So I printed out a full copy of the script and met him for coffee after work.
A week later I got an email that seemed to me an acceptance of the part – there was talk of needing to get the time off work for the filming but I thought Steve was telling me he could get that time. I put him on the emailing list for the cast and informed everyone the date for the read through. The next day Steve emailed me to tell me that he wasn’t a part of the cast and wouldn’t be taking the part. Confused, I asked him what was going on. He told me he’d had no chance to discuss the leave possibility with his boss and probably wouldn’t get the time off. He did offer to come to the read-through since it would be hard for me to get an actor for the part at such short notice.
Keep in mind, every other person who auditioned for me and was offered a part accepted on the phone, then and there. Already, casting Steve was holding up things by several weeks. Most especially scheduling the filming days was being delayed. So the read-through happened and everyone met each other. We seemed like a friendly bunch and I was happy. Steve seemed to like reading the role of Matheson and I think I expressed my regret that he wouldn’t be able to play the role in the final film. Steve said something about being willing to take the role on after all, to save me from being left in the lurch, but he had some specific scheduling requirements to fit in with his other time commitments in January. This was the second week of December ’07. Filming was four or five weeks away.
So I put Steve back into the cast and began fitting the schedule around his stated requirements. Just around Christmas (either immediately before or after, I can’t quite remember), I emailed the schedule to the cast. I promptly received a return email from Steve, telling me he wasn’t a part of the cast and wasn’t available to play the role of Matheson. I wanted to cry. I was bending over backwards to facilitate this guy and he was continually giving me mixed messages.
I spoke to my wife and we made the decision to cut our losses. We accepted that Steve was not taking the role and emailed the cast to say we needed someone to play Matheson and did they know any actors who could take it on. Rory Mitchell, who we had cast in another role and who is something of an institution in the Perth indie film scene came to the rescue by putting us on to Ben Brown. Ben was an actor who had been a police officer before turning to acting. He was great. He put a totally different spin on Matheson. He wasn’t the character that Steve would have given us (and who I understood) but a more human and three dimensional character. Ben gave us an excellent performance.
However, with all this stress leading up to the start of filming, I was not a happy chap in the Christmas/New Year period that year.