Red Billabong arrives nationally in Australian cinemas on August 25. It’s a horror film featuring a creature in the Australian outback. The director Luke Sparke is one of a handful of first-time feature film makers touring the country with a movie. These are extremely motivated and hard working people, who fund, make and market their movies outside any studio system. They’re not just creative talents, but skilled business people who learn all the angles about promoting their films.
Megan Riakos is the director of Crushed, quick pitch: a mystery thriller set in a winery. She said making and promoting a film was like setting a train in motion. You had to keep it moving and get as many people on board as possible. Directors apply to show their movies at film festivals, and tour their films across the country in both regional and larger city cinemas. They use any awards gained at festivals to promote their films and maybe gain a distributor. But festivals only picked your film if it suited their audience and the image they wanted to portray. And they simply might not be interested in your genre that year. Distributors have links to film festivals, so it’s good to have distributors on board with your film before you approached festivals. If you had a distributor, that meant you might bypass the entry fee at festivals. And sometimes festivals tracked you down if you were on Facebook, so this social media promotion was important.
Megan Riakos, the director of Crushed, shot the film on a friend’s family winery. She learned about the dynamics of film crews by working on films in Los Angeles and making short films. She wrote several feature scripts and attended film school. She knew she wanted to make a genre film. She liked Judith Weston’s Directing actors. The book aims to give directors insights into how actors think, and argues that directors should run with the actors’ take on characters, although remaining in charge.
Director of Red Billabong Luke Sparke said it was a genre mashup about a mythical creature in the outback and two brothers. The two estranged brothers travel to their grandfather’s property with some of their friends. Then the friends start to go missing.
Luke Sparke said he financed the film by private investment, contacting friends, family, and driving around pitching it to “wealthy people”. He liked Funnel Web an Australian book by Richard Ryan. It’s a thriller set in Sydney which is preyed upon by mutant funnel web spiders.
He also liked Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein. This 263 page 1959 sci-fi novel is about Juan “Johnnie” Rico’s adventures in an inter-stellar war between humans and arachnoid creatures.
And Weapons of Choice by John Birmingham. This is the first of six alternative history novels in the Axis of Time series. A 2021 military experiment results in a US-led international naval fleet sent back to 1942 and the battle of Midway.
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