On Friday March 14, Hoyts cinemas at the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park held a special screening of “Johnny Ghost”, an Australian independent feature shot on a micro budget that has found immense success at film festivals domestically and worldwide.
The film is a result of Writer/Director Donna McRae (a PhD student at Monash University) being granted a scholarship to the tune of $40,000 – the budget the film was made with.
Present at the screening – which was organized and hosted by distribution company “Titan View” – were McRae, Production Designer, Michael Vale and Lead Actress, Anni Finsterer. All three held a brief Q&A after the session to talk about their achievement.
The film is a psychological thriller about a woman literally haunted by the ghosts of her past. Millicent, a music teacher, is a product of the punk music scene in St Kilda, and as she approaches middle age, it becomes clear that she’s never moved on from a tragic event from her youth.
Above: Still from “Johnny Ghost”
The film is a personal story of the search for redemption and forgiveness, and it bears the mark of several brave creative decisions. Perhaps the most interesting among these was McRae’s choice to entirely avoid the cliché of ghosts as psychological constructs, instead preferring to include actual ghosts (although perhaps not particularly surprising when you consider that McRae’s PhD is entitled “Projecting Fantasy – The Spectre in Cinema”).
This decision led to an interesting ebb and flow of suspense and intimacy throughout the film – though I’ll leave it to audiences to decide whether this combination really works.
That said, it’s difficult to argue with the accolades thrown at “Johnny Ghost” so far. Innumerable selections and awards at festivals around the globe include the Berlin Independent Film Festival, Best Feature at the South Texas Underground Film Festival, and the Special Jury Prize at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival (just to name a few).
It’s a great example to independent filmmakers all over the country. ‘Johnny Ghost’ was shot over 10 (Ten!) days on a Panasonic P2 camera. With a little money and even less time, McRae and her crew went out with (let’s be honest) less than state-of-the-art equipment and shot a film that’s done extremely well.
During the Q&A, McRae repeatedly referred to her film as “the little film that could” – and with a real battle with the odds behind her, it’s easy to see why she feels that way.
The script was a progression of a 50-minute script she’d written years earlier about a punk rock band. When taking on the project, McRae decided to investigate what her characters were like twenty years later – when the partying’s over and the inquest is firmly underway.
Ultimately, ‘Johnny Ghost’ posed one question to me: “Can Ghosts Forgive?”
T O M E A R L S for SYDNEY FILM SCHOOL