A new short film satirising Sydney’s notorious lock out laws and co-produced by SFS grad Holly Fraser has turned out to be an online hit.
By Peter Galvin
Sydney nightlife, once alive with music and a huge variety of live venues has taken a hammering since the Baird New South Wales government introduced ‘lock-out’ laws two years ago.
Intended to curb alcohol-fuelled violence the legislation originally demanded that no new patrons can enter venues after 1.30am and that no drinks can be served after 3am.
The laws were confined to traditional ‘clubbing spots’ of the inner-city Eastern suburbs like Kings Cross and Darlinghurst.
Since they were introduced many venues in these neighbourhoods have seen a huge reduction in their business or have even been forced to close.
Searching for a new project Sydney filmmaker James Fraser hit upon the idea of satirising this situation in a comedy which imagines that by 2020 the city’s most prestigious nightclub would be found…in a dumpster…and still impossible to get into!
Shot last November Dirt Tin, was launched online at the end of February. It reached over 10,000+ views within 24 hours.
After only six days of being live, SFS grad and co-producer Holly Fraser, says nearly 22,000 viewers had seen the film.
“We’ve been offered a Video on Demand (VOD) deal where we share in the profits,” Fraser told the SFS Blog. “But we’re not sure we’ll take it.”
Holly is James’ younger sister and though they have worked on projects before this is the first time that they’ve collaborated so closely. Holly says that after the stress of the shoot they are ‘still talking’. “We’re still friends,” says James, with a laugh.
Produced over four nights the project was ambitious: the script called for a horse, fifty extras, special lighting and makeup effects, and a demanding dusk to dawn schedule.
“There were times when I would look at the monitor and think….’hmmm, did someone turn a light on?’…but nope, that would be the sun!,” James says
Dirt Tin has come out of two local production outfits: Blunt Gorilla and Grand Illusions (the later co-founded by James Fraser and SFS grad Julian Tynan). Holly Fraser’s producing partner on the film was Sharath Ravishankar.
The Fraser siblings drew upon a large community of independent filmmakers to recruit crew for the shoot including many recent SFS students. *
Still, it was James who sought out Scoundrel Theatrics’ Lee Launay.
An SFS graduate, Launay has built an outstanding reputation in Sydney and LA after launching his ‘Scoundrel’ brand in 2012 only eighteen months after graduating from film school. His imaginative and high impact production design has kept him in constant work.
He said that he was impressed with the skill and professionalism of the SFS cohort on the Dirt Tin team.
“They get really involved,” Launay explains, “they have the energy and vibrancy.” An outstanding feature of the SFS students, he said, was their passion and they did not ‘silo’ their talents to one role or department. Launay observed how “they throw themselves into whatever job is needed even if isn’t what they signed on for.”
“I think this comes from the culture of SFS which is unlike any other film school in Australia,” he says.
“I think a lot of schools have a hand-holding, sterile approach. What’s unique about SFS is the focus on the step by step process how to get something made and then seen by an audience.”
James Fraser agrees: “[I’ve worked with students from other schools] and it’s astounding how different they are to SFS grads.” He says what distinguishes the SFS cohort from others is an unselfish commitment to the film.
It was Launay who assigned current Advanced Diploma producer candidate Tink Hanger to the art department on Dirt Tin. Launay had Hangar work with him on other projects and came away convinced of his ability: “Tink is grounded and whenever I’m in a tight corner I reach out and he’s there.”
“Lee is a great mentor,” Hangar says. “The shoot went well and Lee being a recent SFS graduate understands issues of time management when it comes to working ‘off-slate’ (i.e. accepting work on non-school projects.)
Hangar cautions current SFS students on how they assess the merit of accepting roles that don’t contribute to school productions. Aside from how this time away from their course obligations might impact their course work, students should be thinking about “growth, networking and building a skill set,” he says.
Paid or unpaid students should ask themselves ‘does this project contribute to building my career or is this project just using me as cheap (or free) labour?’” Hangar says.
“Even for paid gigs, there has to be more to it, than money,” Hangar says. “I read the script and I have to connect to it…there’s nothing worse than ending up working on garbage.”
Part of the attraction for getting into the production for Hangar, and Launay was that Dirt Tin was about a situation they and their friends felt passionate about – it was a passion shared amongst the crew. “That energy was fed directly into the work,” says Launay resulting in a film that’s both fun and very well made.
“One of the problems for a filmmaker is working out who your audience is,” Launay says. “James knew who this film was for…and sharing this film with your friends, is I think, a kind of protest [which is accounts partly for its success].”
Holly agrees, even if, as they were making it, they knew the film’s subject brought certain risks to do with how audiences outside of Sydney might understand its theme.
“It’s already dated,” she says now, laughing. “While we were editing Mike Baird resigned as Premier and the lockout laws were extended to 2am.”
Holly says that there were many discussions with James and co-writer and star Sam Glissan about how the film would be ‘a time capsule’ of a certain moment in Sydney life: “We were Ok with that.”
“Because in the end it’s about one guy fighting injustice and that’s a story that never dates,” she says.
It wasn’t only the theme that explains the films impact, Holly argues. Dirt Tin’s immediacy as a story was combined with a highly strategic, well designed and carefully plotted marketing campaign where the social network and digital played a central role.
“In any kind of filmmaking you have to have digital as a way to get your movie to the public,” she says.
“We met with a media consultant Sam Caldwell who designed the Dirt Tin plan and I was personally responsible for rolling it out.”
Holly says that the campaign was precisely mapped with exact timings for when certain assets would drop live on Facebook and other platforms.
Even if the film seems to speak directly to a certain demographic in Sydney, Holly and the team are convinced that Dirt Tin has a future on the destination film festival circuit – comedy film festivals, etc.
“I think what makes the film work is the story, not the politics.”
For Launay, the Dirt Tin production became a model of the SFS community at work at its best.
He says: “Something I learnt after film school was that people would rather surround themselves with people they like and trust rather than attach themselves with someone with a CV a mile long and a total [jerk!].
*Besides those crew mentioned in the body of the story SFS grads and students on Dirt Tin were: Lighting SFX: Gourav Gandhi, Lighting FX: Tauhid Hassan Alamgir, 1AC: Tahsin Rahman, 2AC: Julian Tynan, VFX: Jonathan Wilhelmsson, Runner: Jordan William, Photographer: Kate Cornish, Photographer: Raquel Linde, Photographer: Hari Frohling, Lighting Assis:/BTS videographer: Meredith Williams,