Aussie filmmakers prove their determination with a gritty action flick
The story behind the making of the Australian film, Braille, is testament to the fact that a few words of encouragement can go a long way.
In 2006, Luke Graham and Matthew Chuang made a short film which came second in the Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards. While the boys didn't take out the major title, member of the judging panel and director, Phillip Noyce, noted the boy's short was "imaginative, original, resourceful and witty."
"His words were encouraging enough for me to go out and buy a Panasonic HVX202 [camera] with my producer Luke Graham and we decided to make this heist film," Chuang recalls about the origins of Braille. "We were big fans of Michael Mann and just at that time, Miami Vice had come out and we saw what he did with Digital and we set out to do something along those lines."
Braille is loosely inspired by the French New Wave film Le Cercle Rouge. Three young thieves cross the path of an older blind thief who tells them of a blood diamond he hid in the prison cell where he was once incarcerated.
Chuang says that he and Graham had always intended to make a gritty action flick. "We had set out to make an Australian film that was completely different. Australian films aren't known for being genre films and not since the ‘70s and early ‘80s have we made good action films."
The film was shot on a shoestring budget and Chuang soon realised that they needed to be strategic with investors, often having to offer something in exchange. "We had an initial investment of $25,000 from a plastic surgeon. In return, we had to film medical procedures for him. A memorable one was liposuction... As for the locations, we couldn't afford the location fees so we offered to do corporate videos for them in return." Interestingly, one of key locations in the film is a prison, which gives Braille an authenticity often lacking in indie films with such ambition.
Most of the money that was received was invested into the film's action scenes. Chuang recalls that he has a criminal record for making a short film with replica toy guns when he was sixteen so, tongue-in-cheek, he retorts, "I'm very careful with guns now." Thus for Braille, the boys recruited an armorer who taught the actors how to handle weapons and they also had an SAS officer come on set to show the actors how to move and enter a room.
The film proved a steep learning curve for Chuang and Graham. "We really grew as filmmakers during the process. We had made a lot of mistakes along the way but we persisted and learnt from them. It really opened our eyes to the level of hard work, commitment and sacrifice required."
What's next for these two industrious young filmmakers? "Right now it's all about the second feature... we can now approach people with Braille and ask for more resources and they can trust us to pull it off," Chuang says.
Sure to help them is the fact that IFM World Releasing Inc, the US/Australian international film and TV sales company, recently acquired worldwide rights [outside Australia and New Zealand] to the film, and Matthew won Third Prize at Tropfest with his comical short film Last Roll of the Dice. So, watch this space...
For more on Braille check out the website.