FilmInk spoke to the makers and cast behind the edgy and slightly surreal Australian comedy, ‘Bathing Franky’.
Parramatta's Riverside theatre was the first stop on a short NSW tour for new Australian film Bathing Franky, starring veterans Henri Szeps and Maria Venuti as well as newcomer Shaun Goss.
The film follows ex-con Stevie (Goss) who picks up a meals-on-wheels job before meeting Rodney (Szeps), an eccentric performer who is forced to look after his incapacitated mother Franky (Venuti), the idea of which had its grounding in real life, writer Michael Winchester says of his debut screenplay.
"I live in a town in the Hunter Valley and there is a particular character there that walks the streets in this town and I see him every week when I go shopping," Winchester says. "I wondered about who this character was. It turned out to be the character played by Henri.
"What interested me about the story were these two characters, along with the young man [Shaun Goss], and what might happen if their two worlds collided. For me, that's what the whole film is about."
After an eight year long process to make the film, director Owen Elliott says that he was on board with the film right from the beginning.
"I started on the film when I hired Mike [the screenwriter] for my final year student film; he played the father figure in that," Elliott explains. "I entered it into the Newcastle Film Festival and won a few awards, which was awesome.
"I met Yahoo Serious, who was one of the judges, who accosted me after the festival and just encouraged me to try and do whatever I wanted to do in film. I told him I wanted to make a feature film, to which he said, ‘Get a bunch of people together and start writing.'"
What came of the writing process is a tender, funny and gut-wrenching film that runs a gauntlet of emotions, which is one of the reasons Maria Venuti took her role as Franky in the film.
"Henri [Szeps] has been a mate for a long time and we had a little meeting in Leichhardt one day," Venuti explains. "I said, ‘Henri, I really need something challenging.' A month later, Henri rings me and says, ‘How would you like to be my mother?' I said, ‘No way', but Henri very kindly suggested me to Owen and Michael."
The title role of Franky was an admittedly difficult role for the boisterous Venuti, with few lines, as well as two hours of latex application to her face each time she became Franky.
Lead actor Henri Szeps says that he suggested Venuti for the role because he knew she would go the extra mile for the character.
"We've been chums for a long time and whenever Maria has an audition, she'll give me a ring and want to run through her lines," Szeps explains. "I knew her talent from those readings and when this came up, I thought, ‘Let's give it a burl.'"
Szeps says that the film raises interesting points, including the idea that everyone lives with a lie.
"The way that we perceive our lives is from our standpoint and that, in some respects, is a lie because it can't be another person's standpoint," Szeps muses. "I think that is one of the magical things about this really brave script in that you don't know what is real and what isn't. We don't think of it in those terms but we do live a story and that is the really profound part of this film."
Bathing Franky will continue its tour on June 16 when it screens at Dungog's James Theatre before travelling to Maitland on June 17, concluding at Towers Cinema in Newcastle on June 24 with Szeps and Venuti to attend each for a Q&A.
More details can be found here.