Blake Northfield: Streamlining Bronte Pictures

December 21, 2019
With his latest feature film, the producer has taken on his first non-genre film, the professional swimming centred drama Streamline, written and directed by Tyson Wade Johnston.

How did this particular project come into your orbit?

My producing partner on this film, Nathan Walker, organised a meeting between the Writer/Director, Tyson Johnston and us both. We asked him what his passion project was, the one film he really wanted to write and direct and he pitched the idea of Streamline. The content resonated with us straight away and we commissioned Tyson to write a treatment, script and the rest is history.

Lucy Fisher (GCFF Festival Director), Blake Northfield, Anna Waters-Massey (Writer/Actress), Darren Paul Fisher (Screenwriter/Director) at Gold Coast Film Festival End of Year Screen Industry Drinks

You’ve done genre films [Out of the Shadows, The School, Escape and Evasion]; would you consider Streamline something different for Bronte Pictures?

This is our first, straight down the line drama. It’s something I really enjoyed. I think the writing just has to be top notch for this to work, there’s nowhere to hide if there’s any weakness in the screenplay. We have come off a strong year of producing international content and this, a proper home-grown Australian drama, with some exceptional performances by some of Australia’s best actors.

What role is Ian Thorpe playing in Streamline and how did he get him involved?

When we were developing the script, it became quite evident for [lead actor] Levi Miller [Pan, Better Watch Out, Red Dog: True Blue, Jasper Jones, A Wrinkle in Time] to truly pull this off, he’d need to talk to somebody that knows what it is actually like to be a world champion swimmer at 15. Being there’s only a couple in the world, we miraculously brought Ian Thorpe on as an Executive Producer. He not only advised Levi on the technical and emotional aspects of his character’s development, he also advised us in production on things such as what a pool deck would look like at the Olympic Trials, how the swimmers would walk, talk…swim. He’s been crucial to the execution of the film.

What do you think that Tyson Johnston will be able to bring to the film in terms of its appeal to the market and audiences in general?

Tyson has been heavily influenced by films such as Whiplash, Black Swan etc; films with an obsessiveness relationship between the protagonist and a sport, whilst also showing the darker side to the obsessiveness and the relationships surrounding it. Being that he’s lived in LA for the previous 10 years, there’s an international influence on this; it’s an Australian film though the design, look and feel are quite international. He’s a very talented director!

Do you consider yourself a creative producer, or are you there to foster the vision of the writer/director?

I hope I can say that I know how to toe the line down the middle respectively. Tyson mostly had complete freedom with this project, with some small script changes coming from us, ones that we wouldn’t ever enforce, more so discuss and find a solution together so that he would be happy with whatever the change was. I’m creative in the sense that my earlier years was as an actor, so I know what actors are thinking, I know how they’ll respond to certain situations and I voice that in development. I think a producer needs to trust their director and then go about setting up the infrastructure for that director to implement their vision. For us, the only downsides ever, are just simple budget restrictions. Thankfully, Tyson adapted to every situation positively.

How did you get Jason Isaacs onboard, and is having him and Levi Miller on the project key to raising finance?

I reached out to Jason’s agent, with whom I was actually discussing Jason for another project, we put the offer out to him and waited with our fingers crossed. The day we thought “Ok, it’s time to pull the offer”, Jason had come back with a resounding yes! Jason and Levi were crucial in the financing of this film. They both just carry a weight of respectability, credibility and obviously marketability.

Are you able to share the budget of the film with us? Either way, is this Bronte’s biggest project to date?

Quite the contrary, it’s actually Bronte’s smallest budget to date. We’ve taken quite some time to figure out a budget size that not only lets you make the film you want to make, without too much compromise on the content, whilst also allowing a chance to recoup our investors’ money and have a chance of profitability. It’s a safe zone of between $2 – 3M.

Did you ever consider shooting the film elsewhere but QLD, and if not, why not?

We have a great relationship with Screen Queensland. A couple of years ago I saw a gap in the domestic film industry in South East Queensland and we moved our base to Queensland to fill it. There are a lot of big budget films, big TV series and some features coming in and out but there wasn’t a production company turning over domestic features consistently in the area. We have pathway programs with the local universities, where students go from work experience to an employed capacity on our productions. Our crew are based in Queensland. It’s just home for us.

You started off as an actor, was there a certain turning point for you to moving behind the camera?

I produced my first film [Out of the Shadows] to give myself an acting role. By doing this, I found a love for the bigger picture, I enjoyed putting the pieces together over a couple of years, completely looking back at a project with your teammates and saying we did that, we created a film. I wasn’t the best actor also! So that definitely helped!

Streamline will release in cinemas in 2020.

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