Committing to shooting a film in the Top End comes with an understanding that you’re prepared to sweat like an icy pole in the sun. There’s no escaping sweat – matting your hair to your hat or trickling down your leg into your boots. It’s an uncomfortable, smelly, and sometimes mind-numbing experience, especially when you’re dehydrated and you’ve got to devote your last two brain cells to directing the scene…
Growing up in the tropics definitely helps. My mate Shaun, who’d flown up from Sydney to help out with production, was knocked about pretty hard by the change in weather. He’d hardly had time to acclimatise before we were spending full days out at Mount Bundy Station shooting in full sun, with our only refuge being a small fibro house equipped with a rickety ceiling fan that was stuck on the lowest setting. He spent probably half his time in Darwin passed out on a couch, whenever he came across one.
But still, nothing can quite prepare you for it, I don’t think. No matter how long you’ve grown up in the Top End.
Most Territorians survive the build up – they don’t thrive in it. It’s just too much effort. The physical torture is enough. The added mental stress of having to think creatively can often push good, honest, law-abiding citizens to the brink. But I reckon there’s no place that tests your limits, or makes you feel so alive, as does the Territory.
Except when, like Shaun, you’re passed out on a couch from heatstroke. You almost go into a creative blackout, waking up on the other side thinking, ‘What? We wrapped? I can’t remember anything. I sure hope we got what we needed’.
Before being awarded the completion funding from Screen Australia, which was after we’d shot the entire thing and were just about to head into post production, everything was done entirely out of pocket and mostly for free. Which is an incredible thing, because I can’t quite wrap my head around it. It’s something uniquely Territorian I think.
All the actors, crew (skeleton as we were), were all volunteers. Most of it was just connections we had to local actors, friends, and favours. All incredibly talented people I hope to be able to hire for real in a real life film one day.
We didn’t rent any gear either, we just borrowed equipment from friends and used the cameras and lenses I had available to me. I’m a bit of a cinematography freak, so I had some cool glass I wanted to try out on this project anyway. You might notice we shot a majority of the film in anamorphic, using an anamorphic adaptor, which is just a big chunk of glass (the size of a lens) fitted with curved diopter bits. We were able to screw it onto the end of some existing lenses we had access to (in particular, a very basic Canon 24-105), which gave me a pretty cheap, sorta bodgie, sorta gorgeous anamorphic rig. There was some serious aberration, vignetting and other imperfections that came about as a result of using this unusual combo, but I didn’t mind. Except when the double focussing got too tricky for me, and you can see the shot’s just slightly out of focus. That’s just annoying.
With Fracketty Frack, I really hope a lot of that spontaneity, energy, and raw sweat comes across on screen. What we’ve ended up with is something I’m really proud of, not just for the end result, but for everything it’s taught me along the way. And the incredibly talented people I’ve been able to work with. I owe it to them; we’re all a little bananas to want to try to get a film like this off the ground on our own accord. But we Fracking did it.
All 8 episodes of Fracketty Frack are available to watch now. Check out the first episode below.