Natasha Wanganeen Proves the concept with Bunker

May 9, 2022
The actress turns to writing and producing for the sci-fi short film Bunker: The Last Fleet, selected for St Kilda Film Festival.

Fifth Element is a great film! Die Hard, Rocky, Rambo, Predator, Alien, Mad Max, Last of the Mohicans, Schindler’s List, Mortal Kombat, the original Bloodsport, Boss Level – there’s a lot of great classics! I’m open to most films but those are some of my favourites.”

That’s not the sort of line you hear from most filmmakers, but Natasha Wanganeen (Cargo, Firebite) is no ordinary artist.

“Growing up the way I did in a family of 8, we didn’t really have a lot, to the point where I had no shoes for school, and we wouldn’t have lunch at times. My biggest aspiration was to work in a supermarket and have a steady job. My father always told me when you grow up you get a good job and a car and a home to call your own.

“Growing up on a Christian mission gave me a different perspective on what was important and what was needed to survive. As humans, we don’t really need that much to survive, most of what we have and use aren’t necessities.

“I broke into the biz through a community youth group my Aunty Josie Agius ran which was called Port Youth and is now known as Kurruru. I was 15 and was in a local secondary college called Tauondi College at the time studying Photography, Art and Hospitality. My aunt called and asked me to go to Port Youth with a bunch of other kids and we were put through group exercises with actor Rachel Maza and director Phillip Noyce.

“Coming from a mission and growing up in the suburbs I didn’t know who Phillip Noyce was at the time, but the audition was hilarious looking back and I understand why he gave me the job of Nina in Rabbit-Proof Fence.”

Natasha’s love of mainstream genre and her Indigenous heritage come together in Bunker: The Last Fleet, which she admits was made as a proof of concept for a bigger project.

“The world in which it lives is so vast and there are so many character stories to tell and threads to explore from how the alien invasion happened. We had originally intended this to be a web series and were working towards this, then with some interest coming in from various parties we began development of a feature film.  We had a 6-week writers room last year where we workshopped and wrote a treatment for a feature.

“Currently we are in the process of writing the script, applying for development funding and seeking private investment.”

According to its synopsis, Bunker: The Last Fleet is set in the year 2057. ‘For six years, the extra-terrestrial invaders have occupied our world. The harvest of humankind has begun. When they arrived, everything was lost. The people, the land, the system… gone. For Tjarra (Wanganeen) and Reo (Ro Phung), hope, it seems, is hard to find in the midst of a storm.’

“I became involved with Bunker in 2019 when Rowan Pullen contacted me through Facebook,” Wanganeen tells us, referring to the film’s co-writer/co-director. “We had mutual friends in the local industry, so I accepted his invitation to work on this project together with Stephen Potter [co-writer/co-director] and Michael Kumnick [production designer]. Looking at their previous work I was keen to have some fun with it as it was my first lead in a short film in a genre that I absolutely love.”

photo by Carl Mark Swart

Wanganeen quickly became a crucial collaborator, bringing on the likes of Indigenous actor Trevor Jamieson (pictured with her below) and Indigenous elders.

“We had discussions with our elders here in Adelaide and explained our short film idea as we needed to make sure certain cultural content was alright to use, talk about, or add to our story,” she says. “We also wanted them to be a part of the process as custodians of the land we are living on and made the film on. Their insights were incredibly helpful, and they made a cameo in the film as well, which was amazing.”

Self-financed for around $30,000, Wanganeen is the first to admit that if it wasn’t for the in-kind support, that the project would not have been produced to the required levels for a genre piece.

“To make a high concept sci-fi the production value is important, which can quickly hurt the pocket. However, when all you have is time, we knew that if we just had the right artists on board, then the quality of design would still be high!

“In the pre-production stage, concept and art design artist Michael Kumnick (I Am Mother, Cargo, 2067) became our ‘Jack of all trades artist’. Working with Michael using programs like Procreate meant that we could develop storyboard animatics to promote and recruit other artists. For example, fundraising film events and costume green screen tests promoted on social media helped us recruit and promote our film, leading to the next stage of production.

“This sort of model was simply repeated in production, recruiting award-winning cinematographer Maxx Corkindale, and so we could now develop further interest with a press kit. Which in turn led to bringing on [producer] Jessica Giacco who helped us develop our website and vision for the feature formats.

“In post-production, Rowan reached out to lecturers at the Adelaide College of the Arts and we were able to pull together a team of students to understudy Senior VFX artists Chris La and Eric Hawksley from Method Studios.

“The post stage was a grind and financially the toughest to fund and we could not have achieved this without the talented editor’s eye of Nick Crowhurst, powerful sound design of Blue Lounge Sound Studios Composer, and talented musician Richie Robinson.”

Bunker: The Last Fleet is screening at the St Kilda Film Festival, 27 May – June 5, 2022, and the Perth Revelation International Film Festival, July 7 – 17, 2022

Main Photo by Anders Wotzke
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