Can you talk about the film industry in Queensland, where you’re based? Is it a supportive community?
Carmel: We are based on the Gold Coast only 5 minutes from the Warner Bros studios. It’s a great spot and ideal in so many ways. We are pretty autonomous to the rest of the community up here to be honest. We have been developing our own slate and our own structure to how we want to make films. In saying that the crew in QLD are world class and our team that we continue to use follow our same vision. It’s all about finding people that are on the same wavelength and surrounding yourself with them.
You’re making genre films, what is the reaction from government bodies to your films?
Carly: We don’t really have much to do with the government bodies as we are 100% independently financed. We have had assistance from various bodies with locations and other factors like that on Occupation, and they were a great support for what we needed. Any film, whether its genre or art house, that makes it through the whole journey of script to screen is a huge achievement in general. We obviously fully believe there should be more genre films done in Australia.
How do you get such great production qualities for a fraction of a Hollywood budget?
Carmel: It’s just looking at what’s in the script and what’s in the budget and assessing how you can make certain shots look and sound like triple size of the budget that you actually have set aside. The producing team and Luke [Sparke, Director] have A LOT of in depth conversations with our HODs and discuss how we can make scenes look massive as opposed to what we shoot. Sometimes it can be as simple as having extra cameras for one specific scene and shooting from all different angles to look like a completely different shot over and over again and the audience is none the wiser as long as it looks cool and convincing. So, having the right team on board and being able to follow Luke’s vision is a crucial piece of the pie.
How and why did you step up to produce?
Carly: Funnily enough I was a Cinematographic make-up artist when I first joined the industry and I never planned on being a Producer. I met Luke on my first short film while still studying make-up at the famed Frampton Institute, and from there he recommended me for various other shoots their company Sparkefilms was employed on. After that it was a quick procession to being an assistant helping them in development on their long awaited script The 34th Battalion, which again, I was only going to be part of make-up department on. I fell into it, as no other producer shared Luke’s vision without the hefty price tag upfront that came with it, so I stepped up to give it a go. Then all of a sudden, I was a Producer on the TV series Yesterday is History in 2014 which aired 2 eps on the History channel in 2015 and went to DVD soon after. Then Red Billabong in 2014-2015 followed as my debut as a feature film Producer so it really was sink or swim for me. I learnt some very tough lessons every step of the way which I believe has been the best way to learn for me personally.
Carmel: I was always supportive of my children’s dreams and when Carly and my other daughter Melanie started in the office doing admin duties for The 34th Battalion I somehow fell into that whole world with her and before I knew it was a production manager on Yesterday is History.
Are the genre films something that you’re personally attracted to, or is a business model that works?
We both personally have always loved genre pictures, actually Horror/Thrillers are our all-time favourite to watch and a lot of my friends and family were the same, so we always knew there was an audience for it. This is why we take the films around to the various comic con conventions across Australia as a grass roots campaign and the reactions are always positive and excited to see these sort of films done by Australians for Australians on the international stage. It’s a very interesting business model when you consider the masses of fans out there that love Marvel, Star Wars, DC etc and to tap in to that ravenous fanbase, but Australian content, is a very effective strategy.
You’re a mum and daughter duo, what are the pluses and minuses?
Carly: Haha.. well it’s as you would think, there are some days where it can be challenging because we are so close and we have to separate the work from the personal; all in all, I really love working with my family and feel very lucky to have the opportunity. Seeing Carmel grow as a Production Manager then to now a Producer I am very proud of how far she has come in such a quick amount of time. She was made for it!
Carmel: 100% agree with Carly, it is a challenge at times but at the end of the day we stick together and get the job done. I am so proud of Carly and to watch her journey has been amazing to see!
What about being female producers – pluses and minuses?
In our experience, we don’t really have any minuses. Producing in general is not the smoothest job but that’s like any job; the difference is having the passion for it and we love the challenges it brings us. We work in a company that is completely equal, all the production crew treats each other with care and respect so we try to make it a very fun and friendly environment. On set of Occupation there were just as many women as there were men each day and that is such a great thing to see in this day and age, something that we will make sure we continue. Another plus is the positive feedback we get after a shoot when we hear that cast and/or crew miss the set and really want to work with us again. That is a very humbling feeling.
You’ve got an excellent cast in the film, was that tough to attract? What do you think the actors resonated with?
Carly: It was, and it wasn’t. We sat down and collected a list of each character in the script and the cast members we had in mind for it. Temuera Morrison was the first one we had on our list for Peter Bartlett and when he accepted the offer fairly quickly we were blown away as he is such a seasoned actor and a lovely guy as well. There were some roles that were tougher to fill but that was mostly due to availability at the time as there was so many productions around in 2017. To get the cast that we got was amazing, the fact that all of them just got where Luke was coming from and saw the layered stories and felt the heart and soul of the script was definitely a key player in getting these guys on board. Also, I think they were drawn to the idea of being on an action set and being amongst explosions, rain machines and just a cool ensemble cast and to see how we were going to pull it off.
Carmel: We are in early pre-production now of the sequel to Occupation due to the response from overseas markets that have bought the film and even the homegrown fanbase already wanting more after seeing advanced screenings around the country recently.
Occupation is in cinemas now.