Archive | May, 2010

ESOTERICA is coming!

21 May

Dear reader(s),

A two and a half year journey is coming to a close.  As the title of this post suggests, ‘Esoterica’ is coming…well just what the hell is that?  Is it contagious, you ask?  We hope so.  Esoterica is the much anticipated second feature from Nakatomi Pictures.  Strictly speaking, it is a neo-noir thriller produced in the city of Perth, Western Australia.  The film follows sleazebag photographer Will Sutherland and his hooker and ex-flame, Nancy as they are drawn into a terrifying mystery of epic and nightmarish proportions.

It took me 20 minutes to write that last sentence, which must mean that I don’t want to give too much away OR that the film is more complex than that OR I have no idea what brevity means.  The film takes place in an indeterminate time and place (Mckee would hate that…so much).  A place filled with shadows, femmes fatale and all manner of noir archetypes.  Beyond the emotional story of the characters, it is our love letter to a genre that we hold very close to our hearts.

Esoterica is a film made from the dedication and passion of many people whose tireless efforts span the last 2 and a half years.  The film was shot all around our quiet city for five weeks in January of 2008.  A focused group of young filmmakers bounced around Perth leaving dried blood and several coke cans in their wake, all for the love of telling a rollicking screen yarn.

Once shooting was complete, so began a mammoth post process filled with more ups and downs than the craziest rollercoaster you’ve been on.  I won’t go into the process blow by blow because even at its most stressful, it was a pleasure and a joy.  Whenever things seemed hopeless I always said “I love this job OORAH!”…and that one is for my Jarhead peeps.  We are in the process of putting the finishing touches on the film and I wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you to all the cast, crew, supporters, family and friends who made this film a possibility.  I am in your debt.

So what is ‘Esoterica’?

Wouldn’t you like to know.

Sam Barrett

Director, Esoterica

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Nakatomi Profile: Jeremy Levi, Actor

18 May

Nakatomi Profile is a section featuring interviews with collaborators and artists we have worked with.

Who are you? What is your background?

My name is Jeremy Levi.  I began my performing career as a singer/songwriter in the mid to late 80’s.  Whilst studying English literature at UWA I sang with The Paranoids as part of the Perth Indie music scene.  After my English degree I completed another three years study at WAAPA doing the musical theatre course.  Weird, I’m not into musicals at all.  But the training was excellent.  After graduation I moved to Melbourne where I was lucky enough to find work in theatre, musical theatre, television but mainly short film projects.  I returned to Perth in 2004 where I have continued to work in all areas of performance and most recently resumed my songwriting career.

What attracted you to Esoterica?

The script, the script and nothing but the script.  I didn’t meet any of the other players until after I’d read the screenplay.  In this line of work I get to read a lot of scripts.  As a film buff, I also read a lot of famous screenplays of well known films.  Esoterica was one of only a few I’ve read that I was compelled to finish in the one sitting.  It just held me from page one.  Sam Fuller once said about reading scripts that; “…if I don’t have a hard-on by page 10, I don’t bother reading the rest.”

Tell us about the role you played?

Y’know…I don’t think I will.

Do you have a process?

Collaborate, collude and conspire.  Theatre is the domain of the actor but film is a director’s medium.  Most of the people working on a feature film have been doing so for months or even years before the actors sign on.  When I’m lucky enough to find a director who respects actors as creative artists (as with Sam on this project) then I try to first, understand their vision for the film and secondly, embellish and/or plunder the depths of that vision in collaboration with them.  My job as an actor is to elicit an empathetic or emotional response from the audience that takes them inside the story.  Because film is works on such a microscopic level, compared to theatre, I always try to get as much information from the director as possible to channel my performance along the desired path.  Knowing the size of the shot, the planned editing around the shot, the pace of the scene and its place in the flow of the film are some of the areas that are invaluable to a screen actor’s performance.  These are amongst a multitude of factors that I like to know about so I can be on the same page as the director.  It’s his baby and I’m privileged to be invited.

What was the shooting like?

This was a very difficult shoot overall.  But the question is “What was the shooting like?”  The shooting of the film was one of the best film experiences I’ve had.  Even with the shot/take ratio in place, I felt I had enormous freedom to refine the character from take to take.  Half of my performance comes from collaborating with the director and working off the other actors.  I was fortunate to be working with some of the best in the business on this film.

What have you done since the shooting of ‘Esoterica’?

I followed Esoterica with a role on Stormworld which is a 24 part children’s television series.  I performed in a play Three On, One Off at the Subiaco Arts Centre, and I took the lead role in Meaning-Maker Productions short film Trigger. Trigger was selected to screen at the Cannes International Film Festival, which is an enormous triumph.  I am currently writing songs for a new CD which I hope to record and release this year.

Give us your top ten film performances and why.

I came up with about 50 top film performances which I’ve struggled to narrow down to 10.  My criterion for a “great” screen performance is generally one that makes my subconscious curse very loudly, or one that makes me want to quit acting.

1.  Christian Bale – Empire of the Sun.  I was on holiday and about to begin my final year at WAAPA when I saw this.  This was the first time I’d been so intimidated by another performer that I felt I should just quit.  This little 11 year old kid was so disciplined, so focused and able to access such reserves of emotion, that no 11 year old should even know, I felt I was watching a master.

2.  James Stewart – Vertigo.  As much as I love pre-war Jimmy, post-war Jimmy is as good as it gets.  Hard to pick a favourite with Jimmy Stewart but that scene where Kim Novak is showing off her new hair colour and wardrobe, while Jimmy can’t hide his disappointment is a lesson in understated acting.

3.  Heath Ledger – Brokeback Mountain. So much has been said about this already.  I waited over a year before watching this film so as to view it without being influenced by the extraordinary hype it carried with it.  I think this performance will stand the test of time.  That said, I didn’t sleep after I saw his Joker in The Dark Knight.

4. Viggo Mortensen – The Indian Runner. This is an example of how the actor’s subsequent performances only serve to highlight how powerful he was in this role.  This is almost a dictionary definition of “intensity.”

5. Brion James – Blade Runner. More than any other actor who has ever played a replicant or variation on that theme, Brion was, for me, the most brilliant.  The interview that opens this film is spellbinding.

6. Toshiro Mifune – Seven Samurai. I’m a huge fan of Mifune and Kurosawa.  I started watching Kurosawa films long before I ever entertained thoughts of becoming an actor.  Mifune plays completely against type in this masterpiece and is totally amped throughout the entire film.

7. Lee J. Cobb – 12 Angry Men. Love The Cobb in anything, but this one was my introduction to his work.  Jack Klugman also puts in an excellent performance in this one which I was unprepared for having only ever seen him on television in Quincy M.D.  Cobb is one of those rare actors who like Crowe and Penn, can portray such frightening, raw masculinity and yet reveal, in the same character, an incredible vulnerability.

8.  Robin Wright-Penn – Unbreakable.  Not on this list because it’s so male dominated.  For one amazing scene in a fairly average film she had to be included.  That moment when she questions Bruce Willis about his possible infidelities is so heartbreaking.  One shot, one take of pure, raw emotion.

9. Tony Curtis – The Boston Strangler.  I grew up in Bunbury watching Tony Curtis in films like The Purple Mask , The Prince Who was a Thief, Son of Ali Baba and Houdini (which I must have seen nearly 10 times – before VHS was invented!)  His performance in this film is as good as acting gets and it is still a mystery to many why this film didn’t revitalize his career.

10. Naomi Watts – Mullholland Drive. This was like that moment watching Ed Norton for the first time in Primal Fear.  The carpet is pulled out from under your feet and you fall flat on your back with your subconscious yelling WTF?  Where did that come from?

Honourable mention to John Cazale.  Five films, all nominated for Best Picture.

Esoterica poster art revealed!

14 May

George Shevstov as 'Van Cleef'

Perth portrait artist Jenna Niven has completed work on three different character posters for upcoming noir thriller ‘Esoterica’.  The three one sheet posters feature James Helm as ‘Will’, Melanie Munt as ‘Nancy’ and George Shevstov as the enigmatic ‘Van Cleef’.

Niven elaborates on the idea behind the posters:

“The Esoterica posters were conceptualised based around the idea of creating an engaging, striking image which intrigues the viewer rather than slapping them in the face with the plot of the movie. Instead, the story line is conveyed in the atmosphere created through the use of a singular, shadow hidden, figure in black and white. Three different posters, with three different figures allows the viewer become more engaged and more curious about the movie.”

The original poster art, along with Niven’s other works will be showing in Fremantle at The Moores Building Contemporary Art Gallery from 22nd May to the 6th June as a part of Niven’s joint exhibition entitled ‘We Are Not What We Look Like‘.

Nakatomi Profile: Robbie Studsor, Screenwriter

7 May

Nakatomi Profile is a new section in which we will be interviewing collaborators and artists we have worked with.

Who are you? What is your background?

My name is Robbie. I was born the year Octopussy came out and Luis Bunuel, Dennis Wilson and Gloria Swanson died! It was also a month before Slayer released Show No Mercy and on the same day Charles Manson and Roland Barthes were born. I Grew up in a town that looked like a set from Mad Max spending lots of time playing in old car wrecks and mineshafts before I saw the movie Jaws.

I’m currently trapped in an ongoing PhD thesis that falls somewhere between the ideas of Georges Bataille and the films of Mario Bava.

What is your process?

Similar to the scene in Apocalypse Now when Martin Sheen smashes the mirror in a drunken haze, except with MORE nudity.

Where did the story come from?

Caffeine, a segment from a Stanley Kubrick documentary, the photography of Weegee, the music of Bohren and the Club of Gore and the director’s last minute decision NOT to make a Western!

What are some of the influences?

For the most part – 60s & 70s European crime cinema (Giallo, Krimi), Film Noir, Hitchcock, Lynch, 70s neo noir (Polanksi, Pakula, De Palma etc), Val Lewton and Boileau-Narcejac

Do you have a favourite scene?  Why?

I’d love to say a scene pertinent to the plot, but let’s go with the kid in a cage bit. There’s something about Pyjamas and chainsaws…

What is good screenwriting?

I don’t think anyone really knows.

What type of stories do you want to tell?

I hope that one day I could tell a story like Roger Vadim’s sexual conquest autobiography titled Bardot, Deneuve, Fonda.

Give us your top ten films and why.

My top ten list always changes, but today it goes something like this, in no particular order:

Rear Window

The critics agree! And how can you argue? For me Rear Window, The Birds and Vertigo are equally perfect, but the day I did this list Rear Window kept coming to mind as being particularly perfect (if that makes sense).

The Devils

Being a ladies man is really funny if you’re Jerry Lewis in a women-only boarding house, not so much when you’re a Catholic priest accused of bewitching the convent in France during the Renaissance. Add a sexually bitter, deformed mother superior and a depraved, masochistic inquisitor and you know things are gunna get hot!

You don’t make a film like The Devils unless you’re really angry and whatever Russell was channelling (maybe even Urbain Grandier himself) it comes off the screen with so much energy you can almost feel the heat coming off the burning stake. Fearless!

12 Monkeys

Though I love Brazil, for me, this is the perfect Gilliam film.

Jaws

Jaws is more important to me than both my kidneys and simultaneously made me realise both movies are sharks are awesome. You’re kidding yourself if you think there is a better film of its kind, absolutely kidding yourself. Oh, but the shark looks ‘so fake’, if you’ve ever said that you have a heart of stone and DESERVE all the CGI in world. ‘But it also started the trend of movies being summer blockbusters and…’ ZZzzzzz.

Danger: Diabolik!

Mario Bava is my favourite director and it was hard to pick only one of his films. For some reason this list looked better with Diabolik on it than Black Sunday, The Whip and the Body, Black Sabbath or Kill, Baby, Kill! If you’ve never seen it, try to think of a comic-book, candy-coloured, surrealist spy film where the bad guy always wins… what more do you want? People who love this movie because it’s camp have NO idea.

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

Imagine if the playboy mansion was under the sea…except Hugh Hefner has an unhealthy obsession with murderous revenge and instead of women there is a pet seal, underwater burials, and a giant squid. Fun, dark Disney at its live-action best. “Eat your pudding Mr Land”

Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors

This film is deep, beautiful and mysterious…oh, and it has more visual kinetic energy than the Evil Dead! An “art film” that requires a fucking seatbelt.

Woman in the Dunes

A wonderful Japanese existential nightmare about a young entomologist trapped down a sand pit (don’t worry he’s not alone, a woman also lives there…in a house!) An absurdist classic I find strange, sexy and sandy.

Smiles of a Summer Night

Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like Ingmar Bergman. At the moment I’m obsessed with this film in particular. A clever, romantic masterpiece.

Sunset Boulevard

Norma Desmond descending the staircase, explaining that is there is ‘nothing else, just us, and the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark’ then briefly looking straight at the frame always chills my blood.

“Beefheart’s Bath”© by Chris De Groot

4 May

Here is “Beefheart’s Bath”, composer Chris De Groot’s favourite track from Nakatomi Pictures second feature ‘Esoterica’.  The track appears over the most visceral and terrifying scene in the picture.  ‘Happy’ listening. Click on the link below to hear this very creepy track.

Note – the track begins quietly; your speakers aren’t broken!

The Annexia Ensemble – Beefheart’s Bath