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Esoterica reviewed by Scary Minds

30 Jan

Those twisted guys at Scary Minds have given the almighty thumbs up to Esoterica, awarding the film an 8/10 rating.  The comprehensive and thoughtful analysis ends by proclaiming that Esoterica is the sort of movie that reminds us what cinema is all about”.

Their reviews are insightful and always entertaining.  Check out the full review here and be sure to have a look at the many other reviews on their site.  The Aussie section is a real standout.

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Esoterica released on DVD January 19th!

6 Jan

An endless night.
A seedy photographer.
A slighted hooker.
A kidnapped child.
A desperate search.
A race against time.
A mystery like no other.

Nakatomi Pictures’ neo-noir thriller Esoterica is available on DVD as of January 19th.

Support the film by buying or renting a copy today.  Esoterica is available from many on-line sellers including Ezydvd, Fishpond and JB-HiFi.

Annette Basile of Filmink describes the film as “a triumph of imagination over minimal budget. What these West Australian filmmakers lacked in cold hard cash they made up for in cool creative flair. On this level alone, the upcoming Esoterica impresses. But it has the other stuff that matters too – a good script, great performances and an actual plot”.

Nakatomi Profile: Benjamin Morris, Sound Designer

25 Oct

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

Who are you? What is your background?

I’ve been an audio engineer for nearly 10 years, I come from a background in music recording and live engineering. My two greatest passions are sound and film, but it’s taken many years to realize that I can combine those two loves by working as a sound designer. Esoterica is the first feature film that I’ve worked on.

What attracted you to Esoterica?

It’s a great little film – beautifully shot, intriguing story. It’s not often that a film of this calibre gets made in Perth, so it’s a pleasure to be involved with it.

Do you have a process?

Layers – it’s all about the layers! When working on a project as large as this it’s important to concentrate on one element at a time, so you don’t miss some of the finer details. It’s tempting when you’re first handed a film to start working on all the sexier stuff first! Esoterica is full of sexy stuff – chainsaws, gunshots, and eerie atmospheres – stuff that every sound designer loves to work on. I had to restrain myself while working on this film; I got all the technicalities out of the way first so that I had a strong base to build on, and then got down to all the fun stuff!

I always start working on the dialogue first, which is the most important aspect of any sound design. Story is told through dialogue, so you have to ensure that an audience can clearly understand everything that is being communicated. Once you have the dialogue right, everything else just falls into place.

How did you approach the sound design of the film?

I snuck up on it from behind.

What is good sound design?

Sound design should be an invisible art. If you do it right, it should never draw attention to itself. The minute an audience member notices the sound design of a film, the illusion has been broken and they get taken out of the film experience. Sound design should draw an audience into a story, enhance it (and sometimes, explain it).

What is your favourite scene in terms of sound?

A few scenes spring to mind. There’s a scene in an art gallery I’m really happy with, and a scene in an alleyway that sounds great. On the whole though, I really enjoy the scenes where I was able to cut sick with the music! The score for this film is amazing, there’s a few scenes later in the film where I just pumped the music up and let it do all the talking. Those scenes still give me goose bumps even though I’ve seen them hundreds of times.

What were the biggest challenges?

Coming on board quite late in the game was tricky, I would really have liked to have spent a few more months with the film. Also, much of the film was shot in the middle of the night around Perth, when the city is almost silent. I spent a lot of time trying to create the illusion that the city in the film is a lot bigger and badder than sleepy old Perth.

What is the relationship between composer and sound designer?  Are there overlaps?

The relationship between composer and sound designer should always be a close one, good communication between the two is vital. It is important that they are on the same page in terms of the tone of a film. A composer basically acts as sound designer for most of the non-diegetic sound of the film, sound that doesn’t come directly from things we see on the screen. They write music to create mood in a film.

The overlap occurs when music is not present in a film. It’s then up to the sound designer to maintain the mood of a film by using atmospheres and other sound design elements.

Give us your top ten films from a sound perspective and why.

1. Apocalypse Now


The soundtrack of this film is sublime, everything from the voiceover to the effects editing is masterful. The term “sound designer” was coined because of Walter Murchs’ work on this film. He pioneered techniques in this film that still seem fresh today. The opening sequence is amazing; I love the way Murch ties together the sound with the vision.

2. Barton Fink


A great example of a film where sound design is integral to the narrative, and not just there to reinforce the visuals. The Coen brothers worked very closely with sound designer Skip Lievsay to create a soundscape that helps explain the subjective viewpoint of the main character. The most amazing use of atmos I have ever heard in film.

3. The Empire Strikes Back


Ben Burtts’ contribution to film sound is immeasurable. After designing the sound effects for Star Wars, George Lucas made him sound designer on Empire, and it’s the best example of his work. This film still sounds flawless by today’s standards.

4. Alien


Another great example how atmosphere is used to create mood. I love the self-destruct countdown sequence at the end of the film, the way the tension is built up without the use of music. It worked so well that James Cameron ripped off the idea for the sequel!

5. No Country For Old Men


The sound is so immersive that I didn’t even realise the lack of music until my friend pointed it out to me towards the end of the film.

6. Saving Private Ryan


Speaking of immersive, the opening scenes of this film are incredible. The use of subjective sound techniques really takes you into the reality of the battle in the most brutal way, and makes the scenes that much harder to watch.

7. Seven


All of Fincher’s films sound amazing, but this is a personal favourite. Count the number of police sirens used in the atmos – it’s relentless.

8. King Kong


Most big budget films these days have great sound design, this is a step above though. The sound effects editing is amazing, great creature sounds too.

9. Eraserhead


Alan Splet was the king of abstract atmosphere. The industrial sounding drones in this film are hypnotic, I could watch this film with my eyes closed.

10. Animal Kingdom


I thought I’d mention this one because it’s the best sounding Australian film I’ve seen in a long time. Great score, great naturalistic sound design. And a voiceover that sounds nearly as good as the one in Apocalypse Now.

Check out the ‘Esoterica’ trailer

17 Aug

If you haven’t already done so then you must check out the trailer for Nakatomi Pictures’ upcoming neo noir thriller ‘Esoterica’.  Don’t be alarmed if your browser is cropping the video.  Simply click on the red headline of this post to go to a dedicated page.

Nakatomi Profile: Richard Mellick, Actor

13 Aug

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

Who are you? What is your background?

I have no idea who I am.  I’ve been trying to work it out for 44 years but nothing has become clear yet. I’ve been a school kid, song writer, poet, actor, bushwalker, telemarketer, public servant, director, playwright, sleaze bag, single parent, and recently a grandfather!! Will that do?? My ancestral background is Lebanese and Irish. My professional background is dodgy and my personal background is Sydney, Broome, Fitzroy Crossing and now Perth. I worked in Indigenous theatre for ten years and toured to the most remote places in Australia. My son’s mother is from the edge of the Great Sandy Desert. I’m a middle class son of a doctor from Beecroft, Sydney.

What attracted you to Esoterica?

What attracted me?? Meeting Sam was a great moment because for some reason he believed I could play the role. Not many directors have this response to me.

Tell us about the role you played?
Making the film was so long ago i remember nothing about the role I played except the costume Sandy got for me. Oh, hang on, I remember this really sexy woman (mel) sitiing on my lap and slapping me. (I already knew Mel. We worked together on Lockie Leonard and I told her I wanted to have her baby. She didn’t believe me so we went to the tent and had breakfast instead)

Do you have a process?
I have a process and it always starts with 3 large joints….. only kidding—- 3 large pots of tea. I start by reading my the script. I know that sounds unusual but that’s what they told us to do at NIDA. Then, I pray pray pray that somehow the director will tell me what to do. If he/she doesn’t, I panic and usually end up on the cutting room floor.

What was the shooting like?
Shooting Estorica was probably the most bizarre experience of my life. I was doing Shakespeare In The Park playing an 80 year old man (Adam) and then going on set from 11pm until dawn. I would drive home feeling like someone had taken my brain out. And I was lucky! The crew did this for 5 weeks straight! The food was good and again Sam was too. He told me what to do and I just did it ( I think. Lets see on Sunday at the preview………)

What have you done since the shooting of ‘Esoterica’?
Since Estorica I have been to Bali, buried my father, split up with my girlfriend, watch my 18 year old son leave home and again, become a grandfather. Isn’t that enough??

Give us your top ten film performances and why.
Robert De Niro in everything he has ever done. Except that really dumb film where he plays a prison escapee. (I know Sam, that answer is such a cop out)

Robert DeNiro


Nakatomi+Brains?=this post

9 Aug

Ruslan Kulski runs Brains?, which features news about filmmaking in the world’s most isolated city, Perth.  The delightful Mr Kulski took time out on a Saturday to meet with us and grill us about our sophomore feature ‘Esoterica’.  This week the site will feature several of our pithy responses on a range of topics.  Below is the first video in the series where we were asked a seemingly simple question; “What is Esoterica?”. Check out the site and don’t forget to subscribe!

Nakatomi Profile: Monique Wajon, Production Designer

5 Jul

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 Monique and I’m the production Designer for Esoterica. I started off studying Set and Costume Design for theatre at WA Academy of Performing Arts and by chance fell into production design for Film. Since then I’ve worked extensively in both fields.

What was your approach to the Production Design of ‘Esoterica’?

Well I had to hit the ground running on this one… I came on board very late to the party, but what a party it was! Basically my approach was pretty much the same as always (just a bit sped up) I started off reading the script then finding the most kick-ass bits and trying to work out the coolest way that I can dress those space to make them work for the characters and the script and then kept on rolling through the rest of the script from there.

What’s your creative process?

I begin my creative process like all designers by dissecting the script finding out what is at the root of it, the meaning behind it. Then I start thinking about the overall feel of the film and what sort of look that I want to create for the film. Then its time to get down to the nuts and bolt of the job and work out what is needed for each scene i.e. Set dressing, props and any effects needed.

Be honest, what is the work that you are most proud of from the film?

There are so many things to choose from, but if I had to choose one thing it would be the Death Bath. I don’t want to say too much about it cause it will give too much away but there was so many technical things to consider when designing and making it that it was a great challenge.

What was the shooting like?

Shooting was an intense experience for me, but completely wonderful. I had never worked on anything as large as Esoterica so it was such a steep learning curve for me, which made working on it so exciting.

What have you been up to since ‘Esoterica’?

I’ve been extremely busy since shooting wrapped on Esoterica. I was Production Designer on a few short films including “Little Boxes” which I won “Best Production Design” at this years WA Screen Awards. I have designed few commercials, was the Set Dresser on a Feature Film “Needle,” and even built a cave for a documentary. On top of all that film work I have been working for a few theatre companies as well. Last year I designed the Set and Costumes for “Alaska” and I am just starting to go into the production for “Gasp” another Theatre show.

Give us your top ten films in terms of Production Design and elaborate on the choices.

Well my top 10 changes all the time so here are a selection that I can remember today… It’s a bit of a strange list (im not saying all of these are amazing films) but some of the most random movies have such great design and then others are great movies in every department.

Dr No: Ken Adams one of the true masters of Film Design. It was hard to choose between all his films, Barry Lyndon and Dr Strangelove pop into mind straight away, but I decided to choose Dr No because it is so rich in design and the first (and classic) Bond Movie.

The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element: When I was young this was my all time favorite movie. I think it also was the first movie that I watched that made me want to get into Design. There is so much going on in this film, flying cars, Boats in space, gorgeous ballrooms and don’t get me started on the creature designs.

Coraline: When I saw this film at the end of last year I was blown away by it and it has the taken over from The Nightmare before Christmas on my top ten list. Henry Selick is such a genius he directed and production designed it, and you can really tell, there is a consistency to the whole project. I dare anyone to say a bad word to me about the neon garden what a spectacular idea (and it works and looks so much better then the in Avatar).

Down with Love: I hate this movie because I didn’t have the chance to work on it. The whole movie is styled on the old Doris Day movies and they have done such an amazing job with it, when ever I watch it I just want to live in a rockin’ 60’s pad and also have a matching outfit with a friend (if you haven’t seen this movie watch it and keep an eye out for whenever Renee Zellweger enters a room).

MirrorMask: I want to make a film like this, although it doesn’t have the strongest storyline the design and animation is so well put together. This film has a comic book feel (both the writer and director come from a Graphic Novel background) and it is amazingly lush. The movie is a combination of live action, 2D and 3D animation, which gives it an interesting depth that you don’t see in many films.

Amadeus: Recently there have been a lot of movies set in the 18th century but my love for this period always comes back to this one. I think a lot of it has to do with the cheeky nature of the film, but the design is so well researched that it is still a very important part of the film.

Nanny McPhee: This movie has brilliant and awful design all at the same time. The Costume and Art Departments worked so closely together they managed to have some of the sets and costumes match almost exactly in colour and patterns, which in one way is amazing but then its also a bad thing as the characters and sets blend together and its really hard to see the difference between them. Though overall it has an amazing colour scheme that is worth a watch.

Repo the Genetic Opera: This a very recent film based on a stage musical and it has such high production values. Every item in the film is over designed but fits so perfectly into the world that is created.

A Series of Unfortunate Events: Rick Heinrichs has a real eccentric style that fits so perfectly with this film. It has a beautiful colour scheme, amazing architecture and slightly strange props, what else could a movie need?

Dick tracy: What beautiful Design, you don’t see this level of style in film these days. Every car, location, costume is design for a particular character. The best part about the design was the strong use of colour. Its very popular at the moment to use a washed out colour scheme I wish people had more courage an used strong colours.

The Cabinet if Dr Caligari: This is my favorite of the German Expressionist films, it has such a theatrical presence to the design. I constantly use it as reference/inspiration for my designs.