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Actor Damian de Montemas s
character (Bernard) is feeling the
heat. Bernard has wedged his
foot against the door of the tiny
bathroom, all that stands between him and a
number of assailants who periodically threaten
him. He is attuned to every muffled whisper, every
thump as if at any second he will be called upon to
fight for his life. Bernard is in deep doo-doo.
It is the second-last day of filming on the
psychological thriller Blame and AFI award-winner
Damian (Best Supporting Actor -- Underbelly) is
emoting under duress. Never mind the script, it s
42 degrees in the shade in a ramshackle, off-kilter
largely unairconditioned house in the middle
of the sun-scorched bush in Roleystone. The
bathroom is being broiled by film lights and the
hot breath of the film crew, who are squashed into
every available centimetre not actually appearing
on screen. If Damian is feeling isolated, as the
script calls for, it is a triumph of acting.
Periodically Damian s authentic sweat is
sponged off and replaced by Hollywood-issue
sweat. Genial director Michael Henry (Hank)
surprisingly manages to keep his cool when a
Teutonic continuity person appears to tell him
how to direct. At that point it s easy to imagine
homicidal goings on on-set as well as in the script,
but that would be to discount the nerves of steel
and suspension of disbelief required by Hank to
get the project to this point. He worked on the
script for eight years, and the eventual alignment
of the stars required to get him into the director s
chair of his first feature has created a high that s
hard to extinguish... although I personally hope
that continuity makes no further suggestions .
The holy grail of a good script is what brought
WA producing partners Ryan Hodgson and Melissa
Kelly to the table and secured funding for this
project from ScreenWest, Screen Australia, The
Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF)
and private investors. It attracted an impressive
ensemble cast of young guns, including "It" girl
Sophie Lowe (AFI Best Actress -- Beautiful Kate),
theatre maestro Simon Stone (who was named
by The Australian as one of the top 10 emerging
cultural leaders) and Wolf Creek s holiday-from-hell
backpacker Kestie Morassi.
Shot primarily in one claustrophobic location,
it s an actors piece that will sink or swim on
whether the heightened emotions and spiralling
psychodrama feel real, and if the filmmaking skills
can create the nerve-tightening intensity of an
impending car crash.
Michael Henry name-checks Straw Dogs and
Deliverance as touchstones for the film: "Where
people get into foreign or strange situations that they
just can t get out of, and you as the audience end up
feeling sick to your stomach and saying, Just leave ."
Michael has honed his skills on a number of
widely screened short films and won a Melbourne
Underground Film Festival award for a DV
feature, The Cruel World. He has come to this
production with the mantra "Strong story with
great performances". The aim, he says, is to meld
the energy and action of American films with the
depth of European fare. The story involves a group
of young vigilantes seeking revenge for a sexual
betrayal... but "Can you read between the lies"?
Certainly there is edgy biffo and angst involved;
Damian de Montemas says he has the bruises and
scratches to prove it, Kestie Morassi says she has
never played anyone who has cried this much and
Simon Stone (Jindabyne, Kokoda) says that his
character s irrational behaviour -- "his pure rage"
-- has at times been difficult to maintain. Spoiler
alert: Mary Poppins this ain t.
Actor Ashley Zuckerman (Rush, The Pacific)
good-naturedly concludes that the restrictions
of the shoot have imposed a level of intensity
that made it feel like "we were really amongst it,
fighting to get this thing together which has been
appropriate for the film".
Ryan Hodgson says although the budget s tight,
(under two million dollars) the West Aussie crew
have risen to it, and the rushes are exciting. "It will
be a visceral little film but it does ask some broader
questions about truth and retribution."
Blame premieres at the Melbourne International
Film Festival in July/August 2010 and will screen
in Perth in September. sm
The film Blame
was recently shot
in Perth. Sarah
Szabo spent a
day on set.
ACTION SCENES: Damian de Montemas
(above) and director Michael Henry (left)
on the Perth set of Blame.
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