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Crew Cut a labour of love for young filmmaker

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Shooting a feature film in the vast and rugged Flinders Ranges landscape can be testing for a whole host of reasons.

Young South Australian filmmaker Marcus McKenzie and the cast and crew of his feature Crew Cut had to deal with “flooding downpours”, thousands of flies, freezing nights, bogged cars and kangaroos – but one of the greatest challenges was the lack of phone reception.

“After just two days of shooting in Blinman, where we had no phone reception, we were scheduled to shoot just south of a town called Hawker,” says McKenzie, who is also co-creator of award-winning ABC online series Wastelander Panda.

“Hawker was the only place up there that seemed to have phone reception, so as we drove into town, everyone’s mobile phones started beeping like crazy as all the messages started flooding through. It was ridiculous.

“We stopped in Hawker for a mere 30 minutes, then continued south where we had no reception at all again for four days.”

This theme of no contact with the outside world interspersed with short bursts of intense communication was a consistent and almost comical theme throughout shooting of the drama, which centres on a low-level crook on one last job who finds himself alone and left for dead in the outback.

But after 18 days of filming spread across six months, McKenzie’s team – many of whom worked with him on Wastelander Panda – finally finished creating what promises to be an eerily beautiful tale of morality with the underlying theme of “crime doesn’t pay”.

Now they’re hoping to raise $15,000 via a crowdfunding campaign to cover post-production costs.

McKenzie is quietly confident the film will receive the money it requires.

“I didn’t want to ask for any more than what we needed, so I set a target that I thought we could achieve,” he says.

“I could’ve asked for more and we could’ve made the film bigger, with all the bells and whistles, but that’s what we need to get the film finished and that’s an amount I’m comfortable trying to raise.”

Funding the entire production of Crew Cut has been no easy feat, but the 25-year-old says that after he decided he wanted to write and direct his own feature film, he wasn’t going to “sit around waiting for an opportunity to come to me”. Instead, at the age of 23, he started saving his own money over the course of a year.

“It was so important to me that I paid everyone because I wanted the film to have quality to it and you’re not going to get the best out of people who are working for free,” McKenzie says.

Following his experience with Wastelander Panda, adhering to a low budget and using creativity to overcome potential hurdles was second nature. He says the success of post-apocalyptic series meant he also already had his foot in the door of the screen industry.

Marcus McKenzie.

Marcus McKenzie.

“I’m lucky because I had Wastelander Panda behind me, which was a funded project – a lot of credibility comes with that, but you’ve got to make yourself as little risk as possible for potential investors.

“Understandably, people don’t want to back something unknown, but you’ve got to start somewhere and put yourself and your project out there.”

McKenzie has now started his own film production company, Cinemâché, with friend and cinematographer Viv Madigan and another Crew Cut crew member, Daniel Principe.

Wanting to take advantage of the attention from both Wastelander Panda and Crew Cut, they are already planning their next move.

“We’re asking ourselves: ‘How do we build on this?’ and we’re writing another feature, so hopefully this grabs some interest and turns into the next project,” McKenzie says.

“We don’t want to take a step backwards by doing a short film or a web series, so we’re using the same themes from Crew Cut and aiming big.”

Adelaide’s Media Resource Centre is hosting a New Screen Makers Conference at the Mercury Cinema on July 18-19, where speakers from the screen industry will provide tips and discuss opportunities for emerging filmmakers. Details can be found on the MRC website.  




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