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Stars back new film made by Australian teenager

Film & TV

Several Australian film heavyweights – including Ben Mendelsohn, Jason Clarke and Hugh Jackman – have lent their support to a new coming-of-age film written by and starring an 18-year-old unknown.

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Sydney teenager Hal Cumpston’s feature film, Bilched, also features cameo appearances by actors Jeremy Sims and Rhys Muldoon.

Hal is the son of former Adelaide doctor-turned-actor/director Jeremy Cumpston (All Saints), who directed the production and has overseen its release. Jeremy called on some of his actor mates to support the project but says it’s Hal’s creativity and commitment that has resulted in the success so far.

Bilched recently competed in the Chelsea Film Festival in New York, scooping the pool with three wins – Best Screenplay (Hal Cumpston), Best Supporting Actor (Fred Du Rietz) and the Grand Prix Best Feature Film.

The US exposure brought Hal to the attention of an international talent agent in Los Angeles and the now 19-year-old has just landed a lead role in US hit series The Walking Dead 3, currently filming in the States.

Hal wrote Bilched after finishing high school in 2017, holed up in his bedroom for 10 days and nights and emerging with an 88-page script.

Bilched is a slang term meaning “life-changing adventure that defies logic”, and the film portrays bumbling Aussie teens as they negotiate the last days of school and first steps into the adult world.

“I wrote Bilched after complaining to my Dad about the lack of quality Australian films around for teenagers,” Hal says. “There was this golden era in the ’80s where there were some great Aussie films like Puberty Blues, The Big Steal and Waiting for Alibrandi.

“After that, the seminal coming-of-age films, the really great ones like Dazed and Confused and Superbad, have only come from the US and UK. Aussie teens are pretty funny – I wanted to capture that.”

Hal says he intended to write a 10-minute short comedy about teenage Aussie life, but he just kept writing and ended up with the feature film.

Former Adelaide resident and now Hollywood star Jason Clarke (ChappaquiddickThe Aftermath), a mate of Jeremy’s, gave support in terms of funding and advice, as did  Ben Mendelsohn (Captain Marvel, Robin Hood).

Hugh Jackman also recently watched Bilched and emailed Jeremy to say: “Huge congratulations on the movie. I saw it last night, and he did a brilliant job with it. Hal was amazing and I thought the whole movie was so funny and had such a great charm, heart and wit.”

Having parents in the industry has obviously helped Hal get the project off the ground. As well as Dad Jeremy, his mother, Rachel Lane, a producer, also worked on the production, which was shot around Sydney’s eastern seaside suburbs. However, the flick was shot on a tight budget in just 21 days and Jeremy says it was Hal’s motivation, not connections, that got it over the line.

“Of course we helped him, but he worked so hard, all day, five days a week for the 12 months after he wrote the film, re-writing the script and helping produce it,” Jeremy says. “The reason this film ended up happening is because Hal actually sat down and wrote it and had a belief in it.”

Cameo appearances in the film include Jeremy Sims, who turned up with an hour’s notice, and Rhys Muldoon, but 80 percent of the cast, almost all teenagers, had never acted before.

Actor Jeremy Sims in Bilched.

Despite the big-name support, Jeremy says Bilched was produced on a budget that wouldn’t cover the catering on most films.

“We’ve essentially broken every conceivable rule in film production – the whole family is involved in every facet of the film, over 80 per cent of the cast are teenagers and some have never acted professionally, and we’ve funded it ourselves — so that’s a no-no trifecta!” Jeremy says. “But we believe Australians will want to see this movie.”

Bilched has gained support for a limited release at Event Cinemas nationally from November 21 to coincide with “Schoolies” week.

It will be screened in Adelaide at GU Film House in the city.


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