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WANTED: BOYS WITH BALLS

Where are the upcoming actors with machismo and enough balls to make them heroes and lovers of our fantasies? Australian casting agents and producers are asking the question, says Sandy George, in the wake of her report for Screen International on Australia’s Stars of Tomorrow (published last week).

“No men with balls are coming out of acting schools. I am continually looking for masculinity. It is why Russell Crowe is such a big star.” So says producer Amanda Higgs and it is a widely-held view. The many casting consultants interviewed for Screen International’s Australian Stars of Tomorrow feature were quick to reel off the names of young women with the “it” factor but stumbled over the men. Higgs adds: “An actor has to appeal to men and women. Men have to want to be him, or be his best mate and the women have to want to sleep with him.”

Higgs is developing The Glasshouse with Alice Addison, the only 100% writer included in Screen’s list of 30 Stars of Tomorrow, but is better known for creating highly regarded television series. With only 15-20 films made per year no-one builds a name or makes a living from feature films alone. Television is a crucial training and testing ground.
Another theme that emerged in Screen International’s research is how many actors said that their film heroes behind and in front of the camera were English and that the diversity of work there was more attractive than Hollywood can offer. 

Compiled after weeks of research and given the front cover treatment, the Stars of Tomorrow list includes some 30 actors, writers and producers, including several indigenous filmmakers. 

The stories are unique: just add training.

"The most interesting films .... will be from indigenous writer/directors

The most interesting films to come out of Australia in the next few years will be from indigenous writer/directors. This prediction, heard time and time again, flows from their intriguing and unique life experiences never seen on the big screen from the inside out.  “I have read many short film scripts in the last few years and the indigenous ones are always the most interesting,” says emerging producer Kath Shelper. “They have a tradition of storytelling and there are thousands of different indigenous nations and languages.”

Says writer/director/cinematographer Warwick Thornton, who is also on the Stars of Tomorrow list, points to a second factor: “We have learnt a lot more about storytelling and the craft than other filmmakers because of government initiatives. Australia is notorious for funding features by someone who has made just one short.”

The Australian Film Commission is holding a workshop in August, modelled on the Sundance Lab and part of the “Long Black” feature initiative. Three of the five projects made through the previous “Dramatically Black” half-hour drama initiative, Green Bush, Plains Empty and The Djarn Djarns, have made quite a splash at festivals this year. 
After indigenous branch manager Sally Riley got 18 responses to her call for treatments/first drafts, development assistance was provided to Thornton, Beck Cole, Wayne Blair, Darlene Johnson, Rachel Perkins and Richard Frankland. Most were considered as Stars of Tomorrow. 

“Even for me, coming from an indigenous background, there is something new in all these stories,” says Riley. “They are not rehashed three-act structure Hollywood films. Also, we have been doing targeted development for five years. These people have not popped up from nowhere.”

She hopes more indigenous actors will emerge as a result of Long Black: “Deborah Mailman and Aaron Pedersen should have broken through. I can’t believe Deb has not won a major role since Radiance because she can do anything. The mainstream industry isn’t writing vehicles for these actors.”

"We are at an interesting crossroad"

“We are at an interesting crossroad,” said one indigenous Stars of Tomorrow, Catriona McKenzie: “I am an indigenous filmmaker but part of me just wants to be seen as a good filmmaker.”

Published August 18, 2005

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