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On the set of Cut, one of Australia's rarest of films, a horror movie, ANDREW L. URBAN talks to cast and crew, who are unanimous in wanting the film to be a cash-cutting commercial release, not an arthouse wonder.

It's an old home in Adelaide with a huge lobby that features a staircase clinging to the walls, rooms with high ceilings, giant oil paintings on the walls and the kind of antique chandeliers that would make the phantom of the opera feel at home. The furniture - what there is of it - has the haunted look of abandoned goods. This is not a lived in home. Not any more.

"the point of making movies... is to get people to go and see the film"

But the atmosphere is not dead; the debris of a film crew is scattered around the house and in one of the large lounge rooms, a settee is shoved into place for my interviews. The grand piano is contemplated as a prop but it's too hard to get the light right. (We're also taping the interviews for use by tv stations around the world who may want some footage in their movie related shows; Cut was sold to 85% of world markets before its Australian release on March 9, 2000.)

"I've been a commercial filmmaker and have done some experimental and short films," says Kimble Rendall, in a chunky sweater with bold designs that seems at odds with the velour settee and 19th century ambiance. "I've always thought the point of making movies and spending all this money is to get people to go and see the film. I'm not interested in ending up on the arthouse circuit."

Cut is a commercial film alright, straight out of the slasher genre textbook. Not only is this vaguely gothic setting a signal that the film is intended to look scary, it is a screenplay that dives into the 'students discover film legend' territory that Scream plumbed for its relevance to the youth market.

Conceived by its producer, Martin Fabinyi, Cut is a first feature for both producer and director. Fabinyi is a Mushroom Music man, and Mushroom's Michael Gudinski is the film's executive producer. (Rendall has made music videos for several Mushroom clients.) Fabinyi saw a market niche in Australian filmmaking: "I felt we weren't making films for a teen audience in this country - in fact I felt we weren't making films for an audience," he says caustically. "So I commissioned Dave Warner to write a script for a teen horror film and asked Kimble to get involved. I found in Kimball a director who's willing to make a film as he's put it, which will open in George Street multiplexes not an arthouse cinema."

"cut for cash"

This commercial drive is not entirely unique in Australia, but this focus on the potential market is, if not unique, very rare. The sensibility carries through from screenplay to casting to editing - it's cut for cash, as it were. Lest anyone take offence at such commercialism, it should be pointed out that this is exactly what a film industry needs to exist. The word 'industry' has been used rather loosely here, when in many cases we have been supporting a national film culture which needed to exist but which was not built on a business or commercial (or industry) model.

Fabinyi's business instincts have been built in an independent record label. "We're used to doing things on the smell of an oily rag and know you've still got to pay the rent. I think movies and music are mass culture," says Fabinyi, whose first act as producer was to single out Jessica Napier for the lead role. "I wanted a lot of great young people, maybe from television, because that's where the kids are getting their heroes and heroines. But we also needed a bit of a name to raise the money so we approached Kylie Minogue, who is on Mushroom (the label, not the veg) and so we have a relationship."

"Minogue jumped at the chance"

Minogue jumped at the chance, partly because of that relationship, but also because she had worked with Rendall, "about 1994, on a short film and we both thought we'd one day work on a feature film together. And," she adds, " because the first line in the film is 'Cut!' - and I can make decisions for the strangest reasons," she adds laughing.

While Mushroom provides this direct thread between producer-director-star, it is music in general that links US actress Molly Ringwald (who plays Vanessa in the new film and Chloe in Hot Blooded) who is enthusiastic about Rendall's music background. "We have lots of reference points and he's so funny, with one of the most infectious laughs I know."

It's only her second horror film, but she took it because she thought the script was "intelligent - and of course I am a big fan of Australian cinema and I've never worked here before."

"a sort a morality play"

But the irony of the film's genre is buried in its script. As Rendall sees it, "it is a sort a morality play, examining the morality of horror movies and that's what we're doing - making a horror movie. The character of Lossman (Geoff Revell) is the conscience of the film, constantly reminding us we shouldn't be making this type of movie but he goes and lets us do it."

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A student film crew, led by director Raffy (Jessica Napier), decide to complete a horror film called Hot Blooded that was left unfinished following the grisly murder of its original director, Hilary Jacobs (Kylie Minogue), 14 years previously. Despite legends of a curse being placed on the film, Raffy and producer Hester (Sarah Kants) succeed in raising completion finance from the widow of its original producer and convince American star Vanessa Turnbill (Molly Ringwald) to reprise her role. Shooting commences at the original Hot Blooded location and it is not long before macabre events occur and the killing starts again.



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