Stuart McBratney - the writer / director of the film is an extraordinarily gifted
creative artist. He writes, directs, he is a very good DoP in his own right, he composes
music and plays a series of instruments very very well. He is a 25 year old filmmaker who
won a couple of really prestigious new filmaker awards (national awards) for his short
film, The Test, in
Inspired by character driven films like Brothers McMullen, Chasing Amy and by Kevin
Smith's film Clerks, Stuart developed "Spudmonkey" and had tried to get the
project up on his own through the usual channels and was getting very frustrated because
he was getting nowehere. He decided he would make the film on his own and his family
supported him with money that would provide partial finance for the project.
"a really interesting small project"
Everyone I knew in the industry up here in Brisbane kept talking about the great pool
of talent we have up here but how it is impossible to get a feature film up and made in
Queensland. I kept hearing you had to move south if you wanted to succeed.
I had come home quite sick from filming In a Savage Land up in the Trobriands but the
period of convalescing gave me time to think about what I wanted to do next.
I decided I wanted to find a really interesting small project and make a low budget film
within the next year or so and see if I could finance it outside the normal channels to
prove that it could be done. I started circulating and putting signals out that I was
looking for a low budget
feature that could be shot in Brisbane and that is how Stu and I met.
He told me "his" story. He was a graduate of the Queensland College of Art with
a Bachelor of Visual Arts in Film and Television. He'd got his first video camera at the
age of eleven so he had over 14 years of filmmaking experience. He'd freelanced over the
last few years both here and in London. He'd worked on a lot of short films,
documentaries, TV commercials
and corporate videos as a writer / director / cameraman / producer but said he wanted to
find a producer he could work with who could get the project up and give him the
opportunity to focus on the writing and directing.
Stuart had been very smart in the way he had strategically planned exactly how he could
make this film from a technical point of view. He had savvy, he was pragmatic and he
wasn't a prima donna. I admired his determination and we hit it off. - the personal
chemistry between us was right and I think we both knew then that we could work together.
He left me the script and some of his short films and the music tracks he had composed for
"I wanted to do it"
I read the script and really liked it and immediately knew I wanted to do it. His short
film The Test was great - it had won him the Supreme Award and the Youth Award at the
Tropicarnival National Video Awards and he'd previously picked up the Queensland Young
Filmmakers Award for best secondary school drama for Psycho Nerd when he was at school. So
here was a young director with some real talent and lots of potential with a good script
and some exciting original music. We had the foundations for getting this project up.
I put a call through to an old friend Michel Bouskila in Sydney and he liked the script
as much as I did. He flew up and we met with Stuart on the Gold Coast and we agreed to
produce it. We believed we had a strong package for a low budget film and we were
fortunate in being able to put together the finance in a fairly short period of time from
private investors in Brisbane in Sydney.
We had all agreed from the outset that the script needed further development so Stuart
undertook a major re-write working with me and with Tom Betts as his script consultant .
I kid you not, everyone who read the final version of Stuart's script were as
enthusiastic as Michel and I had been. From the moment we started exposing it to potential
cast, crew, sponsors, investors etc. Everyone seemed to want to be involved. People
started calling us - the thing had a real buzz about it.
The project had all of the budgetary restrictions that go along with being a low budget
film but it was also an ambitious project with some very big scenes that made it a very
Whilst Stuart had been very clever in the way that he constructed the script and we
were convinced it was logistically possible on our budget, we had to do some very careful
and very innovative planning about how we tackled some of the more difficult aspects and
when you have a limited budget you don't have any choice but to think creatively and out
So by the Xmas 1999 break we had the film crewed and all cast members were now in place
and we were set to roll and the project now had critical mass.
We had to be shooting in January/February - we had little choice - there was a window of
opportunity to shoot a very big concert scene that was critically important to the plot
within that time frame that we had to take because the next opportunity at that location
was simply not available again for three months unless we threw a lot more money at it,
just didn't have in the budget.
Then out-of-the-blue just prior to the start of filming we had a major problem which
almost stopped the shoot and had forced us to re-schedule by a few weeks. At that time I
knew that we were in real danger of losing the considerable momentum that the project was
building and also losing some of our key cast and crew due to other commitments if there
were any further
postponements I was absolutely determined we were going to make this film within that
timeframe. So we strategised and problem solved.
Our problem was that one of the investors who was putting up 25% of the budget and who had
formally signed the shareholders agreement when we incorporated the company indicated
their financial situation had changed and couldn't provide their investor funds. Now 25%
of the budget is a big slice. I'd planned 5% visible contingency and had an extra 5%
"hidden" contingency built into the budget but finding another 15%
on-top-of-that wasn't easy on a film that was already too big for the existing budget.
"the golden rule of low budget film making"
We agreed that we just had to go back to the golden rule of low budget film making -
put every single dollar up on the screen. So for every single budget item we asked
"if we cut this item out would it stop the film being made or detract from the
quality on screen?" If the answer was "no" then it got the chop or was
dramatically cut back. It eliminated some of the things we would really have like to have
done and made conditions on the film a lot more spartan than we would have liked but it
worked and saved the film. We commenced principal photography in late January.
The cast were magnificent. Greg Powell, Alistair Tomkins, Samantha Fitzgerald and
Damien Garvey aren't household names at the moment but some of them are going to get
noticed after Spudmonkey. Its the old story - here are a group of very talented actors who
just don't get the breaks because they don't live in Sydney or Melbourne and aren't
The film was shot on Super 16mm and we had a really talented upcoming young DoP named
Andrew Strahorn and I think we are going to hear a lot more about him too over the coming
years. (Strahorn shot Vinganca, Darcy Yuille's short film which won the Young Queensland
Filmmaker Award  as Best Film.)
We crewed the film with some of the most interesting new behind-the-camera talent up
here in Queensland. There were a few experienced people in key roles like Georgina
Greenhill our Production Designer and Christy Beard who did a great job as First AD but
the crew were mostly short-film filmmakers and/or recent university film school graduates
just waiting for a chance at a feature. We also lost two experienced heads of department
just days out from the start of the shoot so I promoted two of my younger crew Glenn Jones
and Adam McPhail and they were absolutely outstanding.
They entire crew were magnificent. I take my hat off to them - we had one of the most
difficult and arduous shooting schedules you could imagine and they just got on and did
the job with complete professionalism and not a single complaint from anyone during the
"targeted at the 16-24 year old market"
Spudmonkey is targeted at the 16-24 year old market and judging by the reaction that
I've witnessed first hand, from the people in that target audience who've heard the music
tracks - we have a hot soundtrack. The Brisbane music scene as you are probably aware is
burgeoning at the moment and there is some real talent up here. Spudmonkey has a really
range of songs which have all been locally composed.
We started post-production on April 10, 2000 and if things go according to schedule
we'll have Stu's cut ready by the last quarter this year.