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ANGST: PAIN IS FUNNY

PAIN IS FUNNY
A
ndrew L. Urban visits the set of Angst to talk to director Daniel Nettheim, who at 33 is the oldest on the shoot and reckons pain is funny – if it’s someone else’s.

A messy suburban cottage is the location, but Angst is a low budget production so the number of vans and trailers in the street is so few that I almost miss the place. And I even find a parking spot bang outside.

There’s a trestle table with hot water in a steel can and a box of biscuits. I wonder if lunch is BYO… After a while I am led to a rickety chair on the lawn, and Daniel Nettheim, the director, joins me for a short chat while the next shot is set up inside the house.

Pain is funny, at least for the audience, reckons Nettheim, who admits to making his debut with an eye on filmmakers such as Woody Allen and Mike Leigh. "The style draws on these filmmakers, but with younger characters - hence the pain, and hence the title." Nettheim came across the script while looking for a screenplay "aimed at the 15 - 25 year old male and female market - a date film. A lot of Australian films are aimed at older audiences. I loved going to movies at that age so I wanted to give that audience a local film with identifiable characters.

"truth in film...the comedy will look after itself"

"I came across the script via Steve Worland who was teaching at Sydney University and had a 19 year old in his class with a script that was incredibly funny. That was Angst. Steve hooked me up with (writer) Anthony O'Connor and we developed the screenplay over the next three years." Nettheim, himself an 'elder' at 33 in the context of this film, says he believes in aiming for truth in the film, "and the comedy will look after itself."

Dialogue driven as it is, Nettheim recognised the challenge when casting and worked with Mullinar's Casting even before the finance was locked in. "It was tricky," he says. "We couldn't cast well known stars as they would be too old - but still needed very capable and mature actors to handle the script. It's difficult…a comedy…effectively it's a four hander and they need strong technical skills, plus they had to complement each other."

"our one champion always stuck by us"

Producer Jonathon Green - who met Nettheim at film school - credits UIP's Australian Managing Director, Mike Selwyn as "our one champion who always stuck by us. We had trouble getting an international sales agent right up until the final draft of the script, when Beyond's reluctance evaporated. The Film Finance Corporation was interested as it's a low budget project with a clear audience in mind, and the NSW Film and Television Office extended its interest into production finance."

Beyond's reluctance was based on the lack of star casting. "They wanted us to cast up, but the only way would have been to cast UK or US names at 20 - and we felt that would have damaged the integrity of the movie."

"youthful enthusiasm"

The youthful enthusiasm of all was a key in production, says Green: "they were all keen to come to work every day. And the average age of the crew is 28 - with me at 33, I felt a sense of authority!" he jokes.

Published August 31, 2000

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Director Daniel Nettheim on the set.

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