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ROGERS, LEE : Dust off the Wings

MY BEST WEDDING
It had to be shot now, it had to be shot on video, and it had to be shot at Bondi, Lee Rogers tells PAUL FISCHER.

Lee Rogers first feature film (or should that be feature length video) Dust Off the Wings, an ultra low-budget, personal cinematic journey into the Bondi Beach surf sub-culture, is garnering a positive response from critics. This former corporate film maker-cum-hubby of singer Kate Ceberano, can relax. Rogers has reason to be optimistic about the filmís success. His energetic look at the problems facing a single surfie on the eve of his wedding, is highly personal and cathartic.

"Iím now happily married and much calmer."

"I grew up in that whole scene confronting some of the same problems, and I found that mocking the whole thing in a cinematic form has allowed me to exorcise a lot of those things." Lee Rogers plays Lee, spending some final moments with his less responsible and drugged out surfie mates, on the eve of his wedding. Rogers says heís happy and relieved that he got to make the film "and got to look at that part of my life which has lost a lot of its power since then. Iím now happily married and much calmer."

His wife, Kate Ceberano, plays a key role in the film. As the film touches on a fairly anarchic, hedonistic lifestyle, one wonders what the then recently married Mrs Rogers thought of her husbandís semi-autobiographical work. "Iím sure she had some horrific flashes through her mind when she was first reading the script, asking herself: what have I married into." But the film was partly made, Rogers adds, as a direct result of his decision to commit to Ceberano after a heady relationship, and a five year engagement. "Once I made that commitment and decided that this was the right person for me, I knew that Iím going to make this work no matter what, and then that desire to commit became so much easier. Once you make that commitment and lock the door, that energy and the doubts seem to transfer into something a lot more productive. Thatís whatís happened, and the filmís a direct result of me doing that."

"Under pressure I just seemed to know what to do."

Rogers has spent the past 12 years in the realm of corporate and music videos, all of which have paved the way for making his first feature, ironically shot on video. It was all a unique, rollercoaster experience for the young director. "On the one hand, it was a battle full of non-stop problem-solving which was so stressful, yet on the other, it was technically easier than I thought it would be. I discovered that we instinctively know a lot more about film and television than we give ourselves credit for, just because weíre so visually in-tune these days. So much so, that under pressure I just seemed to know what to do."

Despite working with a minuscule budget and tight shoot (17 days), there was never a desire on Rogersí part to shoot Dust off the Wings on film. He says that tape lent itself to the style he was after. "Itís a better film for being shot on tape and I would never have acted in it or used a lot of the non-actors if weíd done it on film." And yes, Rogers is not only the filmís director and co-writer, but makes his acting debut as the central character of Lee, a decision which wasnít hard for him to make. "Firstly, we wrote it towards the end of Summer and it was either: shoot it now or wait till next year, so we decided to launch right into it with next to no preparation.

"I didnít want Kate to play her own name, because sheís got something to lose."

"Clearly, it would have been tough to find someone who was readily available and willing to do it for free, not to mention be prepared. By playing that character, apart from using my own knowledge of this entire culture, I could use my own name, and I was able to just plonk myself in amongst all these non-actor blokes that I know, and theyíd all just treat me as one of the boys." Yet he chose to cast Ceberano as a fictitious character - but shot a scene with a Kate Ceberano album poster on the wall. "I didnít want Kate to play her own name, because sheís got something to lose. Sheís somebody and so I wanted the professional actors to play characters with other names and be professionals doing that. Itís not fair on them. Whereas guys like me are nobodies and therefore had nothing to lose, so we just went for it. As for having Kateís poster in there, we were just trying to have some fun."

"I wanted it to be a fun movie-going experience, but at the same time there are still issues that I DO take seriously"

Rogersí hard-hitting yet boisterously funny tone, was also incorporated into the diverse soundtrack, featuring Screamfeeder, Even, The Superjesus, Tumbleweed and of course both Kate and Phil Ceberano. "That was all a direct result of those guys liking me, and my mates at the beach listening to all these different types of music. Itís very eclectic and I wanted that to reflect not only these characters, but my own musical tastes. Also, because there was so little money on the line, there was a rare opportunity to do what you think is funny and works." Rogers hopes that audiences react similarly to his intentions, which was not to do a darkly serious piece in all, "but to have fun with it, and mock that lifestyle. I wanted it to be a fun movie-going experience, but at the same time there are still issues that I DO take seriously that I was interested in exploring."

Dust off the Wings has been, in a way, Rogersí entrťe card into the feature film business. While itís all been frenetic, it hasnít turned him off it. On the contrary. "I want to continue doing it. Iíve got a few scripts in development which Iím confident weíll start shooting soon." Including something built around his talented wife. "Yeah, weíre developing something that utilises all of her talents, akin to Bette Midler and The Rose."

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"Guys like me are nobodies and therefore had nothing to lose"

Read Andrew L. Urban's feature, talking to filmmakers Lee Rogers and Ward Stevens in FEATURES



Read REVIEWS


"Iím sure she had some horrific flashes through her mind when she was first reading the script, asking herself: what have I married into."


"Clearly, it would have been tough to find someone who was readily available and willing to do it for free"


"Because there was so little money on the line, there was a rare opportunity to do what you think is funny and works."







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