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"At 14 I'd play tennis with Jean Harlow's dad. He was a dentist. My uncle dated Joan Crawford."  -Robert Altman on growing up in Kansas City
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

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While so many Australian films have centred on your more dysfunctional Australian families, the creative force behind TV’s Frontline, has delivered a new film that is the very antithesis of that. The Castle is a warm-hearted look at a close-knit Aussie family who continue to smile under extreme circumstances. Paul Fischer talks to three of the creative team responsible for the film.

After years of this latter Monty Python ensemble poking fun at the establishment, from D Generation to Frontline, the move to movies was inevitable, says co-creator of the team, Santo Cilauro. "It’s a natural progression for people who tend to get bored after every 18 or 24 months. Having said that, we’ve never had any idea of stepping stones - we don’t set out to start on stage, then radio, then television, finally film. It’s been a pretty constant pattern with us."

"We used our own money that we’d saved up. Suffice to say, we weren’t planning on an expensive film, let me tell you." Jane Kennedy

While the group has never been short of film offers, the time was never right, until now. "After about four or five years of doing a variety of stuff on television, we got to a point where we thought it would be good to do something different, and asked ourselves: is NOW a good time to give film a go? Why not." Rather than go cap-in-hand to distributors asking for money and spending months developing something, the team used their own resources and quickly came up with an idea, explains Jane Kennedy, the team member who also plays a reporter on the Frontline series.

"We used our own money that we’d saved up. Suffice to say, we weren’t planning on an expensive film, let me tell you." The result is The Castle, a film about an eternally optimistic and happy family, the Kerrigans, loving and close knit, who live on the edge of an airport - because it was a good deal. The happy and cheerful lifestyle of this idiosyncratic Aussie family is finally put to the test when an unscrupulous corporation tries to buy the family home to make way for a development, but head of the family, Darryl Kerrigan (Michael Caton) will have none of that. With the help of a lawyer out of his depth, and his own faith in our legal system, he sets out to stop it, maintaining that his not just a house, ‘but a home’. His castle, in fact.

"We were all sick of the kind of bleak view being presented in Australian films of family life" Santo Cilauro

"We were all sick of the kind of bleak view being presented in Australian films of family life" explains Cilauro. "We all come from very close knit families and realise there is a place to depict a family that is very loving and close." In fact, while the film has a certain sense of heightened reality, as it were, the movie is partially based on the experiences of all four writers. Kennedy found it interesting to gauge the response of everyone’s family during the first screening. "It was incredible to watch. The theatre had sections of the audience devoted to our respective families, and you’d hear someone from Rob’s [Sitch] family cry out: ‘Hey, that’s dad’, or from my family cry out ‘Oh no, you didn’t put THAT in, did you’? I guess we all come from very close knit families, and where so many films tend to focus on what’s wrong with the Australian family, we did the opposite."

"The wonderful thing about us is that we can allocate ourselves tasks and not upset each other." Jane Kennedy

The film was shot for a song in just 10 days, under the direction of Frontline frontman Rob Sich. "Rob was keen to take it on, and we were happy to let him do so", says Cilauro. This is echoed by Kennedy. "The wonderful thing about us is that we can allocate ourselves tasks and not upset each other. Rob turned out to be a really great people director, while I set about casting the film." In fact, Kennedy is something of a TV fanatic, and with that background at her disposal, she decided to cast veteran Michael Caton in the plum role of Darryl Kerrigan.

"When I was discussing him as a possibility with the others, they all yelled out: ‘Uncle Harry? Definitely.’ Michael saw himself in that part, and even turned up with some of his own costumes." One of the more moving parts of the film is a High Court sequence featuring Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, who plays a retired QC and whose lengthy sequence is an acting high point in the film. "We really wrote that part especially for him", recalls Kennedy. "Tragically, his wife died just before we were due to start shooting, and we were sensitive to that, but he assured us that it would be the best thing for him to do, and we were all rewarded by his presence."

During production, there was still no distributor in place, and with money being awfully tight, they showed a cut of what they’d shot to Village Roadshow who liked what they saw. "They even gave us money to finish the film properly", says Kennedy.

Both Kennedy and Cilauro hope that the film is not seen as some kind of comic attack on working class Australia. "When we were writing it, we all thought: hey, hopefully nobody will think we’re having a go at this family, recalls Cilauro. "Darryl Kerrigan may be working class, but at the same time he epitomises the fruition of the Australian dream: he owns his own house, business and has a family he adores, what could be better than that?" says Kennedy.

"We don’t want to be seen as repeating ourselves" Jane Kennedy

Frontline fans will be amazed at how different the style of comedy is here. It’s not the smart satire that permeates the ABC series. "We don’t want to be seen as repeating ourselves. Frontline is a look at the politics of employment, as much as it is a comment on current affairs. With this film, we needed to structure something that would have broad appeal," remarks Cilauro. "We want audiences to leave the cinema with a big smile on their faces and feeling good. If they do that, then we know we’ve succeeded," says Kennedy. Clearly, then, there’s life after Frontline. "Oh definitely," says Kennedy. "We’re ready to do our next film." Presumably they’ll have more than 10 days to film it.


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CAST: Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry, Anthony Simcoe, Sophie Lee, Wayne Hope, Tiriel Mora, Eric Bana, Charles (Bud) Tingwell


PRODUCER: Debra Choate (Frontline Productions)

SCRIPT: Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Jane Kennedy, Rob Sitch


EDITOR: Wayne Hyett


MUSIC: Craig Harnath





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