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THE VIEW FROM GREENHAVEN – THE FILM FROM PROJECT GREENLIGHT

The debuting filmmakers, the MacRae brothers, and the two veteran leads, Wendy Hughes and Chris Haywood, talk to Andrew L. Urban about The View from Greenhaven, the first feature from the $1 million Project Greenlight launched by the Movie Network.

The big difference between Wendy Hughes and her character Dorothy, or Dot, in The View from Greenhaven, is that “Dot’s a slightly tentative character … I’m not as patient as she is. She’s been married for 40 years and she’s starting to get fed up with her husband …” Sitting next to her is Chris Haywood, who plays her husband Dash – and who was her real life husband many years ago. He quickly chimes in: “It only took you THREE years with me,” and they both burst out laughing.

The friendship, however, has lasted throughout their lives, and they both agree it was easier to work together on the film because of it. They had only once before appeared in a film together – Phil Noyce’s highly acclaimed Newsfront, 30 years ago – but not in the same scenes.

"two exes working as on screen hubby and wife."

Kenn and Simon MacRae admit they didn’t come up with the idea of the two exes working as on screen hubby and wife. “We were at a film festival and we saw a short called Adrift, with Chris in it, and one of us turned to the other and said something like ‘he could be our Dash’. Later, while discussing it with our casting director Antonia Murphy, she suggested Wendy ….”

And it’s not hard to see why. The film is the story of Dorothy (Wendy Hughes) and Dashiell (Chris Haywood), a retired couple and living the perfect life in their own little haven, although Dash doesn’t realize it. Unlike Dot, who makes the most of everything, Dash is perpetually bad tempered and inconsiderate, disappearing constantly into his own world in his back shed. When daughter Kate (Susan Prior) and her husband Tim (Russell Dykstra) surprise them with tickets for a mystery train tour for their 40th wedding anniversary, Dash is his usual negative self, but Dot’s had enough and tells him to make an effort or she’ll leave.

The biggest challenge for Chris Haywood was to do very little. “I’d keep thinking I’m not performing enough, but I realised I was better off doing nothing . . . “ He let the script and the body language do all the work as Dash goes about in a perpetual sulk.

But there was no challenge in riding the classic vintage motorbike that Dash has had in the local garage for years, waiting for a genuine part – which will never come. Chris Haywood is familiar enough with motorbikes to have suggested the best bike to use in order to appeal to bike aficionados: the Vincent Black Shadow. And when the filmmakers couldn’t get one of those, he came up with the Velocette 250 MOV – the 1946 vintage. “Anyone who loves bikes will go ooooh and aaah over that,” Chris promises.

“It’s a beautiful bike and I loved riding it…” At first, of course, there was a stunt rider hired, but Chris told them he can do it. “So first they let me drive a short distance but then we got to the stage where I was able to do the whole long ride required in one scene,” he says, careful not to give too much away.

Simon – nicknamed Mo – MacRae, says the character was not based on their father, as so many people assume. “He’s the antithesis of Dash, actually … Dash is more based on us.” Considering the MacRae bothers are both very tall, big men in their 30s with a physical presence that suggests a positive outlook on life, this needs explaining. “It’s something we’ve seen in so many people … this tendency to be always thinking that things would be better if this or that, always looking inwardly. So we expanded on that and as Dash has been doing that for 30 odd years, it’s become a big obstacle for him.”

Working with an experienced cast was not as challenging as it might have been, given that the MacRae brothers had spent many years working in TV commercials and short films. Still, there was the recognition that they had a cast whose collective and individual experience was huge. “But that sense of intimidation evaporated quickly,” says Kenn. “Both Wendy and Chris were very generous to us and the whole shoot felt very collaborative.”

"collaboratively as filmmakers"

The MacRaes also work collaboratively as filmmakers – and keep any conflict within the four walls. “If we have a disagreement about anything we work it out between ourselves – and before we get on set.” But they don’t look to be overly combative …

Collaboration was the key to working with experienced producer Martin Brown (of Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge fame) and getting the most out if. The first thing he suggested was chopping some 20 pages (about 20 minutes) off their 117 page screenplay. “With a $1 million budget we could do a four week shoot,” says Simon, “and there was no way we could do it in that time. Even so, we worked at a fair clip to shoot five minutes of screen time every day. But Martin’s input was really valuable creatively, too.”

With the film now getting its theatrical release, the MacRaes say the strongest motivation for entering the script in Project Greenlight was that it meant a guaranteed finished film. But why this story? “We actually had three scripts completed and it was when Kenn got a reminder email about the entry deadline being three days away that we decided. The other two were unsuitable for various reasons – like one is a $200 million feature – so we entered this one.” It was received at Movie Network just one minute before the deadline.

Not long after our interview, Kenn MacRae was heading off to scout around in Los Angeles, where he has rented a 3-bedroom apartment… for a view of and from Hollywood.

Published October 16, 2008
 

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The MacRae brothers

The View from Greenhaven
Dir. The MacRae brothers
Platform release in Australia from October 16, 2008










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