Cremated chops and sausages are served, giving off a stench of
charred meat as the family gathers round for a pre-Christmas
barbie at grandpa Jackís. One of the crew holds his nose
between his fingers as he finishes setting up, and the cast crowd
round the table in position for a take. Young Joey is feeding the
dog under the table, his grandpa is emptying a can of flyspray
over everything to everyoneís disgust and all hell breaks
loose when the dog goes for a piece of meat that Joey has tossed
into Brunoís lap. Itís going to be that kind of family
Christmas: but Family Crackers, shooting in Melbourne until July
1997, is not a family film.
With its drug references, strong language and mild sex scenes,
itís likely to be an M. Besides, the film deals with serious
issues, albeit in the comic mayhem style of writer/comedian David
Swann. "Still, kids will probably go just because it is an
M," comments producer Chris Warner.
GO FOR BREVITY
Daniel Kellie plays Joey, a bright young actor - who is not
sickeningly cute. Bruno (Peter Rowsthorn) is Joeyís
mumís boyfriend, and they want to get married, but Joey
hates both Bruno and his bullyboy son Angus (Chris Chapman) so he
is intent on sabotaging their relationship. Joey was witness to
his dadís death in a plane crash, and is not about to accept
this nerd as a step father. But his friendship with his great
grandfather, teaches him to come to terms with things a lot
Swann had worked on the script for some time and had completed
eight drafts before he got Warner to join up as producer.
"The essence of good film writing," he says, "is
brevity; condensing things to the essence. Whereas theatre is 90
per cent dialogue, cinema is more visual. So I redrafted a lot to
write out the cliches, searching for how I could find the
freshness in the cliches, the uniqueness of the characters,
especially in the dialogue."
The word on set is that 13 year old Daniel Kellie is a star in
the making, with the cast and crew equally impressed by the
newcomer who has more on-screen time than his co-star, veteran
actor Warren Mitchell, who plays Albert, the great grandpa.
Susan Lyons plays Hilary, his mum, and Terry Gill and Maggie
King play Jack and Vi, his grandparents.
Warner had worked with Swannís wife Deb on a mini-series
in the 80s, and one day she rang him looking for a producer for
David Swannís script. "Three pages in and I loved the
characters and I was laughing out loud and by the end I had a
lump in my throat," he recalls. "How often do you read
a script like that? So I said Iíd be interested and
itís turned out to be one of the most enjoyable
Indeed, there was a great deal of goodwill towards the script
and financing came through from Film Victoria and the Film
Finance Corporation, with Beyond Films enthusiastically taking it
on for international sales, and The Movie Network buying the
Australian pay TV rights.
"The hardest thing was finding an Australian
distributor," says Warner, but Natalie Miller of Sharmill
films, despite being a small operation, took the plunge
"because I have faith in Davidís talents," says
the companyís principal, Natalie Miller, who also operates
"Iím an exhibitor," she explains, "and I
have a feel for my audience. I talk to people in the foyer and
have a good feeling on this. The story touches our psyche - a
family Christmas dinner that goes horribly wrong. We can all
relate to that," she says with a big laugh.
Family Crackers will be released in
Australia in early 1998.