It's an old home in Adelaide with a huge lobby that features a
staircase clinging to the walls, rooms with high ceilings, giant
oil paintings on the walls and the kind of antique chandeliers
that would make the phantom of the opera feel at home. The
furniture - what there is of it - has the haunted look of
abandoned goods. This is not a lived in home. Not any more.
"the point of making
movies... is to get people to go and see the film"
But the atmosphere is not dead; the debris of a film crew is
scattered around the house and in one of the large lounge rooms,
a settee is shoved into place for my interviews. The grand piano
is contemplated as a prop but it's too hard to get the light
right. (We're also taping the interviews for use by tv stations
around the world who may want some footage in their movie related
shows; Cut was sold to 85% of world markets before its Australian
release on March 9, 2000.)
"I've been a commercial filmmaker and have done some
experimental and short films," says Kimble Rendall, in a
chunky sweater with bold designs that seems at odds with the
velour settee and 19th century ambiance. "I've
always thought the point of making movies and spending all this
money is to get people to go and see the film. I'm not interested
in ending up on the arthouse circuit."
Cut is a commercial film alright, straight out of the slasher
genre textbook. Not only is this vaguely gothic setting a signal
that the film is intended to look scary, it is a screenplay that
dives into the 'students discover film legend' territory that
Scream plumbed for its relevance to the youth market.
Conceived by its producer, Martin Fabinyi, Cut is a first
feature for both producer and director. Fabinyi is a Mushroom
Music man, and Mushroom's Michael Gudinski is the film's
executive producer. (Rendall has made music videos for several
Mushroom clients.) Fabinyi saw a market niche in Australian
filmmaking: "I felt we weren't making films for a teen
audience in this country - in fact I felt we weren't making films
for an audience," he says caustically. "So I
commissioned Dave Warner to write a script for a teen horror film
and asked Kimble to get involved. I found in Kimball a director
who's willing to make a film as he's put it, which will open in
George Street multiplexes not an arthouse cinema."
"cut for cash"
This commercial drive is not entirely unique in Australia, but
this focus on the potential market is, if not unique, very rare.
The sensibility carries through from screenplay to casting to
editing - it's cut for cash, as it were. Lest anyone take offence
at such commercialism, it should be pointed out that this is
exactly what a film industry needs to exist. The word 'industry'
has been used rather loosely here, when in many cases we have
been supporting a national film culture which needed to exist but
which was not built on a business or commercial (or industry)
Fabinyi's business instincts have been built in an independent
record label. "We're used to doing things on the smell of an
oily rag and know you've still got to pay the rent. I think
movies and music are mass culture," says Fabinyi, whose
first act as producer was to single out Jessica Napier for the
lead role. "I wanted a lot of great young people, maybe from
television, because that's where the kids are getting their
heroes and heroines. But we also needed a bit of a name to raise
the money so we approached Kylie Minogue, who is on Mushroom (the
label, not the veg) and so we have a relationship."
"Minogue jumped at the
Minogue jumped at the chance, partly because of that
relationship, but also because she had worked with Rendall,
"about 1994, on a short film and we both thought we'd one
day work on a feature film together. And," she adds, "
because the first line in the film is 'Cut!' - and I can make
decisions for the strangest reasons," she adds laughing.
While Mushroom provides this direct thread between
producer-director-star, it is music in general that links US
actress Molly Ringwald (who plays Vanessa in the new film and
Chloe in Hot Blooded) who is enthusiastic about Rendall's music
background. "We have lots of reference points and he's so
funny, with one of the most infectious laughs I know."
It's only her second horror film, but she took it because she
thought the script was "intelligent - and of course I am a
big fan of Australian cinema and I've never worked here
"a sort a morality
But the irony of the film's genre is buried in its script. As
Rendall sees it, "it is a sort a morality play, examining
the morality of horror movies and that's what we're doing -
making a horror movie. The character of Lossman (Geoff Revell) is
the conscience of the film, constantly reminding us we shouldn't
be making this type of movie but he goes and lets us do it."