The selection of the Australian feature film, My Mother Frank, by the Berlin Film Festival was a watershed in the lives of the writer/director, his family, friends, cast and crew. After ten years of struggling to get the film made, Mark Lamprell was ecstatic that My Mother Frank was chosen. The festival organisers called it "a film that hugs you". At their invitation, Lamprell stayed in Berlin for a week where the film was given a premiere, an international press conference, numerous parties and screenings for the public.
Naturally his wife, who had co-inhabited every minute of his decade-long dream, went with him. So did the film's three producers, who had plotted and pleaded their way through hell to put together the budget for the film. The lead actors could not imagine missing the spree. The cinematographer and his wife were planning a holiday in Europe anyway. And one of the cast was already in Berlin with her boyfriend.
The only official invitation was to Lamprell, which meant he was the only one whose accommodation was paid for. Accommodation only. The Australian Film Commission (AFC) paid his airfare. He paid for his meals. The producers relied a little on grants from the AFC and the FFC (Film Finance Corporation) for their airfares and a lot on their own bank accounts for food and accommodation. The actors, the cinematographer and the partners paid their own way for everything.
Given the financial burden, why did they all bother to go?
Because it was a chance to celebrate cracking one of the toughest and most sought after industries in the world. A chance to re-live the colossal bond they'd had when filming. A chance to proudly parade before an international audience the result of their long-term dedication to the project.
They moved as a cluster through the festival venues, eating together, meeting the press together, attending films together and partying together. Never before had such a large contingent represented a film's interests. Nor had the organisers ever hosted such a tight-knit, flagrantly excited, openly enthusiastic group.
Was it glamorous? Not very. Was it wonderful? Absolutely.
THE CAST OF THE TRIP
Mark Lamprell - Writer and Director of My Mother Frank (MMF)
Klay Lamprell - Wife of Mark Lamprell, a book editor.
Phaedon Vass - Producer of MMF
Susan Vass - Producer of MMF
John Winter - Producer of MMF
Matt Newton - Lead actor in MMF
Sinead Cusack - Lead actress in MMF
Rose Byrne - Actress in MMF
Gregor Jordan - Boyfriend of Rose Byrne, writer/director of Two Hands
Brian Breheny - Cinematographer of MMF
Jack (aka Gwendolen) - Wife of Brian (and a wardrobe designer)
Pippa Markham - Sinead's agent
DAY 1: Sydney Airport
I leave my ticket and passport in the taxi. Like we all need the stress. By the time I discover this fact, at the British Airways economy check in counter, the taxi is already at Pennant Hills, at the opposite end of the city. It's change-over time for the drivers and early peak hour. The taxi company promises to do what it can.
Mark, the three producers (known as the 3Ps) and Matt check their luggage in. We call the taxi company again. The driver is on his way to the airport but traffic is bad. They can't promise he'll be there before departure time - 5pm.
"No-one can believe this is really happening."
Our psychic efforts haven't achieved much by the time Mark, Matt and the 3Ps have to board. Phaedon finds a BA representative and explains what's happened. She tees up with a Qantas representative who gets me onto the next flight out, an hour later, just in case. No-one can believe this is really happening. There is much hugging and apologising and forgiving. With radios in hand, Lisa from BA and Kerrie from Qantas stand at the taxi ramp with me, jumping on every purple cab that arrives, to no avail. At 4:58 Lisa radios through that the taxi hasn't come.
At 5:02, just as the plane is lifting off the ground, the taxi driver spurts into the terminal, passport and ticket in hand, yelling "Is it alright? Did I make it?" I am grateful for his palpable dejection when I shake my head. Everyone would have preferred the other ending to the story.
Berlin Diary Part Two of Five