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DUST OFF THE WINGS

BOYS’ STORY AT BONDI BEACH
Sex drugs and nude surfing go hand in hand with the stag party and hen’s night in Lee Rogers first film, starring his wife, singing star Kate Ceberano. ANDREW L. URBAN meets and greets the new filmmakers.

Dust Off The Wings is likely to be received with the same surprised exuberance as was last year’s Love and Other Catastrophes. This new Australian comedy is also low budget, also fresh and energetic, also sexually frank, also deals with young people - and it’s set at Bondi Beach, an icon of Australia’s hedonistic, outdoor lifestyle. Yet it is a vastly different film, and more controversial: it has already elicited comments from some women that it is mysogynistic.

Co-writer and director (and producer) Lee Rogers dismisses that comment: "Those who know me realise what the film is really about - modern relationships." Rogers was apprehensive when his mother arrived for the cast and crew screening, "because it’s not a pretty film and there are some sensitive things in there out of the past - although changed a bit…anyway, she really liked it."

"There hasn’t been a contemporary film shot at Bondi,"

Rogers and co-writer Ward Stevens (who also co-stars) wanted to make a film about the things that go through young men’s minds just before their wedding, "so it’s essentially the boys’ story," says Rogers.

The setting is familiar to the filmmakers and their cast, as they all live or have lived in the Bondi Beach area. "There hasn’t been a contemporary film shot at Bondi," Rogers remarks, "and it’s a fantastic place. It’s not just the cappuccino crowd…there’s blue collar workers, ethnic groups, tourists, surfies . . it’s a real melting pot."

The film concentrates on a group of friends around Lee (himself), who is about to marry Jo (Alana Ross); the boys - mostly keen surfies - arrange a bucks night, the girls have their hen’s party, and we see how different they are.

Surfing shots were shot by cinematographer Guy Finlay on the locations around Bondi Beach, and in one dream sequence where Lee is weighed down underwater with an anvil, Rogers not only suffered hypothermia but nearly drowned.

Other scenes, like the bucks party, were stressful for other reasons, such as lack of time; "we shot it with two cameras and I was in there directing it from within the scene."

"We set it in Bondi because we know the subculture."

Rogers says he wanted to explore the bloke’s dilemma about retaining his mates’ friendship, how he deals with the commitment, with the notion of not sleeping around anymore…promiscuity and drugs come into it - and also how the bulk of society actually lives in a spiritual world. We set it in Bondi because we know the subculture."

Ceberano plays Lee’s friend Jenna, and their own wedding provided some of the ideas that ended up in the script of Dust Off the Wings.

"We combined my ideas and bits of funny banter we’d collected at the wedding where Ward shot footage on Video 8." Rogers and Ceberano married a year earlier, in April 1995; the film was shot on digital Betacam in 17 days over several weekends in April and May 1996, with money from Rogers, Stevens and with profit share deferrals, as well as some private help.

Stevens even had to sell his old Mercedes to raise the money to complete the film.

"By making myself as big a dickhead as every other character, the other players were more relaxed.."

Rogers says over two thirds of the film was scripted, but many of the scenes were written the night before shooting. "We had very limited resources," says Rogers, "and we were scrounging money to pay for our food every day, so it looks fun but the whole shoot was very stressful - which I think probably helped my performance!" Rogers has never acted before, but he feels that "by making myself as big a dickhead as every other character, the other players were more relaxed about doing their own stuff, and to be more revealing."

But Rogers says he definitely won’t be starring in another film that he directs "for a while; it’s just too much at this stage. I need more experience in both areas, as well as producing. I just want to direct."

Rogers has had 12 years experience in tv commercials, shorts, corporate videos and music clips, but this is his first feature film. He completed a screenwriting course in Los Angeles five years ago and is planning to shoot two more features in the "Dust" trilogy, one dealing with pregnancy (Speck of Dust), the other with death (Dust to Dust).

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