MIR, ANTHONY: YOU CAN'T STOP THE MURDERS
Three stand up comics have written and starred in a weird comedy about murders that are linked to the Village People. One of them, Anthony Mir, also directed the film, and is ready to do it again, he tells Andrew L. Urban, drawing on the natural vulnerabilities of Australians.
You can’t help but wonder how a two minute sketch comedy routine ended up as a feature film – and who better to ask than Anthony Mir, who directed the film, having written it with his two comedy
collaborators, Gary Eck and Akmal Saleh. In pairs, in rotation. “We’d do it in tandem; two would write in the morning and the third would come for lunch and make fun of what we’d written and then one of us would leave,” Mir explains.
“The different writing duos produced different types of comedy – some of it was more tragic, some of it was silly… and the main focus was that this was a 90 minute run, not a 100 meter dash, which is what sketch comedy tends to be. So we were very conscious of making the scenes work by themselves, yes, but under the umbrella of the narrative. And we rid ourselves of many jokes that stopped that narrative progressing or character consistency.”
But you can be sure to find all that extra stuff on the DVD. Some 40 minutes of it in fact.
The characters were all important, says Mir. So was the story – but Mir had only got through the first part of Robert McKee’s Story, the book often referred to as the bible for screenwriters. “I think actually Robert McKee has got to pace his book a little better,” he says with a smile, “because there isn’t really a beginning, a middle and end to the book on story…”
"a window of opportunity"
But conscious of the three act structure, Mir and his team also had the series of murders as a backbone to the story, which goes like this: Constable Gary Raymond (Gary Eck) is a career cop obsessed by his dream girl, local tv reporter Julia (Kirstie Hutton), and line dancing. His offsider and childhood friend, Constable Akmal (Akmal Saleh), spends his waking hours brain-storming ideas for his movies. The two spend their days sorting out domestics, looking for lost pets and lying in wait for motorists to exceed the speed limit. Grisly murders in sleepy West Village come as a bit of a shock and Detective Tony Charles (Anthony Mir) is sent from the big smoke to investigate. Gary realises that this is a window of opportunity for him.
The original idea: A biker is killed. A construction worker is killed. A sailor is killed. A cowboy and Indian are killed. It becomes apparent to the two hapless country cops that someone is knocking off "members" of The Village People. One piece remains in this sick puzzle...a dead cop.
“The idea was originally a two minute sketch. Gary, Akmal and myself were greatly amused by the juxtaposition of murder and camp disco icons,” says Mir. “However, once we started writing, we soon realised the more resonant humour was in the vulnerability of the two nervous police officers, not the murders themselves. We were drawn to write their story.”
Of course nobody in the film industry was the slightest bit interested in the script, written by newcomers to film and nobodies in terms of screen experience.
This is how Mir tells it: “Our Producer Anastasia Sideris thought, ‘This is a very funny script, how can they say no?’
"Who are these guys?" Investors would ask.
"Nobodies." Anastasia would reply
"What have they done?"
"Can he direct?"
"a very funny script"
‘Then one fateful Thursday night, the phone rang. "Anastasia, this is a very funny script," said Miranda Dear of SBS Independent. "Do you mind if I show it to a colleague of mine?"
Thud! Anastasia had fainted.
Over the weekend Anastasia received a call from Mark Woods of Showtime Australia. "Anastasia, this is a very funny script, is it too late to invest?”
Thud! She fainted again.
When it came to shooting the script, Mir knew exactly what he wanted. “I wanted it to be natural…” he can’t think of a name for the style of comedy he’s made, but it’s something to do with being natural. “It’s not overt in its performance. I didn’t want them to parody Australians, just be Australians. I think Australians are naturally very funny.”
Mir feels there are just as many laughs in the pauses and the glances as there is in dialogue – “so I was also keen to grab that awkwardness, that lovely vulnerability in which empathy lies.”
And while the film is Australian and expected to find a domestic audience, the reaction at early test screenings in London, Los Angeles and New York has been very positive. “I think they understood the vulnerabilities,” Mir says.
"I like to be spontaneous"
In May, the film will go to Cannes, for the real test of its international appeal. And by then, Mir may well have got closer to refining his next idea for a feature film. Having jumped into feature directing without a single short film to his credit, he’s feeling confident. He enjoyed directing, and even liked acting at the same time. “It meant I didn’t have too much time to think about my lines, which is great because I like to be spontaneous.”
Funnily enough, so do his partners. Both are now working on different scripts for their own movies.
Published March 6, 2003