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Two different stories in the news fused in the mind of filmmaker Mark Fitzpatrick to trigger the creative process which resulted in one of the most engaging Australian drama of recent years: The Nothing Men. And after 10 drafts, he returned to the original, he tells Andrew L. Urban. Watch the interview (under 7mins) recorded at the Dungog Film Festival where the film had its world premiere.

A bunch of guys sitting around a workshop waiting edgily for their final redundancy payout . . . an unrelated shooting in another factory. But coming within days of each other, the two news stories fused into one and led Mark Fitzpatrick to start writing a screenplay.

Six men have been waiting six months for their redundancy payout at a factory workshop, with nothing to do. But when Percy (Mark Fitzpatrick) rings to inform the foreman, Jack (Colin Friels) that a new man is being transferred just two weeks before the payments are due, the men grow apprehensive, suspicious that the company is sending a spy to try and find an excuse to fire them instead of paying them out. The new man, David (David Field) does indeed appear suspicious, with his neat white shirt and neat little briefcase, a stark contrast to the men’s grubby working clothes and untidy surroundings. He is also suspiciously polite. As time ticks slowly by, devastating secrets and nasty surprises begin to seep out to threaten them all.

"some of the most crucial scenes take place elsewhere"

That’s pretty well how Fitzpatrick’s first draft turned out; “but then I started rewriting and going into all the characters’ homes and backstories…. And finally I ditched all that and focused back at the workshop.” But while much of the action does take place there, some of the most crucial scenes take place elsewhere.

Like many small budget films driven by the passion of their creative parent, The Nothing Men tested Mark’s resilience. The script went the rounds through several producers’ hands, but never quite got made. “I had John Brousek but he got lured away by Wog Boy, I’ve had Tony Buckley, who had health problems and had to drop 80% of his projects – but through that long process of about 11 years, it reached various actors,” he explains.

Colin Friels was keen from the start and stuck with it; David Field was the actor Fitzpatrick had in mind for the role of David, even naming the character to match. But normally you might expect them to play the other character: David Field to play the foreman and Colin Friels to play the incoming ‘stranger’. The against-type casting adds to the film’s edginess and both leads deliver stupendous performances.

The film had only just been finished prior to its premiere at Dungog (2008) and within a week or so, Fitzpatrick and his team were on their way to Cannes with 30 copies of it on DVD, even before showing to Australian distributors. In Cannes, they quickly got offers from international buyers before coming back to Australia and negotiating for the local release through Anchor Bay Films.

"a quality Australian film with an outstanding Australian cast,"

“The Nothing Men is a quality Australian film with an outstanding Australian cast,” says Jessica Hocker, Marketing Manager for Anchor Bay, “and Anchor Bay likes to support independent Australian films.”

Mark’s talent as a writer was first recognised in 1973 at age thirteen when he won first prize in a playwriting competition in high school. However, writing was put on hold as his professional football career took precedence.

Returning to the arts, Mark enrolled in the prestigious Sydney Acting School in 1984, graduating to work alongside such actors including Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger and Jackie Chan. He has performed in over forty plays in Australia and written and directed several theatrical productions.

In 1993 he took a script-writing course at the University of Technology Sydney, which unearthed his edgy, hard-hitting style.

In 1999 Mark did something no other person in Australia has done. He went behind the bars of a maximum-security prison, to write and direct a half hour short film titled, The Gas Man, with Australia’s most notorious juvenile prisoners cast in the roles.
That same year Mark was offered a Hollywood deal by Pacific Western, (Armageddon, Terminator, Alien), to purchase rights for his script The Nothing Men.

He has gone on to write several screenplays, three of which are true stories still in development. One of these, Descendance, is the story of a struggling aboriginal dance group, who overcome addiction and go on to compete in the World Cultural Dance Championships. It goes into preproduction in November 2010.

Published August 12, 2010

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Mark Fitzpatrick

VIDEO INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban at Dungog Film Festival (6 minutes 39 seconds)


The Nothing Men

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