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It takes teams to make films, John Brumpton tells Andrew L. Urban, on the eve of the release of his new film, Pawno.

John Brumpton in Pawno

John Brumpton is sheltering from an autumn shower in the entrance to Sydney’s Chauvel cinema, a smoke in one hand, a take-away coffee in the other. As he sees me approach, he stubs the end of the cigarette into the bin and waves. The few passers by take no notice, yet here is one of Australia’s most talented and successful, multi award winning actor/writers; ah that’s right, we don’t have a star structure here in equality-obsessed Australia.

Brumpton, casually dressed in an open necked blue shirt, is sporting a goatee, a little character-builder for his role as the operator of a Bondi boxing gym in the upcoming SBS series, Deep Water, produced by Blackfella Films, set against the backdrop of gay bashings in Bondi.

"the role seems tailor made"

The role seems tailor made for ex-boxer Brumpton, who has choreographed all his fight scenes in his many & various shorts and features, including the brutal one in Pawno, in which his character, Les, takes to giving a thug bully a hearty belting in his little pawn shop in Melbourne’s Footscray.

This scene is not really central to the film – because nothing really is. It’s a series of snapshots of the wide variety of people who come and go through the ‘pawno shop’ for as many reasons as there are lives. That’s the remit of the film, and Brumpton was working on the screenplay with Damian Hill even before director Paul Ireland got involved.

It came about like this: “I was performing in (Ray Mooney’s) Everynight Everynight (about the early life of contract killer Christopher Dale Flannery) on stage and it was getting a lot of interest, so the Wesley College asked me to give some lectures around the subject and the play … and Damien came to one of those lectures. Damien then got the rights to the play and we did it again, and I got Paul Ireland to come in and play my role as I was a bit too old then … “

Damien was already working on early drafts of Pawno and Brumpton gave him some feedback and suggestions. He also had his eye on the role of Les: “it’s one of the best roles I’ve had for ages … lots of opportunities for an actor to show his capabilities.”

Brumpton was keen to inject humour here and there – and keen to cut down on the coarse language; aware his mother was going to see the film. “She is coming to see it for the first time tonight,” he adds as we sit in the Chauvel lobby for our interview. “She’s seen most of my work and so she won’t get any surprises… I often do stuff that’s quite rough,” he laughs. Apparently she is a fan – to no-one’s surprise.

Pawno is a great example of ‘through the particular to the universal’, a notion that serves filmmakers well and as writer Daman Hill shows, it can be a useful filmmaking tool to portray a variety of the human condition. His pawn shop is where Les Underwood plays a dual role of self serving sinner as well as occasional saint. I don’t mind the contradictions in his character; they smack of real life. I also appreciate John Brumpton’s characterisation as an edgy, complex and unpredictable money lender of last resort. (see our reviews )

"a stand-out cast"

Brumpton is joined by a stand-out cast including the writer, Damien Hill, Kerry Armstrong, Tony Rickards, Mal Kennard, Maeve Dermody, Mark Coles Smith, Daniel Frederiksen, Ngoc Phan, Naomi Rukavina, Mark Silveira, John Orcsik, and Brad McMurray.

The crew includes cinematographer Shelley Farthing-Dawe, editor, Gary Woodyard, production designer Tyler Chalker and composers Tristan Dewey & Tai Jordan.

“Teams make films,” says Brumpton, who has made dozens of shorts and several feature films, “it’s like a football team with the director as coach …”

From Left, Damien Hill, Daniel Frederiksen, Mal Kennard and Mark Coles Smith, Maeve Dermody, Kerry Armstrong

Published April 21, 2016

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John Brumpton

Pawno – in cinemas around Australia from April 21, 2016



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