Australia’s Ron Howard

…or Why Our Safety Is Not Guaranteed.

The great thing about growing up in the world in which you want to work is that as you get older you start to see friends and people you have worked with in your past start to break through. It’s such a warm feeling to have as in an industry fueled by ego and people that are looking for a cheap shot at fame and fortune, it is always the driven, talented ones without that sense of entitlement who are humbled by what we do that start to excel. Because at the end of the day whether you be involved in music, fine art, theatre, film or any other creative endeavor, it is about telling stories.

One of the very great examples of this is a man I had the pleasure of being directed by on a number of occasions when he was only 21, and that man’s name is Jeffrey Walker.

Jeff has been around film his entire life. In fact I think most of you reading this blog post will remember him as the brilliant little kid playing Bronson in the earlier series of Around The Twist. Or if not that perhaps his parts in Ocean Girl, Thunderstone, Halfway Across The Galaxy and Turn Left or The Wayne Manifesto. Basically this guy was the children’s television of my generation. So how excited was I when I discovered that this young dude was gonna be directing me in a block of episodes on a kid’s series called Holly’s Heroes way back in 2004.

The amazing thing about Jeff is he manages to keep this unique sense of calm and trust amongst his crew and actors without raising a sweat. When we first found out that he was on board to do Holly’s a couple of actors in the cast had worked with him on another show and they were all so excited that he was going to join us. Even back then at the stupidly young age of 21, I was in awe of how he worked and I have had nothing but absolute respect for him ever since. I guess you could say he has been somewhat of a local hero for me.

Anyway from the early start directing kid’s TV, Jeff has gone on to direct some of Australia’s most respected dramas and comedies including All Saints, City Homicide, Rake, Small Time Gangster, Angry Boys and most recently the Jack Irish telemovies for ABC1 starring Hollywood Superstar Guy Pearce.

Needless to say I was a touch excited that the latter was to be my first official MIFF screening of 2012.

After a bit of a false start to do with a couple of screening issues, the film started at a cracking pace and did not let up for the entirety of its near 2 hour running time. If this is just a taste of what ABC is going to begin to program over the next little while then I am excited. The films (I like that better than telemovie) are based on the Peter Temple novels of the same name and are adapted by one of Australia’s most respected screen writers in Andrew Knight. It follows Jack Irish (Pearce) a former Government lawyer turned private detective who spends his time digging up dark secrets of others whilst trying to keep his own at bay.

The film starred an impressive cast (particular mention to the brilliant Aaron Pedersen) who all give stellar performances throughout the film thanks to great direction by Walker. As I said above, the film’s pace really doesn’t let up throughout and has a certain feel to it that is removed from the endless pile of TV crime drama’s that we’ve seen over the past few years (see Underbelly 1 through to 86). There is almost a voyeuristic approach in how the film is shot with Walker opting to hold on wides and allow the action to play out as Jack is forced to meet with a whole range of colourful characters that make up the corrupt world that he is investigating.

The film was dark but not without humour with every bit of wit that has been worked into the dialogue by Knight and co-writer Matt Cameron being perfectly played out by the films actors.

In short I really enjoyed the first of two Jack Irish films. I think everyone involved with the film should be proud of what they have managed to put together on (no doubt) a modest budget. Do yourself a favour and keep a look out for them when they screen on ABC1 later in the year.

And as for Jeff? Well after having a brief word with him on Opening Night it looks like he has been kicking some serious goals both here and abroad which is exciting as there is no man more deserving of success then Australia’s very own version of Ron Howard, Jeffrey Walker.

As this blog post has already been a bit of a big one I’ll keep the next review short and sharp (which hopefully the rest will be throughout MIFF). The film I saw after Jack Irish was the American Indie Safety Not Guaranteed. Now for those that know me, I have a bit of a soft spot for indie films in general. Films like Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Garden State, Tiny Furniture, 50/50 get me all excited in the pantaloons. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that these films deal with very human issues but often approach them with delicateness and a self-depreciating humour that gives the subject matter lightness and makes them more accessible for an audience. They often take you by surprise and affect you in a way that you weren’t expecting when you paid your 15 bucks at the box office to go and see it.

Safety Not Guaranteed was no exception.

A really simple idea and execution which works thanks to clever writing, a willingness to take risks and some pitch perfect performances by some of its young cast. The film follows a group of young journalists who have gone to a seaside town to investigate a man who has put an ad in the paper looking for someone to travel back in time with him. What starts off as an attempt to write a story about a man quite obviously disconnected with reality becomes a journey about loss, love, getting old and making mistakes.

The film isn’t perfect by any stretch with some gaps in the writing and also the performances however overall they really hit the mark. When the writing is good it is fantastic and it’s near impossible to not be drawn to all four of the main characters who are all dealing with their own personal demons. I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone but if you’re the kind of person who finds these kinds of films affecting (like I do) then it’s a must see.

I also had a soft spot as the film was made on a shoestring budget of 750,000, which in America is loose change. It’s the writing and performances which make this film – and not the big budget special effects.

That’s all from me – tomorrow night my MIFF Odyseey continues with Monsieur Lazhar, 100 Bloody Acres & Paul Kelly: Stories of Me.

One Response

  1. Nato
    Aug 05, 2012 - 11:11 PM

    Jeff. Champion. Fact.


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