Sydney-based West Australian actor and film-maker Jeremy Sims is on tenterhooks.
His new movie, Last Cab To Freo, is out soon, and early reports say the low budget flick, starring Michael Caton and Jacki Weaver is a winner.
But naturally Jeremy, 49, will feel more relaxed once the film is out and the public have voted with their bums on seats.
Jeremy will be in his home town next week to promote the new film, plus he’ll be introducing his earlier movie, Last Train to Freo, filmed in WA in 2006, at a special screening hosted by Revelations Perth International Film Festival. Enough to put a chill in the spine of anyone taking the Midland line, it’s based on a play written by WA screenwriter Reg Cribb, Jeremy’s long-time collaborator.
Jeremy chats to The Starfish.
Jeremy how long since you’ve seen Last Train To Freo?
At least five years. It’s hard to get hold of the DVD these days. I’m really looking forward to seeing it again on the big screen. It was our first go at a movie.
How did that film come about?
The story was based on something that happened to Reg when he returned to Perth to go to a funeral. He witnessed an event and decided to write a play, which was put my company, Pork Chop Productions. Eventually we turned it into a film.
What sort of budget did you have?
It was tiny. In all about a million dollars. We got a $750,000 grant from Screenwest. But it enabled me to learn how to make a movie.
Knowing what you now know, would you have done many things differently?
Of course. For a start, we shot in “real time,” which I naively thought would be an easy way to make a film. Most people in the film world will tell you otherwise! So the film takes an hour and 20 minutes, the time it takes to get the train from Midland to Freo. And we did a whole bunch of crazy things that go against the film-making rules, like including long monologues. But it all makes sense in its own way!
How well was the film received?
People either gave it four stars or two stars. Most people other loved it or really didn’t like it, there wasn’t much in between. Surprisingly, Perth audiences were the least receptive. I was devastated about the reception it got in Perth. And it surprised me, I would have thought even the title would have appealed! But both the main actors Steve Le Marquand and Tom Budge got AFI nominations which we were thrilled about.
So tell us about Last Cab To Darwin?
You’ll remember when euthanasia was legal in Darwin in 1996 for about six months? Our story, based on a real event, is about a man who takes a cab from Broken Hill to Darwin to end his life.
Michael Caton is the star and he’s in about every frame. His performance is perfect and beautiful! He has an amazing presence on screen; I think he’s a cross between Clint Eastwood and James Stewart and this performance will put him on a whole new international career trajectory.
Jacki Weaver’s performance is also terrific. She’d starred in the play and really wanted to be in the film much to the chagrin of her LA agents, and she made it happen despite back-to-back projects in the US.
Many logistical headaches out in the desert?
The biggest problem was the blowflies. There were thousands of them. But we just went with it!
What was your budget this time round?
About four million dollars. We travelled about 3000 kilometres in 35 vehicles, filming in small towns between Broken Hill and Darwin. We spent about three days in Oodnadatta in South Australia, where about 95 per cent of the people are Aboriginal, and they all turned out to see us making it. It was brilliant.
Are you confident the film will do well?
We’ve had great feedback from advanced screenings overseas. Variety and The Hollywood Reporter have given it brilliant reviews. But when everyone says “it’s good’ in advance, I still worry. I just want bums on seats!
Again, this film is based on a stage play by Reg Cribb, which Pork Chop produced. It was performed at the Sydney Opera House in 2003. It was a big hit there and then we put it on again in 2004 and toured the country with it. Then about five years ago I came back to it and we decided to make it into a film. We changed it a lot though. Whereas Last Train To Freo is 90 per cent the same as the play, Last Cab to Darwin is only about 20 per cent.
For a whole bunch of reasons. But for one, in movies you have to show not tell, and the play had reams of dialogue and long monologues. For the film, we invented new characters and modified existing ones. The end result is very different. I refused to make the film until I was satisfied with the script. We applied for more funding for development, did more workshops and modifications. WE just kept working on it. There are five storylines and I wanted to make sure that every single one worked well in its own way.
If this film does do wonders for Michael Caton’s future, then surely it will also open doors for Jeremy Sims?
If it helps make it easier for me to get finance for my next movie, then I’ll be happy. It’s hard work getting a film up, this one’s taken me five years. I’m hoping that if this film does well, I can pay back my investors and make another film.
Last Cab to Darwin is released nationally on August 6.
Jeremy will be in Perth, introducing a screening of Last Train To Freo at Backlot on June 30.
For tickets book here: http://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=138752
Watch the Last Cab to Darwin trailer…