Jennifer Kent plans psychological horror The Babadook and Zak HIlditch plans sci-fi thriller These Final Hours.
Two features with considerable buzz typify how some new generation Australian filmmakers are planning to tell their stories in a range of ways from the outset, rather than bolting on a multi-platform strategy late in the process for marketing purposes.
The films, both in financing, are Jennifer Kent’s psychological horror The Babadook, which has local distributor Curious and sales agent eOne Entertainment attached, and Zak Hilditch [pictured]’s apocalyptic sci-fi thriller These Final Hours, which attracted the $780,000 (A$750,000) that ScreenWest invests in one film annually under its West Coast Visions initiative.
Both fought off other feature contenders to join a week-long workshop, organised by Screen Australia and StoryLabs, and designed to lock down story, business potential, community and audience focus, interactive functionality and technology.
These Final Hours is set over a 24-period when the whole population knows it is about to die and this ticking clock drives the narrative. It focuses on one young man but all around him huge extremes of human behaviour are on display; some choose to marry, others turn into assassins.
“The feature is one small narrative told within a world in which everyone is going crazy,” said Screen Australia’s Mike Cowap, who believes it is not genre that gives a film great multi-platform potential but the depth of the story world.
“The story lends itself to so much further exploration because it asks the (very engaging) question: what would you do if you knew you only had 24 hours left on the planet?”
But marketing is also a factor of course. Says producer Liz Kearney: “We hope it will be a dynamic, energetic, innovative film and we are very aware that we need a distribution and marketing strategy to match because the core audience is males 18 to 35 and they particularly hang out on line.”
The Babadook is about a single mother and her son coping with a sinister presence seven years after the violent death of the man of the house. A creepy children’s book, a monster, and a visually arresting style inspired by such early horror films as Nosferatu and Vampyr, are all expected to drive the story out into a wider world.
Kent won the talent highlight pitch award at the Berlinale Co-Production Market in February and her short film Monster, which has some similar themes, has been shown at more than 40 festivals. It is not common for a woman to direct horror, which is a marketing hook in itself.
Lance Weiler (Pandemic), Matt Costello (Rage) from the US, David Varela (Sony Xi, Perplex City, Lewis Hamilton: Secret Life) from the UK and Canadian Anthea Foyer (The Conversation) are the international mentors at the workshop.