Magazine article Metro Magazine

Racing Ahead with 'Dalkeith'

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Racing Ahead with 'Dalkeith'

Article excerpt

SOMEONE ONCE SAID, 'YOU CAN always tell the pioneers. They're the ones with the arrows in the ass.' Next time you see John Chase or Leigh Sheehan, check for the arrow holes in their backsides. With their film Dalkeith, they've been the pioneer force behind feature film self-distribution using DVDs in Australia and New Zealand.

Based on a true story, Dalkieth tells of a group of senior citizens at the Dalkeith Residential Home who take in a greyhound. They name the dog Dalkieth, figure out she can run like blazes, enter her in greyhound races, and bet on the results. Suddenly life is interesting again.

Wait a minute. A film about retirees in an old folks' home and a skinny dog? Who'd want to see that? That's a question Chase and Sheehan were asked often during development.

The government funding bodies wouldn't touch the project, but Chase and Sheehan felt they were onto a good story. So they set out to raise the money themselves, and three years later had the basic budget. 'We believed in the film, so we kept going,' said Chase. 'And we didn't start until we had enough cash in hand to pay for all the commitments that we knew of beforehand.'

They tapped into business associates and friends, and ultimately both of them sold their homes. The full budget was around $800,000, including deferrals. Everyone was paid award rates on the day, with deferrals only being for amounts above award levels.

They shot Dalkeith in Ballarat, Vic, where they live, with Chase producing and Sheehan making his feature film directorial debut from a script by Victor Kazan. The entire production took place within a five-minute drive of the town hall.

Once finished, Australian distributors decided to pass on the film as well. Who'd want to see a movie about old people and a dog?

Old people.

And do old people go to the movies?

Nope.

But Chase and Sheehan begged to differ. Before shooting, they already had UK-based High Point Films & TV on board to handle overseas sales, so they knew it would get into the marketplace. They decided to try for some sort of theatrical release in Australia.

And here's where the pioneering starts.

Dalkeith was shot on Super 16mm, and finished digitally with a stereo sound mix. Said Chase, 'We always worked on the theory that we should be capable of going to 35mm if we needed to. We did tests on the more difficult scenes, including pans, so we knew it stood up with a kine.'

But the cost of a kine (a tape to 35mm film transfer) runs around $700 per minute. Prints come on top of that.

So Chase and Co. set out to get their local theatre to show Dalkeith using a DVD player and a digital projector. …

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