Magazine article Metro Magazine

Police and Pyromania in the Making of Razor Eaters

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Police and Pyromania in the Making of Razor Eaters

Article excerpt

If bastards and bad men are so hated, why do good men love to read about them? Chopper Read

At the tender age of eleven, during an overcast afternoon in the school holidays of 1987, three of us were sitting around my bedroom with a bad case of mischievousness setting in. With the house to ourselves, we decided to hit dad's shed in search of trouble. Quickly locating the hidden lawn mower fuel and a cigarette lighter, we started experimenting with what a highly flammable liquid could do to almost everything in sight: household junk, flying tennis balls, plastic army men. The last element I added to these somewhat volatile shenanigans, the thing that would inspire me years later, was my father's video camera. When the fun was over, I relived it on screen secretly, perversely, all the while wondering what the attraction was ... and what would happen if I got caught.

Cut to ten years later and my boyish obsession with movies had become proactive. Twenty years old and mid way through my second bold guerrilla feature at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, I was managing everything from the film stock and schedules to coffee and donuts. My friends were bored with pretentious autobiographical uni-student shorts. We were frustrated with what we perceived to be a conservative and unchallenging Australian film industry with no stomach for genre films. And we were determined to not just talk about the feature we wanted to make.

My co-director and I rallied our nerves, resources and bank accounts around a 16mm action-fantasy film that eventually became Stygian, screening successfully at Melbourne Fringe and the Dead By Dawn horror film festival in Scotland. We took out the prestigious 'Best Use of the Guerrilla Aesthetic' award at the premiere Melbourne Underground Film Festival (after we ended up casting the two policemen called out to check on our shoot). We also managed to get our film onto the ABC's Recovery and in overseas mainstream movie magazines. Somehow, I forgot all the pain, agonising and sleepless nights and set my sights on doing it again, this time with something bigger and better, and hopefully less trouble. How naive ...

The last decade has certainly shown us that films needn't be backed by multimillion dollar budgets and Hollywood stars to succeed in the marketplace. With a great script and talented cast, low budget independent features have been finding distribution and attracting audiences. But the list of successes is far shorter than those that didn't make it to fruition. So is there a recipe for success that self-funded film-makers can follow? Is there a common denominator to the Castles, Clerks and El Mariachi's? Believing maybe there was, and eager to put into practice the lessons I'd learned from previous experience, I resolved to start working on my next film.

About this time the infamous 'hedge burners' had been terrorizing Melbourne. Rumour had it the young pyros were eventually caught because they'd recorded all their deeds on home video. Reflecting late one night on my own childhood video fire-bugging, I got an idea for a new feature that hit me like a bolt of lightning: Five bored, angry young men launch on an anarchistic rampage and videotape the whole thing.

I started writing notes that night and by seven the next morning with birds chirping outside, I reluctantly went to bed, still giddy with excitement. With a video camera cast as documenter, instigator and confessional, we would go front row to the 'rush' of the rampage, linger with the victims left behind, critique the media's involvement in violent crime and hopefully get a glimpse into the minds of the perpetrators. I named the gang the Razor Eaters.

I started by negotiating a new work agreement with my sympathetic employers who granted me one solid day a week to write. The script is paramount to any film; it is the foundation from which you build everything and is particularly imperative to the independent film-maker where big stars and special effects cannot rescue you from mediocrity. …

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