Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fred Schepisi

Fred Schepisi.

The name sounds familar to me.

I'm betting he's in film. I've decided for now on I'm going to use my new and improved research method when dealing with film folks. I'm going to stop using IMDb as my central research tool. I may sort of miss that method, but I think this new way will work better.

Lord Wiki says Schepisi is in film. I'm right about that. It took me awhile to get that answer because I kept spelling his name wrong in the Google search box.

Schepisi is a director and screenwriter. I'm looking at Lord Wiki's provided filmography list. The movies he's done that are most recognizable to me are The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and Roxanne. The former is an Australian movie; and the latter I've always considered to be an American movie. Well, it does have American actors.

Schepisi was born in Melbourne, on 16 December 1939. Is it my imagination, or have I written recently about other people born on the 16th?

Ah. It's NOT my imagination. I just went back to check. Max Gillies was born on the 16th of November. Bruce Beresford was born on the 16th of August.

Lord Wiki says Schepisi's dad was a fruit dealer. I wonder if he dealt with a specific type of fruit, or just fruit in general.

Schepisi started off doing commercials and documentaries. Then in 1976, at the age of about thirty-seven, he made his first feature film. This was The Devil's Playground. That's the movie where Thomas Kenneally played a priest.

Oh, I see! I wondered why that wasn't listed on the filmography list I quickly glanced at. The filmography list is of ADDITIONAL films...ones not listed in the entry.

The movie he's probably most famous for is Evil Angels....known in the US as A Cry in the Dark.
In 2005, Schepisi directed a miniseries for HBO called Empire Falls. I don't remember it. But anyway, the job earned him an Emmy nomination.

That's about it for Lord Wiki.

Here's the official Fred Schepisi website. How nice. The thing greets me with elevator music. Actually, it sounds like the music you get when you're put on hold. Although now I see, from the explanation, that it's the theme music from Roxanne. Okay. Maybe. But it SOUNDS like elevator music.

Here's a news page. It has links to various articles on other websites. In other words, my work has been pretty much done for me. It looks like I won't have to do much googling.

Here's a Variety article from 2006. Schepisi was named president of the international jury of the Bangkok Film Festival. Was that just for 2006, or is it an ongoing job? I can't tell from the Variety article or the film festival site. Oh well. The answer isn't that important to me anyway.

I guess Schepisi has a talent for leading film festival juries. The Hollywood Reporter says in 2007, he was the head of the jury for a big Russian film festival. They also say he was planning to make a movie version of Kate Grenville's The Secret River. I read that book, I think. It's already 2010 and I still don't see that movie out there. I guess people changed their mind. Oh no, wait. I see it. It's listed on IMDb, but under IMDbPro. It's in development.  But I'm not Pro, so I can't get the IMDb details right now.

I've been seeing something mentioned in several articles, regarding some film finance thing. I've avoided mentioning it because it's economic stuff and goes over my head. But now I'm thinking it's probably important, and I should pay attention.

 The Age talked about it in 2006.   I'm reading it. I'm not sure I'm fully understanding it. Basically, it's about funding films. And somehow Schepisi was helping with that. There was a plan to make highly commercialized popular films that would do well internationally and showcase Australian talent. That sounds like a good idea to me. I like highly commercialized popular films.

Here's a 2008 article from The Age. It says Schepisi hasn't made a movie in Australia for twenty years! That's a long time. The last movie he did was Evil Angels. Maybe doing the movie made him scared of dingos. Maybe he decided to flee. Personally, I'd be more worried about the crocodiles.

Anyway, the purpose of the article was to tell people that Schepisi was coming back to Australia. The Film Finance Corporation agreed to fund his Vietnam moving starring Guy Pearce.

The movie was to be filmed in Queensland. There's another movie on IMDbPro. Last Man. Maybe this is the Vietnam movie.

Schepisi candidly talks about the difficulties of making films in Australia. He says, The current heads of film financing have long lunches where they tell people like me and Gillian Armstrong and Peter Weir they are keen to woo us to make films here, but then they make us go through hoops where we are badly treated and finally rejected by people with little or no experience.

No, that doesn't sound pleasant. But is Hollywood nicer? I can't imagine that.

Wait. He said all that in 2006. Then in 2008, he backtracked and said nice things. Why was he nicer? Maybe because the Film Finance Corporation was now offering more funding.

Before I go on, I'm going to read what Lord Wiki has to say about this Film Finance Corporation. Maybe he can help me understand it better. I'm guessing it's the government film money source that was initially set up by Whitlam. I might be wrong though.

Well, I didn't learn much really. The only thing I really got was that the Film Finance Corporation has now been sucked up into another entity called Screen Australia. Here's their website.

This page of the Schepisi website says he's working on a film based on the Patrick White novel, Eye of the Storm. It's about a brother and sister coming to visit their mother on their death bed. I've seen another plot like this recently. I can't remember. Maybe it was an earlier adaptation of the same novel.

Here's some more stuff he's working on. There's the Vietnam film, which IS called Last Man. This movie is listed as delayed.

He's developing a movie called Hitches. The pitch for that sounds intriguing. Two young brothers hitchike to Byron Bay so they can save the money on their bus tickets and have more to spend on the beautiful girls they're sure they're going to meet. They have an optimistic view of what their futures will be, but every ride they get, the people have a different view of life and they're going to set these boys straight, even if it kills them.
Is it a slasher horror type thing; one of those that has an intellectually moral Saw?

The Secret River
is listed along with a movie called Double 00. For a moment I forgot what the latter referred to. But now I remember. No wait. The emergency number in Australia is TRIPLE zero. So, what IS double zero?

He's also working on a film based on the Peter Carey novel Jack Maggs. I usually don't like Peter Carey's stuff, but the premise here sounds pretty good. It's about a guy sent to Australia. He makes money and becomes a benefactor to an impoverished child who once helped him. Then he escapes to England to be with the child.

Lord Wiki says it's a reworking of Great Expectations. I should have known that since I read the book for high school. Oops.

The Schepisi website links to some interviews. Here's an ABC one. There's more talk about film finance. He's asked how much The Devil's Playground cost. It was $300,000. That's so expensive, although I know movies today are MUCH more expensive. Three hundred thousand is very low budget. Schepisi says today that much film money would equate to about six million. Really? Has inflation jumped that much?

Schepisi talks about something that has been discussed on my blog recently...the influence of other cultures on Australia. He's asked if he considers himself to be a film-maker or an Australian film maker. He answers film maker. He says his generation was so strongly influenced by Britain and America. Although he has an interest in making Australian movies, he says, But also, we have interest in, you know, the world, um, because of those influences that have been on us all the time.

He talks about
The Hitchers. He makes it sound less like a horror movie, and more like a coming of age type tale.
Here's another interview. It's on a website called PopMatters.
The interview is about a movie he did in 2001 called Last Orders. It featured Michael Caine and Helen Mirren. Here's the trailer. I guess it's about a dying man.

The movie is based on a novel by a guy named Graham Swift. Lord Wiki says the movie does well in not deviating from the book. That's cool. It's usually annoying when movies deviate from the book, although sometimes it's not too bad. I love the True Blood TV show. It's based on novels by Charlaine Harris. The main characters in the book are pretty much the same as those in the series. But the storylines are vastly different. It's like seeing characters in two alternate universes. I love the universe presented in the book a little bit better, but I also love the TV show as well.

Back to the interview.....

Schepisi talks about storytelling. I love this quote here: I think that's how we tell stories. It's how memory operates, how our thoughts operate, because we go on memory, we go on apprehension of the present, and we go on hopes or expectations for the future. He mentions how we bring up the past when trying to tell a story. Yeah. We don't really tell stories in a time vacuum. It's hard to do that. We need flashbacks.

I guess the movie involved flashbacks. It looks like it was one of those movies that go back and forth in time. It's kind of like Harry Potter. There's really two stories going on in that series. There's the current ones with the three kids; and then there's the story of what happened to Harry's parents. In some ways, I think the story is more about the past then the present.

Here's something interesting. Schepisi says that until 1976, women were banned from men's bars. There were pubs that were men only. Wow.

Schepisi says if he writes an autobiography he's going to call it The Films I Didn't Make. He talks about the difficulties of financing films. It's hard to get enough money to make independent films. I think what he's saying (if I'm reading it right) is you can get money for very low-budget films. It's not so easy to get money for mid-budget films. I'm getting the idea that you have to choose between big block buster films and very small budget films.

Schepisi has a vineyard in Victoria. His site has a nice little photo. I wonder how that's working out for him.

I'm done with his site. I'm going to spend a little time on IMDb...see if there's anything exciting.

Maybe I'll watch some movie trailers too.

The first movie he directed was not The Devil's Playground. He worked on that movie divided into four segments...Libido. David Williamson wrote one of the segments, and Max Gillies starred in it. That's not the one Schepisi directed. He directed "The Priest" written by Thomas Kenneally. Maybe that's how the two of them met each other.

Schepisi won a bunch of awards for The Devil's Playground. He won best film, best screenplay, and best director....all from AFI.

Here's a clip from the movie. I think it's different from the clip I referenced in a previous post. Oh, there's a puberty discussion. This might be interesting.

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is yet another Thomas Kenneally and Schepisi collaboration. Kenneally wrote the book. It earned Schepisi some AFI award nominations, but he didn't win them. I'm reading a book partly written by Kenneally. It's called Australia: Beyond the Dreamtime. In it, three authors tell the history of Australia. Kenneally wrote the first part. I finished that, and greatly enjoyed it. Now I'm reading the part written by Patsy Adam-Smith. I don't know who she is, but I'm enjoying her writing. The last part is written by Robyn Davidson, the woman who wrote Tracks.

After reading that, I'm going to start another Kenneally book. Family Madness.

Here's a trailer for The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith.

Schepisi made Iceman in 1984. I sort of remember that. I don't think I saw it. I just remembering hearing of it. Timothy Hutton was in it, and my sister has a thing for him. I always kind of thought it was a comedy, but IMDb says it's a drama. It's about a man, from forty thousand years ago, being defrosted.

Oh. Wow. The trivia page says Schepisi was fired. Folks got mad because he promised to shoot the original ending in the script, and then he didn't do that. He also had conflicts with the film's composer, Bruce Smeaton. According to IMDb, after he was fired, he was brought back on for post-production stuff. I guess he caused some problems that upset Smeaton. They'd work again together for Roxanne. Then they stopped. Schepisi began using Jerry Goldsmith for his movies instead. I like Jerry Goldsmith's stuff: The Omen, Poltergeist, The Secret of Nimh, etc.

Interesting about the Smeaton/Schepisi conflict though. Schepisi has Smeaton's Roxanne score as the opening theme for his website. Maybe they reconciled? Then again, the music sounds like crap, in my opinion. Maybe Schepisi purposely used a version that sounded like being-put-on-hold music so it would make Smeaton's work look bad.

Here's a scene from Iceman.

Here's a trailer from Roxanne. I remember liking that movie.

Evil Angels won some awards, including an AFI for best picture. Schepisi won for best director and best screenplay. Here's the trailer. It looks pretty good. From what I can see, it deals with the way we turn private grief into public ridicule. I'm sure this is increasing now that we have the Internet. Sometimes I see things that make me want to turn off my computer, and disconnect forever.

Schepisi directed The Russia House. I remember hearing about that. Here's the trailer. Sean Connery kind of annoys me. I can't say I'm a least not yet. Maybe one day he'll grow on me.

In 1993, Schepisi did Six Degrees of Separation. That's the one with Will Smith. I've heard of it, but I never saw it. I'm guessing it started the whole six degrees of separation fad. It has a group on Facebook. The idea is we're all connected, with usually no more than six people between us. So this would mean that each of you who reads this knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows some one who knows someone who knows someone who knows me. Is that six? I think I lost count.

Then there was that Kevin Bacon game. Did you guys play it in Australia too? Or was it just an American thing? I'm three degrees from Kevin Bacon. I had a friend in college who knew his brother. Or would that be four degrees. I'm two degrees from Reese Witherspoon because my sister went to school with her. Although they don't know each other anymore. Would it still count?

Here's some interesting homosexual/homophobic drama. Will Smith was supposed to kiss a man in the film. He refused to do it. Camera trickery was used instead. He says that Denzel Washington advised him not to do it, that it would ruin his career. Wow. I wouldn't have expected that from Denzel Washington. Is he somewhat homophobic? I seriously doubt doing gay stuff on screen is going to ruin any actor's career. I think it might actually help in some ways. But it might get the Westboro Church harassing you.

Later Will Smith said he regretted his decision, and blamed it on his immaturity.

Here's the trailer for the film.

Lord Wiki says that Will Smith plays a con artist. I couldn't tell that from the trailer. I was a bit confused.

Anyway, I don't think I believe in the six degrees theory. Maybe one day someone will prove me wrong.

Schepisi made Fierce Creatures. I saw that. I didn't like it much. It was the one where they had a zoo with fake animals. The premise had sounded interesting to me, but I hadn't being impressed with the actual movie. I remember that it received attention because most of the cast was the same cast from the more successful A Fish Called Wanda.

Here's the trailer.

The trailer is entertaining. I wonder if I'd like the movie better these days. Maybe I should try it again.

Jack wants breakfast, so I need to go.


  1. You asked about double 00. I don't know whether this is relevant but I understand it is the usual prefix in Bond novels for "licence to kill" numbers (e.g. 007).

    In parts of Australia (I'm not sure which parts) there was some segregation between men and women in pubs but that usually meant the pub had more than one bar with a dedicated bar for "the ladies". There may have been mixed bars but it was thought "unseemly" for women to enter certain bars such as the "front bar" of a hotel.

  2. Martin,

    Yeah. double 00 makes me think of Bond too.

    I'm wondering if American bars had gender segregation as well. I tried to look it up, but couldn't manage to google the right thing. I kept on getting lawyer stuff.