Four of a Kind is Fiona Cochrane’s debut feature. Based on the play, Disclosure by Helen Collins, is an ensemble drama of love and betrayal, exploitation, revenge, death, obsession and force of will.
“They’re not necessarily always nice but they aren’t just the average middle-aged mothers you normally see,” says Cochrane of the characters in her film. They are “complex, middle-aged women that you don’t see very often on film”.
With a female ensemble cast, Four of a Kind is the story of Gina (Leverne McDonnell), Glenda (Gail Watson), Susan (Nina Landis) and Anne (Louise Siversen) who play a cop, a psychotherapist her friend and a surgeon’s wife. They are four women who each have a secret that is explored via a series of monologues and flashbacks. The film’s emphasis on dialogue and the interweaving of their relationships provides searing insights into individual psychologies and is a forensic exploration of their innermost worlds.
Collins developed her initially two act play into Four of a Kind. She saw it as an opportunity to focus on female characters in their 40s or in her words, to place women “up front of the narrative and to see all the parallels and mirrors within their lives.” With the help of script editor Annette Blonski, she developed the play into its unconventional script of unfolding monologues.
Cochrane committed to her friend’s script and without development or production funding, she felt that Four of a Kind was the sort of film she could produce on a low budget. This meant that the crew, who were all paid award rates, worked to an extremely tight schedule.
The 60 locations selected for the film were used in as many ways possible. One restaurant was utilised for four different location shots, as was Cochrane’s house, while crew was at a premium. Cinematographer Zbigniew Friedrich, who also edited the film, shot the actors’ dialogue in one week. The sound recordist was only on set for the dialogue scenes with the unit manager / second A.D. “swinging the microphone” when necessary. With no camera assistant or gaffer, Cochrane chose to avoid “big set ups.” Friedrich instead worked alone, often with just one light.
Actress Landis says that the film’s minimal aesthetics deeply affected the working process. It left her as “raw in the performance as on a bald stage. There was nowhere to hide.”
While the production schedule was tight, emphasis was placed on maximising script development, casting and rehearsal time.
According to Landis, all the actors were “aware of how much preparation time was required – almost the same amount of rehearsal time that you would need to put it on stage.”
The close working relationships between the cast and crew made this production process possible. Cochrane and lead actress, Leverne McDonnell (dual AFI nominee for Phoenix and the short film Trunk) have worked together before and in Four of a Kind, McDonnell assisted with the casting process and assumed the role of associate producer. Similarly art director, Adele Flere (Saved, Secret Life of Us) was involved in the film from the start, working part time for a long period sourcing costumes and locations and “doing virtually everything herself.”
Four of a Kind had its international premiere at the 2008 Montreal World Film Festival and has garnered some strong responses. Says Cochrane, “One of the things they say is that everyone comes out talking about it - and talks for long periods of time about who did what to whom and why. So it’s one of those films that starts off discussions.”
Four of a Kind is now screening in an exclusive run at Melbourne’s Nova cinema.