Former nurse turned filmmaker Mack Lindon has transformed his traumatic true story of being falsely convicted of rape into a crime feature with the help of comedy legend Rob Sitch.
In 2008, Lindon was sentenced to six years in a maximum security prison for the spike-drinking and rape of a 21-year-old woman. Lindon originally pled not guilty to the charge, and after serving 19 months in prison, was given another chance to prove his innocence. In 2011, the Supreme Court of Victoria overturned his conviction on appeal after one week of a retrial, setting Lindon free.
It was while serving his prison sentence that Lindon considered turning his ordeal into a feature film, which compelled him to pen a letter to Rob Sitch, the multi-award-winning Australian director behind classic ‘against-all-odds’ films The Castle (1997) and The Dish (2000). “I thoroughly enjoyed watching The Castle and I’d heard that he made that on the smell of an oily rag,” says Lindon. “So I wrote to Rob and he replied very quickly with a couple of pages outlining the process ahead of me, breaking it up into steps, which I pretty much followed to a T.”
“I always think that if people write to you in a decent and thoughtful way they deserve a decent and thoughtful response,” says Rob Sitch. “I said to him if you’ve got a good story that you’ve got to keep testing it and present it in a way that people can visualise. I find it amazing that he’s got the film up. I’m in the cheap seats there – that’s all his effort.”
Rise stars newcomer Nathan Wilson as Will, the young nurse sent to jail who eventually becomes empowered by the friendship and courage of a hardened criminal played by veteran Martin Sacks (Blue Heelers, Bait). While the movie is based on Lindon’s experience, he deliberately distanced the plot from the specifics of the real case to focus more on the mental anguish that naturally comes with becoming a prisoner for the first time.
"I was very careful to keep away from the politics of that charge,” says Lindon. “Rise is about life, it’s about life inside and there’s a lot of pressure, you’re in a constant state of paranoia at times looking at your back and you’ve only got you’re word inside so you’ve got to be true to that, which helped me tremendously."
Another reason why Sitch decided to help Lindon was the similarities he saw between the ex-inmate’s situation and that of The Castle’s lead character, Darryl Kerrigan (Michael Caton).
“It’s the same musical key in a way: it’s someone fighting and staying resilient,” he says. “But I’m amazed that having been in jail, which is one of the hardest things to do in life, that he’s got out and picked the second hardest thing to do, which is making a movie! One of the funny things about advice is it’s easy to give it out but it’s not always easy to act on it. So I was very impressed that he followed through.”
Lindon considers the most valuable suggestion Sitch gave was the importance of illustrating his story. “It was the best advice, because when I got out, I found an illustrator and put my story into pictures and we went from there,” says Lindon. “We made our development pitch trailer, which we won best trailer for in LA [at the HollyShorts Film Festival] and then I felt I was onto a bit of a winner so I kept moving forward.”
Rise was shot on the Gold Coast and will have its world premiere in Melbourne on 21 October and will be released theatrically by Pinnacle Films on 6 November.