Cameras are set to roll today on Pawno, an ensemble comedy drama that centres on a pawn shop in Melbourne’s western suburbs and follows a day in the life of fourteen characters.
“It’s based in Footscray in Melbourne, which is a really diverse pocket of the city,” says actor/writer Damian Hill (The Menkoff Method, Broke). “It’s the Australia that I see, so, for me, it's pretty raw, but pretty real. If you walk where I live, you'd see that a Caucasian person is in the minority. I look at these areas and they've got everything you need dramatically and cinematically. Unfortunately, a lot of the work that I see come out of Australia is either glamourised gangsters or just totally fictional.”
British-born actor-turned director Paul Ireland (The Turning, The Moon and the Sun; pictured) is also convinced that there's a distinct lack of character-driven dramas depicting the reality of multiculturalism in Australia.
"We want to get a real sense of the street we're on and a real sense of the people," says Ireland. “I don't think [Australia does] a lot of slice-of-life type of films where it's about the characters. Also, the class structure in this country is so different to the UK. There doesn't seem to be one, but there is in a way I just don't think it's ever highlighted in film over here so much.”
In Pawno, a paternal relationship develops between hardened pawn shop owner Les (played by John Brumpton) and his lackey Danny (Hill). "The relationship looks at the inability for men at times to verbally communicate what's really going on," says Hill. "Danny is a reformed character who has had a few issues in his life, but he has this art exhibition, which is a big thing for him so he tries to tell people about it throughout the day, however [the conversation] gets shutdown at every point.”
Other actors making up the ensemble include Maeve Dermody (Griff the Invisible), Mark Coles Smith (Around the Block), Ngoc Phan (At World’s End), and veterans Malcolm Kennard, Kerry Armstrong and Tony Rickards. A clutch of newcomers will also be amongst the cast that includes the prominent roles for Indian, Vietnamese and Indigenous actors. “None of them were written with an agenda other than to say 'This is what I see when I walk down the street',” says Hill, who applauds TV shows like Redfern Now for their realistic environments and character depictions.
Meanwhile, director Paul Ireland says with Pawno, he’s given some lesser-known cast members a chance to shine. “The industry uses the same people all the time and that's why actors can find it hard to break in,” he says. “These people have earned the right, but then I think how do the new ones get a chance? So we’ve got a very young cast who don’t have massive experience and we’ve given them a chance to make their mark by mixing them up with people with a wealth of experience.”
Pawno is being produced by Toothless Pictures.