Australian romantic comedy The Wedding Party opened the 2010 Melbourne International Film Festival, subsequently screened at a few international fests and then fell into a black hole from which it's finally emerging.
Directed by first-timer Amanda Jane and starring Josh Lawson, Isabel Lucas, Steve Bisley and Essie Davis, the film is set to open on September 13 via Tait Brady's new distribution arm after Screen Australia funded a recut by ace editor Jill Billcock. The editor, who was nominated for an Oscar for Moulin Rouge!, shaved 19 minutes from the 116-minute running time and did so with such skill that Brady says he can't pick the edits.
Producer Nicole Minchin sought Brady's help after the original distributor, New Zealand-based Arkles Entertainment, got into financial difficulties. “It was an agonising time for the producers,” says Brady, who was head of marketing for Screen Australia and before that feature film evaluation manager at the Film Finance Corp. “They asked me to distribute the film, wore me down and I succumbed.”
Funded by Film Australia just before it was subsumed into Screen Australia, The Wedding Party features Lawson as a financially-strapped guy who is offered $25,000 to marry Lucas' Russian immigrant so she can to secure her residency.
It was partly financed by MIFF's Premiere Fund and Brady says post production was rushed to finish in time for the fest opening. While the audience feedback was generally positive, some felt the film was over-long, hence the decision to do a recut. Gary Hamilton's Arclight Films handled international sales. Brady envisions it will play initially on 8-10 screens in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Drawing on his experience earlier in his career with Palace, he decided to launch his own distribution label, imaginatively entitled Label, which will also release Australian sci-fi/comedy The 25th Reich. Based on a novella by J.J. Solomon and directed and co-written by Stephen Amis, the WWII caper follows five American GIs stationed in Australia who are captured by Nazis and sent back in time 50,000 years to retrieve an alien spaceship that might help the Allies win the war against Hitler.
Produced by Revolution Pictures, Brady's The Acme Film Company and the KIK group, the film had its world premiere at Perth's Revelation International Film Festival on July 6 and later this month will be shown at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival in Buchon, South Korea.
Richard Guardian's Lightning Entertainment has sold the film to DVD/Video on Demand distributors in more than 10 territories including Japan, Germany, the UK, China, Thailand, Middle East and Greece. Brady is hopeful of a US deal if and when a distributor there is willing to stump up a minimum guarantee. Positioning the film as a cult movie, he's organising a series of special event screenings in Australia, starting in October.
Brady says there are two compelling reasons to ensure that films such as The Wedding Party and The 25th Reich get theatrical exposure in Australia, apart from the obvious desire to reach an audience, no matter how small potentially.
One is that films require cinema bookings in order to qualify for the vital 40 per cent producer tax offset. The other is that according to Brady, Screen Australia is unlikely to continue to support filmmakers unless their films get some form of cinema release.
Meanwhile, Brady is developing several films and a documentary under his Acme Film Company banner, so stay tuned for further announcements in the coming weeks.