Hounds of Love “surprise” Australian film of the year

07 April, 2016 by Brian Karlovsky

Hounds of Love star Emma Booth with Patrick Brammall in Glitch.


Australian cinematographer Mick McDermott has described Ben Young’s debut feature Hounds of Love, starring Stepen Curry and Emma Booth, as the “surprise package of the year” in Australian film.

The project, which is now in production in Western Australia, from writer/director, Young and producer Melissa Kelly, is a thriller drawn from a number of infamous local and international crimes.

Supported by Screen Australia and ScreenWest, is also stars Susie Porter, Harrison Gilbertson, Ashleigh Cummings and Damien de Montemas.

McDermott told IF he had a look at the rough edit of about 40 per cent of a week’s scenes and was very impressed.

“It's going to be an intense and challenging journey for the audience,” he says.  

“The performances are very powerful.  Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings and Stephen Curry really dug deep with their roles and were very brave. Hounds of Love looks like being a real surprise package for the year.”

The project participated in the ScreenWest script and talent development initiatives Feature Navigator and eQuinoxe in 2014 and attracted international recognition when it was pitched at European Film Market (EFM) in Berlin earlier this year.   

In 2014 the project was awarded production funding through ScreenWest’s West Coast Visions initiative, which aims to uncover, inspire and develop local filmmakers.

McDermott said he was able to spend a good deal of time with Young talking about what kind of film they were to make during the funding process.  

“By the time pre-pro started we had a good handle on what we needed from most of the elements whilst leaving opportunities for the film to evolve,” he said. 

Hounds of Love actor Stephen Curry.

“Ben is an incredibly thorough director, having also written the script, he had an intimacy with the film that meant his vision was very clear.  

“We were both in sync visually which let me pretty well do what I wanted, allowing him to concentrate on story and performance.  

He said there lengthy discussions on light, movement and coverage.

“So when the actors arrived we had very strong bones, execution wise, for most of the scenes,” he said. 

“It's not a pretty story so it was important that the images reflected that.  

“Pictures have to work in concert with the story, it's important that they serve the story and not try to make their own statement.  

“So with this in mind, it was decided early on to keep it quite raw and untreated.  That creates it's own challenges.  It almost became an exercise in restraint, resisting the urge to light to an aesthetic as the story dictated and letting composition take more of a front seat.  Given the schedule, it also meant we could stay quite nimble.”   

Young is an award winning filmmaker who has directed series television, short films, commercials and music videos.  He has directed seven short films, of which he wrote six, including Bush Basher, starring Gary Sweet and Harrison Gilbertson, and Something Fishy which screened at more than 35 Australian and international film festivals.  

He has directed 30 music videos for various artists including Drapht, Emperors, Voltaire Twins, and most recently The John Butler Trio for which his video for Only One has had more than 1.3 million hits on YouTube.

McDermot said time and money, “as usual”, were the two major challenges of the shoot.  

“1st AD Andrew Power had authored an amazing battle plan that had to accommodate actor's availabilities, story flow and all the other components of a low budget, period piece with a 20 day shoot schedule.  Everyone worked hard and well together.     

 “We photographed Hounds of Love with an Arri Alexa Plus and an Arri Alexa Mini.  We also had a Phantom Flex4k for a few scenes.  Lenses were Cooke S4's.  All the equipment, supplied locally by Transvision and Cinemachine, performed flawlessly and were the obvious choice for us. 

“The Alexa, as we know, is just a dream camera in this digital age, not only from a technical stand point but from an operational one as well.  You never hear anyone say, ‘I don't like Alexa’. 

“We shot for two weeks in a house and a lot in one particular room so it got pretty tight and hot (we had a week of over 40 degree days), the Mini was a godsend for that and also for the significant hand held component of the film.  It's a very special little camera.  

Hounds of Love director, Ben Young.

McDermott said his approach was different for each project.

“It's a continual trip of experimenting and learning,” he says.  “I don't really follow the trends too much.  I try to make each project a realisation of the director's vision.  For me, it's important that everyone is pursuing the one vision without their own agenda.  If the director is trending toward a particular style then I will too, but it's usually so individual.”   

He said the one major challenge for cinematographers at the moment was the ever increasing population of cameras at varying price points which allows anyone to shoot anything.

“There's also the whole discussion of our role in the processing of imagery.  Large K cameras mean composition is able to be altered significantly.  

“Our inclusion (or exclusion) in that process is usually determined by the relationship with the director.  

“I think you have to value your own contribution to a project. 

McDermott said he could see a very positive future for Aussie cinematographers.  

“Australians by nature are well loved by the world for their character strengths and Australian cinematographers seem to embody that with their initiative and creativity,” he said.  By and large, we do great work."