Russell Crowe last week urged his 2.73 million Twitter followers to see Backtrack Boys in cinemas, lauding Catherine Scott’s feature documentary as really special and a great story.
A reasonable number of Crowe’s followers did so as Umbrella Entertainment launched the film as an alternate content release, which means exhibitors have the flexibility to run limited sessions.
Meanwhile writer-director Heath Davis’ drama Book Week began its staggered roll-out on eight screens via Bonsai Films.
Backtrack Boys examines a youth program run by rule-breaking jackaroo Bernie Shakeshaft (hailed by Crowe as a “good fella and a bit of a genius”) on the outskirts of Armidale NSW. Voted as the top feature documentary at the Melbourne International Film Festival, the film collected $24,000 from one session on Saturday and Sunday on 44 screens, and $56,000 including festival screenings.
This opens theatrically in Australia on Thursday.
It’s really special.
Go and see it.
Write stories about it.
Tell your friends.
This fella Bernie , he’s a good fella , a bit of a genius really.
What a great story .
— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) October 22, 2018
There is plenty of upside as there have been requests for 150 hosted screenings which will follow the cinema run. Next year Scott is planning a regional release at events such as fairs and dog shows in towns that don’t have cinemas, using video projectors supplied by Canon. Supported by Screen Australia, the Documentary Australia Foundation and Create NSW, the doc has screened at the Sydney, Adelaide and Byron Bay film festivals and CinefesOZ.
Scott tells IF she hopes ticket sales will be buoyed by word-of-mouth this week following interviews on Sunrise and Triple M and David Stratton’s review. “People get evangelical after they see the film,” she says. Also she is arranging screenings at two international festivals which she hopes will encourage a sales agent to come on board.
Book Week, which stars Alan Dukes as Nicholas Cutler, a smart yet self-destructive, once famous novelist who is stuck teaching English at a working class high school, took $8,000 and $19,000 including previews and festivals and will expand to a further eight screens over the next few weeks including Q&A screenings.
After Cutler writes a trashy zombie story a publisher is willing to give him a second chance as long as he cleans up his act. What promises to be the best week of his life professionally spirals into seven days of hell personally with a pregnant girlfriend, a student in trouble with the law and a gravely ill brother-in-law. The cast includes Rose Riley, Rhys Muldoon, Susan Prior, Airlie Dodds, Toby Schmitz, Nicholas Hope, Khan Chittenden, Steve Bastoni and Tiriel Mora.
Davis, who produced the film with Fergus Grady, with Jonathan Page, Julia Scales, Anne Robinson and Josh Pomeranz as the EPs, issued an impassioned plea on Facebook yesterday.
“I’m not just saying it because I have a film out now but imagine if everyone in the Australian film community – it’s not an industry, it’s a community – actually went out and supported each others movies?” he mused.
“We would have a flourishing industry based on that alone. As a collective we must rise above this ego, jealously, apathy, insecurity and self-centredness if things are to change. Same goes with music and other arts scenes. Just because you’re not playing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attend that gig. We need to show the way so the rest of the country follow suit.”