Backyard Ashes to play in the bush

22 October, 2013 by Don Groves

Umbrella Entertainment is turning the conventional notion of theatrical distribution on its head with Backyard Ashes, an Aussie comedy about two neighbours who settle their differences with a bizarre game of backyard cricket.

The release plan rules out booking the film into any capital city and the distributor is doing its best to keep it away from critics, perhaps fearing reviews that might raise the spectre of cricket-themed misfire Save Your Legs!


The self-funded film from first-time director Mark Grentell will premiere on November 6 at the Forum 6 Cinemas in Wagga Wagga, where it was shot largely in the backyard of Mark’s mother’s house.

The filmmakers and key cast will fly in for the premiere on a helicopter owned by a mate of Mark’s which was used to film aerial shots of the town in the opening sequence.

The comedy will open on November 7 in four towns: Wagga Wagga, Tamworth, Orange and Albury. Richard Moore, Umbrella’s theatrical distribution manager, tells IF he will book the film in other regional towns if the responses from audiences and exhibitors are positive.

Grentell is a NIDA graduate with a post graduate degree in directing studies. He was assistant director to Des McAnuff on the musical Doctor Zhivago and the resident director on the Australian production of the musical Rock of Ages.

In Backyard Ashes the ensemble cast includes fellow NIDA graduate Felix Williamson, Andrew S. Gilbert, John Wood, Rebecca Massey and Damian Callinan.

Grentell, who co-wrote the film with Peter Cox, showed a rough cut to Umbrella a couple of months ago. Moore offered a small minimum guarantee, declaring, “We could see the film will have an attraction for regional audiences. It’s not for inner-city audiences unless they scream out for it.”

Subsequently Screen Australia and Screen NSW chipped in funds to enable Grentell and fellow producers Cox and Anne Robinson to complete the film. LevelK has the international sales rights.

Moore says Cricket Australia has agreed to help with the marketing and the WIN TV network is giving the distriibutor three times the number of advertising spots it has paid for in a small ad spend.

The film will be released on DVD and VOD down the track.