Directing his first feature film, Now Add Honey, Wayne Hope staged a scene in Melbourne on Tuesday in which a character played by his wife Robyn Butler gets so angry she smashes a windscreen.
100 Bloody Acres actor Angus Sampson was on the other side of the windscreen. The glass duly shattered, nobody got hurt and Hope got the shots he wanted.
Asked if anyone was concerned about how his wife would handle the scene, Hope told IF, “I wasn’t worried, but other people were.” That’s the kind of easy rapport you would expect between the husband and wife who collaborated on the ABC-TV series The Librarians and Very Small Business.
Butler wrote the screenplay for Now Add Honey, which stars Lucy Fry (who’ll be seen in the upcoming Hollywood film Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters), Portia de Rossi, Hamish Blake, Sampson, Ben Lawson and Lucy Durack.
Fry plays Honey Halloway, a Hollywood teen star who returns home to Australia and finds her life descending into chaos when her mother (de Rossi) is suddenly sent away. Honey is forced to stay with her aunt Caroline (Butler) in the suburbs and discovers her family is far from normal.
Hope says the film focuses on the themes which have long interested his wife: girls, women, mother figures, duty and love. The dynamic between husband and wife on set is very different to when they are co-writing and co-producing.
“When we are writing Robyn will argue her corner and we will both fight for ideas,” he said during a lunch break. “When she moves into performing mode she does trust the outside eye and says, ‘OK, you can see what I can’t see.’ She’s a great performer and she can switch roles. I think I would try to direct from in front of the camera, which would be appalling.”
The biggest difference in making the transition from directing TV to film, he’s found, is having to shoot some scenes with a single camera, whereas for reasons of efficiency two cameras were used for the TV series.
Hope admired de Rossi’s work in Arrested Development and describes her as a great comic actor. While he got the cast he wanted he did not know until they got together in one room how well they would interact in an ensemble family comedy.
Butler did not write a role for her husband. “In our productions if I appear in a cameo you will always know it means we’re short on the budget,” he said.
The film was one of three projects the couple started developing after they finished shooting the third series of The Librarians. The other two are the eight-part comedy Upper Middle Bogan, which premieres on ABC1 on August 15; and Little Lunch, a mockumentary series about what happens at snack time in a primary school playground, based on books written by Danny Katz and illustrated by Mitch Vane, which will go into production next year for ABC3.
Roadshow Films acquired the Australasian rights to Now Add Honey. Roadshow’s Joel Pearlman is a fan of the duo’s TV series and sparked to the idea of a comedy with broad female appeal.
Lightning Entertainment has the international rights and Hope and Butler’s US agent WME will handle a sale to the US. It’s the first feature film from their production company Gristmill.
Hope is looking forward to seeing how viewers respond to Upper Middle Bogan, which stars Annie Maynard as an upper middle-class doctor who is horrified to discover she is adopted and comes from a drag racing family in the outer suburbs.
Each episode is self-contained and the narrative is open-ended, so a second series is on the cards.