Kriv Stenders on the set of ‘Slim & I.’
Amid the COVID-19 crisis filmmaker Kriv Stenders alternates between feeling terrified, depressed and positive – but, on balance, he is extremely optimistic.
The writer-director believes the Australian screen industry will be forever changed by the pandemic – mostly for the better.
In a webinar today with Screen Producers Australia CEO Matt Deaner, Stenders said he was “future-proofing” his development slate even before the virus erupted because he expected the industry to re-set.
That includes a ‘four quadrant’ film designed for wide cinema release, a genre feature and two documentaries, one of which can be filmed remotely.
This crisis will “galvanise all of us us; it’s a battle call,” says the director of Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan, Doctor Doctor, Jack Irish and The Pacific: In the Wake of Captain Cook with Sam Neill.
“It will completely change the way I make films on every level. We will have to work faster and cheaper, while putting the money on the screen. It could be an exciting rebirth of storytelling.”
He envisions using smaller crews, re-purposing locations on green screen and doing some aspects of pre-production remotely.
It will be more important than ever, he thinks, to make films for a certain price, observing it is hard to get more than $1 million from US distributors and pre-sales.
Recalling the 1970s renaissance of Australian cinema when luminaries such as Gillian Armstrong, Phil Noyce and Dr George Miller emerged, he predicts there will be another new wave of Australian films and filmmakers.
Kriv Stenders and Joy McKean.
Before the production shutdown the director completed post on two feature docs. Slim & I tells the story of country music legend Joy McKean’s life, with insights into her career, her marriage of more than 50 years to Slim Dusty and her determination to be recognised as a performer and songwriter in her own right.
Chris Brown, Aline Jacques and McKean’s grandson James Arneman produced the film with funding from Screen Australia and Screen Queensland.
Produced by WildBear Entertainment’s Veronica Fury, Brock profiles the life and times of Peter Brock, the eight time winner of the Bathurst 1000 endurance race.
Both were scheduled to be released in cinemas by Universal but Stenders flagged plans to fast track their release to digital platforms, similar to Universal’s strategy on The Invisible Man, Emma and The Hunt. Launch dates and pricing are expected to be revealed soon.
The director sees that Premium VOD approach as one of several viable models for the screen industry going forward. Another is launching films in cinemas for a couple of weeks before they premiere on streaming services, as happened with the Stan/Transmission Films’ ploy on Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang.
Deaner suggested one outcome of the Federal Government’s options paper review will be scrapping the requirement to release films theatrically in order to qualify for the Producer Offset.
In that context, Stenders sees the cinema release as serving as a kind of long-form trailer for the streaming launch.
“Cinema isn’t going to die, it will just be a completely new machine, which is really exciting as a filmmaker,” he says. “If we can get this right, it could be a whole new dawn for us as an industry.”