Writer-director Imogen Thomas’ family drama Emu Runner and Tony D’Aquino’s female-driven survival thriller The Furies opened in limited sessions on a handful of screens last weekend.
The grosses were commensurately modest but The Furies has been sold to half a dozen major territories including the US and Odin’s Eye Entertainment is negotiating deals for Latin America, Russia and Italy.
Los Angeles-based Timothy O’Brien of Ovation Films, who has represented Emu Runner since just before its Berlin premiere, is hopeful of international sales.
Thomas’ debut feature, which had its world premiere in the Discovery section of the Toronto International Film Festival, revolves around a nine-year-old Indigenous girl (Rhae-Kye Waites) in the remote Brewarrina community, who finds solace in the company of a wild emu after her mother’s unexpected death.
The cast includes Wayne Blair, Maurial Spearim, Georgia Blizzard, Rob Carlton and newcomers Mary Waites, Letisha Boney, Lindsay Waites, Rodney McHughes and Stella Carter.
Released by Umbrella Entertainment, the film grossed $9,200 on 21 screens after earning $18,600 from festival screenings and previews.
Victor Evatt, who produced with Thomas and Antonia Barnard, was hoping for a better result but he tells IF: “Imogen made the film primarily as a Brewarrina community development exercise. We are very proud of the film and everyone who worked on it.”
Barnard said: “Imogen and Victor gave everything they had to this Indigenous film and it’s good to get it out there, regardless of the smallness of the release. We’re grateful to Screen Australia for completion funding; their contribution for that made a huge impression on the work.”
Wallis Cinemas programming manager Sasha Close regards Emu Runner as a well crafted film but says: “It failed to launch to market and attract audiences, again showing how difficult the theatrical landscape is to navigate for quality, small budget films.”
O’Brien, who previously handled Stuart McBratney’s Pop Up and Stevie Cruz-Martin’s Pulse, tells IF: “Australian independent filmmakers are delivering dramatically and thematically ambitious films and Emu Runner is a fine example of this. While the current international film market remains challenging, we find that audiences and select buyers take a close look at titles from Australia and New Zealand.”
D’Aquino’s debut feature, The Furies follows rebellious high school students Kayla (Airlie Dodds) and her best friend Maddie (Ebony Vagulans), who are abducted by a sinister presence. Kayla wakes up in a box in the middle of a forest with no idea how she got there or where Maddie is. She soon discovers that men in terrifying masks are stalking six other young women in the woods. The cast includes Danielle Horvat, Linda Ngo, Taylor Ferguson, Harriet Davies, Kaitlyn Boye and Jessica Baker.
The Odin’s Eye release produced by Lisa Shaunessy and The Film Distillery’s Andy Marriott fetched $2,000 on nine screens and $8,500 including the Monster Fest premiere.
The thriller premiered last month in North America on AMC Networks’ genre streaming service Shudder and has been acquired by distributors In Spain, the UK, France, Germany, Japan and the Middle East.
“According to Shudder, they are tracking a really strong response to the film on their platform,” Shaunessy says.