(l-r) Xavier Samuel, Kris Marshall, Shane Jacobson and Kevin Bishop.
The boys are back in 'A Few Less Men', the sequel to Stephan Elliott's 2011 comedy 'A Few Best Men'. IF spoke to producer Tania Chambers, a newcomer to the franchise, about jumping onboard, raising the cash and the challenges of shooting in the desert.
'A Few Less Men' opens nationally on March 9 via StudioCanal.
How did you get involved in A Few Less Men?
When I was CEO at Screen NSW, A Few Best Men was one of the films we financed. So I got to know the producing team. The premiere of the film was shortly after I left Screen NSW, and I decided that I’d been involved in some of the hard yakka getting the film made and I may as well celebrate with them. They asked what my plans were, and I said I was going to be producing in WA and working around Australia and the world. And they asked if I’d be interested in looking at some scripts. Kill Me Three Times was the first one, and then whilst we were completing that we were already in development for A Few Less Men.
Were you involved in bringing Mark Lamprell on?
Absolutely, which was really exciting. Stephan Elliott is obviously an extraordinary director, particularly of comedy. But Stephan had a commitment to a prior film and was very happy for us to proceed with another director on a sequel. Obviously certain directors have that ability to do comedic work but you want it to be comedic work that’s got heart. Mark Lamprell’s a beautiful human being, but he’s also a renaissance man; he’s done children’s books as well as two successful novels. And obviously [he has] some wonderful films behind him. I knew of him through Goddess, another film that we financed while I was CEO at Screen NSW. Larry Malkin, one of the producing partners on this, was talking to Mark about another project of his. And Mark created an environment on-set that enabled everyone to do their best work I think. I’m working on another project with him called Celeste and Hal.
Did Dean Craig have a script ready to go when you joined?
Certainly [producers] Larry [Malkin] and Share [Stallings] had discussed with Dean the idea of a sequel, and the way the first film was structured of course there was the opportunity for a sequel. He initially provided the idea for the story, and it was fantastic, and then the script came along. I remember reading the script on a plane and laughing my head off all the way back to Perth, which was a bit embarrassing for the colleague sitting next to me on the plane. It’s not that often that you actually laugh reading scripts, so when you do you realise there’s magic there. And you combine that magic with the fact that the three lead actors had not only done a really good job in the first film but actually become very good mates. I think you can see it on screen; their shorthand with each other, the trust that they’ve got with each other. The other thing is they’re cute as hell (laughs).
Was it straightforward pulling the money together?
It’s never straightforward. Having said that, what was great – and unusual these days – was [that] because the first film had sold to so many countries around the world, there were a number of presales that Arclight was able to bring to the table. Territories like Vietnam and Eastern Europe and some of the South American countries that put finance in based on the script. The great news too was that Greg Denning, who was one of the people at Icon who supported the first film, had moved to StudioCanal and the team at StudioCanal embraced the film. And that’s one of the biggest challenges for a filmmaker in Australia; getting the Australian-New Zealand distribution support. And they have come onto the project so wholeheartedly, it’s tremendous.
Where did you shoot?
The Pinnacles is this amazing landscape about three hours north of Perth. These incredibly phallic petrified tree trunks that have eroded away, and these astounding great big white sand dunes that have never really been on the big screen. They’ve been in TV commercials [but] they’ve not actually been seen before [in films]. And then there were places around Perth and one in the hills outside Perth. And the town of Lancelin, which is about an hour and a half north of Perth.
What were the biggest logistical challenges?
Primarily being out in this desert and on the dunes with the wind and the sand. It was pretty grueling. And the guys are carrying a coffin (laughs). They’re carrying this great big box. It was quite remote and seriously hard yakka for them. There were lots of aerial shots as well.
How closely are you working with StudioCanal on the release?
Very closely. What’s interesting is that our test screenings have shown that the film is actually appealing to 18-24 year-old audiences. Women and men. And that it’s one where groups of friends are saying that they would want to go together. What we’re finding at screenings is that people over 30 were laughing and applauding. We’re trying to target a younger audience that is challenging to get to the cinema to view films other than major studio action-adventure films. So we’re doing a lot of work in social media, trying to encourage and track the sharing of content. And trying to reach the audience where they are.
Does the Australian factor make it harder to get that younger audience?
I think what will stand out is the fact it’s a comedy. I think there are challenges in getting younger audiences to see Australian films. Having said that, when it works for them, it works really brilliantly. This is a comedy above all that they will hear about from other people and [that] will be a good laugh. The actual release timing is really good because there aren’t many comedies around at the moment, in this time-frame. So that’s really exciting.
*This interview has been edited and condensed.