Though Jon Hewitt’s latest project, Turkey Shoot, was released theatrically last week; Australian cinemas is not where the writer/director is hoping his film will find its primary audience.

In a movement being echoed around the industry, Hewitt is pinning his hopes on VoD returns, with a focus on international sales in particular.

“Theatrical [release] is over for about 90 per cent of any film made anywhere in the world,” he tells IF. “You just have to look at what’s released in cinemas now to understand that, but we are still compelled and forced to release every Australian film that gets made to give it a theatrical release, because of the way things are financed.

“So that’s led to a lot of negativity because there’s a lot of movies that just won’t work theatrically. Theatrical is whole different thing now, it’s about tent-pole movies and blockbusters and tent-pole art-house films – there’s no theatrical play for movies like Turkey Shoot or The Mule or most Australian films.”

Hewitt’s Turkey Shoot is a reimagining of Brian Trenchard-Smith’s 1982 cult film of the same name and stars Dominic Purcell, Viva Bianca and Robert Taylor. Produced by Tony Ginnane, who also produced the original, the story centres around ex-Navy SEAL Rick Tyler (Purcell) who is serving time in military prison for an abhorrent war crime he is told he committed. One day he is “released” but is forced to take part in a deadly television program Turkey Shoot, where he serves as the turkey and other contenders try to assassinate him. Participating in the game uncovers the truth about his past, leading to redemption.

The original Turkey Shoot (also known as Escape 2000 and Blood Camp Thatcher) was famed for its violence and was classified as part of the Ozploitation movement of the 80s.

Hewitt, while acknowledging the film’s history, says he and his wife and co-writer Belinda McClory wanted their Turkey Shoot to be different.

“We wanted to make an Australian action-adventure film for a relatively undemanding international audience, speaking the universal language of genre, but Belinda and I wanted to put a bit of meat on its bones and give it a satirical edge and comment on the state of the world at the moment. You know, to ask ‘Why are we actually at war?’ is one theme. Nobody seems to be actually talking about it. Are all these wars going on for the benefits of the countries or are they going on for the benefit of Google through YouTube and CNN and stations like that? Those are making a gazillion dollars. They’re the worst offender.

“We wanted to speculate on that but put it in the subtext that people also want some sort of stalk and chase thriller could get into it as well.”
Turkey Shoot is currently available to watch at selected Australian cinemas (see below for details) but Hewitt is more optimistic about potential overseas sales and VoD, which is where he maintains the future of independent Australian film is heading.

“I think the most sensible model for most Australian films going forward is The Mule’s model, which is simultaneous, all-platform, and supported by a lot of interest in the press by special event screenings,” he says.

“There is still a place for people going to the cinema to watch the movie, but it’s more a special screening here or a Q&A there. That’s just what is happening with every film now unless it’s Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner which is going to go off for obvious reasons.

“For me, looking at the way Australian films have fared over the last five years – I mean the writing has been on the wall for a decade, but it’s really coming to the crunch now. 

“If Paul Fenech’s film [Fat Pizza vs. Housos] couldn’t really perform at the box office, then that really does prove that the theatrical audience for most Australian movies has really died away. They are going to watch the movies somewhere else, which is great.

“The reason we haven’t gone for the whole shebang – the simultaneous everything – is that I don’t want the film available digitally until it’s exploited in the US. Otherwise we are going to screw ourselves on an international sales front. That’s the reason we haven’t done it.”

Hewitt says US and UK deals for Turkey Shoot are under negotiation and he hopes will be finalised early next year.

In the meantime, Aussie audiences can catch the movie at the cinemas below, and can look forward for a VoD release sometime in April.

NSW – Sydney
Event Cinemas Macquarie

VIC – Melbourne
Cinema Nova
Jam Factory

QLD – Brisbane
Event cinemas Indooroopilly

WA – Perth
Luna Leederville

SA – Adelaide
Event cinemas Macquarie