Filmmaker Phil Avalon set to return with $4m war film The Stolen
[Fri 21/09/2012 09:53:33]
By Yuan Liu
Gold Coast-based veteran writer, producer and director Phil Avalon is currently developing a World War I film, The Stolen, with director Geoff Davis. After more than two years’ production, the film is close to completion.
The Stolen follows an unknown soldier who grew up on a farm in Queensland, signing up at a very young age to join the war. He returns home only to find that his family destroyed by bushrangers who have killed his father and kidnapped his sister.
Avalon first heard of the film through actor and good friend Tony Bonner, who appeared in his last film, surfing drama Liquid Bridge (2003), which also starred Ryan Kwanten.
“Bonner had been in the film for a while at that time”, Avalon recalls. “He suggested that I have a look at this project. So I had a look at the scripts and the vision of the director Geoff Davis. And I was very impressed with the whole concept of an Australian sniper surviving the First War World and being one of the most decorated soldiers that no one has ever heard of. I felt that what an amazing story this can make!”
Avalon, who has made dozens of films and TV shows since the '70s, famously cast Mel Gibson in his first feature film role, surf movie Summer City (1977). However, Avalon says financing screen projects has become more difficult over the past decade.
“You have to try to find the difficult balance between the creative and the financial,” Avalon says. “I always feel responsible for my investors. So I put them in the first position [for recoupment] and say, would I invest in this? Would I put my $20 on this film and hope to God that I can make $30 back? That's the way I think. So I tried to make sure that anything I get involved with will have a great chance to make not only the budget back but a profit for my investors.
“But I believe that even if you have a great project, the GFC has really affected the business. It is not as easy as it was 10 years ago to find investors. I’ve been happy to try to produce films without government support but since it is such a costly industry, I don't think I can do that today, the same thing I have been doing for many years. I would be relying on government subsidy.”
The $4 million film will be released nationally in 2013 around ANZAC Day to coincide with the 100-year anniversay of the First World War.
At the same time, Avalon is developing another film, The Killer’s List. “It was brought to me by the wonderful Queensland writer Brian Vining and an actor he joined partnership with, Evert McQueen. They brought me the project but it was in a very skeleton stage. It was a wonderful idea, which hasn't been developed properly. So I spent the next two years getting sixteen drafts. The scripts are done and that would be ready to shoot in January next year.”
The Killer’s List will be the second feature film directed by Avalon after Liquid Bridge.
“I have actually directed a stage play, two documentaries and a telemovie prior to directing that film,” Avalon says. “So I did have directing experience but I’ve never taken on a feature film mainly because I probably wasn’t comfortable enough with the material to take on. With Liquid Bridge, it was something very close to my heart. I was a professional surfer. Surfing is part of my life. I understood the genre and the culture. So I was very happy to take that on. Fortunately it turned out to be a very good film and has been screened all around the world. I am happy with the result. I’ve been offered quite a few pictures since but there were very few of them that I find I'm totally attracted to.
"We all know in this industry that the second feature film that a director takes on, 90 per cent of them fail,” he laughs. “I’ve been very careful in selecting the next picture because of that.”
The Killer’s List is a thriller which follows a retired hit man who decides to go back to the world of crime in order to find the person who kidnapped his son. It is not Avalon's first foray into the popular crime genre: he wrote and produced Fatal Bond (1993) and The Finder (2001) as well as produced Tunnel Vision (1995). “Australians really love very good crime stories,” Avalon says. “We’ve been brought up on the Division 4 and cop shows. We love crime drama - look at Underbelly."
A scene from The Stolen.
[Fri 21/09/2012 09:53:33]