Could Australian audiences who seem to be tiring of dark, home-grown dramas and thrillers spark to a musical comedy/romance about an Emo teenager who falls in love with a Christian girl?

Writer-director Neil Triffett and producer Lee Matthews reckon so, and are confident they can turn their 15-minute short Emo: The Musical into a full-length feature.

It will be the feature debut for both. Matthews has produced 14 shorts and Triffett has directed numerous shorts and documentaries.

The Emo short has an impressive pedigree, having been nominated for best short at the Generation14 Plus section of this year’s Berlin Film Festival, where it got a special mention, and screened at more than 20 international festivals.

Screen Australia gave the producers a grant to finish the short and is now funding the development of the feature, which Triffett will write and direct as well as composing the songs.

“It’s a high school musical satire and a story of star-crossed lovers that bizarrely explores religious extremism and holy wars,” say Matthews and Triffett, who will pitch the project to distributors and financiers at the MIFF 37ºSouth Market.

The short followed Ethan (Harry Borland), an Emo boy who hates almost everything and everyone until he falls head over heels for Trinity (Charlotte Nicdao), a virtuous Christian girl. This happens while their social groups are battling for the school music room.

“I’ve been fascinated by Emos for a while,” says Triffett. “There’s something admirable about people who accept life is full of misery while the rest of us are pretending we are happy and emotionally stable. To place an Emo – a sarcastic, despondent Emo youth – inside a light-hearted musical comedy creates instant drama, a conflict of values that has to be resolved, and was the jump-off point for Emo: The Musical. However, if it had stopped there, it would have easily become a gag film, and I wanted it to be much more than that.

"Much of the humour and effect of the film is built through contrast and comparisons. We wanted to capture the feeling that a moody Australian drama had been trapped inside an episode of Glee. Our excellent cinematographer, Sky Davies, along with our equally excellent production designer, Anna O’Donnell, helped create an Emo world that was dark and gloomy, with strong blacks and clutter, and a Christian world that had sunshine, bright clothing, green lawns, and lots of religious iconography. Music was contrasted in a similar way, with the saccharine Hillsong style of the Christian Musicians, with the Whitlam-esque, Death Cab for Cutie inspired songs of the Emos."

Matthews believes $1.5 million is a realistic budget for the feature, which will have new elements such as an attempted suicide to cater for adult audiences.

As for casting, Matthews says the choice is between searching for 17-year-olds as the leads or finding older actors who can play teenagers, just as Olivia Newton-John did all those years ago in Grease.

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  1. Festival selection committees – like Screen Australia – are populated by ‘old at heart’ art-film lovers. They will NEVER pick a winner because the masses who go to the cinema are ‘young at heart’ entertainment lovers. Australia will never make profitable films while the festivals and ScrOz control the funding.

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