'Indigo Lake' is an Aussie neo-noir written and directed by Martin Simpson, produced by Brian Cobb and starring Andrew Cutcliffe, Miranda O’Hare, Marin Mimica and Pamela Shaw.
Cutcliffe ('Home and Away', 'Wonderland') plays Jack, a painter who falls in love with his subject (Miranda O’Hare), to the chagrin of her gangster husband (Marin Mimica).
Simpson wrote the script in 2011 and brought it to Cobb, who put the budget together via private investors and the Offset. Beyond’s Martin Fabinyi, with whom Cobb worked under a Screen Australia Enterprise attachment, is executive producing.
The indie feature made its world premiere in Canberra, the producer’s hometown, on April 23, followed by a screening at Sydney’s Dendy Newtown on Wednesday night, where the stars, director and producer participated in a Q&A session.
International rights are being handled by KSM, and the filmmakers will head to Cannes in a couple of weeks, where 'Indigo Lake' is screening in the Marché.
IF checked in with Cutcliffe before he jets off to talk about his first starring role, the challenges of shooting out of schedule and the perspective that comes with having two young children (and a third on the way).
How did you book this film?
Sophie Jermyn, my agent, sent it to me in desperation. She said, these guys cannot find someone. They had a name attached to it but he dropped [out] and I think with him falling out a bit of finance fell away as well. And then one of the Australian actors got cold feet and stayed in LA. So Brian [Cobb] the producer asked Soph, who said I was right for it. Brian was like, ‘Who the fuck is Andrew (laughs)’? So she sent me the script and said you’ve got to put a self-tape down tomorrow. Courtney my wife was away, and she normally reads opposite me. So I called Coeli, my sister, who is pretty au fait with reading scripts, and asked her to come up to my house to shoot this thing. It was pissing down with rain so the light was awful, and I know everyone in the street and they were walking past and I was there screaming at my sister, calling her a whore…
You should have picked a different scene to test with!
It was the only one I had (laughs). They gave me the test scene. Anyway, I sent it in, and the next morning, Soph called me and asked me to get to Beyond in Artarmon. Brian was working out of Martin Fabinyi’s office under a Screen Australia Enterprise grant. Martin’s the EP. I was coming from a voiceover in the city and I went straight on to the tunnel and I was on the phone to her and then rocked up and met Brian and the director and booked it. That was three and a half weeks out from the beginning of principal.
Your first lead?
Yep. And I was pretty unhealthy. Hadn’t been fit for a very long time. I wasn’t overweight, but I was the frumpiest I’ve ever been in my life. I read the script again sitting on the lounge, and there’s a lot of skin. Courtney was back at this point, and I turned to her and said: I’m going for a run. It was 10 o’clock at night, and I literally put my shoes on and ran every single day until production stopped.
Push-ups before action?
I was doing everything. The gaffer came up to me with some dumbbells (laughs). But I wanted to drop weight because he’s an artist and artists are rarely fat. He’s an artist who’s not struggling financially, but he’s tortured. He’s struggling with the artistic side of it when he falls head over heels for a blonde bombshell at a gallery opening, who it turns out is married to a gangster, and it all goes downhill from there.
Where did you shoot?
Sydney. It’s a good city to shoot in: there’s old and modern stuff, lots of national park land. It’s a big movie set, really, you just have to deal with councils. We shot in Manly Dam for a lot of night shoots, which is beautiful. I had never been there. Then Redfern, a little bit in Paddington, [and] Fox [Studios] on a small soundstage with a big gaff-rig for stunt stuff. We had four or five weeks. But then they did pick-ups and completely reshot the ending, which I think was very beneficial. Made it more genre.
Was it scary to play your first lead in a feature?
It’s funny, I don’t freak out once I’ve got a job – I freak out [about] getting the job, the audition and the pressure of that. But the older I get the less freaked out I get. Which is a big change from even two years ago, where I just put so much pressure on myself to get a job. I think it’s probably having kids. The priority is home and kids and family, and that’s the stuff I should be worrying about if I have to worry about something.
You’ve done some day-player stuff on TV shows. Was it helpful having more time with a character?
That’s the thing which made the most apprehensive, in a way. Shooting a TV show, whether you’re a guestie or in a principal role, you typically shoot it in sequence. Typically. Some of it is shot out of order but you can’t really shoot much of it out of order because directors work in blocks and that’s only two or three episodes. And TV shows are normally really tight. This was tight as well, but we shot it completely out of sequence, and doing that is hard. You’ve got to really stitch your arc in, then break it all up, and then nail where your points are. It’s about finding a sense of stakes, and how the level is changing, in each scene; how important things mean to you at that point in time. That’s the hard part.
Even though this is an indie, it’s not micro-budget.
All the technicians were good at what they do. Rodrigo Vidal Dawson, who shot Observance, was the DOP. Michael Steele [DOP on Crushed] was first camera. I owe him a lot, he was so generous with me. By the end of it we could communicate with silent looks, making sure he was happy with his frame and focus. It was pretty indie but substantial: always three or four gaffers, always two or three grips. Bigger than most indies, man. You see most indies walking around with ten people in the crew, and we probably had 50. It was fun.