Biker drama ‘1%’ revs up Stephen McCallum’s career


First-time feature director Stephen McCallum’s 1% is a classic case of a film whose commercial impact cannot be judged by its first weekend in Australian cinemas.

Released by Icon, the hard-hitting biker gang drama rang up $56,000 on 58 screens and $82,000 including festival screenings and previews.

While that’s a modest debut, the producer Michael Pontin, who heads See Pictures’ low budget label Ticket to Ride, hails the film as a huge commercial success thanks to pre-sales to the US and more than a dozen other major markets.

And the film starring Matt Nable, Ryan Corr, Josh McConville, Aaron Pedersen, Abbey Lee and Simone Kessell is already proving to be a significant career catalyst for the director.

McCallum tells IF he has had offers to direct two US films, subject to financing, and he next hopes to make Paradise, a love story between an Afghan refugee and an Australian guard at a detention camp.

He wrote the script based on accounts from people at the Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island camps and is developing the project with The Penguin Empire’s Kelvin Munro, who co-produced Grant Sputore’s I Am Mother with Southern Light Films.

A24 and DirecTV collared North American rights to 1% after its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and a theatrical release is planned for early next year. Sales agent Celluloid Dreams clinched deals with major markets including the UK (Altitude), German-speaking Europe (Koch Media), France (The Jokers), Italy (One Movie), Latin America (Impacto), Japan (The Klockworx) and Scandinavia.

“The film is confronting and uncompromising: it’s not easy to watch and it’s not for everyone,” says McCallum. “I am very happy with the way the film has been received by the audiences who have seen it. The targeted demographic (young males) usually don’t see films in cinemas unless they are superhero or action films.”

Pontin tells IF: “From our perspective this movie has already been a huge commercial success. A24 picking it up as their first acquisition at TIFF last year is a reflection of the quality and commercial potential the market sees in the movie. We are very bullish about mainstream play with cable and streaming audiences and we encourage discerning and brave Australian audiences to see it on the big screen while it’s there.

“We are thankful to Icon Dendy for putting the movie in cinemas and taking a talented first-time filmmaker on tour so that there is a window for cinema lovers to check out the film on the big screen. We worked hard to create a cinematic experience that plays best in a darkened theatre, to reward that audience.”

Nable, who wrote the screenplay, plays Knuck, who resumes his post as president of the Copperheads Motorcycle Club after a three-year stretch in jail. Corr is Paddo, who ran the club in Knuck’s absence, recruiting new members and finding new sources of cash. Lee is Paddo’s girlfriend Katrina and Kessell is Knuck’s wife Hayley.

Trouble erupts when Paddo’s younger brother, the developmentally disabled Skink (McConville), gets caught stealing a heroin stash from rival gang members the Devils. Their leader Sugar (Pedersen) puts a price on Skink’s head.