Crushed aims to break the mould for indie films

Writer–director Megan Riakos’ psychological thriller Crushed is continuing the rising trend of self-funded Australian films where cast and crew forego fees in return for a share of the profits.

Production wraps in Mudgee, NSW, on January 17 after a 19-day shoot. The plot follows Elia, a young woman who returns home after her father dies. The death is ruled a murder and her mother becomes the prime suspect.

Sarah Bishop (whose credits include MTV's Deadbeat Dads and web series Skitbox TV and Bondi Hipsters) plays Elia and is serving as one of the producers along with Riakos and Robbie Miles, the LA-based development executive at Sam Worthington’s Full Clip Pictures.

The cast includes Les Hill (Underbelly), Roxane Wilson (Home and Away), Aaron Glenane (Drift), Robert Preston (Redfern Now), Jamie Irvine (Anzac Girls), Helmut Bakaitis (The Matrix), Patrick Connolly (The Outlaw Michael Howe), Benjamin Mathews (Love My Way) and rising stars Millie Spencer Brown (Dance Academy) and Remy Brand (Sam Fox: Extreme Adventures).

“I play a winemaker who is one of the suspects in the story, " says Hill, who owns a small winery in the Hunter Valley. "It’s a gripping script and keeps you guessing all the way through. It’s been nice for me to combine my love of acting and winemaking." Wilson plays Elia's mother.

The DOP is Michael Steel, who shot the second season of Playmaker Media’s House Husbands and was camera operator on its upcoming Nine network drama Love Child.

A graduate of the Australian Film Television and Radio School, Riakos wrote the script while attending a screenwriting course at the University of California, Los Angeles. Bishop read the script while studying in LA.

"I was inspired by the recent trend of successful independent films coming out of festivals like South by Southwest and Sundance,” Megan says. “By embracing new technologies and distribution paths, you can make high quality, interesting films that are able to reach a diverse audience, without the large budgets we’re accustomed to in Australia,”

Riakos is determined to break the mould for independent cinema by reaching audiences by non-traditional means as well as cinemas, using social media and Australian and international film festivals as publicity tools.

“We are looking from every angle to get this film out to audiences, including special event screenings in vineyards around Australia, availability for downloads online as well as the cinema release. Audiences have changed and we need to target them in innovative ways," she says.

Producer Raquelle David has come on board to help the filmmakers secure funding for post- production- they’re in talks with Screen NSW and post houses- and to liaise with distributors and sales agents.

David said each crew and cast member gets points in the film based on how much time he or she is involved in the production.