‘Escape and Evasion’ and ‘Undertow’ run the gauntlet for Aussie films

'Escape and Evasion'.

‘Escape and Evasion.’

It’s an all too familiar story: Australian films open in a handful of cinemas with minimal marketing and publicity and audiences don’t go because they don’t know where or when these films are playing.

The latest examples are Storm Ashwood’s war thriller Escape and Evasion and Miranda Nation’s debut feature, relationships drama Undertow, which both launched last weekend.

Produced by Bronte Pictures’ Blake Northfield, Escape and Evasion stars Josh McConville as Seth, the sole survivor of a mission gone wrong. Bonnie Sveen is Rebecca, whose brother Josh (Hugh Sheridan) was one of the casualties.

Rebecca confronts Seth, who reports her to his Major (Rena Owen). Firass Dirani plays Welshy, one of four soldiers on the mission, with Steve Le Marquand as Carl, an ex-soldier who lives in Myanmar.

The Backlot launched the film, which had its world premiere at the Gold Coast Film Festival last year, on 26 screens, generating just $3,600, according to Numero.

“We’re proud to have secured 26 screens after great Q&A screenings,” Northfield tells IF. “Obviously we don’t expect to make much money from the release due to the limited screens and lack of P&A spend from the distributor.

“Our focus is more the fact that we can give people all over Australia a chance to see the film. Fingers-crossed word of mouth brings some numbers through the door.”

On the upside, Pascal Borno’s Conquistador Entertainment sold the film co-funded by Screen Queensland and Chinese investors to South Korea, Japan, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the US.

In the US it had a multi-platform release via Level 33 Entertainment in December. Northfield says: “We’ve had strong viewing numbers and our first financial report will be sent out next month.”

Laura Gordon in ‘Undertow.’

Mind Blowing World launched Undertow on 13 screens and despite the support of Palace, Dendy Cinemas and exhibitor Eddie Tamir, it earned $3,800 at the weekend plus about $9,000 from festival screenings.

Produced by Lyn Norfor and set in Nation’s hometown of Geelong, the drama follows Claire (Laura Gordon), who is still grieving the loss of her stillborn baby when she begins to suspect her husband Dan (Rob Collins) is having an affair with teenager Angie (Olivia DeJonge).

When Claire then discovers Angie is pregnant, she develops an irrational obsession that sees her lose touch with reality and put at risk both of their lives.

Mind Blowing World’s John Molloy tells IF: “Undertow is a film of exquisite visual style and sound design that has made bold directorial choices. The sense of time, space and dramatic execution in the film means that the cinema is absolutely the premium space to experience this story and world.

“As an industry we need to do everything we can to keep the presence of Australian films alive in our cinemas. We can all see that we are close to losing that space altogether. The difficulty for Australian films is not just about marketing spend (though of course it would be amazing if we could have large marketing budgets for independent films).

“We support Australian films with our labour and time in most cases as those are the resources available to us. There have been several excellent films with great marketing campaigns that have recently failed to create meaningful box office.

“It is a turbulent and overwhelming marketplace right now in which we are doing our best to remain part of the ecosystem.”

Nation adds: “As filmmakers we make films to be seen in the cinema, for the full immersive experience of the cinematography, the sound design, the music to be appreciated.

“I am immensely grateful for people like John and Mitu Bhowmick-Lange, who are committed to supporting and sustaining Australian cinema in what is an increasingly difficult marketplace.”

The international sales agent, LA-based Motion Picture Exchange (MPX) is yet to pitch the film to buyers.