James Ivor moves behind the camera with ‘Crushing Season’

James Ivor and Rahel Romahn in 'Crushing Season'.

Actor-turned-filmmaker James Ivor originally wrote and directed short Crushing Season as a proof-of-concept for a feature he could shop to producers, so its film festival success has been an unexpected and welcome bonus.

Set in Far North Queensland, Crushing Season stars Ivor as a former Rabbitohs star who witnesses a murder in his hometown and goes public about it, unleashing a trail of destruction. Starring alongside Ivor are Rahel Romahn and Joshua Brennan.

The film premiered at the New York Indie Shorts Awards last year, where it won best film, and is touring with Flickerfest’s Best of Australian Shorts. Over the next few weeks it will also screen at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), with the programmer’s notes suggesting the film has “shades of an early Andrew Dominik”. In September Crushing Season will then be available to stream online after securing distribution with Sling Blade producer Larry Meistrich’s new platform Red Coral Universe.

Ivor wrote the feature screenplay for Crushing Season prior to making the short; it was a quarterfinalist in the 2021 ScreenCraft writing competition. The inspiration for the broken football star at the story’s heart came after Ivor broke his foot and was spending a lot of time at home. He started thinking about the shedding of identity; about how much our egos and sense of self are tied to our careers and relationships, and how tough it can be to work out who we are when they end or change.

Crushing Season is also a comment on toxic masculinity, and the human ability to “on one hand do to do so much good and on the other, undo it all”.

“Especially with sports stars; I see a lot of young guys lose their way. You see it all the time in the media, young guys who haven’t been able to shed that identity and they end up destroying everything around them. Crushing Season is an examination of how the young man gets to that point. I don’t really glorify any of the violence; it’s more like what goes on inside someone’s head before they reach that point of violence… I’m from North Queensland and that sort of violence is always present,” he says.

Ivor has always had off-screen ambitions; he originally wanted to be a cinematographer but after getting into amateur theatre found acting doors opened faster. He trained at NIDA, and is perhaps best known on screen for playing Albert Crundell in the Picnic at Hanging Rock remake. His theatre credits include Belvoir St Theatre’s productions of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, directed by Neil Armfield and Strange Interlude, directed by Simon Stone.

Now 35, Ivor has found he wants to take a more active role in storytelling in order to share his opinions and perspectives.

“From acting, it became writing, and then from writing, I became like, ‘I’d like to control this world wholeheartedly’. Its inception was probably visually for me, in the cinematography, and then it sort of all just sort of trickled down from that,” he says.

Crushing Season‘s cinematography is by Gabriel Devereux, with Ivor keen to show the striking landscape of where he grew up and which isn’t often seen on Australian screens.

“I knew from the beginning I wanted a visual spectacle. I wanted the mountains. The farm where we shot is near where I pretty much where I grew up. I wanted the sound of the plovers attacking; you walk through the cane fields and they do There’s snakes and there’s all sorts of weird characters, whether it be kids or crazy older blokes. The lurking dangers everywhere, I really wanted to feel like a fly on the wall for the audience.”

For Crushing Season to be playing festivals like MIFF is gratifying for Ivor. His hope now is to find producers who will help him turn the feature version into reality. He’s also working on several other scripts, including an optimistic family drama, a modern Western and a romance set in New York.

“It gives me a little bit of validation because I’d never done this before, so you’re thinking ‘Is it any good or people enjoying it?’ So it it gives me that confidence.”

Crushing Season screens at MIFF August 7 6.30pm and August 18 8.30pm as part of the Australian Shorts strand. It will also be available to watch nationally online via MIFF Play August 18-27.