Kriv Stenders blazes trails with ‘Australia Day’ and The Go-Betweens feature doc


The Go-Between’s Amanda Brown and Lindy Morrison with director Kriv Stenders (Photo credit: Essential Media).

Director Kriv Stenders is proud to have two films currently in cinemas – Australia Day and The Go-Betweens: Right Here – which are at the forefront of screen industry initiatives.

So he is less concerned about the Australian box office takings for both titles than the potential for each to have, as he puts it, a long tail.

Produced by Hoodlum Entertainment, Australia Day is the first premium VOD (PVOD) release from partners Foxtel and Dendy Direct.

The thriller starring Bryan Brown, Shari Sebbens, Sean Keenan, Matthew Le Nevez, Daniel Webber and Elias Anton has grossed $60,000  in 12 days on 13 screens, including festival screenings.

From September 27 the title has been available to rent on Foxtel Store for $24.95 and on Dendy Direct, branded Dendy Marquee, for $19.95, the first of at least five titles which will be released on that model between now and Christmas.

There will be the usual 90-days window between the theatrical premiere and electronic sell-through (EST), VOD and DVD.

Stenders is keen to see the buy-rates but is convinced the model will work as an alternative to what he describes an antiquated distribution system.

“I’d be happy to make that films that way for the rest of my life, because at least you are making films, working in the medium that you love,” he tells IF from New Zealand, after flying in from Tonga where he has been shooting Uncharted with Sam Neill.

“I am not a purist about cinema screens, which are great, but there are so many other ways to watch a film or a story. I call it the new screen.

With Australia Day I wanted to deliver a fast moving, compelling, thrilling story. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I am very proud of it.”

Released by Umbrella Entertainment and produced by Joe Weatherstone for  Essential Media and Entertainment, The Go-Betweens doc rang up $20,000 in five days at 10 screens and $32,000 with Sydney Festival screenings.

“It is a limited theatrical release so I am not surprised at the modest theatrical returns,” Stenders said.

A 60-minute version will screen in November on ABC TV. The film was the first funded by the Screen NSW-ABC TV Arts Documentary Feature Fund, a three-year joint initiative to fund one feature arts documentary each year. That fund chipped in $250,000 and Screen Australia kicked in $300,000, plus investment from Essential and Umbrella.

The feature will be available on home entertainment following  the ABC screening, positioned to cash in on the publicity and glowing reviews for the theatrical release.

Negotiations are underway with a UK-based international sales agent and Stenders is hopeful of festival exposure leading to a distribution deal in the US, where the band still has a loyal following, and of deals in Europe. “It should have a long tail,” he said.

Among the hardest working directors, Stenders will continue shooting the six-part Uncharted series, produced by Essential and Frame Up Films for Foxtel’s History channel, until December.  Stenders first worked with the veteran Kiwi actor on Essential’s ABC doco Why Anzac with Sam Neill. “He is a young scoundrel at heart and a lovely man to work with, a really clever and creative guy,” he said.

He will then direct two episodes of Easy Tiger’s Jack Irish. Meanwhile, Wake in Fright, the two-parter he directed for Lingo Pictures, premieres on Network Ten on October 8.