Sarah Legg in 'Cherubhead'.

When prolific indie filmmaker Matthew Victor Pastor directed his first short film in 2011, Perth creative Sarah Legg was still in primary school.

Eleven years later, the pair each have feature films in the Revelation Perth International Film Festival line-up, offering multigenerational perspectives on micro-budget filmmaking.

Legg, 19, directs, produces, and stars in Cherubhead, a surreal drama following a trio of young women staying in the holiday home of socialite Marie Annette (Legg) who wants to adopt teenager Ellie (Angelina Curtis). Loosely based on the literature of philosopher Niccoló Machiavelli, the story explores themes of power, conflict, and identity.

The Perth local wrote her debut film over a month at the end of 2020, before going into production shortly after. She used her own home as the primary location, while also shooting scenes at an Airbnb and family farm in the area.

Working on a budget of between $2,500 and $3,000, she enlisted a cast and crew of volunteers to make the film, citing the biggest challenge as filling the character of Boris, Ellie’s pet rat.

“Our rat passed of cancer two days before shooting and we had to scramble to find a replacement,” she said.

“Even when we did, getting a rat to run in a certain direction is definitely a pain.”

Reflecting on her experience, Legg said working on a tight budget was both an obstacle and a blessing in disguise.

“[It was difficult] deciding what to invest our money into to make the film pop and give it the specific look and feel that we wanted,” she said.

“However, it also made us learn how to solve problems with our creativity and the tools we had, not money. I’m grateful we acquired these skills from our first film.”

‘A Pencil to the Jugular’;

Despite nearly ten feature films under his belt, Pastor also managed to broaden his skillset while creating his newest project.

Filmed before, during, and after Melbourne’s 2021 lockdowns, A Pencil to the Jugular tracks the unfolding catastrophe through the perspective of young migrants, whose lives begin to fall apart against the backdrop of empty streets.

Pastor wrote the script alongside Lorena Zarate, with the pair joining Maria Cruz, Bridget O’Brien, Felise Morales, and Shirong Wu in the cast.

The film is the second part of a pandemic trilogy that began with 2020’s The Neon Across the Ocean, which was selected for Revelation last year.

While he admitted to having a slightly larger budget with the first film, Victor said both films were very much in the micro-budget realm, adding the process had become almost like documentary filmmaking.

“You have to adapt to every situation and you don’t have control of certain things,” he said.

“In both films, I’m literally working with a lot of my friends and family who have an interest in telling stories and enjoy the process of making art.

“No amount of budget can recreate that kind of beauty I think. Even the pandemic itself with the streets being clear, you suddenly have a set that looks quite expensive.”

Prior to the pandemic, Pastor was among the most prolific independent filmmakers in the country, releasing six films across a period of 18 months. Throughout COVID, his work was selected for more than 40 film festivals across the world, with A Pencil to the Jugular having its world premiere at last year’s Moscow Film Festival.

Matthew Victor Pastor.

He is in the process of working on a dark comedy that will touch on the pandemic, in which he will also be able to exercise the freedom that comes with what is a “singular process”.

“How I view this kind of art form is as a person being able to pick up a guitar and jam, or a painter having the freedom to get the brush and create,” he said.

“With filmmaking, the canvas has always involved so many different parts to the mechanism, whereas on this, I had to scale down more than I usually would to be just by myself at times.”

At the other end of the indie film career spectrum, Legg said she was also excited at the prospect of harnessing further control within her craft.

“The first film you make is an incredible experience and your mistakes are easily excused because it’s only your first film,” she said.

“The Cherubhead crew thrived off of being given the creative freedom to take risks in the auditory, visual, and performative aspects of the film.

“Because of that, we all learned much more in our field than if we had followed convention.”

The Revelation Perth International Film Festival will be held July 7-17. Find more information here.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.