It was one of the talking points of the election campaign and now the rental crisis is the basis of a new comedy set to premiere at next month’s Sydney Film Festival.
Written and directed by Rowan Devereux, Evicted! A Modern Romance explores the trials and tribulations of looking for a home to rent in Sydney through the gaze of four millennial housemates on the verge of eviction.
Faced with the prospect of displacement, freshly unemployed Maggie (Amanda Maple-Brown), gig-economy worker Will (Will Suen), and feuding couple Isabelle (Rose Haining) and May (Clare Cavanagh) embark on a seemingly futile hunt for an affordable share house. Along the way, they encounter “kitchen-toilets”, one-way attics, and an alleged haunted house. As life happens on the side, unlikely friendships, endless mishaps, and hook-ups gone wrong are abound.
The independently-funded feature was shot on location in Sydney’s inner west across five weeks at the beginning of 2021, with Sophie Saville producing via her and Devereux’s company The Story Mill.
The creative team also includes cinematographer Benjamin Powell, editor Andrew Shanks, and production designer Ella Deane.
Devereux told IF he was inspired to write the story after realising he was not alone in his struggles to navigate the city’s rental market.
“There was a period of time where I kept getting into houses that would end up being knocked down to build a townhouse or be subdivided,” he said.
“I remember having a party at the second house I moved to and speaking to a lot of people who had the same experience.
“I thought it was bad luck but every person there went through it as well.”
Devereux and Saville used the first lockdown in 2020 to begin development and pre-production on the feature, which was financed through a mix of the pair’s own savings and crowd funding.
After filming wrapped, Devereux had the opportunity to work on his film about housemates with his own housemates, two of whom were Powell and Shanks.
“We’re a film household, except for my partner, who is a nurse,” he said.
“We shot it between the first lockdown in 2020 and the second one, so the editor and I spent a lot of time editing it over the lockdown last year because we were stuck in a room anyway.
“There was nothing else to do so we just cut it in the house.”
Evicted! A Modern Romance is the first feature film from The Story Mill, which Devereux and Saville established in 2018.
Since then, the duo have collaborated on short films Peach and The Dinner Party, as well as Inspire Me!, a new title written by comedian Madeleine Stewart that is set to screen as part of this year’s Sydney Film Festival Screenability Program.
Saville said their first foray into feature films had been challenging but also “a lot of fun”.
“It was a beast,” she said.
“We’ve done a lot of short films, which prepare you to an extent, but you are not fully ready for 4-5 weeks of back to back days.
“In the inner west, we were working in very small spaces on very small streets with very limited parking. The logistics of that was one of the hardest parts for me.”
Devereux said they didn’t want the production to “feel like their first film”.
“We wanted a big cast and a lot of locations, so ended up shooting at 20 different spot and had about 30 cast and crew on average,” he said.
Evicted! A Modern Romance will screen June 16 at Dendy Newtown and June 18 at The Ritz Randwick.
Devereux and Saville said they were hoping to secure distribution following festival and “take it around the country”.