Saville shoots fast on comedy-drama

DoP Mark Wareham with Matthew Saville with Anthony LaPaglia.

On paper the shooting schedule sounded logistically daunting: 20 days for a feature film starring Anthony LaPaglia, Justine Clarke, Julia Blake and John Clarke.

As it turned out, filming comedic drama A Month of Sundays in Adelaide proved relatively easy, much to the surprise of writer-director Matthew Saville.

“Thanks to the cast, crew and logistic simplicity of shooting in Adelaide, it all went very smoothly,” Saville tells IF during a break from the editing suite.

Produced by Madman Production Company’s Nick Batzias and Kirsty Stark, the film stars LaPaglia as Frank Mollard, a real estate agent whose life takes an unexpected turn when he receives a call from his dead mother, sending him on a journey of redemption.

Justine Clarke plays Frank’s estranged wife, with John Clarke as his boss/friend and Blake as the woman at the heart of a life-changing new relationship. Newcomer Indiana Crowther, who was discovered by the Adelaide casting director Angela Heesom, plays Frank’s teenage son.

All crew members were local apart from the director, first AD Marshall Crosby, DoP Mark Wareham and editor Ken Sallows.

While it was a quick shoot, the project had a typically lengthy development process. Saville wrote the first draft seven years ago, inspired by several incidents that happened among his extended family, augmented by many late nights at the keyboard.

Evidently aspects of the story are universal, as Saville explains, “I think there is a bit of Frank in all of us.”

Saville had most of the cast in place years ago but did not settle on Blake until he saw her, from a distance, at the Paper Planes premiere at MIFF 2014, dancing at the after-party with her husband Terry Norris and son-in-law Robert Connolly, and realised she was ideal for the role.

The filmmaker enjoyed having short films director Dimitrios Pouliotis on set as part of the Screen Australia/ADG director’s attachment scheme, observing, “He’s a talented lad with great energy on set. It was great having another eye.”

Saville, whose credits include 2003 telemovie Roy Hollsdotter Live, 2007 crime thriller Noise, Cloudstreet, Please Like Me and last year’s Felony, rates A Month of Sundays as the film that’s “closer to my intentions and beliefs and fascinations than anything I’ve done before.”

Produced by Goalpost Pictures’ Rosemary Blight, Felony was sold to multiple territories but the crime thriller starring Joel Edgerton, Tom Wilkinson, Jai Courtney and Melissa George grossed a relatively modest $730,000 in Australia.

Saville reflects, “The figures were a bit of a head scratcher. I thought Joel's script was very strong, and certainly attracted a fine cast with an international profile. Village Roadshow backed it, and Joel and Rosemary, particularly, worked hard on the publicity.

“I think it's important for filmmakers to be fiscally responsible, and acknowledge those figures. Sometimes, in the past, I feel they have been digested, publicly, before even the filmmakers themselves can respond. That's changed over the last few months. Films, I believe, can be judged on many levels, only one of which is their fortunes during their first theatrical release in their own territory.”

After he completes A Month of Sundays, Saville hopes to get started on Dark Victory, a political thriller he is developing with Blight.

Based on David Marr and Marian Wilkinson’s book, Dark Victory: How a Government Lied its Way to Political Triumph, the film delves into the 2001 controversy when the government refused to allow the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa – which was carrying 438 refugees rescued from a distressed fishing vessel – to enter Australian waters.