CANBERRA’S burgeoning film industry is about to get a hefty boost with a week-long season of an entirely Canberra-made film at Dendy in Civic.
“Blue World Order”, an apocalyptic sci-fi thriller directed by Ché Baker and Dallas Bland, has been screened at film festivals around the world, but now it’s coming home.
Expect to see the villain holed up in the Telstra Tower and DeLorean car chases across Lake George, as well as pathos and a good dose of laconic humour.
In part a celebration of home-grown creative talent, it’s nonetheless been packaged as an international film that can be appreciated anywhere. “Titanic” and “Back to the Future” actor Billy Zane appears as the evil Master, Stephen Hunter from “The Hobbit” plays the eccentric Madcap and Jake Ryan from “Home And Away” stars as Jake Slater, a dad bent on saving his daughter Molly, alongside Aussie cinema luminaries such as Jack Thompson and Bruce Spence. Even ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has a small cameo role.
The venture has for the past four years taken Baker away from his day job as a video producer.
“There’s always going to be one driving force behind a film and I’m that guy,” he tells “CityNews”.
He’s been hard at work attracting Canberra entrepreneurs and business owners to back the movie, working to make it a “safe investment” for them. So far, he reports, they’re all very happy.
Canberrans, he says, will recognise familiar places such as the Glassworks, the Brickworks and the Wee Jasper Caves, as well as familiar faces such as Andy Trieu, Tim Stiles, Pat Gallagher, Brendan Kelly and Leah Baulch. He and Bland play small roles, too.
But it’s not as simple as cramming in iconic spots and getting local talent involved for a film to succeed internationally.
The idea for the feature came, Baker says, when he and director Bland entered a short sci-fi film into the Lights! Canberra! Action! competition in 2012.
Thinking they could extend it into a bigger story, his partner Sarah Mason, Bland and he started mapping out a TV series, but eventually decided to work on a feature film that could credibly be produced here. Then, five years ago, writing as Scott Baker, he wrote a novel of the same name, only now to be released.
“I wanted to finish the film and then give the novel another go-over to make it align with the film a little better,” he says.
“In my original novel, the Billy Zane character was a North Korean general so I changed that to fit in better with the film.”
The original plot of the short film was simple – a father protects his daughter in a society taken over by a mind-controlling biological virus. They filled it out with a backstory.
“It’s a case of one guy up against the system, one guy who is immune from the mind control and determined to save his daughter, but it was a huge amount of work to change from an eight-minute short to a full feature,” Baker says.
Such a story could easily be made in Canberra, they thought, but unlike those TV series which exploit the national icons and monuments, they are not showing a political Canberra, saying: “It could be anywhere, it’s actually supposed to be set in the undescribed ‘south’.”
Not political then, but shot in Canberra, with an all-Canberra crew and produced with private funding, apart from some ACT government marketing assistance.
“We did it in Canberra to show that we have the capacity to do that,” Baker says.
“Canberra is unique, with a diverse range of locations all within 15 minutes of each other that is a huge advantage to a film producer.
“It’s very much a template for other films made on a small budget.”
He and Bland shot throughout 2015, then spent the next two years releasing the film internationally and doing the festival circuit.
Getting it on at Dendy marks “the end of the line” for Baker, who says, “general distribution is the last thing I have to do, getting it theatrically distributed in Australia was a big deal – Dendy has never released a locally-made film before in a full season.”
“It’s running for one week, but if it does well they’ll keep it another week, so we really need to hit the public in the first weekend.
“We want to show to Dendy that it’s viable to release a small-budget film in Canberra, then they’ll do it for more films.”
After that, “Blue World Order” will go to video-on-demand and DVD, which he says is where you make your money back as an independent production house.
“The beauty of VOD and DVD is that it’s around forever,” he says.
“We know it’s not a Marvel movie, but we are hoping It will get quite a cult following.”
And after this? Baker has good news, telling “CityNews” that he has just secured the rights to Australian thriller writer Matthew Reilly’s book “Contest” and is working on a possible collaboration with Peter Jackson’s WETA Digital in Wellington. The story is set in the New York State Library, but what’s the bet the National Library of Australia will do just as well?
“Blue World Order”, Dendy Cinemas, Civic, May 3-8. Bookings to dendy.com.au