Tracks marks the end of a film-making era

TracksTracks, the opening film of the Adelaide Film Festival, was the last film to go through the lab at Deluxe Studios to be shot on actual film.

In a session at the Adelaide festival today, producer Emile Sherman from See Saw films revealed that the project, funded with the assistance of the festival, Screen Australia, Screen NSW and Screenwest, was shot on 35mm anamorphic film at the insistence of the film’s cinematographer Mandy Walker.

While director John Curran said the production team was “all striving for the same film”, Sherman joked: “When John says we were all making the same version of the film, his version cost a lot more than mine.”

Sherman said: “John and Mandy sat me down and said ‘I really think we need to shoot on film’. So we priced it up. That was an early decision that would prove to have some strong consequences financially.”

However Sherman said he was won over when he saw early scenes shot of the camels, major characters in the film, at Deluxe Studios. “Mandy flew back to Sydney and I went to the lab with her and watched it and that was the first time I went ‘I get it’. It looked unbelievable and I hadn’t seen anything that looked like that for years. This was really the right decision.”

Curran said film was the only choice. He said: “Where digital is at its worst is in bright glaring sunlight.”

The decision to shoot on film also created a range of difficulties for production staff who were on location from South Australia to Uluru. Antonia Barnard, co-producer, said: “Flinders Ranges was difficult. The nearest airport was four hours away. Then we had to get it down to Sydney so the turn around was very difficult. Mandy had a system where every day the lab sent her back a photo so that she knew exactly how it was looking but the rest of us had to go online and see it. It took two days to get the rushes into the lab and another two days to get them back.”

The film was made with a reported budget of $12m.

Margaret Pomeranz, host of the festival session, asked Sherman about the pressure placed on the film after it was selected into competition at the Venice Film festival. Sherman said: “The sales strategy and festival strategy is a pretty key part of how a film emerges into the world. On one hand it’s actually about selling the film and Toronto is the big market where distributors from around the world will come, including American distributors. There are hundreds of films in Toronto so being selected for Venice for competition, and then we were equally fortunate to be selected for Telluride, means that you’re coming into Toronto as one of the must see movies. It just allows you to cut through 90 per cent of the films there. Fortunately the Weinstein Company saw the film. Harvey Weinstein goes to Venice and they were very excited about the film. So we sold the film to America before Toronto and it put us in that next level that we were in Toronto having US distribution. We just needed to sell some of the other territories. The next question is how does that affect the release and the way the film is seen by audiences.”

Sherman commented on the glowing reviews the film received from “the three main trades” – Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Screen International. He said: “It’s amazing how important they are. We got these three reviews one after the other and I physically couldn’t have written them myself. They were beautifully written reviews.”

“At the end of the day, not much happens in the film to be honest and that was the big struggle with making it. You pitch it and people go ‘It’s great but it sounds a bit boring really. What happens out there?'”

Sherman noted that attention on the film puts it under pressure but that: “It might mean more people come and see it.”

The film is slated for general release in Australia on March 6, 2014. It will then be released into other markets including the US from April.

Brooke Hemphill


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